Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Mother (get it?!) of all UNEXPECTED days!

Jumping back over here to share yesterday (which I feel MUST be shared for posterity and perspective) on another One Word Wednesday over at my website My Sweet Peanut.  Today's word is UNEXPECTED!

One of the funny (to me, at least) things about blogging is that back-of-your-mind thought, no matter what is happening, that at some point - you HAVE to write about it.  Details get mentally jotted down so you can remember to add that to your post.  Photos are taken (not yesterday - far too personal and unphotogenic) to really accentuate your words. 

And then you sit down at the computer.  And if your day was weird or bigger than life or totally UNEXPECTED - you just don't know where to start.  I giggled.  I played it back out in my mind.  I said a prayer of thanks and decided the best way to write it, was to just WRITE IT.

Yesterday started a bit different than some other days - I was coming off a day of escape and freedom and rare 'me time'.  So, I was probably better rested.  I was definitely basking in the glow of reconnecting with lots of friends.  And I was ready to face my caregiving responsibilities with renewed enthusiasm.


My son dawdled.  Eight minutes of dawdling that cost me 5 or 6 laps in the pool. But that's okay - at least I swam, right?  To make up for it - my daughter had a good hair day and liked her very first outfit.  Back on track.

Then it was breakfast time - mom was moving slowly.  Not tortoise-slow, but slow.  And she was needy.  LIIIISSSSSA????  She needed a lot of confirmation and affirmation of every step of her morning routine.  But that's okay too - I was renewed and refreshed.

It seemed to make mom angry.  She was kind of cruel to my kindness.  But there were a couple of variables in play that probably contributed to her mood.  1.  My husband was off work and she doesn't understand or appreciate or enjoy when he is around all day.  and 2.  the pain medicine she takes for her arthritis could not be refilled because it is now "a controlled substance" and her doctor didn't write the correct type of prescription at her last doctor visit.  I, of course, tried to refill it last Friday afternoon - about 30 minutes after the doctor's office closed for the just got worse and worse and worse.  The Tylenol wasn't making a dent.

So, the stage is set for the day.

Bad mood.  Extra person.  Achy. 

By themselves, I could have handled yesterday with maybe a Coke Zero and a couple of Tylenol... and maybe a bite of chocolate.

But yesterday wasn't just any day - it was mom's birthday and she had a raging colon (I just didn't want to type the "d" word).

So, every time she heard our 'nice friends' on the Today show announce the date - a look came over her face and she would ask "What day is this?" and I would say "Tuesday"...nice try!  She would keep asking until we got to talk about her birthday.  And she got to say what a shame it was that NO ONE REMINDED HER of HER OWN BIRTHDAY.  Then we would talk about how old she was.  She just couldn't wrap herself around 87.  It added to the confusion and bad mood.

We got through breakfast.  We made it out into the living room where mom likes to nap while I study or blog or wander the web.  No nap today.  She glared at my husband.  She talked over us as we tried to catch up since we hadn't seen each other for more than a few minutes at a time.  And she paced.

The only positive to mom being in a bad mood is the extra exercise she gets.  She paces round and round our home.  Sitting down.  Standing up.  Round and round.  Up.  Down.  I hate to see her that agitated, but my silver lining is the extra exercise.

Somewhere in the pacing and the complaining, mom had an accident.  A #2 accident.  Only the second time ever.  And she was mortified.  Especially because there was a strange man (my poor husband) in the house.  And because she had to ask for help.

I felt like I did everything right.  Respectful of her privacy.  Making it no big deal.  Providing her with everything she needed to clean up, including my assistance if needed.  And then the soiled brief disappeared....

We were hysterical looking for it.  In drawers.  Under cushions.  The refrigerator.  Everywhere.  We thought about the toilet, but it was flushing way a Depend would fit down the toilet and still flush.  No way my frail mother who can't force the cap off a tube of chapstick could stuff a full-sized brief down the toilet....

And the day went on.  The date was tormenting her.  The smell of her cake baking was driving her batty.  Me disappearing into the laundry room to decorate her cake made her mad and caused some serious LIIIIISSSSSAAAAA screaming.    

