Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sunny Saturday

Saturday was perfectly sunny day. Jean and I got a ride from Dennis in the early afternoon to Alberta Street. Alberta is one of my favorite neighborhoods, it is filled with art galleries, restaurants, shops, and people, but there is a good feel of diversity there like nowhere else in the city.
The gentrification of Alberta to me is sad, like most art districts the poor areas of town bring in the artists, they beautify that part of the city and the property values go up and everyone has to move.
Jean had a wonderful time, she sad hello to so many people, went in shops and we also got a vanilla chai iced tea at Townshend Teahouse. It has a welcoming atmosphere and she rested in a comfortable chair and read magazines. Afterwords we rode the bus home, I think she really enjoyed her day out and so did I!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

staying in

The last couple of days the weather has been rainy and cold. so we have been doing a lot of wondering around the house, baking, dancing, and sitting around looking at pictures, or reading. The other day Jean asked me where Glen was, I was about to explain that he was no longer here with us, and she looked across me and said ,"well he is sitting right next to you!" and she looked next to me and waved.
I'm hoping that the sun comes out today so we can sow some more seeds in the garden, so far we have arugula, lettuce, basil, beets and peas. It looks like the weather will be nicer this weekend. The garden has been a slow project due to the cold weather, but it's coming along.

Ghost Story

These are the (backs of the) playing cards Mother handles everyday. She stows them in unexpected places around the house - by the sink, in a chair, by her plate, in her pockets. They are sturdy, portable, and good looking. I thought that was why she liked them.

Marcie discovered she could play cards with Mother. They play a game which consists of passing cards back and forth. I never thought about cards as a way Mother keeps a connection to Glen until the other day, when Mother reported a extrasensory Glen sighting to Marcie. 

Then it made sense to me. Mother was not a cardplayer (at least not that I am aware of). But Glen was. There are packs of cards all over the house with his name on them. Perhaps Glen and Mother played cards together, and this is one reason she is so fond of them now, and why she likes to carry them around with her, throughout the day.

These are my children

I finally learned how to upload photos. Here is the photo which Mother brought to us several weeks ago, saying "These are my children."

I was floored to hear her speak of having children, since I have become accustomed to hearing her deny that fact. I was also floored that a) she correctly identified Katie in this picture and b) she wanted to share the picture with us.

It was when Mother did this that I thought I should start at blog and share these things with farflung relatives. It has taken me this long to master using the scanner to upload photos. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Calendar Girls (& One Calendar Boy)

Hi Margaret,

I just mentioned to Marcie that any mail that comes from Kaiser it is OK for you to open and then direct to the right person/place. If it is a bill, it goes to Dennis (he will send it to Sarah). If it is an update from the Coagulation Clinic, it goes into the notebook.

Also, Marcie and I are formulating the plan for a calendar which would also serve as a communication post. We want the calendar to be large enough so that daily entries can be made - simple things like "went for a walk", or "got a visit from Sam". We also want to keep track of simple, light housekeeping on the chart, so that we can stay on top of things, and so no one person ends up slogging away alone at it.

Marcie proposed that you and she sign on for daily sweeping and every other day vacuuming. 
How does this sound to you? 

We are still thinking about what this large calendar would look like - it will go on the bulletin board in the kitchen. We won't put include the medication log on the calendar, but what other things do you think we should provide room for? We'd like to it contain all the pertinent information so that any one looking at it would get a clear idea of what Mother's week has been like so far.

Stay warm!


Monday, April 21, 2008

Holistic Home Ec

Staff researcher Marcie & I just compared notes, and we both think that just figuring out how best to run the household (organization, shopping, cleaning, communication with each other) is about equal, time and energy wise, to the more direct challenge of caring for Mother. 

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Double Duty

Next week, in Corvallis, the Oregon State University Department of English Visiting Writers Series is having conference titled Medicine, Writing and Humanities. They neglected to invite speakers from the Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging, but they did invite four medical professionals who are also poets, novelists, and essayists. Perhaps they were unaware that the staff at Fremont Street also share dual identity as artists and health caregivers. 

The visiting doctors/writers will be talking about the importance of the story we tell ourselves about an illness. Fremont Street staff are sensitive to this subject, since Mother cannot tell her own story about her illness, and each one of us has had to come up with one of our own.



Today is my birthday, and it is also Earth Day, but I am celebrating April 19th as Thanksgiving Day because I feel great about, and grateful for Mother's four caregivers: Marcie, Margaret, Dennis & myself. Seeing Mother get care is a big source of pleasure for me. 

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore made a movie about life with someone who perpetually is meeting you for the first time - so did Bill Murray. There is something kind of nice about it. Mother has no idea who I am. Many of the world's diverse spiritual traditions recommend this as the preferred way of getting along with people. Forget what you know about them. You rarely run into an opportunity to see it put into practice. Mother's Alzheimers is that opportunity.

But what I want to focus on today are the not-so-secret powers of The Fantastic Four. 

There is no way to get information from Mother about what she wants and needs except to pay attention to her behavior.  We cannot reach her through her brain.  We interact with her - the person who can no longer be reached verbally - by structuring her environment.  We counter the tedium of her isolation with outings and visits. We counter the fear she must be having about her growing incapacity by prioritizing daily routine, making as much of her world familiar to her as we can.

