Alzheimer’s: Signs Along the Way

My dear readers, I think it’s about time to meet up for another cup of coffee and a chat. I thought we could talk about a question I am often asked.

What signs did you see that made you suspect that your mom was experiencing memory loss?

One place to start when gathering information about Alzheimer’s is the aptly named Alzheimer’s Association. You can click here for their Top 10 list of signs, but here’s my list of signs we noticed along the way:

  • Repeating stories multiple times at the dinner table.
  • Piles of stuff all over the house – very unusual since she was normally very tidy. The guest room bed was covered with several inches of mail and miscellaneous paperwork.
  • Finding everyday objects in odd places: her cane propped up against the fridge on her countertop; her purse in the fridge; keys under her pillow; toothpaste and toothbrush on top of her dresser; odd stuff in her purse…like banana peels wrapped like mummies.

Mummy-wrapped banana peel from Momma’s purse

  • Asking the same question over and over again.
  • A very messy calendar with lots of ‘White Out’ covering myriad mistakes (and her complaining that someone else was writing on her calendar).
  • Mom had always been a list-maker and would usually keep her lists in an organized notebook. Now, her lists were everywhere! You could find her notes to self on the backs of envelopes and snatches of paper; in multiple notesbooks or legal pads; in the margins of her calendar, etc.
  • Missed hair appointments. Her weekly hair appointment had been her habit for decades – it wasn’t like her to miss one.
  • Everyone loses their keys from time to time – believe me, I know! But the key hunt became a daily routine (sometimes several times a day) because she would hide them where they’d be safe.

Our solution to the hidden keys problem was to attach a “tile” which would allow us to use an app on our phones to find them. (Click here for info)

  • Ordering multiple sets of checkbooks; we counted five separate sets of checks for one account.
  • Hiding her checkbooks.
  • Unbalanced checkbooks and a dining room table littered with bank statements with notes of confusion written on each one.
  • Over-purchasing other items too: toilet paper, ballpoint pens, Kleenex boxes, dishwasher soap, spiral bound notebooks, and legal pads.
  • Repeating stories. Oh, I think I already said that.
  • Phone calls from neighbors reporting unusual behavior, including a concern over momma being outside ALL day in pretty much the same spot. And another with concerns about her driving.
  • A diminished desire to attend church or get together with her friends.
  • Hidden stashes of food – especially cookies and chips. We would also find partially eaten food here and there around the house. It made me nervous to think she might pick up spoiled food and begin eating it again.
  • Multiple cans of Coke begun, but not finished.
Momma can’t remember she already has a can of soda open.
  • Unflushed toilets. Mom had always been VERY particular about remembering to flush toilets.
  • Inordinate amounts of junk mail.
  • She somehow got suckered into two vehicle protection plans and two sewer and waterline protection plans. Unfortunately, she never used them because she didn’t realize she had them.
  • She kept renewing her magazines, even if she had YEARS left on the subscriptions.  
  • Losing large sums of cash. She once took $1,500 out of the bank for a vacation I was taking her on, but lost the money somewhere between the bank and home. We never did find that money, and her credit cards were in the same wallet.
  • Hiding valuables and claiming they were stolen.
  • Growing frustration with using a telephone or a once-familiar remote control.
  • When dining in a restaurant, she was no longer able to calculate a tip. Mom had always been an adventurous eater who was always game for trying a new restaurant. Whenever I would visit, she began going to the same restaurant and ordering the same thing each time. Or, without opening the menu, she would say, “I’ll have what she is having.”
  • Eating an entire carton of ice-cream in one sitting (we started buying it in pints and half-pints).

Most of these changes were subtle, but they began to add up. Somewhere in the middle of all of these changes, I knew in my heart it was time for me to make sure I invited myself to my mother’s next doctor’s appointment. I knew that he and I were going to have to become allies in my mom’s future care, so I stopped by her physician’s office and dropped off a copy of my power of attorney for healthcare paperwork so that they could be scanned into her record. I also wrote a letter to her primary care physician outlining my concerns. Now we could begin the process of me being in the loop related to care discussions and decisions. It was a hard step, but a necessary one.