AND she had 2 appointments.  Her home health aid came to help with her bath.  And her nurse came.  They have been avoiding getting a urine sample for 3 weeks - it's like no one wants to do it.  Mom is not exactly cooperative, but that's kind of what they do, isn't it?  Anyway, just pile this all on the bad mood.

I picked up her pain meds early, but they didn't seem to be working.  She seemed to be in even extra pain - her right hand (usually it's the left) was really bothering her.  More on that later!

Lunch was awful.  She started asking about lunch at 10:10.  I got her a snack.  She was still eating it when she started asking about lunch again.  Finally after she followed me and asked and asked and asked, I made her lunch (at 10:45) and she complained that she was eating alone.  And not just your everyday variety of complaining.  She went mean.  I know I shouldn't let it, but it really upsets me.  These are the situations you just can't win.

The entire day was about her being unhappy.  Too hot.  Too cold.  Too overcast.  Too bright.  Too much food.  Not enough food.  Too loud.  Too quiet.  Too many people.  Too much to do.  Where is everybody?  Don't we have anything to do around here?  And the pacing...

As the kids got home and then left again for dance and a volleyball game - it got worse.  She started to sing.  And to have very loud conversations with no one.  And then she went into the kitchen and started going through our mail basket and tucking things into her walker basket. 

Then she started opening cabinets looking for snacks.  I think she doesn't recognize things at all any more.  She looked right at boxes of cookies and crackers and trail mix and random fruit snacks in the pantry and little containers of grapes and carrots and berries in the fridge - but she just kept saying how there was nothing to eat. 

My husband and I ate dinner with her.  She was completely silent.  No amount of questions would get a response.  The only time she would talk was if we tried to talk to each other.  And then she wouldn't talk to us - just at no one in particular.  So, we ate quietly.  At least she ate her dinner.

The kids were excited to come home and have cake and ice cream and light her birthday candles and sing and give her their cards.  But right before I was going to light the's toilet wouldn't flush.  And then the world backed up.  It was a major blockage. 

We went immediately into homeowner fix-it mode.  And mom lost her mind.  She couldn't understand what all these people were doing in her bathroom.  She made lots of ridiculous statements at all of us to explain why she needed to be in the middle of everything and why we had no business in her bathroom.  It was tense!

And, when you are on the brink of a full sewage back up into your home - patience is scarce.  I had to send mom to her room.  It was awful.  She fought hard.  She got in the way.  She wanted to prove she was in control.  She wanted to understand.  But she couldn't.  And we didn't have time to explain it over and over and over.  It was awful.

Thankfully, we have a home warranty.  Thankfully we knew the right jargon to get our 'emergency' status approved.  Thankfully Jim, the Master Plumber was on call.  Thankfully Wayne, the superstar guy on the phone was the night on call guy.  Thankfully, the staff at American Home Shield (Travis and Tamika) were kind and helpful and quick!  Thankfully, the depend that mom has stuffed down the toilet (there's your explaination for her sore right hand) was in a place that made the repair 100% covered by our home warranty.  Thankfully, the toilet did not overflow to the point of needing to pull up flooring.  Thankfully, my husband was off-work.  Thankfully, my kids were calm and helpful with mom.  And thankfully, she finally went to sleep.

There was no cake and ice cream for mom.  No birthday candles or cards or singing.  We will try again tonight.  I am hoping for a more traditional evening tonight...I guess we'll see.  Right now mom is talking about the "real cute goat" in the living room...I think it's our dog...but it could be a figment of her imagination.  I just can't tell anymore.

I'm just glad she's calmer.  I love it when my husband has a day off, but today I'm glad he's safely at work.  Mom is happier.  The atmosphere is less cantankerous.  All Depends are accounted for.

I'm on eagle-eye duty today.  No more major repair surprises for me today.  Not if I can help it.  No more UNEXPECTED drama.  Just a nice, quiet, Ellen-watching day with mom....I hope!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Best Laid Plans....

