A Rose without any thorns

I have written before about three friends whose friendship began for three of us in elementary school with one joining our group in junior high school. Yesterday, I learned the last of our eight parents had passed away during the night. It is fitting that Rose was the last one to go.

Each of our parents were fine people and raised good families. While we used their first names among ourselves, usually referring to a quirk or possible punishment for our misdeeds, we always called the adults Mr. or Mrs. Except for Rose. We all called her by her first name.

Rose was much younger than her husband, so he passed away in his late 60’s over 45 years ago while we were in junior high. So, we gravitated to Rose. She was as approachable and welcoming a person as you could find. She was not unlike my brother-in-law, Joe, of whom I wrote after he passed away in September. This Rose did not have any thorns.

Raised in Pennsylvania as an American of Italian descent, Rose was a devout Catholic. When I think of her, I remember her well-attended Christmas parties before  Midnight Mass. Each year around 10:30 pm, the party would come to a close to go hear the beautiful Mass, which was memorable for its contemporary music. When in town, I would not miss these occasions. When away, I would call around 10 pm to wish her and her son, Merry Christmas.

The other things I remember are her sense of humor and interest in others. The two went hand-in-hand, as she took delight in being teased and telling stories. Her son makes a living off a self-deprecating sense of humor and ability to tell stories, which he learned from her. Being a good Italian-American, we teased her that if you cut off her hands, she could not complete her stories. If you asked Rose travel directions, she would invariably draw with her fingers on the table. She was quite the animated person.

My wife and I last saw Rose three years ago when we were looking for a memory care facility for my mother. We stopped by to see her in her room at one of the places, as she too, was battling a declining memory. She perked up as she remembered me, most likely without knowing my name. But, we carried on a lovely conversation about the past and her son and my friendship.

Dementia and its evil twin Alzheimer’s are horrible diseases. We are glad to have seen her before further demise. Rose lived  a joyous life, filled with friends. She welcomed her son’s friends into her home and gave us all another mother to hug. Bless you Rose. And, as the Father would remind us, Peace be with you, your son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

 

The memory is a funny thing

My mother has dementia. After recovering from a fall due to a urinary tract infection which led to dehydration, we felt it was time to move her to an assisted living facility. The best advice came from a clinical nurse who said to move her while she can still cope with the change.

And, she is coping nicely. My mother is very social and she is having more interaction with others, eating better and taking her medicines, which she had been letting slide. We moved her from the Rehab Hospital to a nice place which incorporates some of her furniture, pictures and books. So, she feels at home, except for the people wanting give her medicine all the time,

She can sing word for word old songs or recite a favorite poem. She reads beautifully and her penmanship is far better than mine. Being a former teacher, she corrected my poor writing on a card I sent her so she could read it. And, she remembers stories about her life, but not always the who did what.

Yet, she gets confused with the current. She has called me her brother, cousin and, even got jealous when I held my wife’s hand at my daughter’s graduation. She adores my wife, but I had held her hand as I ushered her to her seat.

Intellectually, my mother is in the right place and we can rest easy. Plus, this takes a huge burden off my sister who was the primary care giver. Emotionally, it has been tough, especially when we get to go back to her house and leave her there.

If you have struggled through this, I am certain you know these emotions. If you have not yet, note the words of advice from the nurse about coping with change. She said many wait until it is too late and the paranoia defense mechanisms make it harder for them to trust.

All the best. I would love to hear your thoughts.

50 First Dates inspiration for dementia patients

One of my favorite Adam Sandler movies co-starring Drew Barrymore is interestingly called “50 First Dates.” In short, Barrymore’s character has recovered from an automobile accident, but with the exception of memories preceding the accident, forgets everything that occurs when she goes to sleep. Sandler woos her over fifty first dates, but makes his message stick when he produces a video with her friends and family for her to watch each morning.

In a terrific example of life imitating art, this concept has been successfully borrowed by Tamara Rusoff-Hoen who produced a video for her mother, Louisa Irving, a 94 year-old dementia patient. Below is a link to the Associated Press article written by Jim Fitzgerald of the Seattle Pi. She opens with a song in the video “Good morning, merry sunshine, how did you wake so soon?”

This song hit home with me, as my wife used to sing “You are my sunshine” to her mother who eventually died from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. She is now singing it periodically to my mother who we believe is limited to early stages of dementia.

With people living longer, we are seeing more struggle with dementia and even Alzheimer’s. Both are tough on the patient and the family, especially those closest to them. My mother knows my voice well, but sometimes when I visit from seven hours away, she forgets that I am her son. She is remembering a younger version of me. So, we are struggling with these issues as well, but hopefully not as extreme as with my mother-in-law.

I believe the “50 First Dates” video concept should be shared with everyone, as it is a great idea. In the below article, Robert Abrams, a geriatric psychiatrist notes the assurances this video can give to patients who feel “alone and at sea” and do not fully understand their circumstances. At a minimum, talk with your parents about these issues while they have their faculties. But, also help remind them of who they are and what they mean to you.

I will leave you with one quick story. When a friend dropped in to see her father with Alzheimer’s at a local long term memory care facility, she found him talking in the great room with others. So, she quietly sat down beside him. He eventually noticed her there and got excited and said “You are on our team.”  And, that is what we need to remind our loved ones of – we are on your team.

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/medical/article/Families-make-videos-to-reassure-patients-with-6205606.php