Category Archives: Magical Memories

alzheimer's disease

5 Tips for Helping Kids Cope with Alzheimer’s Disease

Anyone who has any experience with Alzheimer’s Disease will tell you it doesn’t just affect the patient. It affects the entire family. So, how do you talk to children about Alzheimer’s? What is important for them to know? Are there things you shouldn’t tell them? How do you help them cope with the impact of the disease on their lives?

These are all questions we were faced with while caring for my mother over the course of five to six years. My children were 11, 8, 6, and 2 when she was first diagnosed with dementia. Out of that experience, I offer the following tips. Hopefully they will provide a place to start if you’re looking for answers.

Put the Kids on a Need to Know Basis

At first, there wasn’t a whole lot to say, and the kids didn’t notice much of a change. It was early and they saw her several times a week, so decline was less noticeable. My mom was still living fairly independently. I just started keeping a closer eye on her and how things were going. By not sharing too much, too soon, you’ll prevent months of unnecessary worry on the part of the kids.

Keep it Simple and Age Appropriate

As time went on, and my involvement grew, the need for sharing information with them increased. I presented simple explanations for the simple things. “Granny is forgetful. I have to go over every day to make sure she takes her medicine.” or “Because Granny is forgetful, she will tell you things over and over. Please be patient with her and polite.” And, more detailed information for more complex issues like taking the car and the cigarettes away. In these cases, I explained the reasons why it was necessary to take the steps I took which were all directly related to her safety.

Let Them Help

Sometimes, the kids don’t have a choice. They’re not the decision makers on the big stuff. They’re along for the ride.

As the time when she would no longer be able to live independently approached, we began preparing them for the day when she would move in here with all of us. They were 13, 10, 8, and 4 then. Their world was going to be turned upside down. We had been in the middle of redoing the boys’ bedroom. We stopped midway through and turned it into a haven for my mom and the boys ended up with a makeshift bedroom in our basement.

I remember that conversation well. The boys and I were sitting on their beds in the basement and we talked about how it was going to be crowded and inconvenient, and hard, but that this is what families do for each other. When I mentioned that one day, the boys and their sisters may have to take care of their dad and me in a similar way, my oldest boy turned to his younger brother and said, “Yeah, that’s on you.” (That oldest boy, by the way, was the most patient and compassionate caregiver you would ever find when push came to shove.)

But, in other ways, they can help, they can have a voice, and they want to help. Look for opportunities to involve them in an age appropriate way. Older children can fix simple meals or snacks, or even help to feed their loved one. Younger children can read a story, sing a song, or work a puzzle. Anyone can offer a hand as the patient is moving from point A to point B.

Honor the Pre-Dementia Relationship

My children each had a unique relationship with their granny. When my oldest was 10 months old, she retired to take care of him while I worked full time. Each week, he spent more waking hours with her Monday through Friday than he did with his father and me. When she was with him, he was her sole focus. She didn’t clean, or pay bills, run errands or meet with friends. She poured her whole self into him all day long. A very special bond and many memories were created. Because he was the oldest, he has many more memories of her before the dementia than everyone else.

My second son had an equally special bond with her. She cared for him full time from birth until he was 2 1/2, and then part time when I reduced my work hours. But, he never had her all to himself.

By the time my oldest daughter was born, the first born was off to kindergarten and I was working part time. Due to the school bus schedule, the childcare moved from my mom’s house to our house. While my oldest daughter remembers her granny in those early years, she doesn’t have many memories of fun times at Granny’s house.

And, by the time the baby of the family came along, dementia was lurking in the shadows. My mom couldn’t take care of a baby anymore. Our youngest has no memories of “fun granny” as she put it in her funeral speech.

Especially, after she moved in with us, this history, these unique relationships, became vitally important. During the difficult times, we could reminisce about the things they used to do together whether it was walking to the store to get a donut in the morning, practicing their word-ring as she taught them to read, or a favorite book they shared. And, for the youngest, realizing she didn’t have that warm and fuzzy history to draw on made her utter exasperation and occasional outbursts understandable.

