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Monthly Archives: October 2008

That’s the only way to explain things with my mom, and it has me baffled and saddened. Everyday is another heartbreak, as I listen to the things she says, and realize that I am losing her little by little. Tonight I went to the nursing home, and wheeled her into the dining room, to go over her current medications, because we will be seeing the doctor tomorrow, and have to get all the meds in order. I was curious to see if she retained much memory of her prescriptions, because it has been 4 1/2 months since she had to give them to herself. As the evening progressed, I realized how absolutely impossible it would have been for her to go back to doing that. (She even used to give herself the insulin 4x a day, and lots of other medications.) I didn’t get much help from her with the lists that I was going over, and I noticed that her attention span now is somewhat like a 5 year old child. She will try to focus for awhile, but then she will start to fidget. She’ll show me her latest bruises, as she has tissue paper skin that bruises at the slightest bump, and she seems to be very embarrassed about the constant black and blue marks. I tell her that she’s still beautiful and not too worry, but of course she does. Then she’ll tell me some story about the latest happenings at the nursing home, and we go on another rabbit trail for awhile. But I don’t mind…I love her dearly, and will listen to anything she wants to talk about. 

But as I was gathering up our papers from the dining room, she began to tell me things that saddened me again. She talks constantly lately of the kids that live in the nursing home. (None do.) She tells me that one got in her bed. She said he was about 6 years old, and he thought that he’d found his mother. One of the CNAs came in, and she finally found him (which my mom declares was hard to do, because his head was so small.) I try to smile as though it all makes sense, but it doesn’t.

Then she tells me that a Mrs. Cramer (don’t know who this is) got all the nursing home residents in a van, and took them on a trip, but they ended up back at CJ’s house. (This is the morning nurse.  My mom had a fantastic story awhile back about going to her house, and spending the night.) She says that they had a wonderful chicken dinner there. She seems quite pleased with that memory, and I don’t want to hurt her. Can it be all bad if the memory is a happy one?

Gently I asked, “And you don’t think you were dreaming?”

No“, she answered, and all I could say was, “Isn’t that something?.” As I’ve said before, while I try to calmly reorient her to the present time and place, I am quite concerned that she will not share these things with me, if I appear to be alarmed, or make her feel as though it couldn’t have happened. (She mentioned that the staff keeps telling her that there are no children, except of course, the visitors.) So I can sense her frustration when people don’t believe her. She believes completely that these things happened, and it would just worry her more, for me to say they couldn’t have…so I don’t. She also mentioned about the voices, or a radio, that keeps coming out of the plugs in her room, and I don’t know what to make of this either, as the nursing home does not have an intercom, like hospitals do. I keep trying to make sense of it all. Could a radio be playing next door? Is there noise outside (which I DID hear tonight, as I left. Very loud music, perhaps.) Are the children that she thinks she sees the same ones that were visiting tonight? NO, I know she’s not referring to them, because I remember her asking the nurse awhile back how the babies got up on her bedroom shelf, and how they stay up there so well– one was just “hovering.” I try to make sense out of it all, but it just doesn’t make sense, other than she is suffering from dementia. Many people have told me that anesthesia can affect the mind of anyone over 50–(yes 50!) Sometimes it has lasting, permanent effects on the brain, and her orthopedic surgeon warned me (before the surgery) that she may never be the same. It has definitely escalated since the hip surgery, but whether it is that, or the mild Alzheimer’s, that she was diagnosed with before all this, I don’t know. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is still very much a guess in the dark, as there are many forms of dementia, and it’s very difficult to distinguish between them. Still, as my counselor often reminds me, the end result is the same–confusion that tends to progress.

So here we are. I keep wondering, if perhaps when she gets settled in her new apartment, (and some of the stress of the nursing home is off of her) will her dementia get a little better? Or will she begin to tell these fantastic tales to the staff there? And if she does, will they say that she needs a higher level of care, or has to be moved to the memory care section of Assisted Living? I hope not, as I want her to be able to socialize with “normal” (whatever that is) people. I think it would make her very frustrated at this point, to be around people worse off cognitively than she is. So I hope that doesn’t happen.

If you were to visit with her briefly, you might think that everything is fine. She can still carry on a conversation wonderfully, and respond appropriately. But then suddenly, it will change, and as I like to say, you suddenly enter the Twilight Zone, where nothing makes sense anymore. This can happen almost mid sentence, and it will make your head spin around. Plus, she is so adamant about what she is saying. She truly believes it, and I think how sad it must be to believe something, but everyone else thinks you’re crazy. So I try not to hurt her by confronting her. I just listen, and try to make it all make sense. But I can’t, and sometimes I cry on the way home.

CATERPILLAR: Who are YOU?

ALICE: I–I hardly know, sir, just at present–at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.

And that’s how it seems with my mother…

Please see other articles I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

My husband and I are using all our free time getting everything done to move my mom into her assisted living apartment. The paperwork required is unbelievable, including everything from doctors, prescription meds, personal history, likes and dislikes, hobbies, daily activities, etc. We worked on it tonight until midnight. So exhausting. Tomorrow I have to deal with power of attorney issues, medical information gathering, and shopping for the basics, as well as going by her house to get some of the neccessities.

Every day from now on will be spent running here and there, trying to get it all done.  Endless requirements for a smooth transition. So much to do, and I’ve been having troubling chest pains. I feel the stress of it all, and I feel helpless to slow down, because I can’t. I am SOOOOOOO tired already, and the worst part is still to come. Doctor’s appointments, moving her to the temporary room, getting her furniture delivered to the permanent room, getting it decorated, buying the necessities, and moving the rest from her home, coordinating medication orders, care orders, etc. I won’t bore you with all of it, but it is massive. Please pray for my health, strength and peace. The last 3 1/2 years of my life have been so stressful.