Well, it looks like my cup of coffee is on empty and I did all the talking. Sorry about that. If I may ask, if someone you love has Alzheimer’s, what were some of the signs YOU noticed in your loved one?

Five Helpful Purchases for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver

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.

  1. 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 with several dry towels romping around in the dryer with it. We had purchased a second-hand hospital bed and it fit that mattress very well. One of the nicest things about this cover was that it was quiet–no plastic crinkling sounds when moving the bed position, or just tossing and turning a bit at night.
The very best mattress cover we tried. It’s worth your money to purchase two so that you have an extra for those nights when the accident is …ummm…really messy.

2. An Alzheimer’s friendly clock. There are many clocks available for purchase, but I can only begin to tell you how helpful this clock was – especially in the early and middle stages of dementia. We bought two. One for mom’s bedroom and one to keep in the kitchen near her spot at the table. There comes a time in the Alzheimer’s journey where the ability to measure time is lost. You can read my post highlighting the benefits of this clock in my previous post, “When Time Stands Still,” which you can find here. To be honest, now that we’re retired and not marking time with daily routines, hubby and I reference this clock ourselves when we’re having a “what day is it anyway?” moment of our own.

3. These waterproof pads. Yes, disposable ones are nice, especially when your loved one is sick and having bouts of diarrhea. However, these are wonderful for everyday use. I recommend you purchase the largest size so as to cover as much of the bed as possible. More often than not, whatever accident happens will be caught on this pad, which will save you changing all of the sheets and blankets in the wee hours of the morning. These pads will also come in quite handy if your loved one likes to sit in a recliner or other upholstered chair.

Don’t worry…they come in colors other than pink

4. A wireless security camera. I know there are a lot of camera options out there these days. This D-Link camera did a great job of helping us see mom when she would get up at night – its night vision and ability to pan and tilt remotely was so helpful. This camera helped me in the earlier stages when she was living on her own and I just wanted to check-in and make sure she was okay. In later stages when she needed to live with us, it picked up on her motions at night alerting me to any needs she might have for my help or intervention.

D-Link Indoor Full HD WiFi Security Camera, 2 Way Audio, Pan Tilt Zoom 1080P, Motion Detection, Night Vision, MicroSD & Cloud Recording, Works with Alexa and Google Assistant (DCS-8525LH-US)

5. And just for fun, we bought this colored pencil set and plenty of adult coloring books. My mom just loved them when she was in the middle stages and earlier part of late-stage dementia. Not only did she enjoy coloring, but she also enjoyed sorting the pencils into color groupings. The zippered case was nice too…it was amazing what all she could squirrel away in there along with her pencils.

Interesting thing to note: as the disease progressed, Momma gravitated toward using only green and yellow in her coloring. This meant that over time we bought various colored pencils sets to replace the greens and yellows and now have LOTS of colored pencils in every color but green or yellow.

Hearing the Voice

There were many defining moments back in 2015 which God used to help me understand that my sweet Momma needed more of my help. I’m resharing this particular post because “auditory hallucinations” were one of the signposts in my mom’s Alzeheimer’s disease progression. I would also like to mention that God’s timing in answering prayers may sometimes seem slow, but His timing is always perfect. He answered my mother’s prayer on May 24, 2020.

Barefoot Lily Lady

Facebook Journal Entry – October 13, 2015

About 30 seconds after wheeling her cart into her local Pick n’ Save grocery store, Momma abruptly stopped in front of the produce section and informed me she needed to take her hearing aids out. The clatter of carts, the din of voices, and incessant cash register beeping were just too much. She pulled each device out and carefully placed them in a little pouch we keep in her purse. With a look of great satisfaction on her face, she smiled broadly, and said, “Ahhhh! Peace and quiet.”
But, Momma’s quiet world isn’t always quiet. Occasionally, she’ll be sitting in her favorite chair and then suddenly wave her hand in agitation, as if shooing someone away. “Oh, be quiet! Go away!” she’ll scold. I’ll ask Momma who she is talking to and she’ll reply, “Don’t you hear him? He keeps singing that same…

View original post 617 more words

Six on Saturday: Daylily Magic

It’s been a busy week in the garden – lots of weeding, tree and bush trimming, moving a few plants around, and snapping photos. Lots of photos. How do I choose just six for this week’s installment of ‘Six on Saturday’? Well, I guess I’ll start with an updated photo of one of my (new this summer) purple garden chairs.

