The Mom & Me Journals dot Net
The definitive, eccentric journal of an unlikely caregiver, continued.

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.

7 minute Audio Introduction to The Mom & Me Journals [a bit dated, at the moment]

Saturday, August 02, 2008
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.
    Almost time.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    Later. I promise.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
"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:    Anyway, the point of all this is that what she said to me today made me realize that the heart of our life together, what makes it work and allows us to thrive exists in these little moments throughout the day. This is what makes the difference between being cared for by a loving relative at home and being cared for in a nursing home, no matter how bonded one becomes to one's shift RNs and CNAs. After rolling my mother around in bed to change her diaper-like briefs or blasting her out of sleep at 0600 to stab her for blood, slap breathing treatments on her and force pills down her, the staff not only wasn't obligated to stay and, therefore, obligated to reaffirm a bond that can become precarious during such duties, I can't recall that any of them ever did this; some of them may have had the interest but none of them had the time. When you have to stay around and negotiate the hard moments after the dirty chores you can't help but reach a level of intimacy with your care recipient that strengthens the utility of the bond and its ability to inspire both people to continue their shared lives in good humor and optimism. This is the difference between care in a facility and care at home with someone who's always there. Biiiiig difference!
    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.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
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 perspective of the article is decidedly economic and political with only a nod to a sociological perspective. It is also soaked with a surprising cheerleader-like tone regarding the likelihood that the U.S. will come out on top of the heap from both economic and political power perspectives because it is aging more slowly than the other power brokers mentioned in the article. It doesn't address the possibility that this implied political supremacy based on a slower population aging profile may also underlie the U.S.'s current militaristic bullying that is frightening and disgusting much of the rest of the world. There is no mention of possible future contenders: I.e., a South and/or Central American union of states; the possibility that the greener a nation becomes, in the near future, the more likely that it will wield more political power, which bodes well for the EU (in fact, the article doesn't mention, at all, of the possible future political power of the EU); India and/or the possibility of an Asian Union of States, or, for that matter, a much more active union of Middle Eastern and/or African states. The article also asserts that the only possible effect an elder bulge could have on Gross Domestic Product for any country would be to lower it, thus lowering that country's economic strength and political influence. It ignores the ant-like energy we, at least in this country, are currently applying to the idea that elders can remain productive, in a variety of ways, throughout their lives and that, somehow or another, we will find a way to ameliorate our recent discovery that dementia, in a variety of ways, seems to plague many of those who live within the boundaries of expanded life expectancy. There is also no mention that servicing elders and relying on elders to provide unique services is an industry unto itself with GDP implications. As well, although the article clearly states that current global aging is "unprecedented" (which I question...I vaguely recall reading that at the time of the American Revolution the great political powers of the time were in a similar elder bulge situation), it doesn't take into account that the actual age range of the aging bulge is the most notable precedent and, in regard to dealing with a bulge which includes many who live close to and past the century mark, we are completely at sea...we're in the early stages of learning what the facets and implications of advanced age are.
    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:    The list could continue and include such concerns as an overpopulated world's vulnerability to plagues and epidemics and what this would do to The Balance of Power; what seems to be the growing world-wide awareness that a society's success might be better measured by the well-being of its individual citizens rather than the well being of its GDP; the dawning realization that the Earth, itself, might be preparing to, in short order, allow this virus that we call humanity to control itself by letting it attempt to live in an environment its created that doesn't, anymore, promote its proliferation? Considering that the elderly are a particularly vulnerable population and we, as a species, are not yet facile at controlling this vulnerability, even though we'd like to be and dream of being so, what other factors immediately threaten the elder bulge and how likely are they to turn all of this elder bulge speculation on its head?
    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.

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