I am so glad that none of us know when the journey ends, for that would take away the wonder of life, and the hope. It is so much better not to know, but to be aware that it WILL end; therefore, we need to live every day, in that reality. Lately, I want to breathe more deeply, laugh more heartily, and cry to the depths of my soul. I want to experience life in all its wonder.  It has become more meaningful to me in the last few years, because of my losses, and because of its relative brevity…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

I was sorting through my mom’s jewelry, and putting some of her favorite pins in a jewelry box, for her to take to the Assisted Living apartment. As I went through the boxes, where she had the jewelry meticulously organized, I felt like I was sneaking behind a closed door. Jewelry is so personal, and it says a lot about the person who wears it. (I could even still smell her perfume on some of the pieces.) Most of my mom’s accessories are just costume jewelry-only one or two pieces are worth monetary value, and yet as I handled it tonight, it was like gold, because it told the story of my mom. She’s a very tasteful, classy lady, but not “stuffy.” Alongside the rhinestone brooches, was also a pink airplane pin, a black cat, a fish, and an amazing tiger pin. She had carefully placed most of her things in individual boxes, but at this time of her life, I thought she would have an easier time of finding what she wanted, if I put most of it in a large, horizontal, easily viewable jewelry box. It turned out to be an enjoyable task, but a strangely sentimental one as well. I found a tarnished locket (and wondered if it was my grandmothers), several baby rings, and my brothers beads that spelled out “Holbrook” on what appeared to be his baby bracelet. (Not totally sure about that, but that is what it appeared to be, and all the letters were there, just not the string that connected them. But then I started wondering if it would have been safe to put a tiny beaded bracelet on a baby. But I think they used to do it all the time in the hospital nurseries. Haven’t been around newborns much lately to notice.) There was also a silver dollar necklace that I had seen my dad wear, and some acknowledgement pins that my mom got, while working for the government.

I was amazed to see how little jewelry she actually had. It always seems like more, when you’re around the person. ( I did find a necklace of blue crystal beads that had thrilled me as a little girl.)  As I displayed her pins in the jewelry box, I realized that I had bought many of them for her. She also likes bracelets a lot, and I’ve bought her quite a few of those lately. Now that she has lost weight, her wrist is so tiny, that I usually have to just buy the expandable ones, and sometimes those are still too large. So I get her to try them on, and then I sneak and buy what fits. She doesn’t much care for necklaces, and I only found a very few of those.

I’ve been thinking a lot about life these days, and what we leave behind as a legacy. In our family, there won’t be much of value by the world’s standards. I get my mom’s pig collection (lol), and my brother gets the grandfather clock. Unfortunately, I’m not at all crazy about pigs, and my brother’s dog chewed up the leg on the clock, but such as it is–that’s our tangible inheritance.

But our intangible inheritance is worth more than diamonds. We have witnessed strength and true grit in both my dad and my mom. When I think of Sam, I think of strength, a multitude of talents, and a tender heart.  (I always felt that he could fix the world if it broke.) I miss him every single day. When I think of my mom, I think of courage in the midst of great trials, and a determination to see things through (and not give up.) She’s also stubborn as all get-out–but the positive side of that is tenacity.

I know that sorting through her jewelry, will only be the beginning of the things that I will have to sift through, in order to get her moved. So many memories…It will be a process of weeding through the unnecessary, in order to find the necessary (as well as some terrific treasures.) For what fun is life, if it is all necessity? So of course, I made sure that I got her Betty Boop Christmas ornament packed for the new apartment. (It was found among her prized possessions.) Some things you just can’t live without…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

Rob and I looked for furniture today for my mom’s assisted living apartment. We found a beautiful red recliner for the companion chair to Betty’s recliner lift chair.  I was thinking of using burgundy/red and blue for her primary colors, and the chair will blend in nicely. There is just enough room for 2 chairs in her sitting area.

We decided to use Chelsea’s beautiful white and gold furniture, because the scale is perfect, and it will brighten her room, where dark furniture would be depressing. Chelsea’s furniture is absolutely lovely, and the pieces that we need for Betty’s room are there (including a small lingerie chest for Betty’s closet.) Many of the residents had large chest of drawers in their closets. This lingerie chest will be perfect, and still give her room to use her closet freely, as well. We have bedside tables (either one or two) depending on how tightly the bed fits in the space. It will be gorgeous in her room. I hope that after she is gone (though I pray that she’s here for a long while yet), I can use it once again in my house, as I have always loved  this set.

We are also thinking of setting up a work table for her, where she can fiddle with her business papers,  sort her mail, and read her newspaper. This is one of her greatest joys! I plan to have a small Bistro table for us to eat at as well. (This is all dependent on if  I can make it all fit, since we are dealing with a very small space.)

We actually purchased the compact refrigerator and microwave tonight. We also looked at a queen mattress set, and haven’t settled on that yet. We got so much done, and even got to eat at Olive Garden. I am so tired, but very pleased with all our decisions.

There are many household items she will need, but some can be brought from her home, such as towels, kitchen accessories, plates, etc. I will need to buy some new lamps also, and bedding, including queen sheets. (Anytime you set up housekeeping, there is so much to do.) Did I once have a life???? LOL!

I just hope that she will not fall again, so that she can enjoy every moment of life she has left. When we are young, it seems like life will go on forever, but actually we are only here for a very short time. We will all grow old one day…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

How can I describe this week? Saying good-bye to what once was, and moving toward the future. Saying good-bye (in many ways), to that wounded, adorable little girl that I adopted almost 17 years ago, at the age of 3. Accepting that she will be spending her birthday and Christmas in England, with her birth mom. (Her first Christmas away from home.) It’s been a week of realizing where I really stand with her, and yet how much I truly love her. She couldn’t hurt me so deeply, if I didn’t love her so much. It’s also been a time of realizing that I need some space between us, for my heart to mend. She has trampled it so many times, and I am weary of the pain. She does love me, and I love her, but the drama of it all has become too much, when I’m trying to take care of my mom, am not feeling well myself, and have already been through so much hell. I need some time away from Chelsea, and I believe that time away from us at Christmas, will remind her of all the wonderful memories she has from Christmases past.  She wanted to celebrate our Christmas in January, but we said no. I think since she made her choice impulsively, without thinking of our feelings, that she should not have her cake and eat it too. She should just spend the month of December with her birth mom, as she had planned, and let us have our family Christmas without her. Perhaps it will cause her to reflect on times past, and I know that she will miss Christmas with us. It was always a very special time in our family.

