Apologia for these journals:
They are not about taking care of a relative with moderate to severe Alzheimer's/senile dementia.
For an explanation of what these journals are about, click the link above.
For internet sources that are about caring for relatives with moderate to severe
Alzheimer's/senile dementia, click through the Honorable Alzheimer's Blogs in my
links section to the right.
Today is my mother's 91st birthday.
It is one of the hottest days of the year...following yesterday, which was also a hot day. By "hot" I mean that the temperature is in the 90's and the dew point is 45°, thus, although I am running the evaporative cooler at the back of the house because it seems somewhat drier "up here" (some hundreds of feet above the actual city of Prescott), it's only mildly effective. After studying the Local on the 8's several times, yesterday, we both decided it would be better to put off the cooking that her preferred birthday dinner would entail until Sunday, at least, when it's supposed to drop into the high 80's or possibly Monday, when the temperature should be closer to the mid to low 80's. Both days promise rain but, at that temperature, using the oven to bake a home made beef pot pie and the stove top to cook parts of the home made parfait dessert (Oriental Orange Snow) will not seem suffocating, or so we're thinking. In the meantime, this has more or less been a "birthday week" for my mother. I've been teasing her about her birthday a lot, trying to coax her to guess the gifts I've gotten her, she's been receiving flowers since the 30th (yet another bright yellow bouquet, perfectly worked to sit in her favorite yellow vase, just arrived) and each evening we've eaten food she loves and I've seen to it that each dinner includes dessert, her favorite part of dinner.
I asked her yesterday, twice, after reminding her that today is her birthday, how old she felt. When she first awoke she said, "About 150." Later in the day, more serious, she said, "Oh, I would guess pretty old. Late 70's, early 80's..."
When I reminded her that she'd be 91 today, once again, as usual, she said, astonished, "Oh no! I'm sure you're wrong about that!" So, we subtracted her birth year from the current year ("2008" surprised her, too), and she said, "Well, I think you're hedging!"
I'm not feeling sentimental about this probably being her last birthday. I keep waiting for that to kick in and it just hasn't. I've been thinking ahead to this coming fall/winter holiday season, too, which, if she makes it there, will probably also be her last, and I just can't get excited or sorrowful about it. The more I think about it, though, the more I think it is probably best that I am incapable of making a special big deal about these "last" celebrations of ours. They are, indeed, wonderful landmarks. But, you know, I'm just surprised, pleased and satisfied that she's broken 90. And, you know, I think the best way to live life is to live it as though one will never die or one might die within the next few moments, both strategies of which are essentially the same.
I've also been considering, lately, how it goes with most online caregiver journalists. Of the few of whom I am aware, three have lost their care recipient parents. Two haven't posted since their parents' deaths. One has, briefly, in memory. Thus, I wonder how much writing I'll be doing here after my mother's death. I expect I'll probably continue for awhile, not just in memory of my mother but as a way of sorting through the period of my life that will have just ended. Since I've been doing what is pretty much "the unthinkable" and often "the undoable", which involves seeing to it that there is as little detectable difference between Mom's life and mine as possible for the last 11 years (when 24/7 caregiving began and I stopped working outside the home), I imagine I will be moved to process a lot of the last 14+ (possibly 15 by the time my mother dies) years immediately after her death and trying to make enough sense of everything to continue my life in a reasonable manner. I assume that I'll be reporting on this processing online.
It is irritating for me to try to take into account, as "The Literature" admonishes, some sort of preparation for my life after my mother's death. I agree that doing this is "wise" and I'm not immune to fits of fear about how my life will unfold "afterwards" but, for me, it seems disingenuous to attempt to prepare for a part of my life that remains ambiguous, at best. I haven't a clue, for instance, how I will feel when Mom and I are done, here. I know, from experience, that for me to attempt to anticipate how I might feel is pure folly.
So, truthfully, despite the variety of labels that have been placed on our life, recently, "lung cancer", "dying", "hospice", "end of life", I remain astonished that none of these has changed our lived-together life, nor have they changed my feelings about it, and us. The recent periods of desperation, the periods of cruising (one of which we're in, right now) are all familiar to me. Nothing has changed. Nothing, I suspect, will change until my mother makes her Final Change. And then, well, que sera sera.
I know, I know, that's a fool's refrain, which is probably why the song became so popular.
I'm catching up on archiving, again...
...which tends to put me in a fairly uninspired posting state, but, I want to mention the following two posts for those of you who are intent on keeping up with how Mom's doing:
- You might find this daily movement post for yesterday's movement interesting. The Hospice RN visited just as Mom and I were emerging from the bathroom and heading for the dinette for her breakfast, thus, this post contains much of our discussion of Mom's current movement profile.
- Over at The Dailies, this section, yesterday's Miscellaneous Notes, contains a discussion the Hospice RN and I had about controlling for Mom's diabetes and my thoughts on the discussion.
"You don't know how lucky I am to have you here!"
Mom said this to me out of the blue today as we were walking her into her bedroom for her nap. I have no idea where it came from. As I recall, I'd just performed one of her favorite bits of goofing on her as she was making her way through the hall from the bathroom into the bedroom, supporting herself with the walls on either side of her. I stood in her bedroom door, rubbing my hands in mock glee, luring her on, saying, "Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly."
