Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hospice Starts...

Hospice has been amazing. They've already lined up a volunteer companion for Mom that will start this Sunday. We asked that they read to her (letters, books, etc.), visit with her, and when possible, do things like comb hair, do hand massages, and apply lotion (related to dry skin and circulation issues...) - she really loves that.

Betty was contacted today by Hospice to let us know that they have ordered Morphine for Mom twice a day for pain...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sisters in End-of-Life


I continue to be mystified by the parallels between my Mom and my Aunt Pat regarding the progression of their dementia and decrease in quality of life.

Today, I met with an RN from Hospice of the Red River Valley at Mom's skilled care facility, Eventide. To make a long story short, she was accepted into the program. My sisters and I are grateful for that, since from now on, Mom's comfort and peace of mind are of utmost concern to us, rather than disease treatment. It's the least we can do.

I'll be talking to their Volunteer coordinator about how we see their services best fitting Mom's needs, then trying to schedule volunteers that can come and spend time with Mom as a companion, as well as (I hope) do simple acts of kindness like brushing her hair to alleviate her itchy scalp, applying body cream to her dry skin, and maybe if we're lucky, some massage to hands, shoulders and lower legs to help with pain.

Friday, November 03, 2006

More about my mother

Saw her yesterday. I had a care plan meeting at the nursing home. Went to that. Mom has gained about 2 lbs. back. However she has not taken any of her meds for almost 2 months. They showed me her chart and she took her pills maybe 5 or 6 times in the last 2 months. So Hospice had a call in to the dr. to get permission to stop all meds except comfort things like an aspirin if she needs one and her antidepressant pill. She won't take part in any activities. My son and his wife both work at the home and my Daughter-in-law told me Mom is coming to their resptective offices more and more all the time. She just comes there and sits near them but doesn't bother them. They are like a comfort zone for her. Just needs to be near them.

When Mom went on assitance she had 2 supplement insurances along with medicare. I had to keep one of them so I kept her AARP ins. Hospice told me yesterday that as long as she is in Hospice care now she didn't think I needed to keep paying the AARP ins. and to contact human services about it. I faxed the agent I deal with and she said no I didn't need to continue the supplement so I have called and cancelled AARP.

Mom was sitting in front staring out the door of the nursing home when I found her. So I took her outside in the nice warm sun for a while. She said she was hungry as she hadn't had much for dinner so I went to the kitchen and got her a ham a cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee. She ate almost all of it. The nursing home kitchen is open all day now so residents can go and get something to eat any time they want to. She goes to Daryls office most every day and sits and watches him work for a couple hours yet the first thing she asked me was if I had seen Daryl lately and how was he and where did he work.

Asks me every time I see her and several times each visit how long she has been there and how old is she. And when can she go home again.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

About Hospice

HMMMM!!!! I don't know if it will work or not. One of the policies is to not try to force the person to take pills when they don't want to. From what I can find out all they are giving her is the supplement "comfort" type pills. I would rather they eliminate those so she will take the Pres. pills. They keep telling me her Thyroid etc. pills don't make a difference anymore. She has been under a depression ever since Johnny (my brother died) so they are mostly trying to get her to take an antidepressant pill. They show her all the supplements and when she says she refuses to take them they then sort out the antidepressant and say well then will you take just this one. They say it is painful to be depressed so that that is the only pill they are pushing.

However now that she isn't getting the thyroid etc. she is becoming more and more confused as thyroid produces the hormones that affect the mind. So it looks like we might be regressing back to the time when she was first put in the nursing home. Back to fighting to get out of there and why the "HELL" is she there in the first place and when is she going to get to go home. My son Daryl works in the office at the nursing home and he told me last night that Fri. Mom was in his office 5 times asking him when she was going to get out of there and be able to go home again and she is becoming once again very angry and aggressive. I really don't think I want to go through all this again as that first year she was in the home was an absolute nightmare.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Hospice Social Worker...

...came to our house yesterday morning to meet me and talk. Nothing much more said, she just wanted to get aquainted with me. Mom did get moved into a different room though. They had her in a room with a lady that had an oxygen machine and the constant hum of the machine was driving Mom nuts. So they moved her to a room by herself. At least she is alone in it so far until they need to put someone else in there. Hopefully no one on oxygen again.

Mom sleeps most of the time. I have decided I am not going to take her out anymore. Just visit her in the nursing home.

Checking Out

Manifesto

The World Federation of Right to Die Societies (an international nongovernmental organization) is aware of the increasing concern to many individuals over their right to die with dignity. Believing in the rights and freedom of all persons, we affirm this right to die with dignity, meaning in peace and without suffering.

