Before I Forget: Sharing my love for God, family, gardens and my sweet Momma
I love sharing about my barefoot gardening adventures, hence my blogger name. As I write, some of my other passions might spill out -- like fun with grandkids, baking and sewing endeavors, what I'm studying in Scripture, and the like. My readers will notice that one of the primary things I write about is Alzheimer's. May what I write be an encouragement to anyone who is a caregiver for someone they love with memory loss.
What happens when you want to remember something, but absolutely know you won’t? You write it down. For the individual experiencing short term memory loss, lists sometimes become a source of frustration. A caregiving daughter shares her view on helping her momma remember, while guarding her fragile dignity.
Journal entry from June 7, 2016
Quite often these days, Momma will ask me to buy her a notebook the next time I go to the store, declaring that she can never find any paper on which to write her lists. I know for a fact that she has umpteen notebooks and pads of paper squirreled away all over her apartment home.
Mom is at what her doctor calls the “moderate stage” of dementia where she is keenly aware that she is losing her ability to recall information and is trying her hardest to keep random pieces of information that won’t stay filed away in her brain in a place where she can easily retrieve them. Her lists are her safety net helping her capture not only her to-do list, but the stray thoughts, ideas, and necessities of life.
Once in awhile, mom asks me to take her shopping. Shopping excursions to Walmart or Walgreens invariably result in Mom tossing a new package of legal pads or a brightly colored spiral bound notebook into her shopping cart. She insists she is all out of them and there is no convincing her otherwise. Rather than bringing a sense of order to her world, the multiplicity of lists bring chaos to her sense of order as she tries in vain to gather her thoughts into one place.
I have since gathered most of those notepads/books into one cabinet in her apartment. One thing is certain–she has no need for more notepads. Rather, under her watchful eye, I acquiesce to mom’s request and jot down a note for myself on a shopping list, assuring her I will purchase a notebook for her on my next trip to the store.
You may be wondering, why not tell her the truth? Why the charade? Why not just tell her that she has plenty of notebooks? Right or wrong, I believe I am honoring my mom when I later “find” one of her notebooks and we can cross the “notebook for Mom” off my list. It gives mom the fleeting pleasure of having one of her requests granted, and I receive the gratification of pleasing my mother and guarding her fragile dignity.
“Now, when I feel bad about how many unchecked items there are on my gardening to-do list, I remember my lack of tidying is really for the benefit of wintering wildlife and the nourishment of my garden.”
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
As I sit in my comfy chair today, there’s a favorite thing going on just outside my window. Big, fat snowflakes are falling. ‘The Sound of Music’ kind of favorite snowflake that stays on your nose and eyelashes. It’ll probably vanish by tomorrow, but there it is, making the world outside my window look like a giant snow globe.
Otherwise, there’s not a lot going on in my garden. But what is there reminds me of a few of my favorite things. While I’m sitting here, I thought I’d join in with my gardening friends for a Six on Saturday post where gardeners around the world take time to post about six garden related things. A hearty thanks to Jim Stephens of Garden Ruminations for hosting.
One and Two : Birds and New Feeders
Robins are one of my favorite birds, but they’ve been noticeably absent lately. Although robins sometimes stick around in the winter, my guess is that they’ve quietly moved on to a warmer place. I’ve noticed, too, that the geese are noisily practicing their V-formations as they make ready for their winter migration journey. My hubby and I sometimes think about joining them in their quest for warmer temps, but we choose to stay near family for now. Thankfully, some birds choose to stay for the winter in Wisconsin too. Since they have kindly decided to keep us company and amused during the long, cold months, we decided to return the favor and add some new bird feeders–feeders that the thieving squirrels couldn’t empty in a few hours. We bought three new feeders, all of which have some “squirrel resistance” mentioned on the label. Two of the feeder designs involve surrounding a tube feeder with a cage that only song birds can fit through. The third is a long red tube with slider perches. If a squirrel tries to climb aboard for a snack, its weight will trigger a sliding mechanism that closes off the seed access hole. It took our frequent diners a few hours to decide they liked the new feeders, but they seem to have adjusted well. We haven’t noticed the resident squirrels having success with snitching from the feeders…of course, we also greased the feeder poles to make their initial approach a bit slippery.
