It brings me joy when I find a little prayerful note written in my mother’s handwriting. Seeing what was on her heart and mind at certain times of her life gives me insight into the depth of her trust in the Lord.
I recently picked up a little spiral notebook in my stash of things which once belonged to my mom. Giving the pages a quick flipping through, I noticed most of the pages were blank, so I decided to make use of it as my own journal. I thought the journal was blank, but then her handwriting caught my attention on the very last couple of pages.
Let me share with you one of those entries.
Today is March 12, 2016. Life goes on and God has provided. I am so thankful for all who have cared for me.
Jim Meiller – Snow removal; also mow grass.
My caregivers – Cindie and Vivian
Wayne – takes care of my bills. PTL!
And so many more to list.
Lord, I know that I do not have much longer. I ask for grace for these times. It has not been easy, but you have provided for all my needs and so much more. Please give me grace for my remaining time before you call me home.
I do hope Jerry remembers me!
Take care of my family and my friends!!!
So many more but, oh yes, thank you for ice cream!
Charlotte P. Boyles
Looking at the date on her journal entry, I am surprised by her clarity of thought for writing out what was on her heart, as Alzheimer’s had dealt some harsh memory-robbing blows. I recall we were in the midst of packing her belongings and getting ready for her big move at that time. In just over a week, she would leave the place she had called “home” for the past 55 years and move 90 miles away to a little place near me, and I was having trouble with mom unpacking the boxes that I had spent hours packing. Finding her prayer for grace during what was a very stressful time for her, well, it just speaks to my heart about how I can trust God for my future too. Even if it includes Alzheimer’s.
If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know I love to write about gardening and share some of the 4,987 pictures of flowers I have on my phone.
You also know that I cared for my mom in the last years of her life while she battled Alzheimer’s. I documented and photojournaled our journey on my blog (and a bit on Facebook too).
You may not know that I have also been overseeing the care of my brother who has significant medical needs, including a form of short-term memory loss called vascular dementia, due in part to unchecked diabetes.
Having both a mother and a brother with dementia weighs on me. Add a grandparent from each side of my family to the equation and every forgetful moment takes me to the edge of tears every time I forget something more significant than where I left my car keys.
Because dementia has struck so close to home, I have diligently sought to educate myself about the subject and have made it my goal to share with anyone who is interested any knowledge I glean or resources I discover.
I honestly think I have read nearly every book ever written for dementia caregivers. This book is my personal favorite.
If you check my Google activity log, you’ll know why the ads that pop up on my Facebook account relate to items specific to dementia care. I belong to two Facebook groups for caregivers. I even have a Pinterest board related to Alzheimer’s. I listen to podcasts and follow the blogs and Instagram feeds of others who write or photo-journal about Alzheimer’s and caregiving. I belong to a caregiver support group sponsored by Agrace, the hospice that helped take care of my mom in her final year of life. I have often surfed YouTube channels in search of information related to caring for someone with dementia.
Today I would like to share information from the YouTube channel of one of my favorite medical experts, Dr. Natali Edmonds, founder of a dementia support community called Careblazers. In this video, Dr. Natali discusses the various stages of dementia and the three most common tools for measuring where a loved one with dementia (LOWD) is in the course of their dementia decline. In my opinion, it’s the best explanation you will ever get in 13 minutes and 24 seconds.
If you are caring for a loved one with any type of dementia, I highly recommend subscribing to the Careblazer YouTube channel. Dr. Natali posts informative, compassionate, bite-size videos on most any subject a caregiver might encounter on their caregiving journey.
Momma undoubtedly bought several watches during her lengthy nursing career. But, as she often recounted the story of her watch, she had been wearing this very watch since she graduated from nursing school in 1955. You see, a watch with a sweep second hand was essential in my mother’s era of nursing. It kept you and your doctor on schedule and kept you accountable for the time you spent on breaks. When updating a patient’s medical chart (no computers back then), it provided the time for documentation purposes. Its sweep second hand was the essential tool momma used day in and day out to measure a patient’s heart rate in 15-second increments of time.
Holding my mom’s watch in my hands today, I recalled how meaningful it was to her, even after my mom could no longer tell time (which I wrote about here). A mind clouded by Alzheimer’s loses the ability to measure the passage of time or interpret the face of a watch somewhere in the middle stages of the disease’s progressive march through the brain.