All competent adults - regardless of their nationalities, professions, religious beliefs, and ethical and political views - who are suffering unbearably from incurable illnesses should have the possibility of various choices at the end of their life. Death is unavoidable. We strongly believe that the manner and time of dying should be left to the decision of the individual, assuming such demands do not result in harm to society other than the sadness associated with death.

The voluntarily expressed will of individuals, once they are fully informed of their diagnosis, prognosis and available means of relief, should be respected by all concerned as an expression of intrinsic human rights.


Speaking for myself, I am very pro-choice regarding dieing with dignity. Life doesn't alway allow us to make that choice, however. But if I can, I will...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Updating Things as They Go Along...

A social worker called me today. We are meeting in our home here at 10 in the morning to further discuss my mother's hospice care. My stomach has been all in a turmoil since this started. If Mom is as close to death as they suspect I don't know if I should still keep taking her out or not. It would be terrible if I had her at the beauty shop or the restaurant or even in my car and she would collapse. Will post more after I see the Soc. Worker tomorrow if I have any further information.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Choosing Your Own Exit

Lisette Nigot, who chose her own exit...
My mother would have chosen this path, I think, if she hadn’t been so deep in grief. She often felt many of the same things, albeit orignating out of grief, but I don't think that is any less valid, especially in the context of her age, health, and sense of deep loss.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fall Days

It is fall. The season, my mother dreaded the most. As I grew up, she always hated fall. She said that was when everything bad in her life happened. The deaths of her loved ones. She would always feel the most depressed in the fall. I can now relate. I do not like fall.

Eventide (her nursing home) called last week to say Mom had fallen out of her wheelchair. She had fallen asleep and just leaned too forward.

I still ask myself - why? Why does she linger? If it is for our sakes - why? It hurts my heart as for it to bleed when I see her. She knows us but that is the extent.

Emotions: Strong guilt - in not knowing what to do and not going every day. Sadness - in seeing her body slip away. Fear - in what is to come. It is fall.

Aunt Pat

From Delphine come these updates on her mother (and our mother's sister), Aunt Pat...

October 5:

Went to the nursing home today to take her to the beauty shop. Got our hair done and went to eat and she ate quite well. Got back to the health care center. And I went to talk to my daughter-in-law who is a registered. Nurse there and in charge of Medical records. Got some bad news. They want to put Mom on "end of life" care. Hospice. I had my choice of using the in-home care at the health care center. Or having outside hospice come to the nursing home. I told her in nursing home care was fine. She said Mom has really been going down hill. They have her in ambulatory care to try keep her active and up but she is refusing to do anything or cooperate when they try to work with her. She is refusing to eat and is rapidly losing weight. Down to 109 lbs. So in hospice she will have a CNA and a nurse assigned to her to check on her more often. Hospice care means that she can refuse anything and does not have to do anything she doesn't want to. Which means she will not have to take her meds if she no longer wants to. If she refuses them several times then they discontinue meds all together which of course Means Mom can have a stroke or a heart attack or whatever. Also means that they do not have to try to get her to eat. If she doesn't want to eat she won't have to. She will no longer be talked into doing anything she does not want to do.

I am waiting for a call from the gal in charge of setting this up. Audrey just told me about it but another gal is in charge of explaining everything to me in full and I imagine will have the paperwork that I will have to sign. Knew this day had to be coming but still hit me in the stomach like someone had whacked me a good one.

October 7:

UPDATE: Saw the lady in charge of Hospice. Was very encouraging. I was very impressed with what Hospice does. Mom will still get full care from nursing home staff but will now have a full team of extra people there just for her. 2 nurses a CNA and 2 other specialists. They not only take care of Mom but support family as well if you need any counseling or whatever.

They are giving Mom so many pills, her 4 or 5 prescription pills, but a handful of supplement vitamins etc. Well Mom often hides her pills because she all her life has had trouble swallowing pills and to see so many overwhelms her and she does know she never used to take that many pills. She lived to 91 without all these supplements and always had excellent health and excellent bones, etc. I tried to talk to the Dr. about cutting out the supplements so all Mom would get is the very necessary pills and with just a few she would take them, but not when they hand her so many, but I never could get the Dr. to answer my calls. I told Hospice this and they have the power to do just what I wanted. So they will get her pill intake reduced so hopefully she will be more willing to take them. Sounds like Mom will be getting much better and more personal care. I guess I never really knew what Hospice meant before but it is a "comfort", "Quality" end of life care. They just do whatever the person wants to make them as comfortable and stress free in their last months as possible. She will no longer have to go to the hospital, have anymore surgeries. Needles, whatever, if she doesn't want to. They have things to give her if any pain occurs just to make her comfortable but no more hospital procedure stress or traumas. She did tell me that by the time a person has declined to the point that they are eligible to go on Hospice that 90% die within 45 days to 3 months. The Hospice is good for 6 months. I asked what happens if she lives beyond 6 months. She said she will be reevaluated and recertified if necessary. Said they did have one lady on Hospice for 2 yrs. But that is very rare.

