Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Walk In the Woods

Saturday, warm and sunny and the day started out really good for Elbert (and for me, too). Too nice to stay inside so I popped in over at daughter Shirleys and asked if she wanted to go to lunch with us. The words were not out of my mouth before she was crawling into the car with us. She's a Daddy's girl and I have found out in these last few years, a great Mommy's girl, as well. We love spending time together. So, off we headed to Hardees. Those two cut up and I love this picture of them laughing. Then I had a bright idea. I'd read about the Nature Conversancy opening up a walking trail not far out of town. So, we set out searching for it. Soon, we saw a sign pointing us in the right direction. Shirley took off down the trail. She and son Michael have missed being able to walk in the woods. They did that a lot on our farm in Alabama and now we live in town. So, here is a great spot for them to escape to. Elbert and I were sitting in the car and I thought, ' he's pretty steady today and I bet he'd love to take a small walk enjoying nature' and sure enough, he piled out of the car and we headed down the gravel lane.

We all had a wonderful little hike. He's restless this afternoon but we did have a super morning.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May 27, 2009

I finally caught up with the current journaling so todays post is about what happened today, May 27th.

Life's been a trip lately, a trip over very rocky roads. I've had to deal with a ton of guilt for a long time but one night about 6 weeks ago I stayed awake all night and God spoke to me, 'it's time to quit feeling guilty. You can turn loose of your care'. Since that time we have been investigating memory units (Alzheimers wings) in various asst. living and nursing homes in the area. A distressingly big job.

The more we looked, the more people we talked to, the more I became confused. I had a terrible weight on my shoulders and could not separate one fact from another. Was it time to go with medicaid, could I do private pay, which was best for Elbert, which was best for me, if I went private pay right now how would that affect the plans we had put in place for the medicaid later on and it went on and on. I became so confused that I started doing stupid things, like not paying my electric bill on time, like losing a newly refilled bottle of my anti-depresant. And, heaven only knows where my Medicare card is.. I was just becoming unglued at the seams.

Michael and Shirley (the only two children here right now) took over the major part of the decision making. I accused them of cutting me out of the loop but they explained that I didn't need all the confusion, they were just weeding out all the chaff and presenting me with the facts that we needed to deal with. God Bless them. What would I do with those precious, wonderful and caring children.

Today we went to Lake Prince facility and checked it out. Had already been to Magnolia Manor and Consulate. After that visit the three of us went to Applebees and sat down with fact spreadsheets that Shirley had done comparing all three and we decided to do Magnolia Manor. It was the cheapest for private pay and was the nicest.

A decision had been made. I felt that weight being lifted off my shoulders. Elbert will be in a good place and be well taken care of and the family and I can go visit and enjoy ourselves and not worry about all the problems his care is entailing. It was hard to come to this point and I know the day we take him there it will break my heart. That day is still ahead of us. But, I know it's the best for all of us. He's not going to get any better and nothing I can do will change that. It's time to let others take over. Please pray for us as we go through this transition period. A room will be available (if all goes well) within the next two weeks.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sitter is back - May 2009

Lordy mercy.... I can't believe it. Things just never stay the same around here. The sitter kept telling me she was very unhappy in her new job and she just up and quit so she's back with us. That means that I can go to the wedding.

So, here I am in Camden, S. C. It's May 9th. Most of my children are here, part of the grandchildren. It's a grand feeling, us all together. I am in a hotel room with my youngest daughter, Susan. After the rehearsal dinner was over I announced that anyone that wanted to was welcome to congregate in my room. Some came and we stayed up until 1 p.m. That was when they left, then it took awhile to get to bed and asleep. I didn't care, I was one happy dude.

The day of the wedding we just lolly-gagged around, stopping by the historic courthouse where the wedding and reception would be held. Middle daughter Shirley (she is the mother of the groom) was busy at work in the courthouse catering room getting the wedding cake all decorated. Nieces came in from Tennessee. When Shirley had finished the cake we all went to the neatest restaurant called Carolina and a nice lunch to the live music of a sax player.