Even after my mother could no longer tell time, I invested a good bit of time in finding my mom’s treasured watch when the paranoia of dementia would cause her to occasionally hide it for safekeeping. I had the band resized when she slimmed down and it spun on her wrist. I even took it in for repairs once and replaced the battery on several occasions. The natural motions of her body would wind the self-winding watch (another clue that it was NOT from 1955), but Momma would wind it anyway because that was what she remembered doing in days gone by. Over time, this damaged the watch beyond repair, but she still loved to wear it.
When my mom moved into assisted living memory care and I saw how she would distribute her things all over the building (and borrow the belongings of others without consent), I decided to take her watch home with me for safekeeping. I hated to take something that was hers, but the story of the watch had also become something I treasured. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to matter much to mom — especially since her friend and BeeHive neighbor Roy didn’t seem to mind if mom (ahem!) borrowed his watch from time to time.
One day I noticed my mom sidle up her wheelchair to another lady friend at BeeHive. She seemed concerned that her friend was slumped in her wheelchair. Here’s the precious thing I was honored to witness with my own eyes. Momma reached over and gently placed two fingers on her sleepy friend’s wrist, instinctively finding that arterial sweet spot nestled between the thumb and tendon. The nurse in my sweet mother looked at her watchless wrist as she felt her friend’s pulse for about 15 seconds, then smiled with satisfaction and patted her sleeping friend’s hand as she said, “You’re going to be okay.”
Last month we celebrated my grandson George’s birthday. I cannot believe my youngest grandchild is eight years old already. Like many 8-year-old boys, he’s into all things Legos and Minecraft. This year he asked me to make his cake and surprised me when he went a little retro in his decorating request. Pac-Man!
When it comes to birthdays, I am so very thankful that my daughter helps her kids create Amazon gift lists. They make shopping for my loved ones so much easier. A “click” or two and the shopping is done and I can be reasonably sure that I am purchasing something my grandchild really wants and will appreciate.
But shopping for a loved one with Alzheimer’s (or any type of short-term memory loss) can be a little tricky. What they once enjoyed may now hold no meaning at all, or may actually cause agitation. My mom had Alzheimer’s. It took a little bit of experimentation to find out what she liked, but I learned things along the way and hope my experience will be helpful to someone else. Here are a few of the gift ideas my mom enjoyed:
Something cuddly soft and warm (and very washable) – like a new blanket, a pretty sweater, or a beautiful shawl. In my experience with my momma, being cold was always a problem. I could be fanning my sweaty self and my sweet momma would be in the same room looking for something to wrap herself in because she was cold. We bought her several plush bed jackets and soft sweaters with pockets. Momma was not alone, as being perpetually cold was a problem with many of her friends in her assisted living memory care. I would suggest something in a favorite color, but nothing with a busy pattern; I learned the hard way that patterns can turn into terrifying objects when a loved one is in a stage where hallucinations and delusions are common (you can read about one such experience here).
The quilt hanging on the railing in the photo below was a gift for my brother sent by his friend Cheri and the church quilting group to which she belonged. It was such a nice gift and sweet gesture of love and care. He may not remember who gave it to him, but he will appreciate its warmth in the coming winter months.
Coffee (or another favorite beverage). Mom’s eyes lit up when I brought her sweet tea or a Diet Coke. My brother always enjoys a good cup of coffee (with lots of half & half) whenever I visit him.
A photo book. Photo books are a perfect icebreaker when visiting a loved one who no longer remembers your name or connection. Just paging through a photo book takes away some of the awkwardness of memory loss, giving you something to enjoy together. In the photo above, my granddaughter Violet is spending time with her great-grandma going through a photo book that features Violet’s family. In addition to your corner drugstore, there are any number of on-line sites where photo books can be created.
A favorite treat – as Alzheimer’s progressed, mom developed quite a sweet tooth and loved it when I brought a cookie or a donut. Please don’t be too worried about nutrition; it’s all about your loved ones favorite things and bringing them joy at this stage in life. I would occasionally put a cookie in a ziplock bag, then tuck it in her purse for her to discover later. Your loved one may not realize it is from you, but trust me when I say your surprise will bring a bright spot to their day.
A birdhouse. Many residents have birdfeeders, which are quite enjoyable; however, they require someone willing to keep them clean and filled with seed, which isn’t always practical. Birdhouses are quite lovely to look at and don’t require a lot of upkeep. Seeing bird families coming and going is sure to bring a smile.