Three: Unfinished Fall Garden Tidying + A Favorite Article
There are still quite a few garden cleanup tasks left to be accomplished. I’m thankful there is no harm in letting any of it wait until spring; in fact, there is some value in leaving it all behind. I love this article by Houzz, 7 Reasons Not to Clean Up Your Fall Garden, which explains some of those benefits, so thought I’d share it with my readers. Now, when I feel bad about how many unchecked items there are on my fall gardening to-do list, I remember my lack of tidying is really for the benefit of wintering wildlife and the nourishment of my garden.
Four & Five-ish: A Favorite Porch Plant
For several seasons now, I have been growing this ‘Livingstone Daisy’ in the pots on my south-facing front porch. There’s so much to love about this nearly care-free plant. It is an over-achiever in the foliage department, putting out beautifully lush, succulent-like foliage. The nicely variegated green and white leaves make this a very desirable plant and teeny-weeny, hot pinky-red blossoms (summer to fall) further embellish this lovely plant. I first acquired this plant when doing some volunteer deadheading of flowers at the assisted living memory care place where I work as a part-time baker. They had several of these vigorous plants which needed a haircut. I composted most of the cuttings, but took a few home to attempt water-rooting. I’m so glad I did.
Now that winter temps have decided to stick around, a few of my porch pots have unsightly frostbitten growth dangling from them, including my Livingstone Daisy. I plan to tidy those up with a haircut next time the sun pays us a visit on one of my days off.
Six: A Favorite Bush in Winter Garb
I’ve taken a real shine to hydrangea bushes the past few years. As in life, their beauty is in a constant state of change. Some color changes are soft and easy, others are dramatic and bold. All of them beautiful…even the last stage where life seems to ebb and the beauty fades.
Here’s the next in a series of Tuesday’s Caregiving Tips posts inspired by A-Z Caregiving Tips (an article in Alzheimer’s Today pictured below). A diagnosis of cognitive impairment or memory loss presents caregiving challenges, each as varied as the person experiencing it. Alzheimer’s was the diagnosis that spelled memory loss for my sweet mom. You can read my previous posts for my personal tips on A – M. Today I am sharing my thoughts about “N” and will add my own “O,” since the article did not address that particular letter. Thanks for stopping by to read my blog – the “likes” and “comments” of my readers feed my motivation to write.
N – Note that I take your words literally, so avoid teasing and sarcasm.
In the early stage of memory loss, mom would sometimes take “just kidding” comments quite literally. Likewise, when mom reached what was thought to be the stage of “moderately severe” memory loss, it seemed that her ability to understand and appreciate sarcastic humor and irony disappeared too. This was especially noticeable in social “table talk” situations.
Teasing and sarcasm are part and parcel of family gatherings such as Thanksgiving. We like to tell stories on one another and kid each other about silly things we’ve done lately. We sometimes use tongue in cheek jesting during our bantering around the table. Mom always had a quiet sense of humor–she would appreciate a good joke, but usually was not the one to tell it. She’d smile at the kids. But now, while she herself could often say something witty, there was no understanding of the “punch line” to someone else’s joke and a blank look at any attempt at humor.
Turning off the humor at the table isn’t the answer, but understanding how our loved one with dementia might be processing the conversation can be helpful in making the conversation inclusive for them too. Our bigger family dinners (e.g. Thanksgiving and birthdays) were the most confusing for my sweet mom. She would sometimes leave the table and go to the quietness of her room. When that would happen, family would go in an visit her one on one. She enjoyed that experience much more.
Another helpful tactic was to do something mom enjoyed at the table. Working on a puzzle or coloring became a unifying factor in conversation for her.
O – Own up to your mistakes in caregiving, but don’t beat yourself up about them. Mercy is new every morning.
I freely admit to making a lot of mistakes in caregiving. I recall days when my voice carried more than a little annoyance in it and harsh words would fly. Days when I was anxious and weary and my facial expressions did not communicate Christ-like love and compassion. There were times when I would confuse mom by asking if she remembered something when I knew full well that she couldn’t–or, similarly, when I would expect her to remember something we had already talked about. One of the hidden grace gifts of Alzheimer’s is that momma wouldn’t stay hurt and mad at me for long. She would soon forget my blunders and I would have another opportunity for a do-over in caregiving.
