Visiting a Grandma with Alzheimer’s Disease

 

Yesterday while my two youngest children were asleep I decided to take my oldest to visit her Grandmother.  I sadly have not been able to visit my mom twice in one week in quite some time and figured it was the perfect opportunity.
On the way I picked up some ice cream for the three of us to enjoy together.  One thing my mom has always LOVED is ice cream.  My daughter and I have also seemed to have inheretated that gene.  🙂
Before arriving at my mom’s facility I had a little talk with my daughter about Grandma.  It had been a while since it had just been the three of us and since I didn’t have her brother and sister with us, I knew we would be spending more time with just my mom.  Usually “the talk” involves me telling her about how Grandma is sick and may act different, but that we still love her very much.  I have no clue what to say and honestly never thought in a million years I would have to have this talk with my 3 year old child!
My daughter was initially all about Grandma.  Interacting with her, hugs, kisses and singing her songs. As the hour or so wore on Addy started to become afraid of Grandma.  Mom’s erratic behavior and her not making any sense was making her nervous.  At one point my daughter said, “Mommy Grandma talks like Evie!”  Evie is my two year old daughter.  For the last year or so my mom has also decided she hate shoes and takes them off every opportunity she can get.  Addy was not happy when I had to explain to her that it was ok for Grandma to have one shoe, but she had to leave hers on.
There was also an “incident” while we were there that really put the icing on the cake.  I had gotten napkins with our ice cream and had them on the table.  Here recently the facility has been struggling because my mom has been “pocketing” things/food/you name it.  The problem with that is the fear of aspiration.  Mom could easily choke on objects and it is a serious risk.  She also is having problems swallowing and eating, but that story is for another day.
I turned around for one minute and by time I realized it she had eaten almost an entire napkin!  My first reaction was to look to the left at my daughter.  The look on her face broke my heart.  My focus then turned back to my mom and the fact that I needed to get it out of her mouth!  I tried to open it and she refused.  I tricked her into saying “Ahhh” and tried to fish it out and CHOMP!  She bit me!  This really didn’t go over well with Adalynn.  She was then super concerned that her mommy was hurt.  My heart was torn in half.  Help my mom and this large ball that she was now chewing or comfort my young daughter who was now terrified that Grandma bit her mom.
I quickly jumped up and grabbed a few staff members and explained what happened.  Long story short it took FIVE of them to get mom restrained enough to get in her mouth open and get the large ball of napkin out.  All the while she was screaming and hollering “NO, NO, NO PLEASE DON’T!”  Addy was done.  Officially terrified.
We left soon after and my heart broke all over again for my mom.  Here she was at 66 years old, not able to enjoy her Granddaughter and at this moment in time scared her to death.  When we walked out the door my mom gave me a precious goodbye that left me and many of the workers in tears.  I am learning that seeing her more often and when I don’t have all 3 children help her to connect with me.  My precious daughter however did not want to say goodbye or even hug her Grandmother.
Today my daughter was still talking about Grandma and the napkin incident.  My prayer is that the Lord gives me the right words to speak to her and that the memories that the does have with her Grandmother are good ones because my mom deserves that.  My job is to make sure all of my children know what an incredibly strong and loving woman their Grandmother was and to do everything in my God given abilities to fight this horrid disease!
Blessings,
Tk

Breastfeeding Hell – The finale

laura-and-z

My incredible lactation consultant, Laura Grueber with Breast Feeding House Calls here in San Antonio, Tx.

As I look at my son sleeping next to me in his bassinet my heart wants to explode with love.  Seriously how did I not believe moms when they told me that a love for a son is so different than a daughter?  I keep wanting to put it into words, but can’t.  Zander makes me feel complete.  Even though he has only been on this earth for 3 months, I can not imagine life without him.

Not so very long ago I was going through one of the hardest times that I had ever experienced as a mom.  A non- latcher.  He wouldn’t breastfeed.  I went through a gamete of emotions surrounding this and was closer to giving up than I ever had been at anything.  My son is my 3rd child in 3 years.  This breastfeeding thing was not new to me!
 

We had 3 in home lactation consultations, had a lip tie revision, chiropractor adjustments.  I tried everything.  Around 5 weeks something changed.  We were at the lake that weekend with family.  He successfully latched the first time the night before we left.  I remember that I decided not to push the breastfeeding agenda while we were there because it would just be too hard.  Walls are thin and with 10 adults and 9 kids it wasn’t worth them hearing our struggle for 4 days.  I tried a few times and he would latch, but wouldn’t stay for long.  My conclusion was that maybe the flow wasn’t fast enough for him since he had been used to the bottle for the last month.  My patience was wearing thin and no matter how bad I hated pumping I felt as if I was losing an uphill battle.
 