She already seems to be tiring of her birth mom calling her constantly, and of some of her ways. It turns out that her birth mom made it from England to Atlanta, but had neglected to see that her visa was in order, and was promptly sent back to England. She actually wanted Chelsea, (who she’s never met), to fly to Cancun, and then to jump on a sailboat (just the two of them) and sail into the U. S. (at Miami) illegally. That was even too much for an adventurous 19 year old. Chelsea thought that was crazy. These are the kinds of things that have worried us, as her mom is still very immature (even though she is 44), and sometimes doesn’t have good judgement. So we’ll see. I think Chelsea is already missing being home for Christmas, but I am sure that it will be exciting to go to England. She’s likely to be the envy of all her friends…and there’s nothing she likes better. I’m sure that it will all work out. (If you truly love something, then set it free, and all that… yeah.)

It’s also been a time of saying good-bye to what was my mom’s life…for so many years. We began to make plans this week for her to move into assisted living, and for her to leave her home behind. For now, my brother will rent the house, and we (Rob and I) have taken out a mortgage on it, until such time as it would cause us financial difficulty. Then we will have to sell it, and try to get some of our money back. If my brother still wants to live there, perhaps he could get a mortgage on it. We are just taking it one day at a time. Even with my mom’s limited monthly income, and my brother’s rent, we will still fall short of the monthly expenses needed for assisted living. We are trusting God to provide. We only have enough for a couple of years–not sure exactly, possibly three. But somehow, I feel it will all work out, according to God’s plan. That’s what faith is, isn’t it?

So after having my mom’s care plan meeting a little over a week ago, many things changed. The social worker and the Medicare/supervisor lady, acted as though we hadn’t hugged in their office (through tears) a couple of weeks ago. They were supposed to be increasing the physical therapy for the next 2 weeks, and then giving us an assessment of whether she was a candidate for assisted living. At the time, they were doubtful.

As we headed toward the back of the dining hall, where we normally meet, they told us we would have to meet in my mom’s room instead. All the parties joined us and gave their reviews. The physical therapist said that she could benefit from a little more therapy, but that she was progressing. The occupational therapist said that she was doing better, and was more motivated in their time together. Everyone said that she was at risk for falling, because quite often she neglected to use her wheelchair, or her walker. It seems like lately, this is partly due to stubborness, but more likely because she forgets the instructions. The activity person said that she was attending more activities. (This always makes my mom mad, because she doesn’t think that her status should depend on whether she attends a Bingo game or not.) I so totally agree! (I have to add here that one day as we were headed toward the atrium, someone said over the loudspeaker, for all the residents who wanted to participate in yoga, to meet in the dining hall.) This made me laugh out loud, because if you could see the residents at the nursing home, you would be hard put to find a single one who could do yoga! So funny!

Anyway, after all the team gave their reports, we were left with the “two big wigs” as my mom refers to them. They had been kind and gracious at our last few meetinga, but something had definitely changed. Even their demeanors were different. The social worker went back to chomping on her chewing gum with a callous look, while Miss Medicare looked almost angry. Her hair was in disarray, and she looked as though she had been fighting dragons all day, and it was only 10:15 a.m. Neither had any kind words for us, it seemed.

My mom was ready to rumble. She was angry and combative, and just wanted to get out of there.

“So where do we go from here?”, I asked.

Miss Medicare abruptly answered, “The ball is in your court now.”

“So you DO think she’s a candidate for assisted living?”, I asked.

Miss Chewing Gum answered, “After what the occupational therapist said, I think she would be an excellent candidate.”

Looking at Miss Medicare, I reminded her, “Because at our last meeting, you didn’t.”

“Well, at our last meeting she was…” (She trailed off in her speech.) I felt like reminding her that our last meeting was only 2 weeks ago, but I could see that she didn’t want to discuss it any farther. (They seemed to have forgotten our last meeting. Makes you wonder who really needs help.) I think it all boiled down to dollars and cents. My mom has acquired quite a bill (about $200.00 a day) since her Medicare and supplemental insurance ran out. I think their plan when they came in the room was to release her, because of that. I don’t know what we’ll do about the bill. We are applying for Medicaid for the month of October, but the rest of it will have to wait. We simply don’t have it to give in a lump sum at this time, and still be able to pay for her assisted living also. (I got a message from them today, threatening to turn it over to creditors, if we didn’t pay in 15-20 days.) Oh well, you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, as they say.

I was grateful that my mom was a candidate for assisted living (as they were adamant that she could not return home, without 24 hour care. They said that she already qualified as a permanent nursing home resident, due to her need for supervision of her insulin, and the cognitive issues that she is dealing with.) But neither she nor I really wanted that.

If she returned to her home, it would never really be the same. She had said that she would run away, if she was watched every minute. It would mean my brother and his teenaged son would have to move in with her, and she would need caregivers around the clock to help with her meds, and to watch over her. Knowing my mom like I do, I had a feeling that she would prefer the privacy (to some degree) that assisted living could provide, since home wouldn’t really be home, as she had known it. And I believe it would have been very difficult for my brother as well, though he was willing.

But Betty had staked out a position with Miss Medicare, and said, “I am NOT going to change my mind.” (About going to assisted living.) However, she had a few days to think about it.