Likewise, in other relationships, there were times when I did not express my appreciation freely enough. I’m thinking of a time when I made my sister feel bad about how she handled a caregiving situation, rather than being gracious and knowing she did what she thought was best when she was taking a turn at caring for our mom. It’s sometimes easier to see the mistakes and failure of others than it is to see the same problem in our own lives.
It’s a wonderful thing for me as a believer in Christ to know that His steadfast love for me will never cease. Never. Ever. His mercy will never come to an end. Never. Ever. I praise God for His faithfulness in providing a daily (constant) supply of love and mercy. Knowing and believing the truth expressed in Lamentations 3:22-24 helped me through many times when I felt like a dismal failure as a caregiving daughter.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22–24)
There is probably no boy on earth who enjoys the pleasures of a birthday celebration more than Henry. He loves birthdays almost as much as he loves squirrels!(And that’s sayin’ a LOT!)
Henry’s birthday always begins in his uber-creative mind a few months before the actual date arrives the week of Thanksgiving. Somewhere around the beginning of the school year, Henry told me he knew what he wanted his birthday cake theme to be this year. The conversation happened after church one Sunday at Culver’s where we usually take my daughter and her family for lunch. As we waited for our meal to arrive at our table, Henry sidled up to me for a chat. As he described the cake he envisioned, he enthusiastically gushed words like ‘Velociraptor’ and something about ‘Indominus Rex’ and other Jurassic World dinosaur-ish lingo. Henry had obviously set his heart on a cake that looked like a “paleontological dig site”—he wanted me to make the cake and said he would help decorate it.
So began my Pinterest search for ideas and inspiration. There was no shortage of ideas. I knew right away that I wanted to figure out a way to make dinosaur bones for the dig site. This educational site offered some freebie coloring sheets, so I chose two dinosaur skeletons from their site and resized them to fit on his cake. I laid a sheet of wax paper over the printed dinosaurs, then melted some cake decorating white chocolate candy melts, put the melted white chocolate in a Ziplock® baggie, then cut a hole in the tip of the bag to create a frosting bag and traced the outline of the dinosaurs to create the bones for the dig site. I also had enough white chocolate left to write out Henry’s name and the number 12. I let the designs set for a day to harden up nicely before peeling them off the wax paper and gently placing them on the cake. (I actually made two sets…just in case there was breakage.)
Meanwhile, I baked the Schultz family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe in a 9″x13″ baking pan. I also made a half-batch of another chocolate cake recipe in an 8″x8″ baking pan for a second half-layer. The first cake is super-dark and very moist; the second layer is less chocolate-y, and a little more dense and less fragile. I frosted the entire cake with my daughter’s favorite recipe for cream cheese chocolate frosting. I kept my frosting job a little rough and dirty looking – after all, it is a dig-site.
Cream Cheese Chocolate Frosting Recipe
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. cocoa powder
4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. milk (I used a little more)
I found some chocolate-filled cookie wafer tubes at our local Dollar Store, cut the tubes to various lengths, then added them to the edges of the second layer to resemble a retaining wall. The cookie crumbs were saved to be scattered here and there like clumps of dirt.
On Saturday morning, Henry arrived excitedly carrying a little treasure box of Lego Minifigs and other cake-topper elements for his dig site. Henry and his big brother Charlie worked together at putting frosting grass on the top layer of the dig site.
I dug through my box of ribbons and found an orange one to use as a rope to cordon off the dig site. The fence posts would be the 12 birthday candles. Charlie helped construct and place the fence around the dig site. Henry finished the decorating by placing his Lego creations wherever he felt it was best.
The birthday boy was happy. Very happy. Over-joyed, really.
We had to light those candles and blow them out, of course!
I fully realize that Henry is on the threshold of becoming a teenager and there will come a year when he will no longer request a decorated cake from his Grandma Cindie. That year isn’t this year, so I will bask in the joy and blessing of this happy birthday boy and his cake.
