Monday, August 22, 2016

The Perils of Uncle Bill

   Sunday is our day to visit with Uncle Bill. We have gotten into a routine. UB loves to sleep and so I go to his room, knock loudly on the door for 5 minutes (he keeps losing his hearing aids) and finally have to get an aide to let me in. (UB is the only resident that locks his door when he is in there.) Once I get in, I roust him out of bed. He is usually in a trance as I get him up, get his shoes on, find his glasses and get him ready to go to the dining room.
But yesterday was different. UB was already down in the dining room. He was even down to his last 2 cookies when we got there. (The 2 cookies took him 45 minutes to eat but still...) As he chewed resolutely away I noticed that his top dentures, the ones he lost a couple weeks ago, appeared to be back. Not only did they catch MY eye, they caught the eye of a wife sitting at the table with her husband. Unfortunately we have been finding her husbands personal items in UB's room, a wallet with 42 dollars in it, and a Bible. UB said they just "appeared" in the room. We returned them to his wife and she was thrilled. However, she was a little concerned about his dentures.

Wife: Are those my husband's dentures? (She and I watched UB as he flipped them around expertly in his mouth several times and removed them to lick off the cookie crumbs.)

Me: I don't think so. His were missing for a couple of weeks and now he has them back.

Wife: My husband's are missing too.

She looked intently at the dentures.                                                      

Wife: They look just like his.

Me: How could they fit if they are his? They are fitted to each mouth.

We both watch as UB flips the dentures out yet again. Did they fit or not? He hates to use Polygrip so they are constantly coming out.

So I called the dentist who ordered the dentures for him. They no longer have a record of them. Nor is there any identifying mark on the dentures. Basically, "if they fit, they are his." Not helpful in this case. I decided to see what UB thought about it.

Me: UB, where did you get those dentures?

UB: (He blinked.) my room.

So there I had it. We are on the lookout for stray dentures.       

Saturday, June 11, 2016


 Buttered Toast

Image result for buttered toast

     Our last visit with Uncle Bill contains some vivid memories. I must confess to experiencing some humiliation. Why is it MY uncle who wants to wear his pajama tops all day long? Why is he the only one with food on his face and the gleam of butter dripping on his hand as he eats? But, in retrospect, I'm not sure I have a right to be embarrassment. He is in a memory care unit, surrounded by other elderly people in various stages of dementia. Could anything could be considered humiliating in that particular scenario?
     But there we were. Everyone else seemed to be with the program except my uncle. He was in the dining room, at a table with two other ladies. They made no comments during the meal, which was a welcome relief from the endless Uncle Bill chatter about everything and nothing.
     Uncle Bill had eaten his dinner and was now moving to the long-awaited 2 pieces of toasted bread waiting for him. My family has always had some odd quirks about buttered toast and my sister and I have bemoaned the existence of buttered toast our whole lives. It seemed as though our relatives on my mother's side went into a "Buttered Toast Trance" whenever they enjoyed this delicacy. They would chew resolutely, staring off into space in that Buttered Toast Land that my sister and I were never a part of. They would remain in the BT Trance until all of the toast was gone, and then return to the rest of the conversation and their meal. (If you are a Seinfeld fan, you may remember the man who would do this when the song Desperado came on the radio. Same response, different stimulus.)
     When I arrived, Uncle Bill was in his own version of Buttered Toast Land. In his case, this meant a running commentary on the benefits of buttered toast and periodic and orgasmic groaning, as he expressed his satisfaction and ecstasy from the partaking of the toast.
     "MMM" he moaned. "This is sooo good! If you get it when the toast is right out of the oven, and the butter is soft, it sinks right into the toast! MMMM! AHHH! So good!" (He was actually saying this as he chewed the Buttered Toast, which was a problem for his not-really-sealed-dentures. A lot was going on in Uncle Bill's mouth all at once that involved chewing, groaning, denture flipping, talking and moaning.) It was a sight to behold.
     I listened to more of the Uncle Bill History of Buttered Toast. He scraped away at the surface of the toast with the knife, expounding on the greatness of Buttered Toast.
     "My father used to love Buttered Toast. He would come home in the back of the car.  Dad would be wallowing in the back seat in butter."
     I filed that mental image away in an area of things I do not ever want to revisit in my mind. He finished spreading the butter on his toast and pronounced, "That was the best coverage I ever got."
I am guessing that there is a lot more family history involving Buttered Toast that my sister and I were not privy to know as children. As for me, I know more now than I ever wanted to.