The ceremony was really sweet. I had on a pretty pink linen dress and that made me feel good. Geez, I need to lose some weight. Saw the pictures !!! The reception was a lot of fun. We danced to a DJ until 11 p.m. so once again it was after midnight when I got to bed. This is going to catch up with me, I can just feel it.I'd checked home to see how Elbert was doing. Tammie had never spent the night with him before and after I got home she told me it gave her a real appreciation for what I do all the time. So, I had three days and two nights of relaxed, enjoyable time with family and friends. Then back home we headed!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

April 15, 2009

I am so frustrated I could cry a bucket of tears. Elberts been on a rampage all afternoon and way into the night, something about someone getting his billfold and taking his money. He still carries his wallet but I don't put much money in it. Still it is a very important part of his identity and we can't take everything away from him. After a long time of fretting about his lost money he then changed it to having lost a box that had his clothes in it. It seems he wanted to catch a bus and now he couldn't because he didn't have any money and no clothes. They had been stolen, didn't I remember and could I not fixed it?

The weather is cold for April so I crawled into bed, covered up and prayed that I could sleep, and more importantly, Elbert would sleep.

The following day Elbert got obsessed with his hunting dogs. Our son who is living with us has a yellow lab named Casey and all of a sudden Casey was the only dog Elbert had left, the rest were all gone, he didn't know where they were, so he wanted to put Casey into the trunk of our car so he could take her home. I know he is getting glimpses of the thousands of nights he loaded up his truck with his Walker foxhounds and head off to the woods for a good nights hunt. Those days are gone forever.

So things were rough around here and lo and behold I get a call that there is an available private room at a nursing home just 20 minutes from the house. But, Elbert would have to go into the hospital for the customary 3 day stay before he could be transferred to the nursing home. Far as I know Elbert's healthy as a horse, it's his mind that's sick so I had my doubts that we could do anything with this news. As it turned out, our doctor was sympathetic but her hands were tied.

However, that made us realize that a new home for Elbert was a heck of a lot closer than we had imagined. We needed to get off our duff and get prepared. After I had heard that we could have a room the reality of Elbert possibly never being home again really hit me. As I put him to bed the night before the doctors visit he kept telling me he loved me. I started to cry and I cried myself to sleep. So, when the dr. said she couldn't put Elbert in the hospital, Elbert and I went out for an ice cream to celebrate his staying home.


I know eventually the opportunity and the time will come but not right now. I am just not ready.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fun memories, then and now

I recently ran across a picture of Elbert, son in law John, grandson Chris and son Michael when they went white water rafting in the Smokey Mts. Elbert hadn't been too eager to join the other guys on this adventure but they insisted. It is difficult to capture a certain look sometimes with a camera but someone did it. There was Elbert with this happy, gleeful grin on his face, one I had seen over and over again during our years together. And, I started to cry. That one darn picture just made me sad the rest of my afternoon!!

One afternoon after supper Elbert was standing at the counter near the fridge. I needed to put his exelon patch on so I took the opportunity to take care of that little chore. I ran my hand down his shirt to attach the sticker and my hand must have been cold because he turned around and said, 'okay, you're next'. He opened the freezer door (he remember where the freezer was!!) and took out an ice cube and started for me with it and I started running with him close behind. He was going to put that ice cube down my blouse. I was squealing as I ran and soon son Michael came downstairs with a concerned look on his face... It had been years since his parents had acted in such a playful manner. At least in the worst of times we can find some moments of fun. I wouldn't trade that chase around the kitchen for the world.

(no pictures of this ha)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Okay Doctor, give up on us

April 8, 2009
Elbert had a neurologist appointment. Seems all they do anymore is give him new prescription refills. I really expected a little more in the way of care but we am not getting it. Perhaps they are doing all they can but it just doesn't make sense to me. Things are getting much tougher for him, looks like the care from a doctor would be more intense.

The nurse asked a lot of questions as she usually does. "Are there any changes, any this, any that" She entered my responses on the computer. Yes, Elbert's memory is worse, No he is no longer falling... blah, blah, blah.

The doctor comes in, listens to his heart, has him walk from the chair to the door and back, all of 5 or 6 steps each way. So, what does he think that will do?