The purple chair’s seat is filling in nicely with this show-stopper of a daylily (I’m pretty sure it’s ‘Elegant Candy’).

My granddaughter spent time with me last week helping me with a great deal of weeding. It was the push that I needed to continue making progress. Yesterday was spent weeding (a 55g bin filled to overflowing) and trimming overgrown bushes. My gardening muscles ached when I went to bed, but I slept well.

I have a hard time answering the question, “So, what’s your favorite color flower?” It pretty much depends on what is blooming at the time, but I know that I do love to plant splashes of yellow throughout my gardens. I’m really loving this little stand of yellow daylilies happily thriving under the dappled shade provided by our locust tree.

This deep fuchsia pink daylily and blue-green hosta combo nearly took my breath away with its beauty.

But I’ve been adding some hot colors to the garden in the past few years. This orange daylily ‘Tuscawilla Tigress’ is a new favorite.

Then again, there’s this coral beauty (forgot the name).

Ooooh! But, then there are so many charming pink daylilies too!

I go by the blogger name of ‘Barefoot Lily Lady’ and I think you can guess why. I find it fun to participate with gardeners from all around the world who invite people to virtual tours of their gardens every Saturday. The group is called Six on Saturday and is hosted by The Propagator, who provides the inspiration and forum for a weekly, six photos at a time show ‘n tell. If you’d like to take a peek at the gardens too, just click on the Propagator’s site and give his weekly post a read, then scroll on down to the comments section where you’ll find loads of links to explore.

In Search of Billy

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I arrived at BeeHive to sit with mom during lunch. Momma was able to stay focused on eating if someone was nearby to remind and coach her. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, she had begun missing meals – sometimes only eating one meal a day – so I tried to be there during that time whenever possible. On this particular day, I was running a bit late and most of the residents were eating their dessert.

Not Momma. She had already toodled away from the table in her wheelchair and was calling out, “Billy! Billy! Where are you, Billy?” Now, I didn’t know anyone there by the name of Billy (not even one of her dolls had that name), and had never heard her call out for someone in this unconsolable way. Mom seemed almost frantic to find Billy.

I put my things down near her place at the table, then approached her and asked if I could help. “No! I want Billy!” insisted Momma. “Well, let me help you find him,” I replied. “Can you tell me what he is like?”

Momma seemed glad to have someone help her find Billy. The staff was nearby beginning the cleanup process after lunch, so I asked if any of them knew who Billy was. No one did.

Then, with tears in her eyes, Momma brought me back to the situation at hand and plead, “Please, help me find Billy. He’s my friend and he’s so kind. He helps me.”

That description was all I needed to give me a strong hunch as to the mystery of Billy’s identity. Going with my hunch, I asked one of the gals if Momma had been hanging out with Andy that morning. Why, yes! Andy had paid quite a lot of attention to Momma earlier that morning, strolling with her around the building and helping her with daily cares.

Photo credit: Kathleen Zelinski, BeeHive of Oregon’s Activity Director

Andy is one of the owners of BeeHive of Oregon. Like the other co-owners, Josh and Gina, Andy has more than just money in the business. He puts his caregiving heart in there too.

Andy showed his interest by taking the time to notice the photos I had placed in mom’s room. As he looked them over, he would ask questions about them so he could learn more about my mother’s past – important because Momma was living in the distant past in her mind. Knowing more about a someone’s past is helpful in caring for those with any number of conditions which cause short-term memory loss.

Andy often told me how much he adored my mom. He wanted to know about her and took a genuine interest in hearing stories from her past so he could better understand what made her tick. Though Momma probably didn’t say so, she trusted him and I think she sensed how much Andy loved her.

And Momma loved her ‘Billy’ too.

The Decline: Praying for Moments of Clarity

“Touch can reach through the fog, confusion, and fear of dementia. Reassuring touch grounds those who are spatially disoriented, bring people back to their bodies, and increases their awareness in present time and space. One touch can affirm that they are not alone and they are valued by the person who is beside them.”