A few more pics of the fun details Henry added to his paleontological dig site birthday cake:
Written with love and great admiration for all those who are caring for a loved one who is facing Alzheimer’s or any other diagnosis that spells memory loss. I write from my experience of caring for my sweet mother in her later years with Alzheimer’s.
Here’s the next in a series of posts inspired by A-Z Caregiving Tips (pictured below). A diagnosis of cognitive impairment or memory loss presents caregiving challenges, each as varied as the person experiencing it. Alzheimer’s was the diagnosis that spelled memory loss for my sweet mom. You can read my previous posts for my tips on A – L. It seems I have a lot to say about “M,” so I will focus on that for this week.
Make new ways I can be of service to others
Mom was a nurse. A dedicated and amazing nurse. Even after she retired from her long career in nursing, she still practiced nursing in an unofficial way as she came alongside family and friends as they went through their physical trials in life. She was dad’s constant companion whenever he faced any of his cancers and surgeries. She served her friends as the requisite driver and responsible party when those friends faced day surgeries of various types. If someone was hospitalized, she was almost always one of the first visitors. Several of her friends had her come along to their surgeon’s or oncologist’s office when they were going to receive their scary diagnosis. Mom knew just the right questions to ask and how to help her friends through the difficult days ahead.
The time came when Mom was the patient with symptoms of short-term memory loss. I’m sure she knew something was amiss long before I started noticing memory blips. Who knows how many years she wrestled with that knowledge alone? Based upon dated notes and lists I found here and there, I would say for a few years.
Although Mom forgot many things, the experiences of her lifetime still served as a guide in her daily interactions. Even after mom moved in with me and then later into assisted living memory care, I routinely saw the nurse in mom present when she’d notice someone wasn’t feeling well and then do her best to make sure they were cared for appropriately.
She usually couldn’t remember she was my mom, but I saw the loving mother in her displayed in the way she cared for dolls. It was like a special window into her past which allowed me the privilege of seeing what she may have been like when she mothered me as a baby. (Mom and me in this photo.)
Let me share just a few photos of her doing things which made her feel useful during her years spent living with dementia.
I’m thinking now of a resident at the assisted living memory care home where my mom lived for her last 14 months of life. June was usually the first one up every morning. She took very seriously her job of raising the window shades at the start of the day. The staff would then present her with a large basket filled with freshly laundered clothing protectors (bibs) and towels. June took great pride in folding them.
My mom would do the same thing when she was living with us for a few years. She loved to fold laundry, especially when it was warm out of the dryer. The warmth felt good on her arthritic hands. She would also dry dishes for us. Her legs were unsteady, so I would set her up with everything she needed at her place at the kitchen table. Mom had also been into gardening, so I would occasionally try to get her outdoors to help me. She especially enjoyed deadheading and cutting back spent foliage. Her specialty, however, was sweeping. She couldn’t stand to see even one leaf on the deck or porch, so we’d arm her with a broom and she’d happily sweep for quite some time.
I can’t talk about this subject without thinking of Heather, an amazing blogger I follow who cared for her sweet mother too. Heather’s mum, Margaret, had been an artist, so Heather would play to her mum’s interests and strengths by creating art therapy projects for her to work on throughout the day. They even opened an Etsy shop in order to sell some of her ‘Made by Mum’ projects, donating a portion of their profit to the Alzheimer’s Society. Heather’s amazing website Creative Carer is filled with photos and tutorials, a link to her very helpful and inspiring blog, and oodles of practical ideas for caregivers who desire to keep their loved one meaningfully engaged.
One word prompt sent to a community of bloggers. Five minutes to write about it. Unedited. Don’t think too hard…just write. The Five Minute Fridayword prompt this week is LAUGH. Ready, set, go!
I heard my dad laugh this week. It took me by great surprise, because dad went to his heavenly home in 2008. But, there it was – that familiar laugh. It started with an under the breath “heh-heh-heh” that morphed to a jolly, tummy-jiggling chuckle, and ended with a loud, throw your head back, “Ha!”