What are your gift suggestions? Please share them in the comments.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
Proverbs 25:11 (ESV)
I have always loved that verse. It taught me that my choice of words and how I deliver the words I speak matters. If carefully crafted, our communication becomes a thing of beauty. Well chosen words have the power to lift people up, bring comfort and encouragement, and remind the hearer that they are loved and special. When I hear myself being critical, or my words come out snippy, I need to take myself back to the biblical principles of communication and ask God to reset my attitude and help me communicate in a gracious manner – help me frame my words in Christ-like beauty.
Something I did this week reminded me of that verse. Let me share it with you, my friends.
I spent the better part of a day giving my little 3-season porch a good end of summer cleaning — everything from the dirt on the floor to the cobwebs on the ceiling got a bit of long overdue attention. My hubby even got involved by dealing with some big Rubbermaid bins filled with treasures he had brought home from his beloved aunt’s home. Wayne carried the bins to the garage, where he took a bit of time to sort through the contents–loads of fascinating treasures in there. Each bin was chock-full of memorabilia related to the pet shop Aunt Vera owned in her younger days. This memorabilia has fueled a passion in Wayne’s heart to blog about this very special aunt’s life. We love to visit with sweet Vera and listen to her reminisces and testimonies of God’s faithfulness throughout her life. Many difficult things have happened to her in the past, but Vera’s words are always beautiful and forgiving, apples of gold in settings of silver.
While hubby worked in the garage, I worked up a sweat on the porch. I cleaned windows, vacuumed the rug, mopped the floor, dusted and tidied. As I diligently worked, I kept picking up the same small box and moving it here to dust, and there to vacuum, then back again. The simple cardboard box with its flaps turned inward was filled with various tarnished silver pieces my thoughtful daughter had purchased for me at our local thrift store. She knew I liked to create little succulent arrangements in them, so snagged a few sugar and creamers, a baby cup, a compote (or candy dish), and a teapot. I’ve had it on my to-do list to create those arrangements all summer, so decided it was finally time to stop moving the box around and just get to it.
I harvested a few hen and chicks from my front flower beds, and immediately thought of the lovely lady named Carleigh who had given them to me. I love having plants in my garden rooted in friendship.
Next, I plunged my gloved fingertips into the soil and pulled up a little plug of a beautiful chartreuse Angelina stonecrop.
I took my garden’s little offerings to the garage where I had already filled my silver vessels with a mixture of soil and sand. I pushed the roots of my tiny plants into the soil, sprinkled a little pea gravel around them, and gave each a little drizzle of water.
Now we wait. They’re beautiful already, but when they start pushing out growth, they’ll be gorgeous.
That’s my little #SixOnSaturday thing! Six things, in the garden, on a Saturday. Could be anything – a favorite flower, a beautiful tree or bush, a perplexing garden dilema, your amazing success (or pitiful failure) at growing food…anything garden-related thing at all. You’re invited to join in on the fun and give us a peek at what’s goin’ on in your little corner of the world.
Oh! Almost forgot! Here’s my number six. Just for fun.
“Marigold, both the double African and the double French. These flowers always give me a pricking of the conscience, for during the summer, when there are plenty of others, I give them the “go by,” but in October turn to them with shame and thankfulness.”
Helena Rutherfurd Ely, ‘A Woman’s Hardy Garden’ (1903)
A stroll through my September garden does not delight the senses in the same way as the garden in July. While most plants have quite given up the thought of pushing out more flowers, there are a few which are just now coming into their glory. Perhaps they’ve been blooming for quite awhile, but are just now being noticed and appreciated because their showy garden partners have now exited the stage.
I’ve never thought much of marigolds. They need to be deadheaded quite often, which I don’t enjoy because it makes my fingers smell marigold-y for quite some time. It’s a spicy fragrance, but not one that I enjoy much. But there is something quite beautiful about the flower.
When I choose annuals in the spring, I rarely tuck marigolds into the flat. If I’m going to purchase annuals to nestle in amongst my perennial favorites, I’m going to opt for petunias, zinnias or snapdragons. But this year, a few marigolds managed to find their way into my shopping cart.
The bunnies thought they were delicious.
I managed to put a little wire fence around the one plant that remained, thereby rescuing it from becoming bunny fodder.
And I’m so glad it survived. It you come visit me, you’ll find this signet marigold thriving in a flowerbed right next to my front porch.
In looking around at my September garden, I have decided I need to plant a few more marigolds next year so that I will have another month or two of color to enjoy. I decided to try harvesting seeds from my lone marigold plant. I pulled off about a dozen dried flowers and went to town.