Teresa Stecker, R.N., Hospice Nurse, excerpt from Creating Moments of Joy Along the Alzheimer’s Journey, by JoLene Brackey

Following mom’s recent and very life-altering stroke, I wanted to make sure my sister Viv would be able to share some special time with our mom. Between the restrictions related to COVID-19, my sister’s work schedule, and her car that needed tires and brakes, Viv hadn’t been able to see mom, and I felt time was running out. I phoned Viv and told her that I thought mom would be going Home to heaven soon and encouraged her to visit if she could.

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, visiting a loved one in a care facility was limited to window visits. But there was an allowance for residents who were in end of life or needed “comfort care.” Mom had been under hospice care for quite some time, but had now officially transitioned to end of life care, so family was permitted to gather as long as certain precautions were taken.

Viv didn’t have reliable transportation, but said she could come on Wednesday when her daughter would be able to bring her. In my heart, I was worried that mom wouldn’t make it until Wednesday, but didn’t want to burden Viv with trying to pressure someone else to bring her or tempt her to drive a car that was not roadworthy. By Tuesday, Mom was sleeping a lot and had completely stopped eating and drinking, so I prayed that Viv would be able to make it in time and that she would find a measure of peace for having been here.

I noticed that mom was a tiny bit more alert in the minutes immediately following being changed and turned, so requested that her caregivers do her daily cares shortly before Viv was scheduled to arrive at 1 pm. They say that when a person is in the end stage of life there is often a rally, or a short time of clarity. I hoped and prayed Viv would get one of those moments.

Mom was weak and groggy when Viv and her daughter Jessie arrived, but she had her eyes open and was more talkative than she had been since her stroke on Sunday. Viv lotioned mom’s hands while she visited, which was something that seemed to be very soothing for mom. Mom started talking and tried to tell her, among other things, that her arms and mouth didn’t work anymore.

It was the moment of clarity I had been praying for. My heart rejoiced seeing God’s answer to prayer as they had that little moment together.

May 20, 2020 – A weak, but sweet smile from Momma, pictured here with her youngest daughter Vivian and youngest granddaughter Jessica.

Falling for Dolly

Momma rested comfortably after Vivian and Jess left, so I decided to go home for a bit that evening to have dinner with Wayne and repack my bag. I knew in my heart that I would be staying with mom until the Lord called her home, so stuffed my backpack with a week’s worth of clean clothing, my Bible, a book, and a few movies to watch. I was just getting in the car to make the 12-minute drive back to BeeHive when I got a call from Kate, one of her sweet caregivers, who was calling to let me know that, weak as mom was, she had somehow managed to get herself out of bed and had fallen once again.

When I arrived a few minutes later, mom was back in bed and resting comfortably. The bump on her forehead from a previous fall had been in the healing stages, but now looked fresh again. Momma was chatty, but more difficult to understand. I did manage to cipher at one point that she was talking about her baby. Dolly was seated across the room in a chair, rather than in her customary spot in bed with her. It was then that I surmised Mom had been attempting to get out of bed earlier so that she could bring her baby to bed with her, but had fallen as a result. I placed Dolly in Momma’s arms and she patted her and spoke soothing words to her for quite some time.

I shared my theory concerning why mom had tried so hard to get out of bed with the staff. We all agreed that Dolly was very real in momma’s mind and that we should make sure Dolly was always in bed where Momma could see her.

I always loved watching my sweet mom tenderly caring for her beloved Dolly (and other dolls and stuffed animals), so I took a little video of Momma interacting with her Dolly that evening. When I would watch her care for Dolly, it seemed as though I had a glimpse of what my mother was like when I was a baby.

I will always treasure this sweet and special memory of Momma and Dolly.

Rewind: “He Meets She”

Today is our 44th wedding anniversary. On such an occasion, I thought it would be fun to reminisce about how we got here. I thought I’d bring a few of you, my friends, along for a little retelling of the story. God is good.

Barefoot Lily Lady

Seventeen letters from her and eighteen letters from him later, and it was time for “he” and “she” to finally meet one another in person. The letters between them had been filled with bits and pieces of thoughts shared and information that helped them “get to know” one another. Each letter revealed just a little bit more about the person holding the pen.

