Who Knows Where Life Will Take Us…

Lynn_3mths       Lynn_portrait


So who knows where life will take us… there are many beliefs and sometimes I have the belief of the predestined and at other times the crap shoot theory. There are the cards we are dealt and the roads we have chosen to travel, some with the possibilities of greatness and others surrounded with tragedy and heartache. How do we know which road to take…I don’t know, but I can tell you this…I am very aware the product of my life come both from my “hand dealt” in life and some very unwise choices…not so different than a lot of us. Not that all of my choices have been bad, but I have come to realize that the ability to make good choices in life can often be a product of how you grew up or should I say how you define your growing up experience.

That being said, looking back at some of these old photos makes me wonder what things could have been if different roads were taken. Pictured above, a 3 month old baby with a lifetime ahead of her, a 4 year old girl looking very promising. Happy, healthy, clean and taken care of…so what the heck happened? Was it that my mother had OCD and found it hard to be nurturing or that my father was a large child not getting too involved in anything other than his buddies? Was it because they never should have gotten married to begin with or can I look at it in the sense that everything happens for a reason, and in this case I was meant to be born? I do believe that theory now that I hear myself say it. I think that we are all meant to be here, for whatever reason, sometimes never understanding our purpose although searching for the rest of our lives. That doesn’t mean that our parents were meant to be married forever, but it just might mean that they were meant to have that brief time together so that I could be here. Maybe that was “their” purpose for that time period. I could ponder it for hours, days and years to come and never figure it out but it’s the way I have chosen to think about it.

Who knows where life will take us and what paths we will travel…my advise is to Follow the Yellow Brick Road…like the Good Witch told Dorothy,
“It’s always been right here”

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Dinner For 2 Please, Dementia Patients And Social Interaction



There was a time when Mom would always sit at the kitchen table with the family and eat meals. That’s what the old timers did and families today still do it..thank goodness. Since she’s been at my house she’s never sat down at our kitchen table to eat dinner with the rest of us, except once when my son Shad came to visit. Not sitting at the table was mostly an OCD thing, but over the years, with the dementia setting in, she has forgotten about the OCD, but out of habit, still wouldn’t sit at the table. So, with that, she would opt to have dinner in her room and I, of course, humored her and served her dinner on a table in her room, which became the norm. If that’s what made her feel comfortable, I would of course, do that. I continued to eat in the kitchen, usually multi tasking while eating because there is not much of a window at night after the work day to get things done. Crazy way to live but that’s today’s world. 

Photos: Above (1) Mom, Eleanor Van Meter’s family, mother, father, sister, aunts and uncle out on a picnic, pre 1949. Below: (2) Mom after dinner on her 86th birthday…going to bed looking content, happy and tired.

Birthday 86

After Cardine, Mom’s home health aide started with us, I noticed that they would do things together in her room, such as eating lunch together, coloring or playing games. I also have noticed that Mom has directly responded to that by being more alert and in touch with reality. Cardine told me that Mom wouldn’t finish her lunch until she ate her lunch also. Mom would always leave some food on her plate saying it was for Cardine. I guess that she was feeling badly eating in front of Cardine, so she would take that as a hint to heat up her own lunch…sure enough, Mom would finish her lunch. I don’t know whether it is a “polite” thing or a “being in company” thing, but it seems obvious to me that she does better when eating in company with social interaction. As a matter of fact, looking back, she will never take the last of anything….even if it is the last chocolate chip cookie…..now that is self control…or perhaps a result of growing up in the depression years.

As a kid, she would always eat dinner at the table with her sister Lillian and her parents. When I came along, I would always sit at the table with my grandparents as well…seemed to be a family thing that she somehow lost along the way. Now, when I come home from work, I settle in and fix both of our dinner plates and I go sit in her room and eat with her. She eats all of the dinner on her plate happily, we have some conversation and we watch a tv show, even though she really doesn’t understand what is going on with the show, it doesn’t matter…it’s interaction and stimulation. She seems more alert and ready for her night after dinner. Btw…Vladimir doesn’t feel badly that I’ve abandoned him in the kitchen….mainly because he has always eaten every leftover in the fridge like a vacuum cleaner before I even get home, so he’s finished for the night.

After it all and in the end, I know that I will be happy that I had spent time eating dinner with her after work, creating some good quality time with her, knowing that she had a full stomach at the end of her day. It’s also a good thing for her interacting with people and engaging her brain. It’s a win-win situation.

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Oh No, I’m in the Doghouse Again…Dealing with Dementia Patients

Basic CMYKMondays are usually a stressful time for me when caring for a dementia patient, in that you’re bouncing off of a weekend, hopefully a good one…the alarm goes off at 5 am, you’re tired because you’ve been going to bed later than normal for the past 3 days but work is calling. You drag yourself out of bed, do all the things that you do in the early am and out of nowhere, Mom decides to get up early. I pass by her room, and notice her toes moving…I say to myself “OH NO…I’m not ready for her to get up yet, I am still trying to get ready for work” I pass by deliberately a few minutes later, and now I see her feet dangling off of the bed. I peek my head in her room and I say “It’s really, really, really early, you can go back to sleep for another hour”, praying that she will lay back down for awhile. As fate would have it, on this Monday morning, no such luck…I can see trouble in her eyes…or rather that weird stare when she goes into a dementia attack. I continue to go about my business thinking that maybe, just maybe she will give in and go back to sleep for an hour….nope…she’s up and shuffling towards my bedroom door…Happy Monday.