Image result for buttered toast

Friday, April 15, 2016

That Time Of Life Is Here

You know that time of life that you think is always far off? The one where you actually age? That part of life that you scoff at, young person as you are, knowing that you have your whole life to get to that point.
That time of slow drivers, pants drawn up to the waist, gray hair, endless doctor visits, constant conversations about doctors and medical bills. And coupons.
And the memories of what once was. A far better pre-technology era that you grew up in. Face it. You're an old fogie.

Our timetime looks like this: Empty Nest...menopause...aging ungracefully.....elder care...retirement...more elder care...death. 
Throughout all of these steps are constant reminders that I am not as young as I used to be. All of my doctors, and they form quite a hefty team, The Jeanne Team, I call them, love to see me coming. Not only do I gift them with a variety of unusual medical issues to test their medical know-how, I do it at a frequent regularity so that they have no chance to unlearn their practice, which is a risk with older doctors.
We are moving along at warp speed now. Now is the time to ramp up our traveling. George and I are a strong case for the "You should travel while you are young" bunch. When we look at possible trips, we have to consider amount of energy expended, necessary walking or (gulp) climbing and amount of flesh that will be visible in a bathing suit. Dietary restrictions are also a concern. Yes we can go "hog wild" (pun intended) on the cruise ship but we will pay for it in the weeks after. Long airline trips don't seem as fun as they once did and a long car trip is out of the question as both of us would fall asleep at the wheel. Not to mention the number of required potty breaks. So the answer seems to be short and productive trips.

Me: George, we are going on a road trip. Get your sunglasses and wallet and let's boogie.
George: (excited to be traveling) Where are we going?
Me: (drawing it our, for the excitement factor) We are going to Target Super Store. I thought maybe we could have chicken tonight.
George: We had that last night.

Me: That was Orange Chicken. Tonight...lemon chicken!
George smiles: OK.
Our road trip lasts for 45 minutes. We observe 2 butterflies in the garden, see 4 egrets in the park and a little terrier puppy. We see 3 Mini Cooper cars like ours. And we drop off a bag of clothes at Good Will and chat with the woman on duty.
All in all, a pretty darn successful road trip if I do say so myself.

Monday, March 7, 2016

               How Do They Do It? 
     Reflections on the Levinson Family

The human spirit is an amazing thing. Like the Timex watch, it can take a licking and keep on ticking. But what makes a person, no, an entire family able to handle continued stress day after day for 9 long years?
 I have pondered this question over and over as I consider the events this family has been through. If you do not know about Robert Levinson ( I find that hard to believe) but he was abducted in Iran 9 years ago as of this Wednesday, March 9. His disappearance has been an unsolved mystery all this time.
I have known this family for about 30 years, I guess. I have taught several of the children. The Levinsons are a unique family in today's world. Old fashioned values, strong sense of familial togetherness and respect are the common denominators at work. The parents were devoted to each other and to their 7 children, always available for parent conferences, meetings and school family nights. Education was a priority and it showed.
In March of 2007, Robert Levinson embarked on a business trip to Iran and was detained on the island of Kish. The life that this family knew was torn apart instantly. Yet that strength, that bond that pulled that family together has continued to work its magic for all these years. the mother, Christine, is their rock and the children, now grown, some married with children of their own remain united in their efforts to bring their father home to them.
On March 5, my husband and I attended a rally in Coral Springs to  draw attention to the fact that he is still missing. I watched this family, that I am so proud of, come together as they spoke to the crowd. I cried with them and again marveled anew at their focus and determination, love and hope. Bob Levinson will return to his family. He will recognize the legacy of love and commitment that he passed on to his children.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Keystone Cops RIde Again

It has been an interesting and exhausting week in CareGiverVille, USA. This week we transitioned Uncle Bill from independent (sort-of) living to the Memory Care Unit. Change is never good for Uncle Bill and so we thought we were prepared for everything. We were not.

Picture this scenario. We have moved into the new building. Uncle Bill's aide has helped us to get his stuff moved in efficiently and carefully. We decide to go to lunch together.  We head out the door, George and I, Uncle Bill with his walker, and his aide, Jackie. Despite the fact that he does not want to go, and says he is not hungry, he manages to scarf down his lunch. We start back for the new room. The trouble begins.
Uncle Bill takes the lead, away from the new building and back to the old building. He is moving faster with that walker than most joggers I have seen. We are huffing and puffing behind him. 

Me: Uncle Bill, you are going the wrong way!

UB: I know exactly where I am going!