The past 3 days have been a whirlwind.  I think we've handled it surprisingly well, but I felt a bit discombobulated until I sat down here to write.  I have taken a breath, I have a Sonic drink, mom is napping, my son is at football and my daughter is on the i-Pad. 

I just felt my shoulders relax for the first time.

I think I can actually tell my story on PLAN for One Word Wednesday over at my website, My Sweet Peanut.  I wasn't sure - even though I was convinced the prompt couldn't have been more perfect.  I was too in the middle of it to think straight!

If you're new here - mom has Alzheimer's.  The all-the-way-gone kind.  No short term memory (and this is not an exaggeration) and almost no long term memory to speak of.  She has flashes from her past that come out in dreams or catnaps or out-of-the-blue conversations that make absolutely no sense in this universe, but are clear as can be to mom.

Mom woke up Monday morning with a sore, slightly swollen wrist.  No evidence of a fall.  No limit in mobility of her hand or wrist.  Probably arthritis.  One of the more advanced, more awful flare ups, but arthritis, nonetheless.

Monday was also the first day of the last week of summer vacation for the kiddos.

And the first day of fall dance for my daugher.

And the last week of 2-a-day football practices for my son.

And the middle of an 8-straight-days of work for my husband.

2 PTA functions.  One cheer get-together.  A pre-season football scrimmage.  The Browns pre-season Monday Night Football game (yes, that is a priority and part of my PLAN!).  Sneakers that need to be purchased.  A Sam's Club run on the docket.  A pantry clean, 2 closet reorganizations and a donation run that all needed to happen.  Plus all the regular stuff.

We had PLANS! 

And because mom has to be supervised 98% of the time, we had to organize our PLANS thoroughly to make them work.  And because mom has Alzheimer's, she has no recollection that she has a swollen, sore wrist so she aggravates it over and over and over again by over-using it or leaning on it or being too aggressive with it.  And she has to have a thorough explanation of what happened (we have no idea) about every 4-5 minutes. 

It's hard to execute a PLAN when you have to take 2 minutes every 4 minutes to explain a story that has no hope of being remembered.  To muster the kindness it takes to tell the same story 100+ times in one day.  To know the repercussions of limited physical activity on someone who is 86 years old and try and fit some PT exercises into your already tight PLAN.  It was mind-boggling (or maybe that's just me!)

The first part of the PLAN to get tossed out is anything non-essential.  Pool time.  Sonic time.  One last trip to the park.  And that can make me a grumpy, resentful caregiver.  If I let it. Okay, fine - we'll clean the panty - it's right beside mom's room - I can straighten and explain all at the same time!

Of course, we needed a cherry on the top of our week, so we ended up needing a home health nursing visit.  Then a doctor's appointment.  A trip to the hospital to get an x-ray on mom's hand & wrist.  And most disturbing, putting mom in the car. 

Mom HATES to leave the house.  She is terrified.  It wasn't too bad going, but the stop on our way home to get my daughter measured for her cheer belt was fell asleep, woke up and went immediately into panic mode.  She FREAKED OUT.  I used my best stuff - right there in the parking lot of the middle school, ended up singing "You Are My Sunshine" and we got through it...I can assure you that wasn't in the PLAN!

Traditionally, I do some of my best work in a crisis...but when I am frazzled and tired and feeling a bit sorry for myself because of missing the pool with my kids...well, you know....

So, I changed the plan - I had to re-forecast, as my friend Diane reminded me today.  And we are calmer.  There was some doctor stalking to find out what was up with mom's wrist - not broken (Hallelujah!).  There was an unexpected trip to the pharmacy.  There was an extra football meeting.  And the last hurrah of fundraising for my son. 

But there was also Mina - which meant we did get a quick trip to the pool and finally, the blue slide was conquered by my daughter!  We snuck in a Sonic drink and some much-needed caffeine for me and a cherry slushie for mom. 

We make it work.  I let it make me nuts sometimes.  But we make it work.  We're family.  And family is always more important than the best laid plans of mice and men...*

*My mom always used to say that!...the mice and men part, not the family bizarre these days to think of mom quoting Burns or Steinbeck or wherever she got it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Anything but Routine

Today was One Word Wednesday over at my web site My Sweet Peanut.  The word for today is ROUTINE and I just couldn't quite find mine today.