The wedding is looming ever nearer and I still don't know what to do. Should I take Elbert and risk his total confusion and my inability to concentrate on anything but his care? Or should I get someone to watch him? So, I asked the doctor what to do. 'Oh, he'll do fine. He'll be around people he knows and that will work out'. Okay.... we are traveling 600 miles round trip and will be surrounded by people we don't know. The doctors opinion was useless in my book.

Then, the doctor shakes our hand and says, 'I'll see you in a year. If there is a crisis or you need medicine call me'. I am thinking, 'Okay, buster, you are basically abandoning us. The medicine you are prescribing is just prolonging the illness so you decide you are out of here leaving me to deal with it all. I was ticked big time. Well, actually ticked wasn't the word I used but since this is public.. ticked will do.

That afternoon son Michael and I went to check out an assisted living facility. I came away from there knowing I could place Elbert there and be satisfied. It didn't feel like a nursing home because it is not. It was very clean, no odor and no noise. Everyone was clean and looked happy and well fed. But, it was private pay. I couldn't see how I could afford it. Two of the children said they'd help me but, the more I thought about it the more I knew that Elbert was progressed past assisted living. So, we agreed that we should visit a nursing home with an Alzheimers wing and see what they had to offer.

It's a heart wrenching decision, placing a loved one in a nursing home. I have dealt with guilt (which now I think I have come to terms with), I've worked for years to see he was cared for but I can't do that forever. Sadness fills every inch of me and yet in the back of my mind is a wee thought that the help I prayed for is within reach. Decisions, many to make but I can do it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Pow Wow

April 1, 2009

Tension has been building inside me for quite some time. The anti-depressant I am taking doesn't seem to be enough to handle what I am going through. I feel so burdened, so depressed, on the verge of tears. I just wanted to unload my burden, life some of the cares and so I called a pow wow with two of the children, Michael and Shirley, the two that were nearby.

We sat down in the living room, the three of us, and I started crying and pretty much lost it. Through my sobs the words tumbled out of my mouth, deep from within me. 'I just feel so trapped', I said. 'I can't even go out the back door. I don't bat an eyelash at night until he's sound asleep and then I sleep lightly and awaken at the slightest sound.' I kept saying 'I am so tired' over and over again.

I am crying and they are trying to console me. Shirley has seen me have meltdowns before but this was the first time my son had seen me like this. I could tell he was uncomfortable and didn't know what to say or do. But, in his male awkwardness, (males usually don't handle tears very well) he arose from his seat to come over and sit beside me and hold my hand. Shirley, who was sitting on the other side, reached for the other hand and we sat connected by thought, love, and skin. They reassured me but we all know that life isn't going to get any better. However, I did release all the tension, hugged my dear children and felt better.

Things would be better if I had some help. Tammy had taken other employment so I started interviewing people who might work out as sitters. One woman came. I just didn't connect with her at all so I told her I'd just have to let her know something next week. There were others whom I saw but it was first one problem then another. and I did not find anyone.

We need to do something about Elbert for the first weekend of May. Our Grandson is getting married and I'd give anything to have Elbert there. But... the wedding is 300 miles away. Elbert would be totally confused, needing constant attention and riding with him that far would be like riding with a very unruly child. 'How much farther is it?' 'When will we get there?' 'Do you know where you are going?' and 'How much gas do we have?' Just taking him 30 miles to the doctor brings on a barrage of questions. Imagine being cooped up in the car for 5 hours hearing that over and over and knowing he was so desperately confused. No, I couldn't do it. But, what would I do with him?

Michael and I met with the Family Services director at the Alzheimers office and we set about getting a respite bed at a nursing home for three days and four nights. I didn't know we could do such a thing. Amazing.

We also talked about a permanent placement in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Susan, the Family Services director, put in a call and set up an appointment for us to meet with the Magnolia Manor Assisted Living home. If I can't get help in the home, then I have to start preparing myself for the placement process. I can't do everything I need to do to take care of Elbert and still keep my sanity. Big decisions, Big steps. Can I do it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who is he today?