It happened when I was paying my brother a visit in the nursing home where he resides. I usually stop by after work and bring him a home-baked cookie and his favorite peach ice-tea. He doesn’t talk much, but he’s always glad to see me.
There’s a nice comfy chair in the corner of Brad’s room right next to his bed. I plop my work-weary self in the chair, kick off my shoes and prop my feet up on the edge of his bed, then sit with him for a few minutes to watch whatever he’s watching on the television. It’s usually an episode of Blue Bloods, but on this day it was a funny movie. It was during that tv-watching moment when I distinctly heard my dad laugh.
I find it helpful when people take the time to share what they like about various products that I’m thinking about purchasing. I hope this reblog will be helpful for a fellow caregiver seeking to make purchases which will help them on their caregiving journey.
I’m on the other side of caregiving now and am looking back on that experience and wanting to share a few of the most helpful purchases my husband and I made to assist us as we provided care for my mother.
Mattress Protection and plenty of bedding – nearly every person who struggles with memory loss will come to the point where incontinence is a fact of life. One of the best purchases I made was this mattress cover. We had a hospital bed, so purchased a Twin XL. This particular cover actually was waterproof and saved our mattress from certain ruin over and over again. It completely covered the mattress — trust me, this is important. I only needed to wipe it down with a disinfectant spray, but it also washed up nicely in the washing machine on warm. I would give it a tumble drying on air-dry…
I write from my experience of caring for my sweet mother in her later years with Alzheimer’s. I hope that what I write will be an encouragement to those who are caring for someone they love.
Before you read this post, you might want read the A-Z Caregiving Tips (pictured below) which inspired me to write about my own experience related to these tips.
A diagnosis of cognitive impairment or memory loss presents caregiving challenges, each as varied as the person experiencing it. Alzheimer’s was the diagnosis that spelled memory loss for my sweet mom. I have already presented my experience with tips A – I, so let’s move right on to my take on J, K & L.
J just redirect me pleasantly if I keep repeating myself.
When memory loss becomes apparent to family and friends, it’s the repetition of stories which oftentimes raises the warning flag that something is amiss. Mom had several stories that would frequently replay. There was one she would tell about why she loves ice cream. Other repetitious stories related to how she acquired some of the items she owned, including three blue flowerpots and a purple tablecloth. I loved each of the stories and, as I mentioned in my last post, now I wish I had recorded her telling them.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with telling family stories around the dinner table. We all do it. It’s one of the best parts of gathering around the table for a shared meal. But, when the same story keeps looping during the same meal, that’s when things get a little tricky. It’s easy to hurt our loved ones by saying, “You already told me that a hundred times, Mom!” We’re tempted to roll our eyes and inwardly groan, “Oh no! Here we go again.”
That is where the art of pleasant redirection comes into play. In the world of dementia caregiving, there are many opportunities to practice this act of gently helping a forgetful loved one refocus their attention on something else.
My granddaughter provided one of the best examples of gentle redirection that I have ever seen. My mom found my to-do list on the kitchen table. Thinking it was her own list, mom kept reading the list over and over again, worrying about getting it all done. Violet (who was probably 12 years old at the time) brought a photo album to the table and sat next to her great-grandmother. In one stealth move, Violet opened the photo album and placed it in front of her GGma as she simultaneously slid the list away from view. Then she started paging through the album and talking about the photos. My Mom’s worries melted away and she was immediately engaged in this new direction of thought.
In fact, photo albums and picture books are one of the greatest tools in the toolbox of dementia redirection.
Sometimes, mom would ask the same question repeatedly. One such question had to do with her finances–something she couldn’t handle on her own anymore, but continued to worry about. My husband handled her finances for her and greatly helped alleviate this worry by creating a single page monthly statement which listed all of her financial bottom-line numbers in one place. Mom could read this over and over to her heart’s content. [I explained more about this in Alzheimer’s and Money Worries, which may be of help to anyone going through this stage with a loved one.] If mom was having a fretful moment about money, we could hand her this statement, which we kept on a clipboard. She would sit and read (and re-read) it for a very long while and would often comment about how helpful it was to her.
K Know that closing my eyes may be me trying to find my words.