I set alarms.  I made mental notes.  I had a plan.  Mom had a different idea.

It's funny that when I hear the word ROUTINE, I immediately think of my daughter dancing.  They choreograph ROUTINES for all the disciplines.  We order and bedazzle all manner of costumes to add a little expression to the ROUTINE.  She practices her "facials" in the mirror to make sure she is interpreting the music for the ROUTINE.  Her feet are in constant motion day in, day out, tapping, pointing, leaping out the steps of the ROUTINE.

She is creating muscle memory by practicing.  She is making the steps second nature so she can let go and just dance and express and be the ROUTINE.

When you have Alzheimer's, you lose your memories.  First it's names.  And words for common objects.  Then your short-term memory fades.  Eventually, you lose your muscle memory.  Even things that you've been doing for, say, 86 brushing your teeth, escape you.  Especially if you think about it too much.  It's the thinking.  Or the overthinking, really.  Trying to get it perfect.  Trying to make it make sense.  Trying to give every step a name.  To attach the exact, proper, appropriate word to each piece, step, action.

Imagine the frustration of staring at something you know you are supposed to know.  To understand.  To instinctively know what to do with it.  And get stuck.  No matter how ROUTINE. 

And, then to make it worse...not being able to find the words to ASK for help.  To clarify.  Because you stopped going with the flow.  You stopped letting it be part of your morning ROUTINE.  You made it an event.  A test.  An exam.

And because you have Alzheimer's and you don't quite understand what that means and you're embarrassed to admit it, talk about it, ask for turn everything into an event.  You put pressure on yourself.  You make brushing your teeth an exam.  And that makes everything harder.

And imagine you're a caregiver and you want to reassure your mom to just "go with the flow".  To smile and remind her that she does this every single morning and "she is awesome"! 

To watch the scariest (to me) part of dementia.  The forgetting of the ROUTINE things.  The last pages of the 'handbook' the doctor gave you that state clearly (and that you didn't believe could possibly happen when you read it the first time 8 years ago) that Alzheimer's can take away your memory of how to stand up.  How to walk and eat.  How to breathe.

"It's a natural as breathing".  A saying I've heard my entire life.  A saying that has been a saying forever because it's true...unless you have Alzheimer's.

I mean, BREATHING... How much more ROUTINE can you get?  "As natural as breathing!!"  And yet, Alzheimer's can take that natural tendency away.  It's terrifying.

So I push.  I set us up for success.  I maintain as strict a ROUTINE as I can. And I push some more.  And set another alarm.  And make mental notes.  And have a plan.  And wait and watch and pray and breathe...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I decided to not spend too much time thinking this one through.  I had a thought (no, not the "Danger, Will Robinson!" thought I had while typing up One Word Wednesday over on my caregiver website My Sweet Peanut.  A different thought and I've decided to run with it!

Today's word prompt is DANGER and although there can be a lot of DANGER involved with caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's, I decided to share a different DANGER - the one floating around in my head this week...

The DANGER of becoming overwhelmed.  The DANGER ZONE of caregiver burnout.

I am feeling it this week.  I am certain it's because mom has been in a negative place.  Fighting the things that are best for her.  Fighting the exercise.  Fighting the memory games.  Fighting most activities (except eating - she is still really snack-y!)  And arguing with everything.

And complaining.  Constant complaining. 

She has had arthritis for as long as I can remember.  Since her early 40s.  In her hands and especially in her feet and knees.  She worked on her feet most of her life - in heels, because that's what women did "back in the day".  And it's taken it's toll. 

But lately, since she can't remember anything - even her own past - every ache and pain is brand new and she wants to talk about it.  Ask about it.  Complain about it.  Whine about it.  Moan about it.  And she has taken to making faces and mumbling under her breath...unkind faces and unkind mumbles.  It's exhausting.

And since she is fighting with everything I can think of that might help her feel better....stretching, using heat and ice, doing her therapy exercises, walking and wiggling hands and feet, drinking lots of water, sitting up a little bit straighter, moving around from place to place and seat to seat.  It's left me at my wit's end.

