Before I Forget: Sharing my love for God, family, gardens and my sweet Momma
Wife of one, mother of 2+2, and Grandma of 6 (3 girls and 3 boys!) and full-time caregiver for my sweet Momma with Alzheimer's. Passionate about Jesus, grandkids, Awana Clubs, gardens, quilts and cooking.
Just about the time the last tulip drops its pretty petals in a graceful exit from the yearly garden show, iris and peonies are beginning to unfurl their lovely petals. I love to see my neighbors stopping to admire the gorgeous blossoms. This year has been a spectacular year for these little beauties to parade their lovely petals for the world to see.
I wish the parade was longer. Alas, one by one, the peonies are dropping their lovely petals and the iris are calling it quits too.
Well, there’s my Six on Saturday, where fellow gardeners around the world share six photos of what’s going on in their own little botanical spaces. You can take the tour too by visiting The Propogator’s blog here. We’d love to see YOUR gardening photos too.
Let me introduce you to Violet. This granddaughter has held my heart for 15 years now and I am quite certain she has a special place for me in her heart too. Any time we spend together is special.
Not only does she love me well, but she also has a special softness in her heart for her memory impaired great-grandmother. Violet goes out of her way to be a bright spot in my mother’s day as often as she is able. Most recently she wrote a few letters to her and asked me to slip them in her purse every now and then so she had something new to read. On other occasions she will come with me to visit her GGma
Violet and I share in common a love for writing. I love reading what she writes and especially love finding her thoughtful notes sprinkled liberally throughout my house. On a recent visit, Violet picked up a pencil and a notepad and poured out some thoughts on paper about Alzheimer’s. I asked for permission to share them on Barefoot Lily Lady.
Alzheimer’s By Violet Cynthia Schultz
Family becomes strangers ‘Home’ becomes lost Books become confusing Memories become a maze. Guests become intruders Flowers become weeds Shouts become whispers Old stories are forgotten making them new again.
Yet the smile of a stranger can still brighten up the day Help from a friend becomes a blessing when you’re lost. The old photo album jogs memories new and old. The surprise intruders become a highlight of the day. The countless weeds spark the old passion of gardening And the whisper of a voice ensures comfort, rest, and security.
I’m known as the ‘barefoot lily lady’ in my neighborhood – and for good cause. I do have a habit of gardening in my bare feet and daylilies are right at the top of my long list of favorite flowers. In late June through early August, our gardens put forth a beautiful daylily show. Right now though, its all about peonies and iris strutting their beautiful stuff. Even though the wind and rain are doing their best to beat them down, these lovely garden partners are still exceptionally lovely this year.
My flower gardens have been a bit neglected over the past few years as I have focused on caring for my mom. They’re still beautiful, but weeds and more than my fair share of invasive plants have taken more than just a toe-hold in these years of less attention. I am so thankful to have a little extra time to play in the dirt these days now that Momma is cared for and content in her new abode at BeeHive Homes of Oregon. Gardening is my ‘dirt therapy’!
Two of my dad’s peonies flourish beneath our locust tree’s dappled shade: one hosts magnificent rosy red flowers and the other is a lovely white with a hint of cream and pink at its center. As I dig and carefully coax the weeds and invasives from this bed, my mind’s eye can still see my daddy carrying his big galvanized watering can around to the west side of our Milwaukee home so that his show-stopping peonies would flourish.
Dad’s white peonies are equally beautiful balls of fragrant fluffiness. The closed bud is tinged with pink. As it unfurls its white ruffles the center has a sweet creaminess tinged with pink.
Side note: Today I found this fantastic blog post by Christine Covino which thoroughly discusses everything you could possibly want to know about growing peonies.
I’ve long since forgotten the name of this iris, but call it ‘Beth’s Favorite,’ as it is a favorite of my daughter Beth’s. It garners quite a few ‘oohs and aahs’ as neighbors stroll through the gardens. There is not a more perfect purple and lavender combination in the world.
Let me close with a shout-out to my husband Wayne for taking many of these photos. Hope this little garden visit brought you a bit of joy and wonder at God’s amazing creation.
On one recent visit to see Momma at BeeHive, I stopped to chat with one of her bevy of sweet caregivers. With a note of concern in her voice, her nurse informed me that they found mom sitting on the floor twice the day before, but weren’t sure whether she had fallen or if her story of being down there on purpose was the truth. I was neither surprised nor alarmed, as I know my mom’s ambulatory skills are precarious at best. Momma didn’t appear to have any injuries and they were able to help her get back into her wheelchair or bed.
I further learned Momma had not been cooperative this particular morning and had no interest in eating breakfast (a common theme) or coming out of her room. I expressed my thanks for the update then headed toward mom’s room to check on her. Expecting to find her awake and futzing around in her room, I found her lying on her disheveled looking bed and it appeared as though she had been crying. Her face lit up momentarily when she saw me, then the smile abruptly broke into a quivering lip, soon accompanied by a free-fall of tears. I sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed her legs, casually examining them for telltale bruising or other evidence of injury from her suspected falls. Momma lamented she didn’t feel right in her head – something was terribly wrong – that she felt discombobulated. Her right knee was her chief complaint in the pain department making it impossible for her to get out of bed. It did look a little puffy, but there was no bruising that I could discern.