George grabs hold of his walker to slow him down. UB flings himself away from the walker and hotfoots it toward the old building walkerless. That 87 year old can move. We wave over a security guard and he radios for help. Pretty soon we have a parade....Uncle Bill, Jackie (aide), George with the walker, me, the Security Guard and the head nurse all following along in hot pursuit.

The Keystone Cops in action.

Which way did he go?

And that was just the first day. He was fitted with an "Anti-Escape" thingy that he wears on his wrist. He keeps eyeing the Exit Door at the new place though.

Today he complained that he has not been outside all week. He wants to get out in the fresh air. I responded to that.

Me: UB, last time I took you somewhere, you ran away from me. I cannot keep up with you. I am not taking you outside myself.
UB: I did not run away. I just wanted to show you how to get to the old apartment.

Then, as usual, he changed the subject.
They say it takes a few weeks for them to adjust. The staff is very loving, and have lots of activities, which he refuses to participate in.
 It is hard being old.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Familiar and Unfamiliar

Familiar and Unfamiliar

I guess it was good to let UB know that he would be moving from his familiar apartment to an unknown place, at least to him, in the Memory Care Unit where he lives.  I know it is filled with loving and caring people, it is clean, bright and friendly, it has activities and fun things for the residents. But UB just sees it as a scary place that is not what he is used to. And it is making him….well, really crabby.

He is trying to gain control back. He wants to do the packing and the planning and make the decisions, all of which are impossible for him. He is angry with me for making decisions for him. He accuses George and I of wanting to steal all of his worldly belongings.
For the last few days, he has set up little tea parties in the living room and dining room. 
Tea Party Ala Uncle Bill
He expects people to come to visit, but is not sure why they don’t show up. He tells stories of groups of people visiting him in his living room, watching TV together. 

He is restless, pacing back and forth, endlessly searching for missing items. He has lost hearing aids, teeth, an adult bib, 2 checks from his annuity, and all of the mail that arrived for 2 weeks, till I had it switched over to my house.
Today we started to pack. It was stressful. I had to separate what he packs from what I pack, because not all of it is going to the new place. He is confused and not sure what belongs to him. (It all does but he thinks some of it belongs to the retirement association.) He keeps getting between me and what I am packing. 

My original intent was to stay all day till the packing was done but after 2 hours, I am done. 

Tomorrow the movers come…and we start again.

Monday, December 21, 2015

People in Hot Water

Yesterday was Sunday. Our day to visit with Uncle Bill. Our Sunday morning routine. Get there about 11 AM. See what groceries and personal items he needs for the week and George leaves to go get them. I busy myself with setting up his medications for the week so the aide can give them to him. Sometimes he is sleeping at this time. Yesterday he was awake. On the days he is awake he always starts off the same way.

UB: (stares at me) Well! You're here!
Me: Yes I am, UB.
90 seconds of silence ensue as he decides on the designated topic of the day. Today the topic will be Hot Water, and people who are in it.

UB: Well last night I was trying to sleep. A bunch of girls were in my bathroom. They were talking and laughing. My aide was in there too. They were using the hot water. You know, the hot water feels kind of good in the shower but you have to make sure you don't get it too hot. You can get burned.
Me: I know.
UB: Those guys in prison, they have to go to Joliet prison. Let me tell you, you do not want to go there. It is no time share. They don't like it in lock-up.
Me: Have you been in a jail with the prisoners?
UB: Oh no. Not me. I wouldn't like it. They give you way too hot showers. But there are a lot of innocent people in jail. For years, innocent people are stuck in lock-up.
Me: That would be a hard life.
UB: Up north, prison cells are underground. It is really bad to live underground. In Alcatraz, it was really bad but some of the prisoners escaped. They didn't want any more hot showers.
Me: Remember when we went on the tour at Alcatraz?
UB: Huh? Then they get on a boat and go to South America but they get stuck there. English prisoners also get stuck in South America. They cannot ever get out. 

(I am having guilt feelings. In one week we will be moving him to a Memory Care Unit where he lives. I know it is the right thing, but he will be giving up his large apartment and familiar way of life. It is going to be stressful for him at first. But he needs supervision at night.)

Then George gets back from the grocery store. As a surprise, he has stopped off at McDonald's and gotten UB his favorite thing, a plain cheeseburger and fries. Uncle Bill's face lights up and his day is complete. He is in Hamburger Heaven until it is time for us to go. 
Uncle Bill In Hamburger Heaven

As we leave, we say good-bye to his healthcare aide who has just arrived. I give UB a hug and notice that he was so excited about the hamburger that he forgot to go to the bathroom. Now he needs to change his clothes.

UB looks at his aide. 
UB: You know, they use way too hot water there in the prisons.