Nurture the Post-Dementia Relationship

kids and dementiaAlzheimer’s Disease sufferers often find comfort and enjoyment being around young children and young children can still benefit from having a relationship with their elders. Encourage them to read books together or play simple games. Or to just cuddle. Although the memories of the Alzheimer’s sufferer are fading, new, fond memories can still be formed for the young people in their lives as evidenced by this excerpt of our 7 year old daughter’s speech at my mom’s funeral.

Even though I didn’t know the fun Granny, the cranky Granny was still fun. I loved her so much. There were good times and bad times. The good time was when she was reading books to me and then she helped me get a good grade. –, grand daughter of an Alzheimer’s Disease sufferer, age 7

Throughout the journey, keep the kids involved and the lines of communication open. Remember, it’s their journey, too.

My Mammogram Adventure

The last 10 days have been hell. If you’ve been around here at all, you already know my mother who is in the early late stage of Alzheimer’s disease lives with us and much of what that entails. You probably don’t know that I’m the “responsible party” for my elderly aunt as well.

At 10:30 pm 10 days ago, I got a call from my aunt’s neighbor that she was being taken to the hospital “because her legs gave out.” Well, this is a big long story in itself which I’m not going to go into. Let’s just suffice it to say that there were a number of things wrong, she’s now in rehab for physical therapy for at least a month, maybe longer and this probably serves as the “event” that will take away her independence (i.e., force her into assisted living).

So the last 10 days have been filled with daily trips to the hospital and many trips to her house to take care of her business, phone calls to friends, businesses, and conversations with doctors, nurses and social workers.

Sprinkled in between were my mammogram one day and a stress test and ultrasound for me the next. All standard appointments set up long before my aunt ended up in the hospital. Oh, and of course still taking care of my mom and my kids and trying my best to stay on top of things at work.

The stress was building to be sure. I’m strong, but, really, we all have our limits.

I reached mine yesterday when I got the call that I needed to go back for more images because they saw something on my mammogram that was suspicious and they wanted to take another look. Now, this happened last year. I freaked out a little then, my husband went with me just in case it was bad news, but it turned out to be nothing. So, under normal circumstances, this call would have been no big deal. But, I wasn’t operating under normal circumstances. I was teetering on the edge of keeping it together and this pushed me right over.

I cried and cried and cried. In front of my children (wrong, stupid, wrong, bad mother moment). I reassured them with my words the best I could, but of course the emotion they had witnessed made a bigger impression. My focus went out the window and I cried even more. I was a wreck.

I asked for prayers on Facebook–both my personal profile and my “secret group” that is only for my virtual team of colleagues–it’s our water cooler. More than 30 of my friends commented offering prayers, laughs and encouragement. Two immediately offered to go with me (oh yeah, hubby couldn’t go because he had to take his mom to an important doctor appointment at the same time) and another offered to stay at my house with my mom and kids if I needed it. I was so touched by each and every person! The support was overwhelming.

dinnerMy boss called and asked what I wanted for dinner because it was on her. Later, last night, a colleague sent me an Amazon gift card via email with strict instructions to spend it on something to pamper myself with. I told her I might get spa products or I might end up needing socks to stuff my bras with or scarves to wrap my bald head with, but I was hoping it would go for spa products.

So, this morning, my gal pals showed up and we headed off to the hospital. They had me laughing the whole way!

I asked the mammogram lady (no idea what her job title is…it’s probably not “boob squisher” though) to look and see if I was being called back for the same reason I was last year. Yep. Same side and reason, but different spot. I felt better already!

She did her squishing and I waited while the doctor looked at the pictures.

Hallelujah! Not cancer. A “ridge of dense tissue that looks totally benign.” Did I say “hallelujah?”

So, I told my girlfriends that all was good and we headed off to breakfast with a spring in our steps. Michelle told me her husband had said he was sure it was just a shadow. Thank you, Dr. Todd!