After the meeting was over, I told her what my feelings were about the assited living–how at first I was so horribly sad about her leaving home, but after I saw the place, it was so very nice, that I began to think that she would like it there. She could get the help and supervision that she needed, but still have some privacy as well. (She feels that she is just too sick to try to manage a house, with others living there, knowing she would be tempted to do the laundry, cooking, and housecleaning, and yet realizing that she is no longer able. She would never be left alone for a moment, and that would be horrible.)

The first room they showed me at Benton House, had a chair just like hers in the (very) small sitting area. I could picture her in it watching TV, just like we had done at her house. I hope to get a smaller recliner, for the second chair. Then we can still sit and watch TV together. We enjoy looking at “Dancing With The Stars” and “American Idol.” We also like criminal and detective stories.

We suggested that she go with us that evening, and see Benton House. To my total surprise, she agreed. We got our tour, and the first room they showed my mom, was the one with the chair like hers. There was actually a cat in that room, that gave it a cozy feel, like a Hallmark card.

The room that my mom would actually be in was next door, but the lady who lives there is legally blind, and kind of skiddish about people coming in. However, once she went to the dining hall, Tina let us in. That lady is a bit of a pack rat, and it took a little more “vision” to see the possibilities of her room, but we looked around a few minutes, and left. The room would be available the last week of the month. The lady would be moving in with her sister, and after she moved out, the maintenance people would need to paint the apartment, and clean the carpets. The “apartment” consisted of a very small sitting area, a very tiny kitchen area (connected to the seating area) and a bedroom and bath. They have other apartments with larger floor plans, but no one but the very wealthy could afford any of the larger ones. Besides, with less room to walk in, perhaps there will be less room to fall in.

My mom had asked if we could go out to dinner, so we went to Coach and Four, an enjoyable steakhouse in our town. She loved her food, and was so happy, as the food at the nursing home is horrible! She has lost a lot of weight while she’s been there.

As we finished up, I took the initiative and said, “We really need to make a decision about this.”

To my amazement, once we explained how we planned to finance it, and reassured her, she decided to live there. (After what happened last week, I wondered if she would remember it tomorrow, but I was praying  that she would. And she did!)

This past week, Tina called and said that she had good news about the room. It turns out that a nicer room (at the same price) became available, with a window overlooking the courtyard. There are 2 courtyards there–one is for the regular residents, and one is for the memory care residents. My mom’s apartment is located in the regular residential area, but the courtyard outside her window is the memory care courtyard, and for that reason, I believe there will be far less activity and noise outside her window. The courtyard is very pleasant, and this room is far better. The only drawback is that the lady can’t catch her flight until November 4th, and therefore would not be able to vacate it until then. But the director offered to let Betty put a bed in the first room, until the nicer room became available. So even though that will be a little different than we had planned, it will allow her to get a far nicer room. This one is also a one bedroom, but it is slightly bigger. (We’ll take every little bit of extra space we can get.)

I can’t wait to decorate it. Of course, it will also need to be painted, and have the carpets cleaned, so there will be a delay of at least a day for the paint to dry, and for the room to air out, even after the lady has vacated it. Then I can decorate it for Betty, and we can move her in. There is a lot to do. Tomorrow we are going to shop for a bedroom set for her, as her bed at home is a king, and far too big. We will also need a  small recliner for any visitor, and tonight we picked out a larger compact refrigerator, and microwave. The microwave provided in the room is about the size of a sandwich, and the refrigerator is way too small. (I was surprised, but they gave us the okay to get the size we wanted.) We just got a medium microwave, and the cutest black compact refrigerator, that even had a small freezer, where she can put microwaveable dinners. (There is no stove, due to fire danger for the elderly who live there.) All her meals are provided, but if she doesn’t like something, she can fix a little snack in her room, anytime she’s still hungry. That is so great, after that horrible nursing home food. Most institutional food is not all that great, but even a slight improvement would be terrific.

Now, if we can just keep her on her feet–no more falls, then life is about to get better for her (and me.) In assisted living, they will check on her every 2 hours, give her the necessary insulin and medications, and provide laundry service (Rob will be so happy-he’s been doing all her laundry). They will also provide housekeeping services, utilities (except for cable and phone) and probably more ammenities that I’ve forgotten. We will be paying a lot for it, but it will be a better quality of life for her. I just hope we can afford it, for as long as she needs it. (That’s where the faith comes in.)

So we are all beginning new journeys. I will have some help with my mom; she will be starting a new life, and Chelsea will be meeting her birth mom, and hopefully, life will be a little less stressful…please God!

There is so much to be done, that I don’t know where to start, but I love decorating, and I can’t wait to fix it up for her. Please protect her from falling, Lord, so that she can have a better life.  And let her dance again…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

That’s what my heart feels like. Have you ever seen a windshield when it’s been hit by a rock, and the glass shatters (but still holds together), forming the look of a spider web? That’s exactly how I feel. I’m shattered without a doubt, but still holding together. How, I’m not sure–other than by God’s grace. So much stress from Chelsea and my mom’s situation. My heart hurts, and I’m scared for my present physical condition. My blood sugars are always around 200 (normal is 120) and I know I’m a breath away from having to go on insulin shots. My blood pressure is up–my physical body is quite naturally reflecting my emotional life. I keep thinking something will let up somewhere, but instead it just keeps getting worse.

A quick update on the situation with my daughter, and then I’ll write another post soon on my mom.

The two issues that hurt me most–Chelsea inviting her mom to move in with her, and Chelsea going away to England to spend the holidays with her, are still very hurtful, and still issues. However, it turns out that Chelsea neglected to tell us that her mother has not even been here yet. It seems that something was wrong with her visa, and though she made it to Atlanta, from there they sent her back to England. She then called and invited Chelsea to spend the whole month of December (her birthday and Christmas) in England (paid for by Chelsea’s grandmother.)