Since she will be having "extra" people always checking on her I too wondered if I could still take her out so I did ask and she said absolutely we encourage people to take them places as we want them to have complete comfort and quality a life as they can in their last days. So I will still be taking her to the beauty shop for as long as she can still get around. We did go Thurs. And I was amazed as she was walking better than she had for several weeks so I thought she was improving with her ambulatory care but I guess this is all just part of the ending process. They are so good one day and way down the next. Next week she probably won't be able to walk at all.

October 8:

I can also cancel Hospice any time if I feel it isn't working or am unhappy about anything, whatever. But It sure sounded like the way to go for now as I have had so much trouble getting things done the way mom wanted it with just nursing home staff. Like keeping her window curtain open so she can see out as she hates being "closed" in. I have talked til I am blue in the face about that even wrote a note on cloth and pinned it to the curtain saying please leave these curtains open for my Mom and still they are always closed when I go there. Made her a nice little lap quilt with a hand muff on the front that would fit in her wheel chair as she is always so cold and hands freezing all the time and she uses it a lot when she lays down. Puts her little lap quilt on and tucks her hands in the muff and just loves it. Yet every time I go there the little quilt has been tossed aside when they made the bed and is laying on a chair under a bunch of stuff that doesn't even belong to her and she doesn't have her little Muff/quilt. So I am constantly digging that out for her. The biggest problem is they can't keep help there so every time I get someone to do the things that make Mom comfortable they quit and it starts all over again. Hospice sounds like she will have 2 nurses whose names were given to me and a CNA that will be just for Mom so should be the same people all the time. So let's hope.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Quality of Life

My sister Betty took this photo of Mom on a recent visit to see her. She isn't as talkative as she used to be, but she definitely looks like she was enjoying the visit, and the staff had dressed her so nicely.

This past week (after I reminded staff that she was very late for both her opthamology and neurology checkups ... then appointments were made), we found out she not only needs a new eyeglass prescripton, but that she doesn't have her old pair anymore because they were broken recently. We learned this through a voicemail, but no reason was given. They also want to know if we want them to followup on the recommendation of getting a new pair; it was intimated that she doesn't use them so why bother. I definitely feel she should have them. To see much at all, she needs them, especially since her glacouma has obviously worsened. Even if she doesn't read as much as she once did, she often looks through her photo collection, and that is comforting to her. It's the least we can do...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Growing Old" DVD


How does someone define aging? Is your age in your body or in your mind?

A wonderful new documentary film explores this...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Dementia Diary

"Her world was shrinking, and she was becoming more and more isolated. Those she offended saw only a difficult personality getting worse. No one suspected the demon growing inside of her, the illness that had begun to twist her memories, her judgment, and her emotions..."
Bob Tell writes about his mother as she slips into Dementia, a tale many of us know all too well.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Weary

This past weekend, my sister Sharon from Chicago came to town for a short visit. On Saturday, all three of us daughters met at Eventide to visit Mom.

I arrived first, then Sharon, and finally Betty. While Sharon and I were awaiting Betty, Sharon left the family visiting room to check on something. While she was gone, I started talking with Mom, even though she was dozing and hadn't said anything despite our trying to engage her. I went around back of her wheelchair, and put my arms around her and bent down to talk softly near her ear. I told her how much I missed talking with her and Dad, and how much I loved her, and then just smelled her, and felt her skin next to mine, and was quiet with her. Before I knew it, Sharon was entering the room, and I realized my eyes were moist...I was very glad to have had those few moments alone with her.

Later during the visit, I got down in the front and said to Mom, since you are so tired, I'll get down here to take your picture, half-joking with her. She momentarily lifted her head and looked at me as I shot this photo of her...

