Sunday, April 22, 2018

Cooking for One

I went to the grocery store
By myself
The local grocery store
Not Costco
It felt weird being there

How do you shop for one?
How do you cook for one?
I have no idea
But I can't continue not eating
Just snacking
If that

I picked up a bag of apples
But I didn't need a whole bag
I just needed one apple
Or maybe two
So I put the bag back
I didn't want apples anyway
So I took a mango
And added another

I foraged aimlessly
Here and there
Picking things up
Reading the labels
Putting them back
Filling the produce bags
Then emptying half

Back at the house
I unpacked the bags quickly
Then stared at the food
Aghast at the abundance
Will it rot in the fridge?
That's okay
I'm in a daze
And on a learning curve

Figuring out
A new way to live

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I Live Here

It's sundowning time. I've been asked to come for sundowning time every day. I'm walking with my husband along the hallway that lines the circumference of the place. We go around once, twice, three times, expending any nervous energy that might be building up. But he doesn't seem agitated at all. He is doing well today. We are making "conversation."

"Where do you live?" I ask.

"Here," he responds.

"Do you like it here?"


"Is the food good?"


"Do they treat you well?"


"Are they friendly?"


"What's your name?"


"What's my name?"

"That girl."

He seems to be settling in. He does not beg to go home or cry when I leave. He didn't even do that on the first day. I suppose I should find comfort in this, at least. And I do, sort of. But it's so, so hard. And our house seems so, so empty.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Chair Massage

Sundowning is challenging, and especially so given the new location, the strangers all around, and the general hubbub of the place where my husband is now. It would be a tough adjustment for anyone, even those of us who are well. I was wondering what I could do to help him cope. Having had a massage that morning, I decided to try giving him one. Massages are fabulously relaxing and a great way to let go of nervous energy. Everyone should be treated to them as often as possible, and especially so under my husband's tension-inducing circumstances.

He was sitting in a chair in the dining area, and I was standing behind him, giving him a back/shoulder/neck rub. He was slouching over a bit, so I have my free arm around him to support him. I suppose it looked like I was hugging him from behind while rubbing his shoulders. One of the elderly female residents ambled over with her walker, curious about these goings on.

"Is that your husband?!" she asked somewhat accusingly through squinted, flinty eyes. Clearly, she thought something untoward was going on here, and she was having none of it.

"Yes, he is," I responded calmly, giving her one of my very best and most sincere smiles. It required some effort to not smile in a laughing sort of way.

"Oh, okay," she muttered, defeated, turning around and going on her way. (It's all right. I'm sure she won't remember the conversation.) I chuckled to myself.

My husband may be a piece of work for the caregivers, but apparently he's a hit with the ladies already. Perhaps this is so because he can still stand up and move his feet, unlike so many of the residents. Three individual members of the staff have shown me videos and photos of him dancing with a variety of them. Or perhaps the more things change, the more they stay the same. He's a rakish charmer, that one.

Time Has Come

Today marks one week since my husband has been at a memory care facility. I have come to the realization, at the insistence of my children (all of whom have spoken with me privately about the matter), that though I was viewing this placement as temporary, it's "time." I had researched the facility, visited the facility, he had even stayed at the facility for a week previously and done well. Well, well enough. But what a rocky start!

While I am aware that these things are never easy, I didn't have any appreciation for the potential difficulties, pitfalls, and emotions that could and would meld into a perfect storm. The complete reversal of a finally "normal" sleep pattern that I'd been working so hard to help him accomplish. The resultant behavioral issues leading to what looked to me like standoffishness and apparent rejection of my beloved by the staff. The communication breakdowns. The anger and disappointment I felt after finally coming to a decision and still not getting a moment's peace or rest. The call from the administrator after only four days -- on a Friday -- that the placement would not work and that a different placement would need to be worked out was a bitter disappointment and stressor.

Though I had been advised to stay away for the first few days of placement, I was now asked in a panic to come immediately to help calm my husband down. When I arrived, he was asleep in a chair.  It was strongly suggested that I spend as much time there as possible, especially during sundowning. The following day, he was a zombie from lack of sleep or inappropriately administered medication (not enough? wrong time? too much?) or...who knows what? I was aware that he had no idea who I was. He knew my name, but he didn't know me. Thank goodness my son decided to stay by my side all weekend, because I'm not sure I would have been able to survive it emotionally while waiting for the hammer to drop on Monday. I wanted to just pack up my husband's things and bring him home, because the situation wasn't working for anybody. And I was sure I could do a better job of taking care of him myself. I was furious. And traumatized. Again.