As I wrote to Chelsea, it wasn’t even the going to England for the holidays that was so hurtful, but finding it plastered all over her MySpace without even letting us know first. (That still hurts.) Also, inviting her mom to move in with her will always be over the top to me, given our close proximity, and just the awkwardness of the whole situation. I was stupid enough to think that Chelsea might have some regard for our feelings, and a little consideration. I was wrong.  It could have (and should have) been handled differently.

So we are at a standstill presently. Rob is having lunch with her tomorrow, and I am staying out of it. I really mean it when I say, that my health cannot take anymore. We have exchanged somewhat heated letters, though she always professes her undying love to me. But I am so over it all–so ready to take a break from all the unnecessary drama that surrounds Chelsea’s life at every level. It has been this way forever.

So as it stands now, since her mom can’t get into the country at the moment, to come and live with her, Chelsea will be spending the month of December in England. Apparently, one of her part-time jobs is closing the business for the whole month, and that makes it even more convenient for Chelsea to go (though I am sure that she would have quit her job anyway, without a backward glance) in order to go to England. So, that’s that. And it’s okay with me. Really.

After this Christmas, I told her I really don’t care WHERE she spends her Christmases, as once my mom is no longer alive (though I hope she’s alive a long time) I probably will no longer have this family-gathering type of Christmas that we have had for years. It is exhausting, but it means a lot to my mom–the biggest kid of all. It also meant a lot to Chelsea. So every year, I knocked myself out, trying to make it nice for everyone. But when my mom’s gone, I just want a peaceful Christmas…whatever that might be…

Seems like all life’s about lately is having to say good-bye in one way or another…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

I wanted to clarify that we have never said one unkind word about Chelsea’s birth mom. We always presented her in the best light possible (probably too good at times.) We were happy for Chelsea to find her, if she wanted to. We are the ones who located her. It’s just the way that Chelsea has handled it, that is so disappointing. Then today, I go to her MySpace page to write her a note, and am greeted with a banner saying, “One Life One Chance (her online nickname) is spending the holidays in England!” What a great way to find out that information. Very inconsiderate on her part, and it hurt. I guess the two things that have hurt most, were that she invited her mom to move in with her, and now she plans to spend the holidays with her in England, without ever saying a word to us about it. I don’t think anyone reading this would deny that Christmas is a family time, and we are her family. We are the ones who raised her, loved her, and took care of her when she was sick. We were there when her mother walked away. She shouldn’t act like we don’t exist, just because she’s found her birth mom. I am very hurt by her lack of sensitivity, and she could have easily handled the whole situation better, but chose to think only of herself (as always.) If she had even been thoughtful enough to talk it over with us, I would have said that Christmas in England was fine, but she didn’t. She just plastered it all over her MySpace page, so she could be the envy of her friends, and possibly to hurt us. (She seems to be playing games lately.)

I have had it. This child has brought me so much heartache and sorrow, that I am weary. Just weary with all her drama, narcissism, and self-centeredness. She is almost 20, and old enough to know how to be somewhat sensitive to the feelings of others. (You would have to know the whole story, to ever understand what life with her has been like.)

My blog is a place where I let it all hang out, and that is what I’ve done.  I make no apology for it. I’m only trying to find a way to get through this very difficult time in my life, when everything is falling apart. Chelsea knows how I feel, as I wrote her an email. For now, I have had all of this rollercoaster I can take. I’m getting off this ride. One day the Lord will wipe away every tear. Sure hope He has lots of tissues…

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A couple of days ago, my cell phone lost its mind–(a symptom of my life lately.) It stopped responding completely to having its buttons pushed–(something I have yet to achieve.) It started dialing numbers on its own, like 44444444444. Then it would show my ring tone volume, and quickly go up and down. I could still receive calls, but I couldn’t send any. And wouldn’t you know it? After reporting all this to my husband, and asking him to drop it off for repairs, the darn thing worked perfectly for him all day, so he didn’t take it. (You know, it’s the old mechanic’s lament, “Ma-am, I just can’t duplicate your problem. You’ll have to bring it back when it’s acting up.” 

I guess everything around me is strange lately. Nothing’s ordinary–that’s for sure. My entire life feels like someone picked it up and threw it into the air, and when it came down, I didn’t recognize it anymore.  It’s been a gradual thing, but a consistent one.

For 15 years, I struggled to understand and raise my daughter, who we adopted at age 3. Nothing was ever normal with her. She was far more than “strong-willed.” In fact, I bought every book that I could find about our situation. Things like “Your 3 Year Old–Friend Or Foe?”, Dr. Dobson’s classics, “The Strong-Willed Child”, “Dare To Discipline”, “Parenting Isn’t For Cowards”, and on and on. I read about how to use time out, when to spank and when not to, how to handle temper tantrums, what to do about lying, how to deal with arguing and talking back. I read the Bible and all the best sellers.

She’s 19 now (soon to be 20) and things haven’t gotten any better. She recently decided that she wanted to find her birth mom. When the questions came up a few times when she was younger, we told her that we wanted to have our own special family, but when she was older, if she wanted to find her birth mom, we would help her.

Unfortunately, the last few years at home were very rocky. Her rebelliousness increased, and she never saw a rule that she didn’t want to break. It was hell on earth. She wouldn’t do her homework, causing her to go from being an honor student at one point, to almost being a drop-out. She didn’t get to walk down the aisle with her senior class, because she refused to do the make up work, graciously offerred to her by a teacher, in order to pass. We were in total agreement with the teacher aout failing her. (There are just some lessons in life that have to be learned the hard way.)  We made her attend summer school, and my husband actually held her hostage at his law office every day, until she finished the class. (She would have preferred to just be a drop out, but we had come too far for that.) She did graduate (though without ceremony, due to her choices) and actually was able to receive a Bright Futures scholarship, which covered all of her tuition. But she dropped out of college almost immediately. She never could seem to find her way to class, and never connected attending class with a passing grade. Oh well…

We told her that if she threw the scholarship away, we would not finance school for her later. She defiantly chose to drop out.