It's been over a year since mom moved in.  There have been a lot of challenges.  But this new 'victim mentality' is threatening my ability to be a positive carer.  And as I was telling a story to my son, during our 3-hour Mina Break today, I realized it was something my very own mother taught me early, early on.  Not just taught me - drilled into my head!

SHE is the one who had zero patience for people who acted as victims.  For people who pushed all ownership and responsibility off their own shoulders and blamed others for their lot in life.  MOM who used to lecture me for anything that even looked like laziness or complaining or whining.  I can still hear her saying "If you've got time and energy to complain about it, you've got time and energy to do something about it!" 

And I've decided that's why it's bothering me so much.  That's why I can't get past it.  That's why I am grinding my teeth more than usual and biting my tongue and counting to 10 and yoga breathing and taking a quick walk into the backyard to "take out the trash" for a breath of fresh air.  Why the mirror and pickles and all the other tricks aren't working as well as they usually do.

And although I've said and typed and written it time and time again - it is really hard to get used to the person who in body is your mom, NOT BEING your mom anymore in spirit and soul and attitude and actions.

Perhaps writing once again has helped me avert the DANGER ZONE of caregiver burnout.  It really does help to put it all down.  But I am tired.  And tired is a very DANGERous place for me to be.  It shortens the fuse.  Shreds the filter.  Hardens the tone.

Prayers would be appreciated as I work through this.  Because, like so many things with Alzheimer's - this negativity could be our new normal.  It may never go away.  Or it may stop tomorrow. 

Regardless - I made a commitment to my mom to take care of her and that doesn't mean just going through the motions.  She deserves my kindness and my patience and my love and respect and energy.  So I will try and move myself out of the DANGER ZONE every day so I can fulfill my commitment.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Compassion on a Rainy Day

I had already decided what I wanted to share today as part of One Word Wednesday before I got all the way out of bed this morning.  The word this week is COMPASSION.  I had a story ready to share.  And then I got up....

Today is my husband's birthday, so I had a mission - a doughnut run.  To Shipley's for the best devils food doughnuts in town (our opinion).  Candles, the happy birthday napkin, singing, breakfast in bed...the whole shebang!  I got up extra early to make it all happen and still keep mom on schedule...

...and she'd had another accident. 

My initial reaction was to put my head down...not sure if I was going to cry or scream. 

Thankfully, I looked over to see how bad it was and how it happened and I saw the sadness in her eyes.  She had no idea who had come and wet her bed.  She had no idea how it had happened or why she was wet or if she had told me or if it was time to get up or just time to go to bed...

And I remembered looking up COMPASSION online last night ... "...along with a strong desire to alleviate their suffering."  And that was exactly what my heart was telling me.

I am off-the-chart empathetic.  I can't help it.  I am a hot mess at a movie - totally invested, totally in tears or on the edge of my seat, whatever - I am a director/actor's dream audience.  I am the same way with books, commercials, YouTube videos...those Pet Rescue videos...OMG!!!  So, there is no way I can look at this sweet old woman with tears in her eyes and this look of absolute dependency on her face and not want to make it all better.

I am admittedly tired of cleaning up pee.  Even when it's so awful that it's funny.  Even when I can write about it and let it all go.  Even when I have had a good night's sleep and an empty washing machine.  I wanted to scream.  To pound my fists and stomp my feet and throw that bedding across the room.  I'm pretty sure I considered wagging my finger at mom - scolding her.  What the heck?!

She is an infant.  A puppy.  A sick old woman with the world's most awful disease who is doing the best she can.  And compassion - my desire to "make it all better" - allowed me to see that.  Allowed me to start a casual conversation about making coffee and jelly selections while I quickly removed her bedding.  Allowed me to grab a warm washcloth and towel and help her clean up while I told her a funny story about the doughnuts I bought this morning.  Allowed me to give her normal, every-morning prompts to help her dress.