It’s really easy to harvest marigold seeds; here’s a little video that demonstrates how to do it.
The COVID-19 American gardening boom has led to shifts in retail sales. We researched these home gardening statistics and our findings may surprise you!
— Read on www.brecks.com/blog/gardening-statistics
I’m almost embarassed by the title I chose for my blog today, as I know full well that there are areas of my country which desperately need the rain. I can only offer my prayers as some battle the devastation of brush fires. I wish I could send the rainclouds in their direction. It has been raining since Sunday – at times very heavy rain, now just a mist.
There was a tiny reprieve from rain this afternoon, so I went out snapped a few photos of my somewhat soggy plants before the rain started up again. As I stepped out of my front door, this beautiful zinnia was the first to greet my senses. The pot of zinnias has grown scraggly and leggy, but the rain refreshed things enough that if I just show you the tops you’ll be none the wiser as to true neglect of watering.
A squirrel apparently thought the garden needed a sunflower planted in an adjacent flowerbed which is nestled up to my front porch. It’s only about 4′ tall and just as cute as can be.
Just underneath the sunflower and next to a few marigolds, I have a little group of gazania planted. Rabbits had given it a crewcut earlier in the summer, but it has recovered and is just gorgeous. I understand that gazania is also called ‘Treasure Flower’ in some parts of the country. I can see why.
A little later in the afternoon I decided I needed another break, so ventured outside once again. Still misting a bit, but pleasant enough to go barefoot and work for just a bit. I donned my gardening apron, grabbed my garden stool and an empty bin, then sidled up to a spent and mildewed peony and started cutting it back. It felt good to accomplish a task on my very long list.
I’ve got a little stand of Chelone (turtlehead) ‘Hot Lips’ growing in my front yard. It’s an amazing pink, and I had so hoped it would be prettier this year, but I must be doing something wrong. Does it need to be fed? Thinned? In a shadier spot? I don’t know, but I noticed a hummingbird in this photo which doesn’t seem to care that the flowers aren’t perfect.
A couple of years ago we had a neighbor who left a couple hundred dollars worth of plants in the driveway, just languishing unattended in their pots all summer. One day in late summer we were chatting and I made a polite inquiry about the plants. She told me to take them and that if I could do anything with them, she’d be so happy. Apparently she was going through a divorce and just didn’t get around to planting them. Most of it was pitched into the compost bin, but I planted a sedum which looked to be only “mostly dead” (a nod to ‘Princess Bride’). Well, sedum ‘Maestro’ now flourishes in my sunny front flowerbed and is one of the most popular bee magnets that I have. I’ve even been able to take a division off of it to plant near the mailbox.
As I headed back indoors after my little garden photo shoot, I was momentarily waylaid by this sweet miniature rose in one of the pots on my front porch. Beautiful!
My hubby is peering out of our kitchen window and just exclaimed, “Whoa! There’s a bright light in the sky!” We haven’t seen much of that bright light in the past week, so I think I’ll go outside and slosh around in the sunshine.
Thanks for visiting my soggy, but beautiful, little slice of earth. Have a great weekend, my friends!
That’s my little #SixOnSaturday thing! Six things, in the garden, on a Saturday. Could be anything – a flower, a beautiful tree, garden friend or pest, your bountiful (or pitiful) harvest…anything at all. You’re invited to join in on the fun and give us a peek at what’s goin’ on in your little corner of the world.
God gave me the honor and privilege of taking care of my mother in the years that her mind waged war with Alzheimer’s. I am thankful that her brave battle with memory loss and frailty of body is over–the victory won as her affliction gave way to the ultimate healing when Jesus took her home to heaven.
My regrets are few, but if I could have a do-over of one caregiving thing, I think I would listen more carefully to the stories she told about her childhood. In my do-over, I would sit next to her more often looking through old photos, paying attention to the memories she shared. I would take care to write down all of the memories the photos coaxed from the places in her mind where the old stories still lingered.
With the help of my daughter, I did create a memory album for her, but it would have been nice had I started on the album sooner, capturing those stories for her to read and re-read as her memories slowly faded away.
While I cannot roll back the hands of time, I do find joy in knowing she is free from the bondage of memory loss and frailty of body. I find hope in knowing that those precious moments we did share are only a glimmer of the immeasurable time we will share together in eternity.
This post was written for Five Minute Friday.One word. Five minutes to write about it.
Today’s word: COULD