She always says that she is”working her butt off” at 3 jobs, but the total hours of all of them have not yet added up to 40 hours a week. After doing this for awhile, she decided that she would perhaps go back to school, and get a degree, because she is very materialistic, and doesn’t like not being able to shop and play. (However, she doesn’t at all mind not paying her bills.)

And suddenly, in the midst of the absolute worst time of my life, she decided that she wanted to find her birth mom. (I have been the primary caregiver for my mom for the last 3 1/2 years, since my dad died unexpectedly. In mid June she fell (while I was holding her hand) and broke her right foot, and left leg.) She received physical therapy, while recovering in a nursing home, and was just about to be released, when she fell and broke her right hip. (This changed everything.) She has been experiencing dementia, incontinence, hallucinations, and all sorts of things. So it was not the best time in my life to deal with yet another stressful event.)

But we had promised to help Chelsea find her mom, and we did. It wasn’t really all that difficult, and things initially went well. We knew that it would probably be a time of healing for my daughter and her mother. I took a deep breath, and went on. I was doing fine with it, until my husband came home one night, and told me that Chelsea had invited her mother to move in with her. (This was a bit much to take, and we both thought a little inconsiderate towards us.)

My husband is an adoption attorney, so the world of birth parents is not foreign to us. Many children do not even choose to find their birth parents, but when they do, it is often a special reunion, followed by sporadic calls and occasional visits. (But I have never heard of them moving in together–but that’s just me.)  So this dear child has hammered one more nail into my coffin. (A bit of an exaggeration, I admit. I usually leave the drama to Chelsea.) But how much more can I take? I tend to think–not much.

Apparently, her mother arrived last week, and we haven’t heard a word from Chelsea. When we first talked about it, we had decided that early on in the visit, we would all have dinner with her birth mom (who we had met at the time of the adoption), and then they could have their time together alone, while she was visiting. Chelsea thought she would feel more at ease that way. But then her birth mom decided to live here until at least January. (Surprise..surprise…) Chelsea has basically left us out entirely.

So on we go. Do I feel hurt? Yes. I don’t resent her finding her birth mom, but inviting her to move in was a little over the top for me. (Just being honest.) And this at a time, when Chelsea has little direction in her life, and will certainly see her as a role model. Her mom is a gypsy of sorts-married several times, and never settling down. She is 44, and recently sailed a boat to Guatemala alone.  She was a casino dealer for a good part of her life, though claims to have recently become a Christian. She is British, and presently living in England. What a fairy-tale for a teenage girl! (My counselor calls her an adrenaline junkie, as is Chelsea. LOL!) She wants to take Chelsea backpacking, and on a possible trip to Australia. Chelsea has suddenly decided that God has “called her” to go to worship school in Australia (studying with Hillsongs), which would cost about $20,000.00 for one year’s tuition, and that we should pay for it. (We have other thoughts.)

So, that’s the situation with my daughter. Right now, we are not making any moves. She has not called lately, and we are not going to chase her down. We will just have to trust God with the outcome of all this, whatever it may be. I only know that we love her, tried to raise her according to God’s word, sacrificed much, and suffered greatly. I feel sad to say that it was very, very difficult, but it was. We did the best we could, and we will always love her.

So that’s my life lately. No wonder my cell phone had a nervous breakdown…

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Well, backing up now in the story. One afternoon last week–Thursday to be exact–I received a call from the nursing home supervisor. She said that she had received a call from the Ortho doctor’s nurse, saying that my husband had called the office, and asked for the doctor to clarify her remarks to Betty about going home. The supervisor told them that they (the nursing home) would handle it from here.

When I got the call, I explained about our visit, where the Ortho doctor had blurted out that after a couple of more weeks of therapy, my mom could go home. The supervisor was very surprised about it, but said that since the doctor didn’t know my mom’s situation, she probably had no idea that suggesting going home was a bad idea. I told her that I never thought that the doctor had caused problems intentionally, however, she certainly had. The supervisor said that she would carry in the paper the doctor had sent, when she next talked to Betty, and point out that there was nothing written on it about going home. I told her that the doctor DID say that, and that I was sure that would be one thing my mother was not going to forget. I suggested that she remind my mom that the doctor also assumed that Betty was living with us.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the supervisor would march right into my mom’s room immediately. I thought she was referring to the next time we had a care plan meeting. In fact, I told her that I was sure my husband would want to talk with her about the conversation that he had with the Ortho’s nurse, and asked if she would be there a little while longer. She said that she would, and I immediately hung up, and called Rob. Before Rob could get back to her, the lady I spoke with, and the social worker had already confronted my mom.

The next call that I got was from my mom. I listened to a message that she apparently left right after they had talked with her. She said that they had informed her that she would be leaving the nursing home soon, but that since various health concerns had not been fully resolved, she would need to go to assisted living. My mom said that she told them no, and said that she would not change her mind. In the message she said, “I thought this was America…how can they tell someone to leave their home?” She certainly sounded very clear about this. (And who could blame her?) She said something about that she would probably be thrown in jail, but she wasn’t going there either. She asked that I call her, as soon as I got the message.

I was sick. It wasn’t supposed to be handled this way. Bless her heart–what a terrible shock it must have been. I don’t blame her for being upset. My heart was now broken in another place. (It must be nothing more than shards by now.)

My husband and I talked again, and he said that when he called the supervisor, that she informed him that Betty already knew the situation. He suggested to me that perhaps it was best that it happened this way, in that at least she could understand that it was not something we wanted, but something that the nursing home is required to do, if they think that an elderly person could be going into a dangerous situation. We decided to go to the nursing home that evening to speak with Betty ourselves. I knew that she must be very upset, and I wanted to comfort her, and try to explain what was going on.

