Chai Tea

Appears I’ve developed a new addiction – Starbucks iced chai tea.  Our Ingles grocery has a Starbucks and for the past month or so I have found myself there almost every day. Seems I have easily rationalized the need to go and pick up just one or two items.  Recently while waiting for the brew, a young server asked how my mom was doing as she hadn’t seen her in a while.  Early on, before mother’s downward spiral, the servers had offered to keep an eye on her while I gathered groceries.  This young woman remembered Chrissy sitting at their table having chai tea and a muffin –  and that she always smiled and said hello.   

As I grasped my obsession the epiphany came: An intense desire, grocery, and Starbucks.  I soon recognized the familiar signal of my sprinkler alarm, looking downward and with my drink in hand; I headed quickly toward the allergy isle.  Seems people seldom question watery eyes when you mention allergies. 

Within minutes, amazing clarity of acceptance came as I realized I was no longer encapsulated in a snow globe of loneliness and tears.  I smiled as another tender memory of Chrissy had settled in my heart’s emotional chamber: sitting at Starbucks with a chai tea.

 

 

 

 

Peaches

Bowl of peaches

It was one month on the 19th since my mother’s passing.  Not wanting to short circuit the grief process, my sweet man and I decided to honor her on that day.  We recalled how much she enjoyed peaches, so we declared the day as “Peach Day.” Meaning, there would be peaches in some form at each meal – jam, with whipped cream, a cobbler, and of course, peach ice cream.  Smiles and our sweet memories.

Heaven Now

Dearest friends,

My sweet mother took her last breath Friday morning and is now in heaven, a sudden massive heart attack.  A memorial service is today at 2:00.

Leave My Jelly Beans Alone

Bowl of Jelly Beans!

Recently a sister who lives out-of-state came to see mother and brought her a bowl of jelly beans and an oil WoodWick.  Almost immediately I wondered how I would ever hold on to the treasured jelly beans and soothing scent.  Along the way I’ve learned housekeeping has an unwritten list of verboten items not permitted in the rooms – safety concerns with aerosols, bathroom cleaners, and febreeze.  By the time I’ve realized something has disappeared, housekeeping has confiscated it while leaving a clean room.

Not wanting to risk the oil WoodWick, I placed the fragrance on top the closet and then later moved it inside.  But those jelly beans, I couldn’t bring myself to put away.  Chrissy is all about her jelly beans – having access to them.   So, I put the word out, people better leave those jelly beans alone!  So far they’re still there.

Not Her Favorite Person

Chrissy has trouble with her physical therapist.  She regularly tells him to “shew.”

She struggles with an exercise that requires lifting each leg as high as possible while wearing 2 lb. ankle weights.    Recognizing her effort he begins to encourage her. Around his third word, Chrissy turns her weighted leg sideways and kicks him hard!  “Now.  I’M DONE.”

 She cautiously ambles down the hall and meets the therapist, she raises her hand and assertively says, “don’t say a word.” 

On her way to dinner she runs into the therapist:

Therapist:  “Hello Ms. Christine, you’re doing really well.”

Chrissy:  “I’m not exercising today.”

Therapist:  “Well, let’s try” – then he starts to walk on.

Chrissy: “I want to get the last word in – but I can’t think of it.”

Facility Happenings

Available?

One evening at dinner a resident, a small man of Cuban ethnicity, went around to each table passing out adult napkins that attached around the neck.  When he approached Chrissy she shook her head no and looked away.  He quietly placed it beside her plate.

 After all were past out, he saw that mother’s was still on the table.  He walked toward her, picked up her bib, fastened it around her neck, and left.  Hello, thank you, nor smiles were acknowledged.  A gentle little man.  Above I mentioned his ethnicity because he has similarities as my father.

Mentioning this kind man to the staff, I learned over the years he has assumed other responsibilities without asking to do so,  he just launches in!  I’m told he has had opportunities to go home but considers this place his home. 

I was startled to hear he is considered the Casanova of the facility There are four women who rotate evenings to sit and hold hands.  One was known to cry when a new resident threatened to interrupt their schedule!  Chrissy is not available.

 

Traveling Together

 Each evening four petite smiling ladies travel up and down the halls.  Their wheelchairs are so close and in unison that I believed they were somehow connected. The first lady extends her hand to shake and the others follow suit.  I waited for the last little lady to do the same but she doesn’t.  She is much smaller and has her head resting on her chest while clinging to a baby doll.  As they made their way back around I  watched closely and saw each little foot pushing the wheel in front!

 

Pilfering From The Food Cart

Around 5:30 the dinner cart arrives for those who chose to eat in their rooms.  An assistant positions the cart at the hall entrance while she goes ahead to prepare residents for their meal.  While waiting at the nurse’s station I saw three little women congregate in an alcove.  One shuffles over, slides out a tray to see what’s for dinner, then takes a quick glance around, and swiftly pulls out two other trays and snatches three sandwiches!   With effort to covert her tracks she shoves the trays.  With her hands full she shuffled toward her accomplices and delivered the heist.  At ease they sat and enjoyed their appetizer while the cart moved on down the hall.

Funny Comments

 In the emergency room a doctor preformed an invasive exam. Afterwards she raised up and in a determined voice she told him to give her the bill, she was going home.

Still waiting in the ER she told a nurse they better let her go, pointing to me she says, “her husband has put the FBI out looking for her.”