Later, as I said goodbye, Mom spoke for the first time, asking did I have to leave, and I explained I would see her soon, and that I loved her, and she responded I love you, too, Trisha...That really made me smile! She did know me after all...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lifelong Love

It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch
[ Epithet on a New England tombstone ]


This weekend I was listening to this program. A segment featured the lifelong love of Page and Eloise Smith, a couple that died one day apart after spending a lifetime together. Of course, it immediately made me think of my own parents.

I wrote to their son Eliot, the man behind the memorial website, and he responded...
Good Morning Trish,

Thank you so much for reaching out. We are the lucky ones with family legends to live by and deep gifts that enrich us. It has been over 10 years now and I still think of them every day, see things I wish I could show them, learn things I wish I could share. Now in my 50's, there is nothing I would love more than to climb into bed next to them and watch TV while my mother dozes with her bifocals turned upside down, and my father reads a book.
A short while later, I heard from Anne, Page & Eliose's daughter...
Dear Trish,

My brother Eliot emailed me this morning to say that you had written to him after the "this American Life" segment on last words and the story of our parents deaths. The voice in the piece was mine (along with John Dizikes, a close friend of mom and dad).

I looked at the links you included with your email. I was struck by the similarities in my in-laws lives. My mother-in-law died 5 years before her husband did. My father-in-law lived a hard and lonely five years without her and died this last December after being bed-ridden in a nursing home for over eight months. It was a terrible decline and he was very confused, barely able to participate in a conversation the whole time. It was very hard for us watching Bob's decline and spending so much time in the nursing home for such an extended period. What a journey our parents (and we) all must travel. I feel deeply for you and your mother.

Anne

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Young Love Remembered


Herman and Nora were young and in love. They met as students, and had a passion for writing.

Herman's life was cut short. Nora's life has been long.

Listen to her remember...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Telling It All

Geriatric1927 is not just using simple tools, he is re-engineering his social world with them.

His name is Peter. He's from England, he's 79, and he's found what for him is an exciting new way to meet new friends and be engaged with the world. Read more about Peter here.

You can see one of his videos here...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Twilight Descending






At night, as they read and reminisce and sometimes just gaze at one another, the Grahams' conversation often turns to what they believe awaits them beyond the grave. "I think about heaven a great deal, I think about the failures in my life in the past, but know that they have been covered by the blood of Christ, and that gives me a great sense of confidence," says Graham. "I have a certainty about eternity that is a wonderful thing, and I thank God for giving me that certainty. I do not fear death. I may fear a little bit about the process, but not death itself, because I think the moment that my spirit leaves this body, I will be in the presence of the Lord."
In the twilight, Billy Graham shares what he's learned in reflecting on politics and Scripture, old age and death, mysteries and moderation.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mother (Alberta, aka Pat)

My Mother gets weaker and weaker ,week by week and dementia gets worse and worse. I had a care plan meeting for her yesterday. They said they have been having some problems with her again being belligerent and cussing at everyone. Also she keeps telling the nurses they don't need to baby sit her when she takes her pills she knows how to take them and as soon as they turn their back she shoves her pills in her bra. So she is missing several of her pills each day.

They told me too that I may not be able to take her out much longer to go to the hair dresser and all as she will soon be at a point where she will have to be lifted form wheel chair to car etc. They have her in a restorative program to try keep her walking but she refuses to let them do most of the exercises. She will walk now and then but refuses any upper and lower extremity strengthening exercises. Said I may have to start taking her just to the beauty shop there at the home and bring a meal if I want her to have something special.

Also I asked them about her fingernails as they are so ugly as so very long then when she wipes herself she gets "you know what" under her nails etc. They are horrible. They said they have tried and tried to get her to come to activity for a manicure but again she refuses saying she likes her fingernails long. So Monday I have to go in at the time they are doing nails and take her down there on the pretense that I have a manicure appt. for her and I will have to make her get them cut since they really can't force her to do anything where I being the Guardian and her daughter have the authority to insist.

She keeps asking me when I go see her if her Mom and Dad are still living. Then she even asked me if her sister Clara is alive. It is all so sad to see someone deteriorate so bad.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"..waiting for the inevitable..."

Age is a terrible thief. Just when you're getting the hang of life, it knocks your legs out from under you and stoops your back. It makes you ache and muddies your head and silently spreads cancer throughout your spouse.

Metastatic, the doctor said. A matter of weeks or months. But my darling was as frail as a bird. She died nine days later. After sixty-one years together, she simply clutched my hand and exhaled.

Although there are times I'd give anything to have her back, I'm glad she went first. Losing her was like being cleft down the middle. It was the moment it all ended for me, and I wouldn't have wanted her to go through that. Being the survivor stinks.