We called my brother on the speaker phone from Rob’s office, and brought him up to speed on everything. It was an amicable call, where we all agreed that it was important to do what was safest and best for Betty. We made plans to have dinner with him the following day, to discuss what Betty said.

By the time we ate, called my brother, and arrived at the nursing home, it was almost 8:00 p.m. As I pushed on my mom’s door, I noticed that the room was totally dark, and apparently she and her roommate had already gone to bed. I said that quietly to Rob, but my mom heard my voice and called out to us. I walked over to her bed, and she said, “There was nothing else to do, so I decided to go to bed.”

“Do you feel like getting in your wheelchair, and going over to the atrium for a few minutes? We’d like to talk with you.” I said.

She said she would, and after we got her in her robe, off we went. (Of course, we told the nurse where we were going.)

We asked her what happened today, and she told the story of two ladies coming into her room, and what they had said. She said that they told her she would need to go to assisted living, and that if she went home instead, she would need 24 hour care. If she did not have it, they would put her in jail.

(Bless her heart–that is the way she perceived it, and she wasn’t that far off.) Rob explained to her that the nursing home had an obligation to protect the elderly that had been in their care, and that just the way that children are protected from harm under the law, the elderly were also. He said that they wouldn’t put her in jail, but what they were referring to was DCF-Department of Children and Families. (She seemed surprised that they were involved, because she didn’t have any small children.) We explained that the law requires them to know that an elderly person is going into a safe environment, where they will be protected.

Rob was very good with explaining everything to her, and told her that basically there were 3 choices:

1. To stay in the nursing home, and try to get a private room as soon as possible. (This nursing home does have a few private rooms available (though all are being used presently), and we would have to pay the difference of what Medicaid would cover, which would be about $25.00 a day extra, or roughly somewhere around $700-$750 extra monthly. But Medicaid would take care of the rest. They would take all of her monthly income, except for about $35.00 a month.

2. To go into assisted living, provided that she qualified for it, and met their assessment rules. This would require using her monthly income, and most probably, fairly soon selling the house (her only asset.) We explained that in the assisted living situation, she would be checked on about every 2 hours, and that she would have a tiny sitting and kitchen area with a microwave, and a small refrigerator. There would be a fairly large bedroom, that led to a large bathroom. The shower had built-in shower benches. They could provide assistance with her medications (which was very important now) and also assistance getting in and out of the shower. She would have weekly housecleaning, and also limited laundry services. She asked, “What about cooking?” We explained that they provided the meals in a dining room, and that she could supplement with sandwich makings, refrigerated items, and microwaveable foods in her room. (She seemed quite impressed with that.)

3. Go home, but not as it was before. There would have to be someone with her around the clock, watching her all the time. She could not be left there alone at any time. Tony and Brandon could move in, but she would also be taking on the burden of more people in the house and all that entails, and she agreed that it had been very difficult before. A lot more work (which she is not able to do) and a total lack of privacy. To this she said, “I’d run away.” (If someone was watching her all the time.) I’d had a feeling that she might feel that way, as we are both very private people that need time alone, so I understood completely.

Unfortunately, I had to explain to her why she could no longer give herself her insulin, or the Oxycontin and other medications, because she had said, “I can give myself my own insulin.” I tried to soften it by reminding her that anesthesia can often affect the mind, and that since her hip surgery, there had been some problems. I mentioned the time that she had told the staff that she spent the night at CJ’s house-(her morning shift nurse.) And how she had refused her shower that day, saying that she got it at CJ’s house, and that CJ had also made breakfast, and then took a nap. She said, “I DID spend the night at CJ’s.”

I told her that CJ lived in Baker, and it was too far. But she reported that CJ now lived in the compound (the nursing home), as did one of her CNAs, Soledad.  So she still thinks she spent the night with her. Normally, it is best to not argue about whether something is for real or not. I usually just try to change the subject, but in this case, we were trying to let her know that it wouldn’t be safe to give herself her meds anymore. When people have dementia, the things that they see and experience are very real to them. I asked if she had seen any babies on a shelf in her room, and she replied, “You know I don’t have much to do with babies anymore.” So I just let it drop. (This was reported to us by a nurse recently.) Normally I wouldn’t have brought any episodes up, as it is just best to reorient her when these things happen. But we were having “the talk” tonight, and trying to explain the unexplainable.

I wanted to cry. She was taking it all in, and being very brave. At the end, I said, “We all really want what is safest and best for you.”

She then answered that the “safest and best” was the most expensive (referring to Assisted Living.) We reassured her that it was her money and house, and she needed to use it to provide the best care possible for herself, as that was all that was important.

We then said that she could think about it, and let us know. She didn’t have to decide right then.

She said something like, “Bear with me for a little longer, while I think about it.” We both hugged her, and took her back to her room. I filled her water pitcher with ice, tucked her in, and kissed her good night. As sad as it was, at least it was out in the open, and not eating a hole in my stomach. I felt a little relief–until I got home and thought about it. Then I cried. It was not supposed to go like this. I have taken such good care of her for the 3 1/2 years since my dad died. I have nurtured her like my child, and put my life on hold to be there for her. It wasn’t supposed to end up with her having a broken foot, leg, and hip, and no place to call home. She had preferred to live in her own house, independently, for as long as possible. And that was our wish for her also. But the time has come when that’s not possible anymore, and her care needs are far too great for me at this point, considering my own bad health. So here we are.

As you know, if you read yesterday’s post, by Monday it was apparent that she did not remember much (if any) of what was said, because as I wheeled her past our favorite male nurse, she called out happily, “I’m going home in about 3 weeks.”

This has been hell on earth. I long to hold her, or just run away with her, but I know that I am not able to care for her anymore, (as she needs to be cared for.) There are the physical, mental, and medical issues that have become overwhelming. As I have mentioned before, our house is a logistical nightmare for her-with an upstairs kitchen, and a bathroom far down the hall from the spare bedroom. But the bottom line is that I am not able to do it, and I have had to come to terms with that. My own health is in severe jeopardy right now, and the stress of all this has nearly taken me out. (I have cried a river, and it’s still raining.)