During this time I had some wonderful supporters.  Friends that would text or message me with encouragement, my precious midwives and a lactation consultant.  Thank you to those friends.. having a cheering session really did make the difference for me. Before we left for the lake one friend mentioned a SNS (Supplemental Nursing System.)  After some research I knew this had to be my last option.  The thought of a tube attached to my breasts with tape and have it feed into a contraption that hung on my neck was very daunting.  If you have no clue what this is.  Dr. Google it.  It really is genius.  I emailed my INCREDIBLE lactation consultant, Laura Grueber with Breastfeeding house calls.  I wanted to schedule my third visit and I wanted to try this thing. She told me that she would pick one up for me and bring it the next week.  Side Note: This woman is an angel and does so much for the breastfeeding community.  My wish is that every mom and especially the new ones, have a Laura in their life to really help them with their dream of breastfeeding.

 

On the day of Zander’s 6 week Birthday Laura came to my house.  We did our usual routine and hunkered down in my bedroom and got all of the necessary supplies.

 

The bottle with pumped breast milk, a pacifier, boppy, nipple shield, burp cloths & syringe.  She once again tried many different holds to get him to latch and nothing.  After using all of her “tricks” she decided our last option was to try to SMS.  She said she very rarely uses it or even offers it to her clients.  When she does offer it she insists she be there because it is quite the contraption.  She explained that if it did work that we needed to work hard to make sure it wasn’t for long because it isn’t meant for long term use.  Z had always been such a special case for her.  He had no medical reasons to do what he was doing and she was about out of ideas to help me be a breastfeeding mama.

 

We hooked up the SMS and in my head I remember thinking that it was insane.  Tubes everywhere.  Milk dripping out of the tube all over me.  It was TERRIBLE.  I prayed and hard.  Asking God to give me strength and to help me through this.  Once the SMS was attached we put him on my breast and he latched!  He stayed on for at least three seconds.  I was elated!  Laura and I were grinning ear to ear!  She then unhooked everything really quick, took off the nipple shield and latched him on.  He latched to my bare nipple immediately and started to nurse.  When I heard the “gulping” sound I started crying.  When I looked at Laura I would like to believe she was a bit misty eyed herself.

 

And that my friends was the end of my breastfeeding battle!  From his 6 week Birthday on we haven’t skipped a beat.  I packed away the breast pump the next day and he has been on the breast ever since! It took 6 weeks, but my son is nursing all day everyday.  Thank the Lord!

 

My encouragement for mamas that may be wanting to give up, don’t!  If you are really passionate about it then don’t throw in the towel until you have exhausted all of your options.  Know that when you have gone to bed that night that there was nothing else that you could have done to help make it happen.  It all sucks.  Believe me, I know.  But after all of that pain,  we are victorious!  We are no longer spending hours washing bottles and breast pump junk.  Now I can quickly and easily feed my precious son when he is hungry with the flip of a nursing bra strap. 🙂

Praying for all you mamas out there that may be fighting this battle!
Blessings,
Tk

addy-feeding-jenna
In my first post about my breastfeeding hell I had a picture of my youngest daughter and the breast pump.  She would always try to imitate me because all she saw me do is pump and feed her brother a bottle.  This picture of my oldest “breastfeeding” her baby doll, Jenna shows how far we have come!  My girls now nurse their dolls instead of try to use the breast pump!

Mom’s big move

(This post was written on 12/14/12 and I just now remembered to publish it.  Ahhhh…. preggo brain)

This week has been one of the most stressful weeks I have had in a very long time.  Monday we moved my mother into an assisted living facility.  I told my husband today that a part of me feels as if I am grieving.  I am still trying to verbalize it, but after over two years of taking care of my mom it is hard to let go of control of her well being and trust that she is safe.

Monday was probably one of the longest days of my life.  We started early getting things together at mom’s apartment that she would need for her new room.  As expected she was extremely agitated. I would try to get her to sit still and relax and she couldn’t.  She would ask questions like, “When will I be back home” and “Am I allowed to leave here?”
We packed up all of the necessary things that she would need, some of her furniture and her animals and headed for her new home.  On the way she kept asking where her keys were so she could get back home.  She was totally and completely confused.  Pulling up to the building she saw “Assisted Living & Memory Care” on the sign for the community.  She said, “Assisted living… I’m not so sure about that, but I do need memory care.”  Once we got inside she seemed happy and upbeat and ready to jump right into her surroundings.  That’s the mom I know and love.. always up for something new!
The staff was supposed to keep her busy while we unloaded the truck and got her room set up.  She kept leaving activities because she wanted to be with me.  At one point when everyone was gone getting more things out of the truck she looked at me and said she didn’t want to stay there and she wasn’t ready for this and started to cry.  My heart broke in half.  I tried with everything that I had inside of me to stay strong because I knew that showing her how I really felt wasn’t going to help.    After 9 hours of getting her moved, we were finally done.  We had barely eaten all day and my 7 month pregnant self felt like a train had hit me.  It was finally over.  When we had to leave she cried again and I held it together and told her it was all going to be ok and she would love it.  Deep inside I wanted to scream and take her far away and pretend none of this was real.  