It's one of our perennial teasers. We have loads of them:
- When awakening her from a period of sleep: "Open your eye. Open your other eye. Now open your other eye."
- When I serve her dinner, especially when I'm serving something of which both of us are unsure: "Yet another gastronomic delight from the kitchen of Chef Hudson and Company," to which she always replies, "Oh, we're having company tonight? Well, bring them out!"
- When I'm cleaning her ass and she's particularly annoyed about it: "You know, when I was nine (or, sometimes I'll say 'eleven') I didn't suddenly awaken one morning and say to myself, 'When I grow up I want to clean my mother's ass after her bowel movements."
- When she becomes annoyed with me directing her, step by step, through tricky movements as she's shuffling around the house, when I'm done I'll often add, "Okay, now, stand on your head," or "Okay, now, do a back flip," or "Okay, now, drop and give me 50."
She feels she is lucky to have me here. What do you know! I'm lucky she feels this way.
We had an interesting conversation after Mom's breakfast about hospice, lung cancer and death. I'm too tired to go into it tonight but I'll try to post what I remember tomorrow.
The Hospice Nurse visits tomorrow. And I've got a few errands to run before Mom awakens.
I read the article I mention in the immediately previous post...
...Pax Americana Geriatrica yesterday morning at breakfast. My choice of reading times was mildly unfortunate. My mother and I often read at breakfast. Our breakfast reading is social. One of us usually reads the morning newspaper while the other reads one (or more) of a surprising variety of magazines (from my mother's infamous gossip rags to National Geographic to food magazines, most recently Bon Appetit, to which we landed a free subscription, and always the latest Penzey's Spice Catalog to Harper's, etc.; whatever we happen to have in our house at any given breakfast) scattered across the table top. We look for bits and pieces to share and discuss with one another. This Miller-McCune article provided little fodder, which frustrated my mother because I insisted on reading it through silently without breaks. I found a couple of interesting nuggets that I shared with her, though, so Breakfast Reading wasn't an entire loss, yesterday:
- The first was a factoid stating that in 1935, when Social Security in the U.S. was implemented, the age of implementation, 65, was two years beyond the age of life expectancy, which, at that time, was 63. "Isn't that interesting," I said to my mother, "Social Security was designed to provide economic security only for those lucky few who managed to lived beyond life expectancy...it wasn't designed to help the general elderly...only the special elderly." The article also mentions that life expectancy, today, is 78. "According to the way it was meant to be administered," I continued, "Social Security 'shouldn't' kick in until one is 80." Mom remembered that when Social Security was implemented her mother and father enthusiastically participated as business owners/self-employed. She told me that they contributed "as much as they were allowed" every year until they retired. They retired, when they sold Latchstring Inn, in 1969; my grandmother was 75; my grandfather was 85.
- The second was mention that "youth bulges" in any particular population usually spawn political radicalism and violence, particularly when such "bulges" are not easily absorbed into the economic circumstances of a country. The article speculates, based on research, that the Middle East and North African youth bulges, as they age, will follow the usual pattern: They will become "a source of political stability and economic development." My mother made the obvious comparison to "my" generation, the 1960's and 70's and how "we" "settled down" in the 1980's. I was, frankly, surprised, and pleased, that she made this connection, even though the character of the economic stability "we" created in the 1980's is largely what is undoing our society, now.
Despite the article's refusal to consider the sociological ramifications and possibilities of an aging population, the mere existence of the article raises some intriguing questions. Here are just a few:
- What about elder activism, which seems to be proving itself somewhat more effective than youthful activism, albeit in less advertised ways?
- What about the possibility that the older we, as individuals become, the more likely we are to prefer peaceful activism to to violent activism and that, beyond middle age, aging does not imply conservatism?
- What about the possibility that other countries, perhaps because they are aging faster than the U.S., are discovering and will continue to discover ways to incorporate elders into society that will transform their societies into more livable environments that the U.S.?
- What about the unique life perspective that aging confers, a perspective with which I am just beginning to become personally familiar? As more people come into this perspective, how will its burgeoning primacy affect the way Global Power Brokers broke power?
- What about the danger of being The World's Top Power Dog by virtue of economic and military supremacy in a world which is much too populated to put up with political grandstanding and competition, anymore?
- And, you know, what about my mom and the influence her Ancient Self has on me, through our relationship? If it happens that relationships such as my mother's and mine become valued and supported by our societies (assuming that they not only will, but they must), what effect will this have on the assumptions of this article?
From my perspective, we continue to be a thinking species that hasn't yet figured out how to accurately and felicitously think ahead. When our futures arrive, they continue to surprise us. This hasn't changed. I think global aging has just begun to surprise us with its implications. I fear that these surprises will be largely disruptive but I hope they are, finally, largely good. In the meantime, it might be wise for us to consider protecting our elders much better than we currently are because, in doing so, we might also protect ourselves.
A half hour to Mom's reveille.
All material, except that not written by me, copyright at time of posting by Gail Rae Hudson