An X-ray technician came in, sat down 3 bottles of enhanced water and asked her to drink them.  She replied seriously,  “I’m not a drinking woman.”

The hospitalist asked Chrissy if she knew where she was, ” Yes,  I’m in bed.”

After asking her several times what my name was she stared  at me then replied, “what does it matter – I know I love you.”

At the facility there’s a social worker I refer to as the “mean ole woman.”  Of all things for Chrissy to remember, she remembered those words and asked another employee if she was the “mean ole woman.”

Chrissy remembered a detail from a couple weeks ago and I ask how she could it.  “You know, that’s just how my brain works.”

Wanting me to tell her doctor she was ready to go home – I said no, because she still couldn’t get in out of the bed.  My feet was propped up on her bed and she swings her leg sideways knocking my feet off and says “dirty dog.”

Acting silly I said, “I love you goofy.” She replied, ” I love you goosey.”

Traveling around the facility I encourage Chrissy to say hello.  A nurse stopped to talk and I waited for mother to speak.  When I realized she wasn’t going to speak I said, “say hello Chrissy.   She replied, say hello Chrissy.”

When I first enter her room I change shoes to my flip-flops then change back when ready to go home. Almost ready to leave, she asks to see my shoes,  a familiar request,  so I take one off and she asks to get a closer look.  She then takes my shoe and puts it under her covers and says, “now, go sit down.”

Chrissy carries my cell phone when we’re walking around. I wheel her into the dining room and forget to get the phone.  When I go to her she won’t hand me the phone, she says she’s going to a cab and go home.

Wanting me to stay longer she says. “you better stick around. I might find me a man.”

 Today we were walking around and I had turned the ringer off to use vibrate.  I told her the phone would shake when someone called.  Later I received a call and as expected, the phone vibrated.  Chrissy said, “Judy Denise this phone is having a nervous breakdown!”

Rehab.

Chrissy seems to be recovering physically from the infection and her week in the hospital.  I know her mental decline is in part due to the infection which weakened her immune system.  I also believe the hospital experience was traumatic and contributed significantly to her loss of mental ground. 

Progress with rehab:  She can sit in the wheelchair and is learning to use the walker.  A couple of times, with assistance, she has brushed her teeth.  She is slowly learning how to master the fork and spoon.  It must be helping more than I realize as a couple of times after I leave she has gotten up during the night.  She awakes from a sound sleep.  I wonder if she is sleep-walking or if it is another example of the body willing but not the mind. 

Her caloric intake continues around 300; about a 100 less than before hospitalization.  They plan to contact her physician for an appetite stimulant.  And, they (nursing director) insists she have her meals in the dining room and that a CNA feeds if needed, thinking she will eat more.  Sounded more like a liability concern but we will try.  Her speech difficulty is new, usually her sentences make no sense.  She doesn’t fully grasp where she is or what has happened.  Her home was her mental reference and here there aren’t enough familiar clues.  Chrissy sleeps much of the day, possibly due to medication that eliminates delusions and hallucinations, which first began while in the hospital.

She doesn’t fully grasp where she is or what has happened, just that she wants to go home.  Her home was a mental reference that kept her sage, even from the pernicious Alzheimer”s.

Now, having said the above, Chrissy’s wit and humor emerges ever so often.  I am keeping track and that will be the next post.  I must think and write about what is going well.

Update

Bleeding – diverticulitis rupture

Emergency Room– I will most likely always regret this decision
Hospitalization

Further decline with mental and physical abilities –  delusions and hallucinations, we now have medication to keep those at bay.

Hearing Hospice say she is in the advanced stage.  She wasn’t she wasn’t in this state prior to hospitalization. 

Skilled Nursing Facility – outnumbered by brothers and sisters, actually 1 to 6!   I have the mindset that it’s just DNA.  I want to keep Chrissy at home and have Hospice.

Friends are helping me wrap my mind around a plan B.  I will feed her breakfast and dinner, and visit during the day, evening, or even middle of the night.  I am to let God work out  this family conflict.  They are His children too. 

When I left tearful, there were little women in wheelchairs traveling in a row.  The first little woman reached out her hand so I grabbed it and said hello.  Same with the next three, they followed suit!   The last one kept her head down and was holding tight to a little doll.

Carol H., this reminded me of the characters in your story! 

 Kerry, I can would love for Chrissy to be as sociable as Lilybird. 

Donna, I sure hope there will not be a Mr. R! 

Margaret, I might have caught a glimpse of how other residents might see visitors when they walk in.

 Dementiaville, I guess I’m about to travel toward that city!

 

Dark Winding Stairs

Alzheimer's Staircase

 Chrissy has plummeted down the Alzheimer’s staircase again.  Two weeks or so ago her abilities were quickly snatched and held captive in that wretched place of gloom.  Her walk is a weak shuffle.  She stares at her food and will only eat a small amount, even with assistance.  At times, it’s almost like she has forgotten the process – from utensil to mouth.  Her few words are broken sentences, whispered with effort.  This weekend, throughout the day, she has had long periods of deep sleep.  I am grateful for the sleep.  She isn’t exhausted or struggling.  Her appearance is peaceful, and not an unsettled vacant expression. This dark place is unlike the others; it is more than an episode, it has lasted much longer, has different symptoms, and profound limitations. 

I have heard other caregivers speak of this type of spiral and amazingly, their loved one recovers to their prior state.  I hope Chrissy does.   

Jesus come quickly.