The biggest transition for me these last few months is realizing that I can not give my mother the care that she needs to combat this terrible disease.  Not only is it a full time job to deal with someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease, but I am about to be a mother myself.  I have had to make sure I knew that I wasn’t in fact, super woman.

Tuesday went good when we went to visit.  She was playing bingo and having a great time.  We noticed her dog (who she hadn’t been feeding these past few weeks and that is a whole nother story) was still not getting her food because she was putting it up on the counter and her cat was hidden away under the bed.  Then THE call came Wednesday morning.  The director left me a message and told me that they found mom wandering at 4 in the morning and they know she isn’t fit for assisted living.  They insisted I move her to Memory Care asap.  My heart stopped and I froze.  This can’t be real.  Memory care is the part of the facility that made me so upset when I visited last month.  The place with very severe cases of Alzheimer’s and “vegetable people” as I lovingly call them.  This is the last step of care before hospice or death.  My husband and I sat at the table and we called the Director on speaker phone.  She told us why she felt mom wasn’t suitable for assisted living and explained that even though she was a very high functioning Alzheimer’s patient, she had been doing a great job of masking how bad it really was.  I was absolutely heart broken.  Even though I knew that my mom was progressing rapidly with the disease I felt we had at least a year (if not a few more) until it got to this stage.
They moved her within an hour of when I gave them the green light to move her.  One of the stipulations of her moving to memory care was she could only have one animal.  The thought of taking away one of “her children” was just about to take me over the edge.  They had left the dog and cat in her assisted living room while she was settling in downstairs.  PRAISE GOD for one of the caretakers that wanted to take her 13 year old Boston Terrier home!  I am forever grateful and know she is in a great place.  We were told not to come by on Wednesday because of the move and it may be easier for her transition.  When the nurse called me Wednesday night to tell me about her day she said she hadn’t once asked about her animals?  So strange.  This is one of the MANY reasons I know the disease is out of control.  My mom would NEVER harm her animals intentionally or be away from them.  I made the decision Thursday to find mom’s cat a home since she was still a young cat and honestly I felt that the cat could live a better life somewhere else.  If she was having problems with taking care of her baby (her dog), it was only going to get worse.  And once again my prayers were anwsered and a friend, Mandi has stepped up and wants to adopt her!

(Present day 1/22/13)
Things have actually been pretty smooth since the move last month.  Mom has taken VERY well to the memory care unit.  They are all loving her wonderful personality and bright outlook which is wonderful to hear.  She rarely asks about the animals anymore which breaks my heart, but I know that both of them are in a better home now.
The stress that I had in caring for her has literally vanished overnight and I am now able to focus on our little one.. Praise God!  Up until the past week she still didn’t realize that I was pregnant and that a baby was coming soon.  She would just point out that I was getting “plump.”  At first I cried when she said it, but now after hearing it so many times and realizing it was the disease.. not her, I am finally at peace with it.  She did ask last week about the baby though, so there is progress!  Not sure if it is her getting her medications regularly now, or the fact that everyone around her has seen me and my large belly waddling around and talks to her about it.  Either way, I am grateful that some part of her is happy and excited about our sweet Adalynn coming into this world very soon.

Everyday is an adventure, but we are always Blessed.
Tk

Taking control for mom

Most days I am overjoyed and so incredibly Blessed at my growing belly.  I feel my sweet little girl inside of me and can’t help but thank God for this opportunity that I never thought I would experience.  I can’t think of anything more exciting or wonderful than having a baby with the love of my life and finally becoming a mother.

