Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sing me to sleep

A little more than a year ago, we brought Momma here to live with us.  Though it was only five months, it seemed like much longer.  We learned so  much about not only ourselves, but Momma and Alzheimers.  To spare ya'll, I'll not go into it.  It wasn't all bad and it wasn't all great.  Please don't think I'm just an awesome daughter. Ha!  I'm far from getting the "Daughter of the Year" award. I've seen the ugly in myself and didn't like it one bit.  We're a family attempting to do the best we can, figuring it out along the way. We have much to learn.  

As Mom continues to decline, her anxiousness increases
and slowly she struggles to remember if I'm her daughter or sister.  She wants to know where her Mom and Daddy are, and can't remember what she is constantly worrying about, though we know.  She can no longer remember how to spell or write her name, what her friends' names are, or much else.  Reading is no longer. She believes she is still in her beloved state of KS, and that we drive hours each day to be with her. She claims she arranged Honey and my's marriage, and she loves to help out by wiping tables, picking up any trash and dusting the rails. We learn and grow as the disease progresses.  

Thankfully, the nursing care facility, we have her in is very close by and we visit her almost nightly.  It's not the largest in the area, nor is it the most state-of-the-art, but they have two special Alzheimer's Lock-down units. It is small and homelike.   If you've never been to a nursing home/ Health and Rehab facility as many are now called, they can be a bustle of activity and noises of regular residents wandering the hall, call alerts going off, the telephone ringing, someone's tv blaring, people coming and going... Something is ALWAYS going on, but if you were to walk through the Alzheimer's units, it's quiet and calm -   Something we really appreciate each time we are there.  It's not a perfect place, but it's the perfect place for Momma and we have learned to love it. God has His Hand there.  

Those who give:  We love to go in, greet the director and she knows us by name.  The nurses and aids recognize us and chat with us.  Letting us know how they interacted with Momma during the day when we can't be there.  We've learned to know them and appreciate what they do.  The nurse who is struggling with a rare form of breast cancer, or the single mom who is working and going to school for her degree, college students juggling work and classes, the director who is a huge Hog/Razorback fan, the CNA (certified nurses assistant)  who has such compassion and is so in-tune to the residents he cares, to the CNA that brings fingernail polish from home and treats the residents to weekly manicures.  They know their residents by name, give them love and hugs, know who likes to dance and sing, read books, play a game, play "kick ball" in the hall, do crafts, bake cookies, or even catch their favorite show Wheel of Fortune.  They give them hugs, kiss their cheecks, brush their hair, give them showers and tuck them into bed at night.  I can't tell you how many times we've visited and found them sharing their late dinner with a resident because they thought it looked yummy or wanted to try it.  That says love.  I cannot do the things they do.  I'm not even sure how they do it, but they do it with love.  

Residents:  We love to hug and greet the other residents, kid around with them and learn their stories, some of which are pretty fascinating.  One gentleman fought in the war and was a sniper for the US,  another a bank president, a mom, a business woman who fought to build up and save our little downtown and put it on the map.  We learn who likes chocolate ice cream or strawberry, some love to read and we gather their books and trade them for different ones at a local used book store.  Behind some of those grumpy faces, there are smiles and wonderful people locked away in their fading minds. when we take the dogs, they love it and thank us for bringing "their" dog to see them.  Sometimes, we let the dogs off their leashes and let them roam from resident to resident, gathering pats on the head, which are rewarded with many wags of the tail or a paw on their leg.  

Music     One thing that makes a difference to Momma lately is when I'm able to put her to bed at night (7 pm), music makes her less anxious about me leaving.  I'll pull up Pandora on my phone and play old church hymns.  It's pretty amazing to see this woman who cannot remember very much, suddenly start singing along, tapping her foot, and even smiling.  Tonight, after I placed a CD player in her room, and hit play, the CNA was getting her ready for bed and I  could see her lips moving. Softly singing along with old-time gospel hymns from Alan Jackson  and the Don Marsh Chorus.  She peacefully fell asleep, with her toe moving slowly to the beat, she sang:  
What a Friend we have in Jesus,all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear.... 

So, while Momma can really no long tell us who Jesus is, He is there and He knows her.  And I'm okay with that...

If you would like to read an all out, honest account of a wife struggling with her husband's Early Onset Alzheimers Disease, I'd recommend Missing Jim by Karen.



This is so beautiful and honest and real. Thanks so much for writing it. Blessing on you and your momma.


Unknown said...

Oh sweet lady, I have been so moved by your story. As the tears roll down my cheek I am reminded how fragile life is and how we take so much for granted. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so blessed to know you and your family. God be with you and continue to guide you through all that you do. Love you!


God's PurpleGirl said...

So, so good!! I love your description of "wonderful people locked away in their fading minds". It's so very true. Deciphering word or thought salad, and going along with whatever dream they're currently in, is something I never thought I'd understand. But I can very much appreciate what you guys have been going through. What a blessing to have such caring people to look after your momma. May they be blessed beyond measure. Praying for you guys!