Word finding is one of the earlier struggles I noticed in my mom’s journey with Alzheimer’s. It’s a problem I am wrestling with these days too. I have noticed that when I am struggling to figure out which word I want to use during a conversation, my family and friends will often provide the word for me during my long pause. Most of the time I appreciate the help; other times it just deepens my awareness and the inkling I have that my later years of life are headed in the same direction of memory loss that my mom experienced.
In fact, photo albums and picture books are one of the greatest tools in the toolbox of dementia redirection.
I don’t remember mom closing her eyes when she was trying to think of what she was going to say–at least not in the earlier stages. I remember that she would avert her eyes upwards and away, as if she was searching the corners of her mind for what she wanted to say. I do this too. I have also noticed something in my own pause to search for the words. By the time I’m ready to add my words to table talk conversation, the direction of the conversation has moved on to something else. It’s frustrating, but it reminds me of something important when engaging in conversation with my memory-challenged friends at my workplace. Don’t be in such a rush–wait for them to answer.
L Listen with me to music and dance tunes.
Mom would rather sit quietly and read a book or magazine than dance or listen to music. It’s not that mom didn’t like music; rather, her hearing deficit made listening to music more than a little bit challenging. While this point doesn’t apply much to my mom, it does bring to mind my work place. I work as a baker in an assisted living memory care home and am sometimes surprised by the music being played in the background for our residents. Sometimes I think the music chosen reflects the preference of the caregiver on duty, rather than the tastes of the generation being served.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that the radio or television in our care home is oftentimes playing too softly. The younger folks who work as the caregivers don’t seem to take into account the need for extra volume in this older population. Nor do we pay enough attention to what is being broadcast on the television in our common spaces. It’s much better, for instance, to choose a classic movie from the era in which these folks lived, rather than a talk show featuring four women arguing their views. Better (in my opinion) to choose a nature show over a scary, blood and guts movie.
Don’t get me wrong–our care home is fantastic and is blessed with a number of great caregivers. But, there is one caregiver who I find to be absolutely delightful. She will put on music the residents love and engage in a little song and dance. She’ll even make up her own tune or sing a familiar jingle, even if she’s just passing through the room on her way to her next task. If they’re having an exercise class, she’ll join in and spread her own brand of love, laughter, song and encouragement. Marnie makes the residents smile (and me too).
The world of memory care caregivers needs more Marnies.
Now that she is no longer here to tell her stories, how I wish I had recorded her voice as she reminisced about her life, and how I wish I had written down those stories she shared. Her stories were part of my life’s story too.
Before you read my post, you might want to take a peek below and read the list of A-Z Caregiving Tips which inspired me to share my own experience related to these tips.
A diagnosis of cognitive impairment or memory loss presents caregiving challenges, each as varied as the person experiencing it. Alzheimer’s was the diagnosis that spelled memory loss for my sweet mom. I have already presented my experience with tips A – G, so let me jump right in where I left off.
H Hear my stories from long ago attentively.
I treasure the rocking chair my husband bought for me in celebration of the birth of our first child. When I walk past it, I sometimes run my hand across the back of the chair and give it a gentle nudge to rock. Sweet memories of rocking my children to sleep or to soothe their tears come to the forefront of my memory. Funny thing is, as often as I rocked my babies, I don’t remember when the last time was that I rocked them. That’s because it happened when I didn’t see it coming.
Similarly, there came a time when my sweet mother told each of her oft-repeated stories from her childhood for the last time. It was so easy to tune them out over time because I had heard them so many times. I find grace in knowing that I really was tired and trying to juggle too many things, but oh how I now wish I had taken more time to listen with my heart. Now that she is no longer here to tell her stories, how I wish I had recorded her voice as she reminisced about her life, and how I wish I had written down more of the stories she shared. Her stories were part of my life’s story too.
I Invite me along on community and church gatherings.
Just as the stories our loved ones tell will one day come to an end, so too will their desire to be social. I’m so glad I carved out time to take my mother on a few road-trips “home” to visit her family in West Virginia and Ohio.
Only God knows the measure of our days.