I used to think I preferred getting old to the alternative, but now I'm not sure. Sometimes the monotony of bingo and sing-alongs and ancient dusty people parked in the hallway in wheelchairs makes me long for death. Particularly when I remember that I'm one of the ancient dusty people, filed away like some worthless tchotchke.

But there's nothing to be done about it. All I can do is put in time waiting for the inevitable, observing as the ghosts of my past rattle around my vacuous present. They crash and bang and make themselves at home, mostly because there's no competition. I've stopped fighting them.

They're crashing and banging around in there now.

Make yourselves at home, boys. Stay awhile. Oh, sorry — I see you already have.

Damn ghosts.
From Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Advocating for our Elderly Parents


The Right Way to Complain

When your loved one is suffering, your first reaction is likely to be outrage. While you may want to scream at a careless aide, pause to consider what's ultimately best for your family member. Controlling your temper may be hard but keeping a civil demeanor will help get your complaints resolved more quickly. Here is the protocol to follow:

1. Talk to the staff responsible for your loved one's care. Don't accuse or attack them, but let them know what the problem is clearly, calmly and respectfully. Intemperate words not only will antagonize the staff but can also be used to "prove" you're a danger. If a worker cites reasons for the lapse, listen to her, make sure you understand and ask how you can work together to prevent the situation from recurring. At home, keep a log of such conversations. If the situation is resolved successfully, thank the staff members involved.

2. If the problem isn't corrected in a timely way, complain in writing to your nursing home administrator. Again, be civil. Describe the issue and your efforts to resolve it clearly, without berating or threatening the staff. Keep copies of your complaints, all responses and any evidence.

3. If you don't get a satisfactory response, request outside mediation from your state ombudsman's office. After an ombudsman is appointed, he or she will talk to you and nursing home personnel to try to resolve your differences amicably.

4. If the problem's still not settled, contact your state Department of Health. Provide a detailed, documented summary of your complaint. The state will then dispatch inspectors to investigate your claims. If you disagree with the findings, you may need to hire an outside attorney and file a lawsuit.

5. Establish an independent family council with other residents' relatives so that you can voice your concerns collectively. The National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) offers advice on how to get started.

6. After you complain, be extra-vigilant and document reprisals. If you suspect retaliation, consult an independent advocate. NCCNHR's Web site offers a list.

From The Truth About Nursing Homes

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Yesterday Touches Today...Again

I was at work manning the front desk while the receptionist took a break. A call comes in from a Ken Peterson from Hallock.

He had been the principle of the Hallock Elementary School at one time, but now works as a social worker up in my home county. I told him I grew up in St. Vincent, he asked my family, I told him my name had been Short, mentioned my Mom who had worked for the Welfare and he said sure he knew her. He knew the family had 3 daughters. He himself had grown up in Lancaster, and knew Mom had been friends with Faye Lyberg. I told him, yes, they were friends, but more than that, they were cousins. You don't say, he said. Yes, first cousins...I'll be seeing my Mom this week when my sister Betty and I visit her. You tell your Mom hello for me. I sure will...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Different Paths


Harriet stayed at home (mostly). Pat was a career woman (mostly). Of course, things were not that simple, but that's how outsiders would see it looking at the overall picture.

Harriet had a job when she left home thanks in part to her older sister taking her under her wing. She worked for Ma Bell, as a phone operator. She had a short taste of being young, free, and independent. She always said it was a good thing to do, and encouraged all her daughters to at least do the same. She eventually became a homemaker, but always kept busy making money either through growing produce to sell, taking in sewing, selling eggs...or later working for the County as a Homemaker*.

Pat worked for many years in the offices of the J.C. Penney store in downtown Bemidji, Minnesota. The quintessential career woman, she was a bundle of energy with a great sense of humour.

All through their lives, they have been best of friends, not just sisters. Different choices, but their ties as sisters run deep - Mom, the little sister, and Aunt Pat, the big sister...

*A Homemaker was a person who basically travelled all over our very rural northern county to people that were underserved, undereducated, homebound, etc., and taught them about personal finance, how to keep a clean house, and even personal hygiene. I accompanied my Mom sometimes on days off from school during the winter months to see what she did for her work, and witnessed her helping many people, including the disabled and the elderly. She even did simple but much appreciated things like setting ladies' hair to help them look nice. In return, one lady showed her a new type of embroidery that she grew to love and share by making things for the family and giving away. She was very proud of that last job, which helped pay off debts so she and Dad could enjoy their retirement sooner. When they broke up housekeeping in 2001, she still had a few items from her old Homemaker job that I ran across...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Final Wishes

What I want...Mom has told me many times she just wants to be let go. I think she feels what happened to Dad was a mistake in retrospect. She wanted to think he could recover, but looking back, he was just maintained, and lingered, and it was not a dignified death. Then again, very few are...