Looking at it this way, Mother's life becomes a work of environmental art. We cannot create a new brain for Mother. We can create an environment where she can live as peacefully as possible with the brain she has left.  All four of Mother's caregivers are artists. Before Marcie became interested in holistic health, she trained for a career in graphic arts. Margaret is a working artist (and curator - she is curating a show on toy art which is receiving international submissions). Dennis is performing right now- today- doing a show on Bad Parenting at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in SF. And although Marylhurst has hired me to organize their May 2009  Sesquicentennial Film Festival,  my training was in how to create films, not show them. So all four of us are interested in the magic of creation, and all four of us bring that fascination to the work of caring for Mother. 

Monday, April 14, 2008

Iron Sam

Sam, Margaret & Mother watched Iron Giant yesterday (Sunday) morning, and afterwards Sam drew robots. He worked on the coffee table, and talked about robots with Mother and Margaret for two hours. Sometimes when the grandkids are here it seems whenever I look at Mother she is smiling- continuously.

A Nice weekend

The weather was beautiful this weekend, and Jean's was surrounded with Great Grandchildren. She enjoys watching the kids play and is always concerned for their well being. She spent quite a bit of time outside and got a little color back in her cheeks!
For some reason she shook her hips a bit yesterday, I commented that she looked like Elvis shaking his pelvis, She shook a little more like Elvis and we laughed together! Jean has a great sense of humor. I enjoy the glimpses of her recollecting songs, and the way she jokes around. The other day I was serving her breakfast and I asked her to sit down, she said "ok mother", I told her I wasn't her mother, and she laughed and said"I know I was just kidding around."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Locating the challenge

Some of the questions we explore here at the Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging are practical. (How do we find the mouse in the refrigerator? Where can we find socks that don't use elastic thread?) Some are philosophic. (All the staff at the Center are in the process of aging, so technically, aren't we all studying each other?)

Each staff researcher brings his or her own research goals to the Center. Dennis is interested in family structure, and his specialty is the dinner hour. Margaret focuses on occupational therapy. Marcie is interested in nutrition, and she keeps an eye on what we shop for and eat. I'm interested in keeping track of what makes it all work. My question is: Why should we consider caring for an elderly person so daunting, when caring for a toddler, who likewise cannot speak clearly, think clearly, or use the toilet with 100% accuracy, is considered easy?

Is it the elderly person who is the challenge, or is it something inside the people caring for the elderly person - some shift in perception - that is the challenge. The actual work of changing diapers, providing meals and engaging in repetitive conversation is the same is both instances.

Preliminary report

Top Fremont Street research finding: An incontinent person in adult diapers is as mobile and chair friendly as the non-incontinent people he or she moves among. Adult diapers rock. Our experiment would not work without them.

First runner up: Riding the bus all over town before you are old is great preparation for riding the bus later in life when you are. Mother has been enjoying bus rides with Marcie. She initiates conversations with other riders, and chats up the bus driver.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Climbing Down From My Chair

Dennis eliminated the Bad Smell by doing further surgery on the refrigerator back and removing the dead mouse culprit.  My first thought - "we'll ask Dyana" - was a little misplaced, because she won't going to be here until next week.

Refrigerator mystery

Keeping things real here at the Fremont Center for Healthy Aging, Dennis spent last night trying to figure out why the kitchen smelled like, well, like something died in it. We had two theories: 1) a very well hidden Easter egg and 2) a decomposing mouse. We didn't find either, but the floor beneath the refrigerator is now clean, the back of the refrigerator is clean, and the top of the refrigerator is clean. We left the kitchen window open all night, and Dyana, our home environment specialist, will be arriving today so we expect she will be able to add some insight.

One use of this blog will be to pass on Mother stories. I didn't witness this, but Dennis tells me that the other night when he asked her to move out of his way while he was cooking, she retorted sharply "I'm the mother here!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mary

Daffodils in the front yard say "happy birthday!"

As soon as we figure out how to add photos to the blog, we'll start adding them.


eye doctor visit!

  On Monday we went to the eye doctor.  The visit went very well, the optometrist was very friendly, and knew all the right things to do and say to get Jean through the exam.  Jean seemed to enjoyed the visit and got right up in the chair and was ready for the exam.  She did not have to get a new prescription, but we did order new glasses so we could have a back up pair.  They had the same pair in stock so we ordered those, since she had picked them out herself.  Dr. Cardenal said that she has cataracts but not to worry they have been growing slowly and overall her eyes are healthy! 

  Well, I thought I would tell you a little bit about myself.... I have been a CNA/caregiver for about 5 years off and on.  I just recently moved back to Portland from Seattle.  I am currently in a nutrition and herbal program.  I will be done with the nutrition program in June, which i am both excited and nervous about, and I hope to be done with the herbal program in December.  I am originally from the Midwest I grew up outside of Chicago, than moved to Minneapolis where I lived for about 8 years.  Than I decided to venture out to the northwest, which I enjoy very much, well I could do without the rain, but for the most part I enjoy it here!  I think Jean and i will go out for coffee today , so I'll write more tomorrow! Bye for now..... marcie

Monday, April 7, 2008

Blog launch

Marcie, Margaret, Dennis & I are beginning a blog so we can share information easily about day-to-day events here at the Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging. Like all scientists, we want to publish our findings as soon as possible! 

The Fremont Street Center was established to embody the theory of healthy aging as it relates to the care management of Alzheimers disease. Staff researchers study the impact of exercise, sleep cycles, nutrition, and social stimulation on cognitive decline. Much of our work is undertaken in partnership with senior researcher Jean Wyatt.

Visiting specialists Drs. Sam, Joy & Bartholomew from the Emerson Avenue Center for Early Childhood Development, who make regular contributions to the research, will also be contributing to the blog.