So first to tell the masses. no cancer

Sent a text to my hubby, too. Then called home to reassure my kids. My 16 year old son answered the phone. He was very relieved to hear I was not dying but did say it would be much appreciated if I could go to the grocery store today as we are out of bread, milk and the peanut butter is almost gone. They had applesauce and pudding for breakfast.

Then he said my second son wanted to talk to me. He’s 13 and was also very relieved to hear the good report. I told him to be sure to tell his sisters when they got up that I was OK! He said, “Oh, they’re up. We’re all up. We’re cleaning the house.”

Wait! Did I say I don’t have cancer? The test results aren’t back yet. I’m going to take my friends for breakfast. You keep cleaning!!!

Funniest phone call ever!

So to recap, I was having the week from hell anyway. Then the dreaded mammogram call back and before you know it the whole town was praying for me, two of my friends dropped everything to go to the appointment with me, men around town were talking about my boobs, my boss bought me dinner, my colleague sent me a gift card to pamper myself and MY KIDS CLEANED THE HOUSE!

Well, I’m healthy, and we’re out of food. So, off to the grocery store I go! It was nice while it lasted.

 

 

 

Laughter: The Caregiver’s Best Medicine

It’s no secret, the role of care-giver is tough. It’s frustrating, maddening and down-right disgusting sometimes. So how do I get through the days? I have a few tools in my arsenal (in no particular order): support group, blogging, prayer, tears, a good stiff drink (sometimes and don’t judge) and…laughter!

Even though much of my mom’s personality is gone, her sense of humor is still very much in tact. Often, when she’s taking her pills, she’ll ask, “What are these for?” When we tell her one is for her memory, a common response from her is to grin and say “Oh, I forgot.”

Laughter Is Best Medicine

There are many times we’ve been able to diffuse a tense situation by cracking a joke.

And there are even more times when finding the humor helps the rest of us deal with it all. Sometimes the situations are just funny and it’s ok to find the humor in them and laugh.

I remember a night about a year ago when we were all watching TV and my mom was holding Sissy, her cat, and petting her. Every couple minutes she would say, She’s a pretty kitty. She’s a calico kitty.”

Every time she said it the words were exactly the same and so was the sing-songy way she said it. After she’s said it at least half a dozen times, my oldest son (14 at the time) said, “We should turn this into a drinking game. Every time she says it, we should all take a drink of coke.”

This absolutely cracked us all up! Now, I’ll admit, as his mother, I’m still a little perplexed as to how he even knew what a drinking game was at 14 because I assure you he had never seen one or participated in one. Yes, I’m sure. But, I digress.

Sure enough, she said it again. We all raised our glasses and said, “Cheers!”

Now, when she gets focused on something and starts to drive us nuts, all one of us has to do is say, “Cheers!” and everyone relaxes.

The best part is, I know my mom would approve. She’s always been one of the funniest people I know. I’ll never forget during the visitation at my dad’s funeral seeing my mom and two of her closest friends, standing near the casket doubled over in laughter. No one remembers what they were laughing at, but boy, it must have been good! And, better yet, it was good for her!

If you’re a caregiver and you’re afraid to laugh because it seems disrespectful, I encourage you to read some of these articles and not just take my word for it.

I’ll leave you with one last thought, from one of my favorite authors:

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”–Dr. Suess

Share with me! I’d love to hear your funny caregiving stories!

 

You can take the girl out of retail…

-Courtesy Lars Ploughman

-Courtesy Lars Ploughman

Black Friday.

I have a love-hate relationship with Black Friday. I wouldn’t be caught dead shopping on that day, but I worked in retail for 20 years and the thrill of seeing the sales figures rise so rapidly is hard to beat. I’ve been out of retail for 5 years and this weekend was reminded of just how fun it is to see the results of my Black Friday prep work pay off.

Cue the flashback music

It was supposed to be a 3 month summer gig after my freshman year in college.

