Tag Archives: aging parents

Tribute to an Excellent Caregiver: Yes They Really Do Exist

18 Jul

Having written about Lorna, one of two caregivers I had to fire for cause, I think it’s only fair I devote time to Lea, the best PSW I hired. In case you’re curious, between my uncle and my mother, there were nine.

Lea was my Uncle Benny’s caregiver during the last years of his life. She was hired after I let four others go when he moved into Cummer Lodge, a long-term care home.  I didn’t think he would need private caregivers in a nursing home, but I was very wrong.  After two weeks of daily calls about frequent falls and aggressive behavior, it was  becoming clear my uncle wasn’t getting as much care as he needed. But by then the people I let go had all found new jobs.

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Dementia and Aging Aren’t Synonomous

25 Jun

I had my introduction to dementia on my uncle’s 91st birthday. He had been hospitalized and it was the first time I heard the term Lewy Body disease. Prior to his late 80s my uncle’s retirement years were anything but typical: at 65 he started a business and ran it quite successfully for well over 20 years. He read voraciously and could converse about complicated subjects with utter confidence.  He lived independently and his only health complaints were poor hearing and arthritic knees.

Looking back, signs of my uncle having dementia appeared long before that visit to the hospital. But I mistakenly believed those indicators were part and parcel with aging. I naively thought his increasing habit of repeating the same story over and over again was funny. It was only after he had several falls and started swearing at me that I suspected something more than normal aging was at play.

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Is it Alzheimer or is it Selective Memory?

6 Jun

My mother is somewhere between stage five and stage six in the progression of her alzheimer disease. This means gaps in her memory and thinking have become more and more noticeable. She also requires increasing amounts of help with daily activities.  As long as I can remember my mother has had selective memory. As her dementia has progressed, her ability to remember things the way she would like to remember them has become even more so. For example:

She can remember an expensive leather suit she really thinks she ought to have with her in the nursing home, but she can’t remember it’s been at least 30 years since she wore it.

She can remember I haven’t shared a copy of her tax statement but she can’t remember her failing eyesight made it virtually impossible for her to read or understand any of last year’s.

She can remember wanting to call the police to have me arrested when she discovered I had removed all her lovely high heel shoes from her home. And she regrets not doing so. But she can’t remember tripping and falling repeatedly before her Imelda Marcos-like footwear collection was culled.

She can remember just about anything of value she’s ever owned. But she can’t remember that almost all of these items are no longer of use to her.

She can remember she has grandchildren. But she can’t always remember their names. Not that she cared much for their names anyway.

Most mystifying of all, she can remember she needs to see any number of medical specialists, but she can’t remember she has Alzheimer’s.

Except for the Memories,We Fade Away

26 May

It has  been a year since we unveiled my uncle’s monument.  I am certain that both his life and his death following a four year struggle with Lewy Body disease have made me a better person. This is a look back at the time shortly after his passing in December, 2012.

My uncle before Lewy Body got to him.

My uncle before Lewy Body got to him.

Earlier today I got really emotional when I saw my uncle’s hand-writing on a document I had just been given. Why I could get so choked up over a set of initials in blue ink got me thinking about how quickly an ordinary person’s mark on this earth fades away after death. No matter how extraordinary that individual might be to us, the signs of their presence within the context of the greater world will inevitably become fainter and fainter with each passing day. So much so, that even the smallest reminders of a time before my uncle’s descent into dementia are reason to rejoice. Or in my case, tear up.

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How Going Back to School at 50+ Helped Me Get My Professional Groove Back

16 Apr

My going back to professional life after five years out of the workforce required perseverance and a plan.  Going back to school part-time for upgrading was what made my efforts succeed.  I engaged my brain in vigorous exercise (which aging experts highly recommend for staving off dementia) and I landed a job in a field of communications that was just getting started when I thought my career was ending. I’ve since completed one program at the University of Toronto and am two-thirds the way through a certificate in digital strategy and communications management.  When a representative of U. of T.’s School of Continuing Education heard how I went from dubious doubter to converted  zealot, she asked me to tell my story to a reporter. And I happily obliged. The piece appeared in yesterday’s print and online editions of The Toronto Star.

Read the article here.

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A Unique Sandwich Generation Conflict: Nursing Home or Private School Tour

10 Apr

Is this the Ultimate Midlife-Parenthood, Sandwich Generation Dilemma?

The  all-too-frequent question of whether to send the children to public school or private school  is often a major issue in many households.  But midlife-first-time parents are just as likely to be debating whether they have time for a private school tour or a nursing home tour.  That’s the dilemma I’m currently facing.  I just learned  that tours of a long term care home which might be suitable for my mother are only held on the same day and time this week as a tour I am supposed to take of a potential school for my son.

So which would you choose — nursing home tour for elderly parent or private school tour for a young child with learning differences?

Progress

15 May

So we showed my mother the nursing home for which after 21 months she had finally come to the top of the waiting list. And she said NO! Eventually she agreed. But her change of heart came only after many harsh words were hurled in all directions and cooler heads were called in for support.  There is no doubt change is especially difficult for the elderly. However, anyone who knows my mother can confirm she has been difficult to deal with long before tangles and plaques started making a home in her brain. The dementia has only added another element of diffculty.

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