There are several people who are close to me, who I greatly admire,
that are caregivers to one or both of their parents. I have mentioned
my Mom moving from her (and Dad’s) Lake Erie cottage over a year
and a half ago. Mom had many choices of senior apartment centers.
These facilities have good safety practices in place, provide a more
interactive, “better” environment than living by herself.
She happened to (luckily) like the place that was almost directly across
the road from where my brothers and my sister in law live. The move
was definitely met with a deep sigh of relief when we had her there,
especially during the winter months! No worries about Mom falling on
unshoveled sidewalks nor icy steps out of her house!
I may have mentioned, more than once, that we have corresponded
through the “snail mail” system since I went away to overnight camp,
college and moved away from home. I have been wanting to share
some of my mother’s noticeable changes and some of her wacky
character traits that have stayed the same. I enjoy her being a “wild
and crazy” 83 year old woman who is not just my Mom, but a dear
friend, too! She encouraged me always to be myself and to have a
spunky nature. She, on the other hand, has gone more towards being
full of “piss and vinegar!”
Mom’s letters have become erratic in their appearance and content.
I notice this especially since she uses a lot of dabs of white out along
with numerous misspellings and tangled words. Here is an example of
her attempting to spell the word, “survivor,” where you can tell, poor
thing, that she is sounding it out: “servyver.” I had to use the context
of the sentence to decipher it: “I am a servyver.”
Another sounding out and combining word sentence is describing her
favorite food from the dining room lately as “a huge sandsuage with
lettuce, tomato and onion.” She later mentions by ordering this from
the (senior apartment center) dining room, it ensures she gets a lot of
beef! I can tell it is a combination of sandwich and sausage. I wish to
point out that one sad part of her mind going just a bit is that she used
to do the crossword puzzles, up until the month she moved into her
apt. and had her minor heart attack. We could tell she was starting to
misplace things and she had bounced checks even before the medical
situation came along. All of this, is a little disheartening, remembering
her role as a teacher of English, Literature and Spanish. It is more
noticeable to me, not my brothers, who are no longer the recipients of
She asked me after I left on my last visit in mid-September, in one of
her letters, “Did you take my key? I cannot find my checks nor my credit
My brothers and I have been trying to get her to establish a routine
with her keys, one is on a wrist band- the key to her apt. door. And the
other is on a lanyard, necklace around her neck- the outer door key.
I am sure because I have read some of your experiences on your blogs,
my older friends, that include this part of aging. This is both frustrating
and somewhat fascinating to see the parts that are held onto so tightly,
such as the distant past memories.
The threads that get most tangled up and show a complete loss of
understanding of basic functions are the saddest ones. I have to bite
my tongue when she repeats watering a plant within five or ten minutes
of the last time she did it. She wonders, aloud, why her plants seem to
“die more here” (meaning the center) than they did at home. I also,
have to not say a word, when for some inexplicable reason, she turns
the apt. key to the left, right, then left again to unlock it. Then, when she
is leaving, turns it to the right, left and then right again to lock it. This
new ritual is totally weird, to me!
She wrote in her letter last week, “They gave me another door key for
the one that got ‘lost.’ I just hope it doesn’t take off on me again!”
I guess I wish her “old” self were still able to write like she did because
I so enjoyed and treasured her letters! I did keep many which had
memories recounted, stories shared and her thoughts for many
years on all kinds of subjects! We even would carry on “debates” on
issues and also, would describe parts of shows to see if the other
managed to stay up ( and not fall asleep in the middle of them!) She
is much more of a “night owl” and thus, can sometimes ‘fill in the
blanks’ on our favorite shows. I have to remember the best blessing,
though, which several of my friends whose mothers have passed on,
that having her, no matter what shape her mind is in, that is the treat
and the pleasure. I also, know this is just the “tip of the iceberg” due
to her possible declining over time, both in mind and body…
On to the lighter, more funny side of Mom! She likes to daily order for
her dessert, chocolate ice cream and cookies “to go” which she saves
for guests and if we would like, we can take about 30 home with us
each month! My sister in law and brother sometimes take a few back
home across the street. But the bulk of the cookies are all bagged up
and in the refrigerator for me!
Well, Mom was “dismayed” recently, written in her letter, that “They
are now cracking down on us residents and not allowing us to order
a dessert to eat and one to take back to our room.”
“I always told them,” she goes on (being a little sneaky and conniving)
to explain, “I need two cookies for my bedtime snack!”
Another totally funny (at least to me) direction she writes about is my
male friends and my different dating experiences.
Here is how Mom addressed the recent turn of events with “new”
Mark. Also, the way it is going with my guy friends, Bill and Gary,
probably. She may also be referring to the Lenny fiasco! You never
know with my Mom! She keeps me guessing!
“Sorry about the beau dissapoinments. No fair! They took a lot of
your time. Guys just think of themselves!” (Yes, she misspelled the
Another part of her letter to me,
“Don’t worry so much about being alone! I am fine being in my being
in aloneness. You will find things to occupy yourself. The dog makes
me feel useful, I sometimes sew and recently I take notes on the
lessons that are on the Catholic chanel, History chanel and some
science shows and I don’t know that chanel! I like watching the Hy-Sy
chanel, too.” (She missed “channel” and “Sy-Fy” which, even I,
occasionally write “Sci-Fy” instead.)
This next episode of her life, her trip to the grocery store on the bus,
may be amusing in its entirety.
“I filled my cart up with chocolate candies and dog chewies. I had to
get these since Nicki needs to use the few teeth she still has left in
her mouth. I bag up the candies for the servers in the dining room.
The kids like the candy and I like that they help me get my cookies and
a banana. Then, at the check-pit: no credit card accepted except one
I don’t have—–So, I just left the stuff at the check-out. Said I was sorry.
What I wanted was unable to my taking home, what a waste of 2 hours!
I tried to think of the bus ride and the seerch for the items as some
form of an exercise.” (I think you will get the gist of what she was trying
to say without my pointing out spelling and syntax errors.)
Before Mom signed off on this letter about her grocery trip, she wrote
a thought someone else had suggested about the men in my life:
“Give the guys a foot to rump. (at least in imajunation!) And be aware
that is it their loss, not yours. You are speshul and happy weather to
Hugs! NIcki sends xxxxs!”
If you are taking care of a parent, other relative, are a home nursing or
hospice staff worker, you are very special indeed! I admire your strength
and courage to face this daily. I hope you will feel free to write some
helpful suggestions on how to stay in a positive frame of mind. I also,
wonder, how to help her with the keys and the credit card, checks and
money. We want to give her a little and yet, if we give more, it can be
lost, misplaced or stolen.
P. S. In the nursing home, where I was the Activities Director, we would
go to the office with the elderly clients, they would “sign out” their cash
and we (my activity assistant and I) would put the money in an envelope
to hold for them. Once at the store, we would help some of them choose
their purchases, then when checking out, we would pass the envelopes
to each person.
This worked well, but took a lot of supervision, time and energy. We
usually took 10-12 people in our wheelchair accessible bus. It amazes me,
when I think back upon those times. Maybe partly due to the fact I was
(10-14 years) younger at the time. But mostly due to the fact that we were
not related to any of them, it went so much more smoothly!!
Additional facts about Caregivers provided by the Family Caregiver Alliance:
44 million Americans provide unpaid care for an adult family member or
2/3rds of caregivers are women.
Average age of caregiver: 48 years old.
Average number of hours given during a week to caregiving: 21.9 hours.
70% of caregivers have to cut back on their profession or work, reducing to allow
more time to give care to their family member or friends.