Elbert just can't figure out who he is. That must be awful to have lost your identity. Many characters are dancing around in his head and he becomes one or many. I bought a newspaper from a nearby town and on the front page there was an article about identifying MIA's from the Korean War using DNA. Isn't DNA wonderful? So, Elbert starts talking about some guy (the one in the article) being his buddy and they (whomever THEY are) were going to shoot him. Elbert said he knew all about it and couldn't do anything to stop it. He went on and on and on about this scenerio. To hear him tell it he had been right there and it hurt him that his buddy got killed. It's true Elbert was in Korea for the Inchon Landing but I have never heard him say anything about any buddy being killed. Scrambled up thoughts and it's real to him.

Then when we were watching the Super Bowl he started telling about how
he had played in the Super Bowl. The man never played football in his life, not in high school or anywhere else. That was weird to listen to. I just said 'yes honey, that was a great touchdown you made'.

Another time he started talking about killing a chicken. To him the chicken was in the military. He's mixing up the war and living on the farm when he was a child. He's killed a few chickens in his day
but as far as I know, there's never been a chicken in the Navy. He's grabbing little tidbits of memory floating around in his brain and they get all tied together and come out his mouth as actuality. It's so sad.

March 23rd
I made big plans to go for a good ole sausage biscuit at Hardees. Elbert and I used to go every Monday morning and I thought we'd go today. Things can change in a blink of the eye. Elbert was shaving and I was taking clothes out of the dryer when I hear him fall in the bathroom. When I reached him it was just as it always is, he's gurgling, his eyes rolling back in his head, he's white as a bleached sheet. Somehow I manage to get him in the wheelchair, with a heck of a lot of difficulty I might add. Then came getting him from the wheelchair to the bed... he was totally helpless so I called Shirley for help. After Shirley arrived and we got Elbert tucked into bed Shirley sat down on the side of the bed by her Dad and said, 'Dad you fell between the commode and the shower, it was hard for Mom to get you up' at which he replied, 'It's a wonder she didn't flush me'. That humor of his, I swear, it's still delightful.

Maybe I could have figured out how to get him over in the bed.... Maybe I call for help because it scares the beegeebees out of me when he is acting this way. I don't want to be alone. Suppose...... well, let's don't go there. I just rather be with somebody who is loving and strong and cares.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Different worlds

Had my checkup. The yearly physical thing and I was so pleased. Seems like I am doing very well for all my 75 years. I am very happy about that.

On the other hand, Elbert is in a different situation. That stinking old Alzheimers just makes his life (and mine) so miserable. Lately life is full of ups and downs. I am going up while he is going down. Guess it's best that way. We have our sad moments and we have moments I just laugh because they are so funny.

One day Elbert said very matter of factly.

'Calijah got away before he could tell me where my bed is'.

I didn't say a word. I didn't know whether to laugh or try to correct him or just burst out in the Hank Williams song.

In a few minutes he said,

'You know Calijah fell in love with that Indian maid down at the antique store'. Like he was talking about someone we knew. I grinned. It was real to him, not a song so I just let it go.

Later he said, 'I wish my wife would come by and get me' so I asked if he wanted me to call her and he said, 'yes'. Okay. So, I put a call into myself.... sort of. It's fun playing two roles.... the wife and a girlfriend. Get to have my way both ways.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Being Sneaky Doesn't Pay

The night before Elbert's 79th birthday was a pain in the .... I'd put him to bed and he'd get up. I'd put him there again and up he'd get. Finally he asked me to sleep with him so I crawled into bed hoping this would put him to sleep. ha ha.

That man didn't care if he had a bed buddy or not. He was not going to sleep. So, I got up and got him a drink of water and handed him a tylenol p.m. That ought to do it. I placed the pill in his hand and he put it in his mouth, drank some water and I started to get back to bed. Instinct is a wonderful thing. Something just didn't seem right. I noticed his hand was closed into a fist so I eased it open and there lay that pill.

'You didn't take your pill', I scolded.

'And I don't aim to' he retorted.

'It's Your heart medicine, ' I lied.

The lie did nothing (they never do) and all the pleading was futile.

So, I took the tylenol p.m. myself and fell asleep.

I had no idea when he went to sleep but when I awoke at 7:30 a.m. he was wandering around. Luckily we have door alarms. No escaping without me knowing. Aren't we lucky that there are such things as door alarms.... and pills to make you sleep?