Other days I am scared and unsure when I have to think about my own mother and the decisions that need to be made.  Here recently she has been declining as the Alzheimer’s is taking control and I have had to take my blinders off and stop procrastinating on taking the next step with her care.  The biggest red flag for me is that she is no longer taking her medications.  She is hiding them in a drawer.  Other things like the lack of personal hygiene and constant confusion are revealing to me that the disease is progressing and not showing any signs of slowing down.  Most of the medical professionals I have spoken to have said that Early Onset Alzheimer’s moves much faster than the disease that plagues older adults.
There is also the sad, but some what funny story of her at our gender reveal party last month.  If you read my last blog you would know we found out the sex of our baby by eating cake pops.  Every one of our guests got a pop and we were all going to bite into them at the same time.  Well, don’t you worry… mom just thought she was being handed something sweet and totally ate it right away!  I happened to walk right by her and saw a stick in her hand as she chowed down.  I must have looked horrified because she goes, “What’s wrong?” with the entire ball of cake still in her mouth.  I saw dark, so I assumed we were having a boy.  Turns out… she must have be given a brownie pop by mistake, because inside the gender reveal pops were pink! Praise God! 🙂

All kidding aside these last few weeks I have really had to rely on prayer and pull strength from deep down inside of me.  My husband and I did a visit to an assisted living facility a few weeks ago and even though I knew we had found the right place for her, I had a major meltdown after leaving. I actually wanted to cry the moment we walked into the door.  I know my pregnancy hormones play a part, but the fact that I am having to make this life changing decision for her is a lot to take in. This will more and likely be the place she lives the rest of her days.  Heavy stuff.
We prayed about our decision and feel that we found the best place for her.  Even though it is painful to “give up control” of taking care of my mother, I know that this is the best thing for her.  We will move her into an Assisted living facility in three weeks and honestly part of me is relieved.  I know my sweet baby will enjoy a little less stress as well.

My mother will not be around for my daughter liked I had always hoped she would be, but I pray that these past few years of being my mother’s caregiver will help me be the best mother I can be for my own daughter and never take life for granted.

Blessings,
Tk

Long time no talk

Our beautiful new house in Timberwood Park

My fingers are rusty.  It was very strange to sign in to my blog this morning.  It has been entirely too long!  Seems most of my writing has been in my personal diary and I have completely neglected my blog 🙁
Life is crazy these days and God is working wonders.  Some days we pinch ourselves because life is moving at super speed!!  Many of my friends and loyal readers of my “journey” that is life have asked about the adoption, our house, etc so here is the 411 🙂

Adoption:  We were moving through the adoption process at record timing getting all of the paperwork, medical exams and all of the other fun that adoption entails done.
Speed bump…. we took my mom to a neurologist in February to have a more intensive exam done on her for her Alzheimer’s and a MRI.  The neurologist concluded that mom needed to make a move sooner rather than later.  Either with us, or into a more controlled environment (assisted living.)  Ahh!  Well, after many hours of discussion the hubs and I decided we could not possibly build our house soon enough to get her settled so we sadly sold our Spring Branch land back to the developers 🙁  We then decided that finding a house was our fastest option and the house hunting began…
Since we knew we were going to move soon we stopped the adoption process because there was no need to do the home study part twice and pay all the money to do it again in a new home.  We are hoping to start again in the next few months once we get settled.

Mom:  Mom seemed to be getting worse for a while, but then strangely started getting a bit better.  Remembering the day of the week, being more social and now she has decided she does not want to move in with us.  Super news because we close on the house next week!  (sarcasm)
At some point she will not have a choice on what makes her happy, I know that, but if she can still do most everything on her own my thoughts are to let her stay in the retirement community for a while longer.  I have been reading a ton of books on Alzheimer’s and care taking in general and I just wish there were some sort of guidelines on what to do, but there are not.  Basically I am just going to have to time it right, so she doesn’t hurt herself or burn down her apartment.  Lord help us.

Our new house:  Is amazing!  After a few months of trying to find the perfect place we were getting frustrated.  We couldn’t find anything with a mother in law suite that we loved and in the area of town that we wanted to be in.  The last month or so we just focused on anything and everything for sale in the neighborhood that we wanted:  Timberwood Park.  We were determined!  And we finally found it!  It doesn’t have a house for mom yet, but there is plenty of space to do it and it should only take a few months to build.  It is over an 1/2 an acre and the lot next door is for sale and both lots together are over an acre 🙂  We will probably purchase that lot somewhere down the line.  There are beautiful old oak trees on the property that I picture our kids swinging from.  It is HUGE with 5 bedrooms and a game room that comes with a pool table (Chris’s favorite part.)  The funny thing is that when everyone see’s the house they say how big it is for just the two of us!  My thoughts are…”If you build it, they (children) will come.”  We couldn’t be happier or more proud to finally be HOMEOWNERS!!  Closing is next week and we hope to be moved in at the beginning of August.

Even though life has been a bit crazy and un predictable these days we are grateful and Praise God for it all!  We are excited about moving on to another chapter in our life 🙂
I pray that all of you are well and have had a wonderful summer!

Blessings,
Tk