Sunday, July 8, 2007


Stop the Presses!

    I must report this bit of news.
    So, after breakfast and a round of Sorry, Mom decided she wanted to "watch something" while I did After Arising Chores, "but not a show," which means, not a serialized television show.
    "How about Mrs. Doubtfire?" I suggested.
    She was enthusiastic. "That's always a good one!" Note that she's indicating, here, that she remembers something about it, the assumption being that she remembers seeing it before.
    So, I set up the movie, she settled into her rocker, I peeked in on my favorite parts of Mrs. Doubtfire as I proceeded through necessary chores.
    About forty-five minutes later, while I was finishing the last chore, I stopped on the dinette landing leading into living room to watch the "Dude Looks Like a Lady" sequence. Just as I was beginning to bounce to the music, Mom turned to me, her face sour around the edge. "Haven't we seen this before?" she pointedly asked.
    It's not uncommon, anymore, for her to ask this about a movie, although with no edge to the question. I always confirm that, yes, she's seen it before, sometimes make a stab at guessing how many times she's seen it, tell her it's one of my favorites (which is almost always true; if it's not, I don't say it), tell her how she's felt about it (in detail, if I can, not in general)...and we agreeably watch the rest of it, usually with Mom delightedly exclaiming, here and there, "Oh, I forgot about that!"
    Today's edgy question was a surprise to me. I went through the same spiel, but she didn't respond in the same way. After explaining to her that I suggested the movie earlier and she had indicated agreement, I asked her how she felt about it, now. "Remind me, next time, that I don't want to watch this movie again."
    Oh. Okay. That's a complicated snare of remembering: When I insist on one thing, remember that I really don't like that thing any longer and spare me from rediscovering this by distracting me toward something I will like, but I think I can handle it. "So, does that mean you don't want to watch repeats anymore?"
    She flashed me an abbreviated glare. "No, that's not what I'm saying."
    "Well, now that I'm done with chores, I'm getting into watching this again. I'd forgotten how good Robin Williams is in this. Do you mind continuing to watch it?"
    A begrudged, "No, I guess not."
    Within a half hour she was ready for a nap.
    So, I don't know, maybe she's ready for ramped up activity and her present desire for novelty (of which she is aware) is connected. I hope so. She's doing fine, but, well, I'd like to see her more active and would like to use little to no force to achieve this, since she usually doesn't enjoy herself if force is used.
    I have noticed lately, though, that even though she has been sleeping somewhat more, she's also been more aware. I think it may be connected to having readjusted her lisinopril for her BP. I know it's making her physically tired, now, more than usual, but her BP is right where it should be. Her BG seems to be running well, too. Yes, I'm heading over the The Dailies to start recording. Not sure what I'll include, this time, but I think we could use some new history. I'm hoping that her cholesterol and triglycerides are settling down, too. We are cruising, in regard to her health, and I am so grateful to all involved gods. Anyway, look for me over there, later.

    Something I wanted to remember to record: The Fed Ex lady's mother "isn't doing well". Her descriptions of what's happening now sound very similar to my maternal grandfather's decline within the six months before his death. "I think she's getting ready to go," Fed Ex lady said. She maintained a philosophical, sad only around the edges, attitude. Several times while she was telling me about the latest developments, she nodded and said, "She's ready to go."
    Her father, on the other hand, a couple years older than her mom and into his very lightly demented and disabled 90's, remains robust, active, with little patience for his wife's prominent slowing and fading.
    "All her family are gone," the Fed Ex lady continued, adding the last of her mother's sisters dying this winter, "all her friends, if they're not gone, they're out of touch, I think she's," she paused, shrugged, it seemed like she would have liked to have used another description but was too rushed to think of one, "given up."
    I confirmed for her how this happened to my grandfather. It was a lot less sad than it sounds.
    She nodded her head vigorously. "Sometimes you just have to realize what's happening and accept it."
    "Is your Mom in good spirits?"
    She grinned. "The best."
    "How about her will?"
    To my surprise she shrugged again as if to say, "She's fallen a lot. She hasn't broken anything but she's afraid to move, now."
    "I wish my mother was afraid to move," I remarked.
    We both smiled.
    "I think she's lost her will."
    "Well, I guess that's to be expected," I realized out loud.
    We both nodded, soberly, then, oddly, laughed.
    "Well, I hope it's easy for her, from here on out."
    The Fed Ex lady nodded. "It already is. She's not worrying like she used to."
    I nodded, although I don't know what this is like. My grandfather was never a worrier. My mother has almost never been a worrier.
    So, ahhh, another Ancient One moves into the passive dying phase. I don't know if such a thing has yet been professionally designated, as has "active dying phase", but it seems to accurately imply exactly what happened to my grandfather. First he broke his knee. Then the rest of his relatives and friends (not many, he was in his mid-90's) dropped away, including his next door neighbor, with whom he shared a birth year, a last name and daily walks to the old antique store on Cortez. His knee took a long time to heal. First he became impatient. Then he became enured. He talked to his wife (I'm sure she found this charming, she said archly) about how everyone who was important to him, "is gone." He was no longer interested in telling the stories of his life. I mentioned this to my cousin, once, saying, "It's like he's ready to be done with creating and telling stories."
    She nodded.