The plus of Alzheimer's is even though it might be obvious to me (and most of the non-ALZ world) that something had happened since the bedding was pulled, mom didn't seem to notice.  And all of a sudden, she wasn't sad anymore.  She was asking about her schedule for today.  And oohing and ahhing over her coffee.  Just another day in the life of a caregiver.

And I felt at peace with myself.  The sheets would need to be washed whether I lost my cool or not.  That darned comforter would need to be strategically shoved into my machine with just the right amount of detergent even if I threw a fit and stomped my feet.  The bed wasn't going to make itself if I went off the deep end.

Compassion saved the day!  I was able to be an example for my kids.  A nurturer for my mom.  For heaven's sake - I had a box of doughnuts in my house...can you imagine if I had lost it - I could have polished off 5 or 6 of those babies and gone into that weird, buzzy sugar high followed by the migraine of all migraines if I had not taken time to let compassion win.

So, maybe I'll tell my "planned" story another day.  For today - I just wanted to write a thank you note to compassion for saving my day!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Faith in the middle of a pile of laundry...

Today my goal was going to be "patience".  Yesterday I struggled to find patience - mom was in a strange place and I found it terribly annoying.  I didn't lose my temper, but I was curt.  I was more stern than I like to be when I know it's not her fault.  I also got some bad news from the nurse yesterday - mom's INR is high again.  Not "go straight to the ER" high, but high enough to have to contact her doctor and make some dosage changes.  And after the last few months and incidents - it makes me nervous.  And for me, nervous = edgy.

So instead of being patient, I came home to another wet bed.  And not just a wet bed, a "throw back the covers AND the moisture barrier" wet bed....all the way to the mattress wet.  And it's the 3rd wet bed in the past week and I found patience impossible to channel.  Truthfully, I couldn't even spell it for about 10 minutes.

And - I had 2 girls to get to ballet intensive and lunches to pack and breakfast to make and a boy to pick up and now laundry to do...and it's a Mina day, so I need to be ready to get my 3 hours of respite by 11:30!!!  So, since patience was out of reach - I decided to grab onto FAITH.

There is a lesson is all this.  I believe it.  There is a reason for all this.  I believe it.  I was given 2 beautiful children to teach.  I believe it.  Mom is unable to be responsible or learn 'any better'.  I know it all the way down to my toes.  And God is watching.  Some days I think He's watching out for me.  Some days I think He is testing me.  And some days I am guessing He is rolling His eyes at me.

C'mon Lisa!

There are more blessings in my new life than I ever imagined.  I have a confidence in my abilities that are directly because of this time caring for my mom.  I saw the face of God in the sky this morning and I knew it.  And just like my Daddy used to tell me after a tough day at school or at the motel - "Have a little faith.  It makes everything possible.  But God never said it would be easy!  Cuz in the hard - that's where you find out what you are made of!"

Words of wisdom.

I used to think people filled with FAITH were over-the-top happy.  They rejoiced at the drop of a hat.  And I bet those people do exist.  I see them all the time at the grocery and at the gym.  They have perfectly highlighted trendy haircuts.  They are tan.  They have French mani/pedis.  They have coordinated, made-to-go-out-in-public workout clothes.  Their dentist whitens their teeth so their faith smiles really pop!  They are 'blessed', no matter what the question.  They beam and glow and praise Jesus and smile when they are up to their elbows in excrement.  Sadly, I do not have that kind of faith.

I have the 'hand on my shoulder, everything's going to be alright' kind of FAITH.  I have the 'God will still love me even if I'm wearing my husband's t-shirt and day-old yoga pants' kind of faith.  I smile, but more at myself when I realize that I am overreacting.  I praise, but silently and with a bit of shame at the fact that I may have just lost my cool or misplaced my faith for a minute.  I rarely glow - except for that nice way southern women talk about women like me who sweat in July!  I do beam - but usually in a more private moment, because my relationship with God and with faith is very personal.  And until I started writing - personal meant "keep it to yourself".  

All I know is I believe.  I believe in the inherent good of all mankind.  I believe in a God who understands and is patient and kind and tolerant and far more open-minded that many of my more traditional Christian friends.  I believe.  And when you boil it all down - that's what faith really is at it's core.