Even though she was in the early stages of memory loss, traveling with her wasn’t easy, but the effort was rewarded many times over as I observed her quiet joy as she spent time with her family (and mine).
Mom was a woman of faith who served the Lord with gladness as long as she was able. The day did come in the fall of 2015 when, for safety sake, I needed to take her car away (I didn’t earn any popularity awards with that decision). Mom’s need for fellowship with her church family was still strong, so I’m thankful for Mom’s friend Jean, who would take mom to church with her whenever Mom was willing and ready. Mom’s ability to measure time and take cues from what was written on her calendar gradually disappeared late in 2015. Sadly, when Mom’s ability to remember the names of even her closest friends diminished, so too did her desire to attend church. Her “last day” attending church happened when we weren’t expecting it either.
While mom no longer had the desire to go places, I noticed there was still a glimmer of joy when people would come to visit. I soon discovered that the most loving thing I could do for her was to invite family and friends in. Just a few at a time, so as not to overwhelm her.
Mom enjoyed the times when all three of us kids were able to be with her. She didn’t remember the visit for long, and it would usually tucker her out, but the momentary joy was worth the extra effort of finagling Brad’s wheelchair into the house.
Her church family was fantastic – she loved the visits from her pastors and friends who would stop by. Her eyes would light up when her grandchildren (and especially her great-grandchildren) would come for a visit. One granddaughter would bring dinner and her family every Sunday night. One grandson came every chance he could, bringing his girls with him. All of the visiting grands and great-grands would spend time doing whatever she enjoyed: coloring, sorting colorful buttons, working a puzzle a half-dozen times, and such. My sister Vivian would come every other weekend or so to help me out, sometimes bringing her youngest son. Mom dearly loved her family, even if she didn’t always comprehend that we were her family.
My encouragement to fellow caregivers is to make sure you make room for family and friends as often as you can.
We rarely know when time spent with a loved one is the last time. Last times happen in life when we aren’t looking. Only God knows the measure of our days.
During the month of November, many people like to take a little bit more notice of the things for which they are thankful. The older I get, the “things” on the list grow fewer and the “people to be thankful for” on the list grows longer and longer. Today, I’m feeling a wave of praise and thanksgiving wash over me as I think about one special person.
It was probably 2019, but it seems not so very long ago, when I arrived at BeeHive for a visit and lunch with my sweet momma. As I stepped into the door of the home, I spied my mom seated in a circle with her friends at BeeHive. Judging by all of the pool noodles and the balloon in the middle of the circle, BeeHive’s gregarious activity director had just finished leading a group chair exercise session. The residents, faces still flushed with joy, were listening as Kathleen continued on with an exercise of the mind, asking them to finish phrases like:
Practice what you ________.
Better late than ________.
Laughter is the best _________.
A woman’s work ___ _______ _____.
Birds of a feather _______ _______.
The residents seemed to enjoy this activity very much, but it was easy to see that mom’s participation level was very limited. Marked hearing loss and seriously impaired cognitive ability made it almost impossible for mom to participate in a meaningful way. But, I noticed one thing that was very special – it was the way mom was looking at Kathleen. There was love and admiration in momma’s eyes.
Very few activities captured mom’s attention for long, but Kathleen patiently encouraged her to try. If mom would wander away or was otherwise not engaged in the activity itself, Kathleen did her best to draw mom into the circle and strived to include her in the camaraderie of her fellow residents as an observer.
Kathleen’s strong voice always carried an endearing lilt of cheerfulness to my mom’s hard of hearing ears. It’s difficult to say how much mom actually heard, or understood, but mom could read the joy and encouragement on Kathleen’s face.
I will be forever grateful for Kathleen’s part in making my mom’s final leg of her journey toward her heavenly home a more pleasant one. Now that I’m baking a few days a week at BeeHive, it’s such an honor to be able to continue to witness Kathleen fill our assisted living memory care home with buzz and excitement. She now works alongside a sweet cohort in all things fun named Julia. Whether they are painting fingernails, calling out Bingo, playing cards, leading in chair exercises, making a beautiful art project, or decorating (and eating) delicious cupcakes, they make such a nice team in bringing a few moments of joy and a whole lot more buzz to the hive.