Monday, I engaged an agency to help with searching for a "board and care" location closer to home. My daughter and I visited several homes. It's interesting the mix of things that are available for about the same price, which is all the more reason for taking one's time with these decisions. I told myself I wouldn't be the first person to have to place, replace, and place again until the "right" blend of location, care, and adjustment can be found. I had resigned myself to the idea, even.

And then I went to spend sundowning time, the most difficult part of the day, with my husband. I parked my car, said a quick prayer, and took a deep breath as I walked through the door. And there he was, sitting at the dining table, being his "usual" self! He was pleasant with other residents and eating his meal rather than sleeping in it. He wasn't agitated, angry, or aggressive. It was downright miraculous. He was having a good day. The staff was relaxed and smiling. The administrator called me into her office.

"He's having a good day!" I smiled. She smiled back.

"Yes, this might work," she offered, "Let's give it a try."

And just like that, the cloud hanging over my head lifted. For a while, anyway. Hopefully. If he continues to have relatively good days. It can take weeks for a person in my husband's condition to acclimate to a new living situation. I know that. She knows that. We all know that. We're going to give it a few more days. And we'll see what we'll see.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Bitter Pill

The past couple of days have been excruciating. I checked my husband into a care facility yesterday for another, longer respite. Last time when I dropped him off, it wasn't as traumatic at all, because it was just for a week. This time, it's for a month. At least a month, and then we'll see.

Filling out the paperwork was a lengthy, drawn-out affair with plenty of warnings about things that could go wrong, the probability of medication changes, the inadvisability of visiting for a few days, and all kinds of things that made me feel, frankly, like I was abandoning my husband to the whims of others rather than simply passing the baton for a while.

I put his favorite blanket on his bed, placed some older family photos (because I thought he might remember the younger people in them) on his nightstand, and organized his clothing. I made sure he ate his lunch and was comfortably ensconced in the television room with his new roommate, someone we have already visited with a friend several times. I took that to be a happy development.

But the closer it was to a good time for me to leave in order to avoid rush hour traffic, the more anxious I felt. The more emotional I became. The harder it was for me to smile and combat my tears. Somehow, even though in my mind it wasn't yet a permanent placement, I felt I was betraying a trust. I was leading a lamb to slaughter. This man who was gazing at me through confused eyes was counting on me, and I was letting him down.

How's that for believing a lie? But those were the thoughts going through my head, and I had to beat them into submission. I felt ill. There's just no way I can remotely come close to describing the experience. I was heartbroken and am bereft. Golly, I am weary of being bereft. There is just nothing uplifting about this long goodbye.

The end of March and first of April is already an agonizing time for me, with deep sorrow and painful memories. And now another one has been added to the list. I must press in close to my Lord, my Helper, my Friend, my Redeemer. There's a reason Psalm 121 is my favorite.

The Mad Hatter

He's wearing
His hat in the house.
The felt one
That looks like an Aussie hat.

It isn't cold in here.
But now he wears a hat always,
Not just when going out.
And he doesn't take it off.

Now he's showing me a ball cap,
And another one.
Is he asking me to choose one?
I pick the Aussie hat.
He puts one of the ball caps on
On top of the Aussie hat.

We are getting ready to go.
We walk out the door.
He isn't wearing any of the hats.
"Do you want a hat?" I ask.
"Sure," he says.

And we repeat the process all over again.
I pick a hat.
He puts it on.
We walk out the door.
He's wearing a different hat.
Or two hats.
Or no hat at all.
Where are his glasses?

It's like Groundhog Day
Around here
Every day.

It's Sundowning Time Again

In the late afternoon, I feel my energy flagging and my patience thinning. I want to sit awhile and relax. I am human, after all. But it's sundowning time again. He's anxious, nervous, agitated. He jumps up, starts pacing, and is in a hurry to "go somewhere."

"Where would you like to go?" I ask.
"Somewhere," he replies.
"Yes, but where?" I am hoping for a hint of what's going through his mind.
"Let's GO!" he demands.
"Okay, but where do you want to go?"
He points to something in the room. "This thing here," he says.

Okay. We go out to the car, pull out of the driveway, and drive around aimlessly for a half hour or so. At each stop sign, I ask him which way he wants me to turn. He seems to be enjoying himself a little and relaxing. I am encouraged as I pull back into the driveway.

"Finally!" he says, relief on his face.

We walk into the house and settle in front of the television for a little distraction. We've been home five minutes.

"Well," he says, jumping up, "Let's go home!"
"We ARE home, honey," I explain.
"Well, can we go now?!"

I hesitate. I am tired and need to prepare our evening meal. He impatiently opens the back door and storms out.

"Please close the door," I think dejectedly as I follow him out.