Comforting her as best I could for a few minutes, I thought I should try to get her up and ready for joining her new friends (new every day) for lunch. When my attempts to get her out of bed for lunch failed, her resourceful CNA brought in her lunch, playfully waved the delicious aroma of chicken toward her and cheerfully convinced mom to sit on the edge of her bed and try a few bites. Success! Between bites, mom peppered me with questions about where she was, how she got here, when her parents were coming to get her, what was happening in her head, and other such concerns. I tried all the reassuring answers and diversion tactics I could muster.
When she had consumed about half of her lunch, she wanted to try to get out of bed again. I parked her wheelchair at the end of her bed and came alongside to assist her in standing. Pain prevented her from standing and pivoting to sit; rather, she skootched as close as she could to the wheelchair, then began sliding her bottom off of the bed and plopped onto the chair. All I could do was try to keep her from hitting the floor. Definitely NOT an approved transfer technique, but her unorthodox methods proved successful.
Using her feet to propel herself, Momma navigated herself to her window to watch the birds at the feeder. Pointing at a visiting woodpecker, she proffered, “That looks a little familiar, but everything looks so strange.”
Next, she baby-step shuffled her wheelchair to her nightstand and gazed at her nursing school graduation portrait. Carefully lifting her baby doll up off the bed, she sat her baby in her lap, pointed to the portrait, then whispered in Dolly’s ear, “That lady looks so familiar, but I can’t remember where I know her from. Do you know who she is? I can’t remember her name.”
One recent thread on a Facebook group for dementia caregivers discussed the topic of how to respond to people who say “I wish I could help.” Most have good intentions, but no concrete offers of help. Others are just making polite conversation and really have no intention of helping. One tongue in cheek caregiver response was, “I’m going to start a list to hand them.”
We all laughed.
One longtime caregiver’s contribution to the post was, “I think we should all make our own list to have ready whenever we hear that offer.” Before long, we had created a rather long list. Some of our responses were a bit of a tease, like the caregiver who said, “If you want to bring me a gift, bring Kleenex! My loved one goes through two boxes a day!” We all laughed because an obsession with Kleenex and toilet paper seems to be prevalent in the world of memory loss.
Let me share a few more of the ideas culled from our group effort:
Instead of “let me know if you need anything,” please just show up on my front porch with a good cup of coffee.
Another caregiver added her twist on the impromptu coffee date idea: “Yes, show up on my front porch with a cup of your favorite coffee. Then sit down with my loved one and tell me to get lost for awhile while you drink your cup of coffee.”
Talk to me. Listen to me. I don’t really have someone I can carry on a conversation with anymore.
If you see a need that you can meet, just do it. It will make my day.
One woman’s husband asks her each morning, “What can I do for you TODAY that will make your life easier?”
Send me a card once in awhile (I have a special friend who does this every single week).
Share with me one of your special memories of my loved one. In doing so, you will help me focus on the good and remind me that their life mattered.
Tell me that what I’m doing matters.
One item on the list was my favorite: Ask God to show you how you can help. I promise, He will.
I just re-read this today and was reminded once again of the deep-rooted faith my sweet mom has in the middle of her trials of life. Much has changed in my mom’s body and mind in the two years that have passed since I wrote this…but her prayer life continues unscathed by Alzheimer’s.
One of the greatest indignities of the disease called Alzheimer’s is that in the later stages your body forgets how to do the most basic of daily routine care.
Like how to use a toilet.
In the hospital setting, a family member is not allowed to assist with these very private needs. Hospital safety regulations prevail subjecting that person you love and care for to accept help from a bevy of healthcare nurses and aides. All of them very capable and kind, but scary strangers to a confused mind.
In the wee hours of the morning, two of those beautiful people were assisting mom within the tight quarters of the hospital bathroom. I sat outside in her room listening. While they assisted Mom, her nurse asked a routine memory assessment question: “Do you know why you’re here, Charlotte?” Momma thought about it for awhile, then shook her head ‘no’ when…
Momma was still in bed when I arrived for a visit earlier this week. I learned that she had experienced two nights this week without sleep and it seemed to be catching up with her today. She did NOT want to get out of bed and had already missed breakfast and lunch. The hospice nurse was there visiting and asked me if this sort of thing had happened while I was still caring for her in our home and, if it did, how did we handle it.
I told her that it did happen. It was usually just one night and full day without sleep, but that Momma could sometimes go for 2 or 3 days with little to no sleep. When sleep would finally come, she’d be much like she was today – out cold. I soon learned it was very difficult to awaken her and try to cajole her into doing something she didn’t want to do (like changing clothes or bathing). She would be so groggy and uncooperative. On those days – right or wrong – I would just adjust my schedule to hers.
“So, when she does wake up, what’s she like?” the nurse further queried. I told her she would perk up and she’d be like a different person. The kind and thoughtful Charlotte would replace the grumpier, exhausted Charlotte.
Sure enough, before the hospice nurse left the building, Momma awakened. She was sitting up, got dressed, was chatty and very hungry. Previously verbally unresponsive and only opening her eyes a sliver, she was now bright-eyed and complimenting the nurse on her outfit and telling her how nice her hair looked.
A night and day difference.
I decided that the crisis was over and it was time for me to go home. Momma had already wheeled herself out into the great room and was chatting with one of the other residents. As I exited the building, I threw a glance over my shoulder and saw that my mother had wheeled herself up to another frailer looking resident. There they sat wheelchair to wheelchair with my mother gently stroking the woman’s arm, asking her how she was feeling today and wondering if there was anything she could do to help her feel better.
Charlotte P. Boyles, R.N. was on duty. My heart couldn’t help but swell with love and admiration for my mother, the nurse.