While we can make living wills and discuss our wishes while we're still able to, it's those left behind that have to make the choices for those we love. I hope those that love me, love me enough to let me go...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

"When She Loved Me..."

Art by Drew Galloway, 1996
These lyrics by Randy Newman may not have been meant to refer to mothers, but if you think about it, they could be. I listened to them on Prairie Home Companion today, where they were sung among many songs, in honor of Mother's Day. They are especially poignant to me as an older child with an elderly mother whose mind fades in and out...
When somebody loved me
Everything was beautiful
Every hour we spent together lives within my heart
And when she was sad
I was there to dry her tears
And when she was happy
So was I
When she loved me

Through the summer and the fall
We had each other, that was all
Just she and I together
Like it was meant to be

And when she was lonely
I was there to comfort her
And I knew that she loved me

So the years went by
I stayed the same
But she began to drift away
I was left alone
Still I waited for the day
When she'd say I will always love you

Lonely and forgotten,
I'd never thought she'd look my way
And she smiled at me and held me just like she used to do
Like she loved me
When she loved me

When somebody loved me
Everything was beautiful
Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

When she loved me

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Grandson

On Easter this year, I asked my son Daniel if he would come with me to visit my Mom, his grandma. I wasn't sure how he would react. Sometimes the young can be rather cruel. He said sure, he'd love to, and had been thinking about Grandma and about visiting her soon. Knowing how meaning to and doing it are often two different things, I was glad I had asked...and even more glad he had accepted.

We went over Easter Sunday in the afternoon, a beautiful spring day - warm, sunny, trees budding and birds singing. We found Mom with her new SHORT haircut (you can blame me - I asked the beauty shop to do it for ease of care) and it was a shock at first, but then I looked at her with more objective eyes and found it flattering. Mom has a wonderfully shaped face, and a very engaging stare; she always has a slightly amused glint in her eye and around her mouth, and is very ready to share a laugh. There are times when she's just as ready to shed a tear if Dad's memory bubbles to the surface, which happens still all too easily to this day with no reminders from anyone. There is no doubt she will miss him to the day she dies.

We had an amazing visit with her on the patio, everyone enjoying the weather. We talked about memories, but also about what was going on in our lives today. She has a new roommate, a much quieter and pleasant lady, who by coincidence has the same first name of Harriet! Daniel told her all about the work he has been doing, and his continued love of music and what he hopes to do with his passion for it. He has come a long way from the little boy that lived with Grandpa and Grandma while he, Eva, and I got back on our feet again in the mid 1980's. At that time, he would often play alone at their place, making airplanes out of old pieces of wood in Grandpa's 'plunder pile', or climbing up on top of the old chicken coop and gazing around the pastures, trees, and off into the distance, just hanging out. I understood that, having done much the same when I was growing up - solitude in such a place does amazing, inutterable things for your soul...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

"Bad in the Kitchen, but good in the bedroom..."

I never met my Great Aunt Maud, Great Uncle Dick's first wife. She may have been a saint for all I know. But knowing my Mom like I do, I've never known her to say something without grounds. Whatever the truth, I thought it was fascinating to learn more about Uncle Dick's earlier life, and here's what Mom recently told us during a visit with her...
Maud, Uncle Dick's first wife, was a dance hall girl and a horrible housekeeper. "You'd come into the kitchen and there wasn't a spot...that wasn't covered by mounds of dirty dishes, pots, and pans!" She was a snob, thinking she was better than others. Mom said that her cousin Rita - one of their 6 daughters - talked back to her mother right and left, didn't let her get away with anything, and Mom rather liked that!
When Mom said "There wasn't a spot...", there was a pregnant pause, which Betty and I took to be the end of the statement, meaning she kept a spotless house, then she suddenly finished the sentence, and I began laughing and laughing, Betty joining in, and then Mom...I explained to Mom I thought you were saying the house was clean...! Evidently, she was known for being quite the opposite. Then Betty said (forgive me Betty, it's too good a line to pass by), "Bad in the Kitchen, but good in the bedroom...!"