And faith gets me through a lot of trials that come with being a caregiver.  And a momma.  And a wife.  And a neighbor.  And a driver on any freeway in the DFW metroplex!

It's easier to be kind when you believe in a God who's got your back.  A God who is always there, even when you forget and try and forge on all alone (ha!)  The issues and challenges and wet bedding and constant questioning and whatever else the world throws at me will still be there.  And it will still be frustrating and hard and a little bit icky on some days...but my FAITH is always there to boost me up.

And even if you call it something else - I hope you have something you believe in that makes your life fuller and brighter and safer.  Something that lets you know everything is going to be alright.

Linking up on my website My Sweet Peanut  for One Word Wednesday.  As you can probably tell - today's prompt is FAITH.  Head on over and tell me your story!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Alzheimer's is a Safety Stealer

So, today we are writing about SAFETY at One Word Wednesday over at my web site My Sweet Peanut.

We moved mom in a hurry.  She got sick, had a stroke (which she recovered from beautifully - physically, at least) and could no longer live independently.  We called in a favor from one of my husband's friends with a truck, grabbed some boxes from his work, made one quick trip to Target, put our head's down and had it done in 2 days.

Safety was an afterthought.  I forget sometimes how quickly mom's memory and abilities can deteriorate after an illness.  I was thinking the mom that would be moving in was the mom that had just been at our house the previous Sunday for brunch.

It only took one day to realize the need for a few additional safety precautions.  Moving the knives.  Taking out the rugs.  Taking out all tubes and bottles of everything from the entire downstairs area.  Putting a safety latch on the pantry door.   In those 5 short days in the hospital, she could no longer recognize the difference between a tube of toothpaste and a tube of medication or ointment (isn't that an awful word?).  She refused to open a drawer for silverware, so she might grab the biggest, sharpest knife to cut an orange or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  And she was using crazy, wild, forceful movements to slice - terrifying!  She would reach for things that looked yummy that were much too high for her to reach - and I can tell you mom on her tippy-toes is not a good idea!  Her balance was impaired.  Her strength was low.  She tired easily.  Our rugs might as well have been hurdles.

But all of that was manageable.  I could watch her, see what needed to be changed and fix it. 

And then the Alzheimer's really started to take it's toll on her common sense.  Her long term memory.  Her ability to know the difference between a logical response and a "What the HECK!?" response.

She started opening the door to whomever knocked or rang the bell.  Even after we put a sign up.  The neighbor kids.  The UPS man. Our mail carrier.  Salesmen.  And last week, the kind of scary guy who puts the door hanging flyers on our neighborhood homes really early in the morning.  He didn't even knock - she just saw him walking up the drive and went to open the door!!!  In her nightgown!!!

I tried adding locks up high...did I mention that my mother is bull-headed?  And that she will willingly go up on tippy-toe?  Bad idea.  And not the safe solution I was needing.  I'm not sure what we are going to do - I guess have our home re-keyed and add key only locks outside and INSIDE!

She's also started roaming.  Not out front yet.  But out back.  And there is a tiny step down to get out to our back patio.  Which mom is more than capable of doing - but I would feel better if I were there to assist.  Or catch her.  Or pick her up. 

I'm a nervous wreck every time I run upstairs to grab laundry or make a bed or take a shower.  Not that she'll let me these days...

And that's our newest SAFETY issue.  Unless mom can see me with her eyes.  She is terrified.  She calls out.  Then she screams out.  And on occasion, she wails.  It is heartwrenching. 

Alzheimer's has taken away her ability to know that I have just left the room.  Or that Ill be Right Back.  Or where my voice is coming from.  Or where she is.  Her ability to feel SAFE.

Can you imagine waking up from a nap or a daydream and being in what you think of as a strange place?  A stranger's house?  Having no idea where you are?  Why you are alone?  Where everyone has gone?  How old you are?  Who you are?  Not recognizing the furniture or the scenery or your own clothes....How could you possibly feel safe?

Alzheimer's has stolen a lot of things from this family, but stealing mom's independence and her capacity to feel safe and sound has been the worst thing so far.