    I wonder if my mother will go through something like this, or if she'll keel over unexpectedly. I'd prefer the latter, for both of us. I know I've asked her and my recollection is not reliable but I think she told me that she has no preference. I remember her telling me once, "I don't want to die in a hospital"," unless it's by accident and unavoidable. Literally and figuratively, I imagine.
    It's hard to say what happened to my maternal grandmother. Alzheimer's had twisted her into an incoherent fetal position in a nursing home before she died. My mother's sister keeled over. Neat and quick. She'd been on the brink of death at least one other time in her life, though, possibly two, so she was an old hand at it. She keeled over walking down the hall of her living facility with her husband. He later spoke, with catching voice, about how he thought it was "sweet", that she went like that. I tend to think he misunderstood and that this was my aunt's final wry act of humor.
    My mother's brother went quickly, but it would be fair to say that he had been disenchanted with life ever since he was an older teen, so, you know, it's hard to say whether disinterest is responsible for killing him at the age of 62 in the form of (yet another) heart attack.
    It looks, though, as though Mom will be around for some time to come. I'm especially encouraged by her BP. I'll know, "even at her age", she'll work into the sense of slowness that's requiring so much sleep of her. If her cholesterol isn't in order, I'm going to quiz her PCP, in September (I'll set him up ahead of time with at least two Health Reviews) about possible light cholesterol meds that don't run roughshod over the kidneys and liver; although, actually, her liver seems to be fine.
    I'm rambling.

    Oh, I wanted to mention, I made a, hmmm...sounds funny but I would class it as a "professional" decision this weekend. I decided to join the American Society on Aging. I know, it's like, "So?"
    ASA defines itself as an organization of professionals working in the field of aging. Many of these professionals inherit membership through those for whom they work. Now, I've always had a problem with the word "professional". I have always insisted that it means one is paid for what one does, room and board notwithstanding. But, when I ran across this organization, suddenly I realized I am ready to consider and identify myself as a "professional" in what I do with and for my mother, as well as a "specialist"; skillful, too, knowledgeable, currently plying my trade and in my prime in that trade. Why shouldn't I join?!? As a caregiver. Maybe not a "professional", but "specialist caregiver".
    I don't intend to continue doing this in any capacity after my mother dies but:
  1. You never know, and;
  2. Maybe in some capacities that don't require as much, hmmm, well, compassion, I guess; as a mentor, maybe. To care givers. Not care recipients. Just want to make that clear.
    Since I'm doing this now, though, I should make professional connections.
    Then I decided to look up the word "professional" and, apparently, it has fallen into favorable use with the "I don't get paid to do this but I'm a specialist and I deserve recognition, respect and networking privileges" crowd. Although caregivers are not yet generally acknowledged as such, avocational geeks are the spine upon which the internet was developed (and continues to develop) and are fully recognized as avocational professionals.
    I haven't received any membership feedback. I joined an Aging & Spirituality focus group, since this seems closest to my interests. Although I don't remember what I called my job, I know I didn't flinch from identifying myself as an unpaid caregiver. It would be nice, actually, if ASA were to establish a membership fee below "Individual" (which is the highest) for avocational professional caregivers and actively solicit their membership and participation in the community. Aside from the fact that many elder caregivers are aged, caregivers to the elderly do, literally, walk the life of their care recipient...sometimes ambivalently and through a glass darkly, but we have much to say about and on behalf of aging.
    I'm not sure how much participation I'll be able to manage in the community. I'm waaaaay behind with Revolution so, you know, I don't want to make any promises. But I do want to publicly declare myself not only a professional (avocational) but a specialist in my field, which is intimately connected with aging. There is, by the way, a "Caregiver" category somewhere, as you sign up, for something. I think I chose it, but I don't remember in response to what. So, it seems appropriate that I join a professional organization as part of that declaration.
    Let me, Lucy would recommend thought to a shingle...and a rate structure for appointments...

    Grinning. Later.

Originally posted by Karma: Thu Jul 12, 11:01:00 AM 2007

I think that death for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia issues is often very different than death for others. It stops being about will and the people that you love actually disappearing. Instead, all of the memories of those people disappear and the body and mind just completely shut down. It is so hard to think about what death is going to be like for Mom - but any hope of her dying with dignity in a way that she would like is certainly out the window.
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