Monday, April 03, 2006

Almost Home

I viewed an amazing documentary tonight. It was a window into one retirement home complex, over the course of one year...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mom in Winter

Tonight, my sister Betty and I visited our mother on her birthday. Once again, Mom talked about getting her driver's license back and driving again. We don't say anything much, but I think about it later. I used to think it was sad. I don't anymore. It just means my Mom has hope, and has plans, and I think that's a good thing...



Happy 84th Birthday, Mom

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Not for Sissies

GROWING OLD
by Matthew Arnold

What is it to grow old?
Is it to lose the glory of the form,
The lustre of the eye?
Is it for beauty to forego her wreath?
Yes, but not for this alone.

Is it to feel our strength—
Not our bloom only, but our strength—decay?
Is it to feel each limb
Grow stiffer, every function less exact,
Each nerve more weakly strung?

Yes, this, and more! but not,
Ah, 'tis not what in youth we dreamed 'twould be!
'Tis not to have our life
Mellowed and softened as with sunset-glow,
A golden day's decline!

'Tis not to see the world
As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,
And heart profoundly stirred;
And weep, and feel the fulness of the past,
The years that are no more!

It is to spend long days
And not once feel that we were ever young.
It is to add, immured
In the hot prison of the present, month
To month with weary pain.

It is to suffer this,
And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel:
Deep in our hidden heart
Festers the dull remembrance of a change,
But no emotion—none.

It is—last stage of all—
When we are frozen up within, and quite
The phantom of ourselves,
To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost
Which blamed the living man.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Tribute to a Mother

We take the miraculous as commonplace because it happens every day. And then you find yourself cutting the first piece of hospital chicken for your mother, and you realize that you cannot even begin to repay the debt.


An amazing story of tribute, James Lileks remembers his mother in the days after her passing...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Just an interesting note

My Mom was quite a collector. She must have been afraid she would run out of things. Just thought it interesting that after I had to put her in the nursing home I was going through the house and looking to see if there were things I could use. Would you believe that for 2 1/2 years now I have been using saran wrap, wax paper and aluminum foil from the house. She had that much on hand. Just last week is the first time I had to buy saran wrap in all this time and am still using up the aluminum foil and wax paper. And I use some of it most every day and it has still lasted this long. LOL

Three Cousins Chat

Trishymouse says:
hey you guys - how is everyone?
bettyboop says:
doing good here too
Trishymouse says:
I'd be better if it was 70 outside
bettyboop says:
me too, its very cold out here
dellee@zianet.com says:
Well it has been that here for most of the winter. Really had a mild one here this year. ad a few 40 and 50 degree days but mostly short sleeve. I was out raking today to get some pine needles out of the yard.
dellee@zianet.com says:
Well i Betty got both of you. How neat.
bettyboop says:
yes Kool
bettyboop says:
We visited Mom last Thursday night
dellee@zianet.com says:
How is your Mom doing?
Trishymouse says:
Mom was shakey when she woke up at first, but as the visit progressed she was more and more coherent except for saying Laverne Wood was holding the Olympics...I think she meant to say something about hosting a party or something...a memory...
dellee@zianet.com says:
It eally blew my mind when Mom thought 2 weeks ago that grandma was still alive.
dellee@zianet.com says:
She was with grandma when she died.
Trishymouse says:
Did she tell you anything about that?
dellee@zianet.com says:
Yes she use to talk about it a lot. Grandmas diabetes had gotten out of control so why Mom returned her to the nursing home. Mom was with her and I guess grandma had a bad head ache. SAnd had gotten real bad with the diabetis. Grandma went into a convulsion and Mom held her head and hands as she died.
Trishymouse says:
Was Grandma conscious at the time?
Trishymouse says:
Did she say anything before?
dellee@zianet.com says:
Up until she went into the convulsion yes.
dellee@zianet.com says:
I think she was telling Mom about the headache. Mom always sort of blamed the nursing home as Grandma had the headache for several days I guess but noone seemed to do anything about it.
Trishymouse says:
I don't blame her. That's definitely a sign of something. Nowadays they'd probably scan her and there are meds available today that might help that weren't available in 1974...but at least she went fast...
dellee@zianet.com says:
Mom always felt if they had had the Dr. at her and find out why her head hurt so bad they maybe could have done something.
Trishymouse says:
Could have been another stroke, or as you said related to diabetes...
dellee@zianet.com says:
Yes I am sure that is what it was. I know a friend in Bemidji also had strokes and then when he had the final one that killed him he too went into convulsions.
Trishymouse says:
I don't know about you, but when looking at our Mom, it's like the clock is winding down, her body is slowly stopping. When I mentioned that to Mom and Thursday, she motioned like she was winding, and said, "Wind it back up then!" We laughed and said, that would be nice...
Trishymouse says:
Poor brain goes kafooey
dellee@zianet.com says:
Yes Mom too. Slowly things are working less and less. e mind gets foggier and foggier and legs are getting so weak. I have a call in to talk to the Dr. but he won't be in til next week.
Trishymouse says:
We've at least been able to make her as comfortable as possible. All her dental work has been caught up so no more pain or discomfort there. She has good reading glasses - and this pair have NOT been lost, knock on wood!