About a month before he came home on leave, he sat down to write. The mood struck him to write another poem. The poem took her by surprise – for it was on the theme of love. To this point, none of their letters had even hinted that they might at some point date, let alone fall in love. Yet, she read with interest what he had to write and wondered if it was a measure of what was in his heart:

“Love” – what is it?

View original post 560 more words

July Gardening – Time for Daylilies to Shine

It has been sheer joy to be in my garden during the beautiful month of June. It has been a few years since I’ve had this much time to play in the dirt. There’s plenty left to do, but they are looking more cared for than they have in a long time.

Momma moved to heaven in May, so being able to tend to the minutiae of my flowerbeds without the extra responsibility of caregiving has been cathartic and heart healing. As I pull weeds with my mom’s favorite garden tool, I think of how much my mom loved to weed gardens. When I don her gardening hat, I see myself looking a little bit more like the remarkable woman my mom was. Flowers that I transplanted from her garden are now blooming in mine and my heart is reminded of her once again. It is so very comforting and beneficial.

Momma in her gardening hat – 2018

Now it is July and the month when my garden explodes with daylily wonderfulness. A few of my daylilies are opening, but many more are standing in the wings with bud-laden scapes, ready to burst into glorious blossom. Oftentimes I look at lilies and I think of a passage in scripture (Matthew 6:25-34) which reminds me I am under God’s care and that there is nothing to be anxious about. I especially love this bit:

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Matthew 6:28-29
Stella de Oro ‘Happy Returns’

Yellow is such a happy color. I love to sprinkle it liberally throughout my flowerbeds. Stella de Oro ‘Happy Returns’ daylily is one of my favorites. A front of the border reliable rebloomer, it stands about 12 inches tall and boasts almost a continuous blooming habit from spring until frost, especially if spent flower scapes are cut back. It comes in many colors, but I think yellow is my favorite (although ‘Ruby Red’ runs a very close second).

Second-hand birdhouse with a fresh coat of paint

Hubby and I stopped at a Goodwill store in Wausau in the Rib Mountain area. Best. Goodwill. Ever! We admired how nicely displayed everything in the store was, how clean and tidy, clearly marked social distancing, friendly staff – you name it, this store was doing it right. Wayne found a birdhouse (see above) that he thought I might like to spruce up a bit. We bought it ($2.99), I (re)painted it, and it has found its place in my yard and is already attracting the attention of potential tenants.

Most of my hostas are flowering now. Isn’t this one sweet?

First zinnia to bloom this summer.

We have three small raised beds – about 4’x4′ each. One of the beds is devoted to strawberries, and the other two have typically been for a few veggies. Other than a single tomato plant, I decided that we’d give vegetable gardening a rest this year and plant zinnias. When I got home from a little holiday weekend today, I was happy to see one lovely pink zinnia had opened.

My guy chose me as his wife 44 years ago when we married on July 3, 1976. I’m thankful for Wayne in so many ways, including his support of my barefoot gardening endeavors.

I’m also thankful to be part of a group of gardeners from all around the world who can be found walking around their gardens snapping photos to post every Saturday. The group is called Six on Saturday and is hosted by The Propagator, who provides the inspiration and forum for a weekly tour of gardens – six photos at a time. If you’d like to take a peek at the gardens too, just hop on over to the Propagator’s site and give his weekly post a read, then scroll on down to the comments section where you’ll find loads of links to explore. See you next week for another six.

What I Think Dad Might Say if He Could Talk About the World Right Now

This is so worth reading – I was so moved by this post today. I can imagine my own dad telling me some of the same things. If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s too, this blog is one I would recommend following.

God's Grace and Mom's Alzheimer's

I’ve been wishing I could talk to Dad about all that ‘s been going on with the pandemic, and world unrest, and heated debates about to mask or not mask, etc. Dad was so intelligent and usually had an opinion. But he’s been with Jesus for over two years now. I can’t discuss anything with him but I can remember his example and learn from it…

I can remember the days, when Mom’s walking was getting weak and unsteady, I’d have to put a gait belt on her and coax her to stand and hold onto her as we walked. Dad was blind by that time and not as steady on his feet himself. But I would notice, as I was walking with Mom, that he’d be whispering fervently. And I’d catch words and realize he was praying. And he’d keep praying until I had Mom settled wherever I was…

View original post 457 more words