Yesterday as we passed by the social worker’s office, on the way to the atrium, the social worker motioned for me to come in. I stepped in the door, and she told me that my mom had a care plan meeting scheduled for Thursday at 10:15 a.m. (This was the latest notice that we’ve gotten on a care plan meeting so far. Generally, they tell you about a week or so in advance.) I called Rob to make sure he was available. He had to cancel something, but he said that he would be there.

So now what? If my mother is not retaining information, will tomorrow be like the first time she’s ever heard of all this? Will it hurt her, (and anger her) as much as the first time? What are we going to do? We have to make a decision soon, as we have to settle the financial side of things. Right now we are paying the nursing home $200 dollars a day for her room, since Betty’s Medicare coverage ran out. This amounts to quite a bill already. Medicare is only presently covering her physical therapy. The supplemental insurance ran out quite awhile ago. Having to be in the nursing home continuously since mid June, has really thrown a curve in the coverage, as it doesn’t cover this many days, unless you are a permanent resident, and switch to Medicaid.

After leaving my mom yesterday, I cried and cried, and then sat up all night–a nervous wreck. Life is so hard…

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I guess I am getting the cart before the horse in my story now, but today was so painful for me, that I must write about it while it is fresh. I say it was painful, but it was also joyful. I guess you could call it a bittersweet day.

When I arrived at the nursing home today, my mom was sitting on her bed, eating peanut butter crackers. She smiled a happy grin when she saw me, and said that she didn’t think I would be visiting today, but she was so glad to see me. (Right off this was sad, because I told her yesterday that I would come this afternoon, but she had forgotten entirely.)

“I have some surprises!”, I said with a mischievous grin. I ran to the car to get my gifts. There were ordinary things like Kleenex, deodorant, chap-stick, wet wipes, and a new electric toothbrush, and somewhat exciting things like a new inexpensive watch (with an expandable wrist band that is still a little large on her thin wrist), 3 new gowns, and a robe. One of the gowns was black, with a pink high-heel on the front. Underneath the shoe it said, “GLAMOROUS.”  We giggled, and  I said, “Well if you can’t wear them on your feet anymore, you can at least wear them on your gown.” (She is forever asking that I bring her shoes with heels, in spite of the fact that she has broken her foot, leg, and hip lately.) I keep saying “no”, but she keeps pressing me. I guess girls will be girls–no matter the age.

After looking at the treasures, I wheeled her over to the retirement living area, where there is a very nice atrium, with beautiful plants and lots of tables. The contrast between this part of the facility, and the nursing home part, is night and day. (We are so thankful that we have this place to run away to.)

I fixed our little picnic, complete with a white tablecloth, and a battery operated rose that lights up and changes colors, when you place it in water. I knew she would be fascinated with it.  We shared strawberries and bananas with whipped cream, and wholegrain crackers with pineapple cream cheese. It was delightful! She ate every bite on her plate. She loves any escape from the nursing home food.

We talked and visited for awhile, and then searched the phone book for a local urologist–a true bonding experience. LOL! We are hoping to find the reason for her frequent incontinence, and hopefully some help for it. Unfortunately, the medicines that help with bladder spasms cannot be used if you have glaucoma. She has glaucoma and  macular  degeneration. We are praying that perhaps there is a drug that will not adversely affect her eyes. I want to give her hope.

Now for the sad part. After visiting with my mom for several hours this afternoon, I realized that she didn’t remember anything about our talk a couple of days ago, concerning the choices we have to make about her living arrangements. I was devastated. I have been told by the staff that she doesn’t retain information, and yet I had not experienced it as poignantly as today. The relief we felt the other night (after finally  being able to discuss the options with her), evaporated this afternoon in the hall, as I pushed her wheelchair by our favorite male nurse. She greeted him, and happily called out, “I’m going home in about 3 weeks.”(Chalk up another break in my already broken heart.)

All the time we spent making sure that she understood the options was for nothing.  She understood it perfectly at the time, and made appropriate intelligent remarks, and that is what is so maddening about dementia. (She seems to retain the things we wish she wouldn’t, and forget the things we wish she would remember.) The mind is incredibly complicated when something goes wrong.

As I left the nursing home this evening, I was in a mindless place. I truly walked in a daze through the parking lot, trying to understand and grasp what I had just experienced.  As I talked with my husband from my car, I broke down. I wondered how much worse this memory loss was going to get, and how quickly it would progress. How long would she remember me? Tears filled my eyes, and I cried with occasional loud sobs. It was just too much. It is almost worse than a death, because it is a slow, painful, agonizing process, as you watch the person you love evaporate bit by bit.

On the way home, I had to go by Walmart, and pick up some of my many meds from the pharmacy. Feeling as I did, I wasn’t at all in the mood to be sociable. I was still fighting back the tears.

But an adorable, chubby-cheeked little girl walked up to her mother, who was standing in line in front of me. Her face was captivating, and she seemed filled with all the wonder and excitement of living that I have lost. I asked how old she was, and she proudly held up 4 fingers. I was surprised, because she was quite tall. Her mother shared that her 5th birthday was Saturday, and then the little girl asked her mother to show her (by counting on her fingers), just how many days that would be.

“How exciting to have a birthday so soon! That will be so much fun”, I said. (I was actually feeling a little thrill just watching her delighted face, that could not hide her sheer bliss.)

I was reminded that life goes on, in spite of where we are in it. Old people die (and sometimes young), and babies are born, and the rest of us are somewhere in between. And for all the bitterness that life can bring at times, it is also filled with simple beauty. And all the tragedies that it affords, cannot take away the inspiring moments.

I know that God made it this way, to give us a reason to go on living–to give us hope. In my better moments, I treasure this truth…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

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