Struggling to Stay "Here"

Our Mom is about the same as yours, i.e., sometimes totally 'here', and other times the mind wanders. I can tell that Mom is working hard at keeping things straight sometimes. She has said more than once getting old stinks. I believe her...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Betty and Trisha

Haven't heard from you girls in a while. I wondered how Aunt Harriet is doing.
My Mom is failing as time goes on. Hard to believe she will be 94 in July. I am still able to take her to the beauty shop and out to eat once a week. But some weeks she can barely walk with my support but insists on walking just the same doesn't want me to take her in to the shop or cafe in the wheel chair.

She recently had several tests as she was having a bad time choking on food. So had throat swallowing test and an upper GI. Said she had minor problems but not enough to warrant the choking I described to them. The upper GI did show she hs a hiatal hernia.

Her mind continues to get worse and worse. 2 weeks ago when we went out we were talking about Aunt Lena and she wanted to know If I still wrote to her and I said no not for many years. Wanted to know if she was still living and I told her I had no idea as I haven't heard anything in a long time. Then she wondered if Lena still wrote to her Mom (our grandma). I looked at Mom with a puzzled expression and she said "Well you know my Mom". Then she stopped and her face clouded over and she said "OH that's right my Mom is gone isn't she" I said yes Mom, grandma died a long time ago.

Anyhow if one of you read this can you tell me if anyone knows about Lena?? Last I knew her husband Harold was in a nursing home but that news was a good 7 or 8 years ago so have no idea if either are alive at this date.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

When an old lady died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Dundee, Scotland, it was believed that she had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through her meager possessions, they found this poem. It's quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Ireland. The old lady's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the North Ireland Assn. for Mental Health.

A slide presentation has also been made based on her simple, but eloquent poem.

And this little old Scottish lady, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this "anonymous" poem winging across the Internet:

Crabby Old Woman

What do you see, nurses?
What do you see?
What are you thinking,
When you're looking at me?

A crabby old woman,
Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit,
With faraway eyes.

Who dribbles her food,
And makes no reply,
When you say in a loud voice,
"I do wish you'd try!"

Who seems not to notice,
The things that you do,
And forever is losing,
A stocking or shoe

Who, resisting or not
Lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding,
The long day to fill?

Is that what you're thinking?
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse,
You're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am,
As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding,
As I eat at your will.


I'm a small child of ten,
With a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters,
Who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen,
With wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now,
A lover she'll meet.

A bride soon at twenty,
My heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows,
That I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now,
I have young of my own,
Who need me to guide,
And a secure happy home.

A woman of thirty,
My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other,
With ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons,
Have grown and are gone,
But my man's beside me,
To see I don't mourn.

At fifty once more,
Babies play round my knee,
Again we know children,
My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me,
My husband is dead,
I look at the future,
I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing,
Young of their own,
And I think of the years,
And the love that I've known.

I'm now an old woman,
And nature is cruel,
'Tis jest to make old age,
Look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles,
Grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone,
Where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass,
A young girl still dwells,
And now and again,
My battered heart swells.

I remember the joys,
I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living,
Life over again.

I think of the years,
All too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact,
That nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people,
Open and see,
Not a crabby old woman;
Look closer - see ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an old person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. We will all, one day, be there, too!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The 'Not So Golden Years'

I just read an article in a local paper where they compare TV shows about professions, as well as the institutions they involve, and how it stacks up to the actual real life jobs.

It got me thinking - when are TV executives going to do a real life drama about nursing homes, or even about aging in general?

Oh sure, there was the old show THE GOLDEN GIRLS, and bless them, they touched nicely on some topics, but I'd like something more visceral, more real, more deep. I don't mean it couldn't have some humour here and there, but I'd like it to touch on the hard stuff, the uncomfortable stuff - the 'activites of daily living' that must be faced, grace or no grace. I'd love to have the show have great writing, and be cast well. I'm not asking for much, am I?!