A Woman and Her Purse

In the world of Alzheimer’s, a woman and her purse (and a man and his wallet) aren’t easily parted.

Mom carries her purse everywhere she goes and sleeps with it under her pillow or worn on her shoulder and hugged tightly to her side under her covers.

Rummaging and rifling through the contents of her purse is a favorite Sundowning activity (for more information on Sundowner’s Syndrome, click here). I keep a baby monitor next to my bed and can hear and see her zipping and unzipping her purse at all hours of the night – over and over again. I can see her happily stumbling over the same piece of mail and delighting in reading it out loud as if for the first time.

The contents of her purse may vary a little bit, but I can count on a few things. She’ll probably have five or six combs, her glasses in a familiar blue case, a few colored pencils absconded from her coloring set, her favorite pieces of mail, three or four tubes of lipstick, and Kleenex…wads and wads of Kleenex. And, for good measure, there may even be a roll of toilet paper crammed in there. It’s a harmless security thing. Her purse filled with familiar objects brings her a little peace and reduces anxiety.

Some church and community service groups even provide “rummage bags” or “rummage boxes” for memory challenged residents of local nursing homes, as the act of rummaging through the contents of the bag provides a sense of calmness and occupies them for hours (see related article filled with ideas here).

The paranoia associated with Alzheimer’s causes her to believe with all sincerity that people will try to steal her stuff. So precious is her purse, Mom will hide it to keep its contents safe. Now that she lives with me, I know where her favorite hiding places are located. When she still lived in her apartment or in her own home, sometimes she hid the purse really well. Really, REALLY well. For times like that, we found a handy little device called a Tile which helped us locate her purse using an app on our phone. We give it our highest endorsement and heartily recommend it for anyone dealing with an elderly parent…or someone like me who misplaces her car keys more often than she cares to admit.

Back to purses…

Sometimes my mom is hilarious. This was one of those days. Not long ago, I posted this on Facebook. I hope it brings you a smile too.

Lipstick, Eyebrows and Senior Discounts

My friend Shannon Berry Popkin’s Facebook post today had me in stitches. She is an author and had her eyebrows “embellished” in preparation for a taping session (I’m a bit challenged in the eyebrow department, as you can see in this picture of me and my sweet Momma). Well, her story reminded me of a story I wrote about 6 years ago. Time does pass so quickly. Now, I’m 6 years closer to flying away…and perhaps a full set of eyebrows.

I hope I wasn’t staring – I certainly did not intend to be rude.  But, even though I was on a hurried mission and just passing through the mall’s grocery store to get where I was going, I couldn’t help but pause to notice one particular lady. Her time-worn face returned my smile with a red-lipsticked grin of her own. Vestiges of her beauty still lingered on her face of 75 or so years. Her fresh from the beauty parlor hair was wrapped in a chiffon headscarf, geriatric but stylish sensible heels adorned her feet, and she wore a smart gray woolen suit accessorized by a gold necklace and matching brooch. What made me smile (and giggle inwardly) was the wide-eyed look she had tried to create by drawing thick reddish-brown  eyebrows in a place on the forehead about an inch and a half above where they once grew on her face.

[I inwardly muse, what makes women do that when they get old? Now that I sport a pair of bifocals, I realize the challenges associated with plucking my eyebrows or wearing eye makeup. With or without my bifocals, it’s tricky. I theorize that when you upgrade to trifocals, there’s no telling where your makeup (or your eyebrows) will end up.]

Back to the sweet elderly lady…

Having paid for her groceries, this darling lady was now gingerly walking toward me on the arm of her more elderly than herself husband. With his tri-pod cane in hand, this dapper-looking gent sported his own sense of style in a pair of black wing-tips, baggy brown corduroy slacks, a tweed jacket, and one of those beret-type hats. No two ways about it…they were cute and they made me smile.

I had apparently stumbled upon the senior discount day at this particular grocery store (which explained the multitude of oddly parked cars in the parking lot).  I stopped for a minute to take it all in. In every checkout lane I spied more little old ladies with eyebrows drawn on in pencil, and silver- haired (and barely-haired) men clad in sport coats of an era gone by. The visual scene was also punctuated by the scent of too much perfume competing with too much aftershave and the sound of a nearby walker scootch-scootching over the bumpy tile floors.

I felt young and spry compared to my present company. The truth of the matter, though, is that I have  only recently begun filling in my own thinning eyebrows with eyebrow pencil. [A note to my daughter: Please! Hide my eyebrow pencil if I ever start shaving off my eyebrows and drawing them closer to my receding hairline than my eyes! Oh, and don’t forget your promise to clean my glasses and pluck my chin hairs.]

The psalmist recorded in God’s Word that man lives about 70 years…80 if we’re healthy and strong; even with modern medicine, not much has changed about that number.

“The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10 (NIV)

In all probability, the reality is that I have now lived more of my life than I have left.  “Tomorrow” I will be the little old lady at the grocery store. The choice is mine as to how I use my remaining years before I “fly away.”