But my hairdresser knew differently. Throughout the next three years when we’d talk about my job at a local department store:  “You’re going to be a retail queen. It’s in your blood!” I shrugged it off because that wasn’t what I was going to school for. Little did I know…

One of the best parts of my job was seeing a direct impact on sales through my actions. Because the company was still relatively small, I could call the buyers. If something was blowing out the door, I could call and say, “Get me more!” Or, if it wasn’t selling, “Transfer this out or let me mark it down!” I was also afforded great freedom and creativity when it came to merchandising my floor. I could move stuff around, make “shops,” be creative. Then I could watch the sales numbers. If they went up, I celebrated! If they went down or didn’t move, I made adjustments.

My career grew. The company grew. And I got pregnant. As I went about my job, and the pregnancy continued, I wondered, “How in the world am I going to be the kind of mom I want to be and work nights, weekends and 6 days at Christmas?” That thought began to take the fun out of the job.

Then, I was offered a demotion. Not because I wasn’t doing well, but because the regional director’s administrative assistant was leaving. I had to take a slight pay cut, but the job was Monday-Friday days.

No nights. No weekends. No stress.

I jumped on it!

I worked in that position for 9 years and for the majority of the time it was great! I worked in an office alone 3-4 days a week while the boss traveled. I made connections friends at the corporate offices, and in many of our stores throughout the company.

The company had grown so much that a lot of what I had considered fun…the merchandising, working with buyers to hone the inventory…was not part of the job anymore. It was cookie-cutter. I was glad I wasn’t in the trenches anymore.

But there was one day out of every year I missed it. Black Friday! As I said, I’ll never shop on Black Friday but to prep for it and be part of the fast-paced excitement was a rush! A favorite saying was, “Pile it high and let it fly!”  Watching the sales numbers shooting up (on a good year) was amazing!

Retirement Party. Betcha don't know many women who retire AND have a baby all in the same week!

Retirement Party. Betcha don't know many women who retire AND have a baby all in the same week!

Less than two months after my 20th anniversary, I “retired.” Not because I was ready for my AARP card or Medicare, but because I was about to have my 4th child. My boss and his wife hosted a lovely retirement party for me and colleagues friends came from miles away to wish me well. It meant the world to me!

That was five years ago. I still won’t shop on Black Friday. But, I do miss the people and the excitement that goes along with it.

This year, I was reminded just how much I miss watching those sales numbers rise. I’m a social media specialist working with Weaving Influence. One of the clients we’re working with is Dean Vollmar. His company, 1stFrame.com, is an online retailer. He creates beautiful, custom laser-engraved frames. Part of the work we’re doing for him revolves around this weekend: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

We used a photo from my summer vacation to design a frame or use in our Michigan Small Business Saturday Frame.

We used a photo from my summer vacation to design a frame for use in our Michigan Small Business Saturday Frame.

He kept us updated throughout the day yesterday as sales began to come in. Before 10:30 a.m., he had already sold as many frames as the year before. As of midnight, he had a 500% increase! Once again, I felt the rush of seeing incredible sales figures and knowing that my knowledge, my expertise, my actions created a direct impact on sales.

But this time, it was from the comfort of my own sofa!

So, you might be able to take the girl out of retail, but I don’t think you’ll ever take the retail out of this girl.

Let’s talk! Do you shop on Black Friday? Work on Black Friday? Have you retired or left a job and find that while you wouldn’t go back, there are aspects you miss?

Planning a trip to Disney World, Take 2

Just about this time, four years ago, I was beginning to plan our family’s first trip to Disney World in Florida. We planned on whisking our three children, who would have been 9, 7 and 4 at travel time, away on the last day of school for the most magical experience of their lives.

I had everything all mapped out and saved on the Disney site. I had 30 days to put down a deposit on the trip, or my planning wouldn’t be saved anymore.

My 30 days were almost up. I looked at the calendar, ready to make the deposit. A little voice inside me said, “Maybe you should wait a couple days.” I waited. The voice said, “Why don’t you give it a week?” I waited. I waited another week.

OK, I was two weeks late.

Our first three children had all been conceived through the help of fertility drugs. We didn’t use any birth control, other than the we-have-three-children-and-we’re-exhausted method. Chances of me getting pregnant were very slim.

Turns out, slim is enough.