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Dark Days of Winter

Several people have mentioned to me that I am awfully quiet lately. I know that. I've never been a 'chatty' person (well, I have my moments. ha) but nowadays I am withdrawn and silent. For one thing... there is nothing to talk about. Nothing going on in my life worth saying. My Mother always said if you didn't have anything good to say then don't.

So many people that we know are being moved to nursing homes or dying. It sure makes you stop and think about what might lie ahead for us. Age is creeping up faster and faster and I just think that we are on a merry go round that has lost control. Our friends Dick and Patsy moved into an assisted living home. Other friends Tour and John moved into one, as well. Elbert's old morning coffee buddy is moving into a Masonic Home. It's depressing.

Elbert's really been out of it most of the time lately and sleeping a lot. Day after day I don't see a soul or talk to anyone. Now, don't get me wrong. I have always cherished my 'alone' time but this is not 'alone' time. My every waking moment my thoughts and actions are on Elbert.

So, I have a new project. I am going to work on being friendlier and chatty, make sure I have things to say. I need to be sure I don't lose myself. I need to be interesting enough to others so that I am not completely shut off.

Let's see... I'll get the calendar out and chose some activities to put on it. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Toward the end of January Elbert was sitting with his head bent, his fists clinched and he was unresponsive to any sort of communication. This seems to be happening more and more now. But, wouldn't you know it... when you least expect it he can say something out of the blue that just floors us. Often it is funny. It makes us laugh and fills us with joy to see a small glimpse of the 'old' Elbert.

One day I asked him if he knew how old I was. He sat in thought for a couple minutes and then replied 'forty six'. 'Nope' I answered 'I'm 75'.

In an effort to get him to use his excellent math skills from years past I wanted him to figure out his own age so I added, 'And do you know what that makes you?"

'Yeah', he grinned 'a guy running around with an old woman'.

My 'old Elbert' is back if only for a moment!!

A week later we were watching tv when Elbert got up and went to the bathroom. When he returned he stopped in the doorway and looked around. I asked him what he was looking for and he said, 'my girlfriend'. So, I asked him how long he had had the girlfriend and he said 'not long but I can't remember her name'.

So, he turned and wandered through the house looking for this new girlfriend of his. I happened to pass him in the hallway and he stopped, put his arms around me and said 'I love you' and then continued on his quest for this girlfriend.

 I thought this was so funny. I am able to laugh at some of his confusion. It's just too unbelievable to not find funny. It seems that when he doesn't remember me, he has a girlfriend. How thankful I am that he does tell me several times a day that he loves me. Bet he doesn't tell his 'girlfriend' that.

Feb 1st.... Super Bowl Sunday. Elbert and I are not professional football fans. But, just put us in front of a college football game. We root for our favorites. We'd watched the Super Bowl until halftime but I could tell he was confused. And, once again he was assuming the role of the characters he was watching. Now, he was a football player and told me about playing a big game and they got in his way so he didn't get that big prize money he was supposed to get. He was telling me about how he made certain plays. That man never played football in his entire life. But, to him he had been a football hero. And, to me, he was.

Confusion takes many forms. Everyday is different, a wild roller coaster ride. You just hang on for dear life and take a deep breath until the ride comes to an end.

Entertainment from nature

Wintertime was dragging on. Too cold to take Elbert outside and he's not interesting in many activities anyway. However, he does love to watch the birds. We keep feed out for them year round just so we can enjoy them from our sunroom windows from January 1st to the following Dec. 31st. I would set Elbert's rocker in front of the windows and he'd sit there for hours. His eyesight isn't the best and I wonder sometimes just how much he does see but it is entertainment for him. With him occupied I can get a little work done.

Often I'd sit on the sofa and we'd name the different winged friends eating in our dogwood tree. The woodpecker loves the suet. The chickadees love the seeds best. We saw sparrows of all kinds, flickers, grackles, a nuthatch or two, and a ton of cardinals and so on. They were wonderful to watch. I am grateful that we have this glimpse of nature out our window to remind us that life goes on, big or little, great or small.