Well, instead of going to Disney in June 2007, we welcomed our “Bonus Baby” in July.

Now that baby is 3 and we’re trying again. For the vacation!! Yeah, fool me once–we both got fixed!

So here’s where you come in. Usually when I blog, it’s because I have something to say and I hope at least a few people out there will want to read it. If not, that’s ok because the blog is creating a nice little diary of our life. But this time, I want you to tell me something!

I want to know your money saving and sanity saving tips for making the trip a success without needing to take a second mortgage on the house!

You should know our kids will be 13, 10, 8 and 4 when we travel and we’re coming from extreme southeast Michigan.

Some of my questions are:

  1. How many days do you really need?
  2. Where’s the best place to stay?
  3. Should we drive or fly?
  4. Is park hopper worth it?
  5. Is the dining package worth it?
  6. What is the one thing you wouldn’t want us to miss?
  7. What is the one thing we could skip?
  8. What else do you know that only comes with experience?

I recently read DonMartelli’s Parent’s Guide to Surviving a Disney World Vacation. He gives down and dirty practical advice which is just the kind of stuff I want to hear.

So, whatcha got? Go ahead…comment!

Center Stage

Girl Scout Thinking Day 2010

Girl Scout Thinking Day

Demonstrating Saipha at BBA Trade Fair 2010

Demonstrating Saipha at BBA Trade Fair 2010

This week, I had the chance to see two of my darlings take center stage in their respective activities.

Leah and her Daisy Girl Scout Troop gave a presentation about Girl Scouts (or Guides as they are called) in Mexico. The event was in celebration of World Thinking Day: a day when Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world think about one another.

She looked adorable, knew her lines, spoke clearly into the microphone, and smiled. I was a proud mama!

My oldest darling, Zachary, was asked to participate in a Goju-Ryu Karate demonstration at the annual Bedford Business Association’s Trade Fair. The program is part of Bedford Public School’s Community Education Program.

He was asked to demonstrate the kata Saipha. He and his partners did an excellent job! He also demonstrated kumite, or sparring. I don’t particularly enjoy watching that part…always afraid something will get broken. :)

A hobo stole my toe

One of the most difficult tasks a parent has is finding someone capable of caring for your children on the occasions that dictate you must leave them at home when you go out.

I thought I had someone I could rely on. Someone who could care for them as well, if not better, than I. I’ve trusted this person with my children for more than 11 years. Eleven years. Without incident.

Recently, though, I’ve begun to wonder if this individual is really the type of caregiver I want for my children. While I don’t have a nanny cam, I do have some photographic and video footage to present to you as evidence.

Take a look and then tell me: Would you leave your children with this person?

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Exhibit C

Exhibit D

Exhibit D

Exhibit E

Exhibit E

Exhibit F (He's a french hobo?!)

Exhibit F (He's a french hobo?!)

And finally, Exhibit G.

Now, tell me, should I leave them with their Daddy anymore?

What goes around, comes around I guess

My mother loves to tell the story of the time that my dad was supposed to be watching me so she could take a bath. I was probably about 6. When he finally came looking for me, I was perched on the toilet with my toy guitar and had been serenading her in my truly awful singing voice for quite some time. The dog was laying in front of the tub listening (at least he thought I could sing). When My dad walked in, she told him she was going to start charging admission.

I never felt very sorry for my mom when she told that story. Even after having my own children. Afterall, I have four, she had one. She couldn’t have needed that bath, that solitude that badly. Could she?

I was reminded of that story today as I was in the shower. My two year old, Sarah, was happily playing downstairs while Daddy was working. Before I knew it, they were in the bathroom, playing a rousing game of peek-a-boo with me. First one side of the curtain, then over the top, then the other side. You get the idea.

This wasn’t even a luxurious, soaking, bath. It was a quick shower and they couldn’t just let me be in peace.

When I was finished, I had to dry off completely while still standing in the tub because Sarah was now brushing her teeth. Of course, the brushing kept being interrupted by her pointing, laughing and shrieking at my naked body.

I’m sorry, Mom. I’m. So. Sorry.