So, with that I make sure she’s not needing the bathroom, and I continue to go about my business in getting ready for work. When this happens in the morning, she reminds me of a lost kid, with all of us running all over the house from this room to the next in preparing for the day, and there she is standing there wondering what is happening. It’s obvious that she wants some attention paid to her but since she seems all right, we just keep doing what we are doing so we can stay on schedule for work. Vladimir leaves for work and now it’s just me, Mom and the dog, waiting for Cardine, her home health aide to come. I’m still running around trying to be done on time. Finally it’s 7:30 am and Cardine’s car pulls up. Tonya, the dog sits in the window eagerly waiting for her to walk through the door in anticipation of the usual snack that I leave for her when I go to work. Mom is standing there wondering what is happening going further and further into her dementia attack, and I am saying thank goodness Cardine is here, a sitcom in the making. After she arrives and settles in, I brief her on the morning, I say my normal goodbyes and I get a wicked awful blank stare from Mom. Her face is expressionless and her mouth is like a straight line across her face. She does this whenever she is angry with me….so, I just excuse myself and leave for work saying “Have a nice day ladies”. I wish I could think to take a photo of this because it’s a funny face…Mom was mad at me so I’m thinking Oh Boy…poor Cardine, Mom is in a tailspin and they will have a rough day and that’s never a good thing. On that note, I was gone…

Photos: (1) Mom and her home health aide, Cardine…my hero!

mom-cardineUpon my arrival home after work, I found that Mom let her anger go right after I left and Cardine had a wonderful day since Mom readily agreed to have a hair wash and a bath in the morning without a fight. People with dementia apparently let go of anger a lot faster than the rest of us, probably because their mind is in out of sight, out of mind mode…It was a good day for all….after all.

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Can Music Therapy Help Soothe Dementia Patients…it did for my Mom.


Mom at a very young age sitting on the
stoop at the family house.


We work all week long, getting up on Monday wishing our lives away for it to be Friday, only to have a hard weekend dealing with dementia attacks from Mom over the weekend. This weekend however, has been quiet and normal thanks to music therapy. She had a wonderful Saturday listening to Pavarotti cds all afternoon, which I can honestly say is her favorite thing to listen to. I actually feel it makes her normal, calm and puts her into a completely different head set making her thoughts clear. She can sit and listen to him all day and never tire of it, just sitting there as if in a trans, swaying back and forth to the music. She came to live with me with a love for Pavarotti’s music and in her mental void, that has held true.

Today, she is passing the time going through all of her papers, which of course, she loves to do. I know it makes her feel like she is in the office, which is her second love to Pavarotti. I enjoy seeing her involved in the things that she loves and although it’s not what we would choose to do for ourselves necessarily, it works for her life. Helping to make a dementia patient engaged and involved is helpful in that, they are not stressed, leading them away from dementia attacks. That helps both the patient and the caretaker to have a better day. Keeping a person with dementia engaged is key to helping to slow down the progression of the disease.

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Photos Above: (1) Mom as a little girl sitting on her front steps, (2) Mom out in California sitting at her home typerwritter.

She also has a lot of games and puzzles, but she much prefers the paperwork and music therapy. I have recently been given some brochures and information about people coming in to the house to give her music therapy during the work week when Cardine, her home aide is here. I think that would be a wonderful idea and would help to keep her mind moving during the day, while also give her something to look forward to. With spring coming on, it would be a good idea to start new things which will engage and stimulate her in different ways. There are probably organizations that would come in for arts and crafts as well. I think that Cardine would love that tool….she loves to color!

So, it’s a sunny and tranquil Sunday, and I find myself appreciating the day knowing that Mom is having a good day. Bring on Spring!

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Advanced Dementia Patients See the Other Side?



Mom, Aunt Freda and Friend


Mom seems to have had 2 bad days in a row, leading into a sleepless night last night. Usually when she has these sleepless nights and walks around the house appearing to be in some sort of transe-like astonishment, I have no idea as to what she is thinking or experiencing. Last night, I finally got her to talk to me about it.

The evening went normally with her having dinner, meds, dessert, watching a little tv and then to sleep. I keep a low light on in her room as she seems to be afraid and disorientated in a completely dark room. We all went to bed around normal time and all was well, or so I thought. A few hours later I was woken up out of a dead sleep by Tonya the dog following my mother around the house. Tonya seems to instinctively know that my mother should be sleeping and not wandering around on her own, so she takes responsibility to keep an eye on her. When I got up to see what was going on, Tonya looks up as if to say…”ok, she’s your problem now”…and she goes off to bed. When I think of that, it’s really amazing how dogs just know and spring into action. She protects my mother without training…she just knows.

So after talking my mother off the ledge and back into her room, she finally sat at the edge of the bed appearing to be in some sort of trance, saying over and over again “I can’t believe it, what am I going to do? Where do we go? I can’t believe it.” It was as if she was traumatized having seen something incredible. After a half an hour of sitting there with her, asking her to go back to bed, she said again “I can’t believe it. I asked her “what can’t you believe, what happened?” She replied, death…there are a lot of people outside the house running up and down the street. I asked her what people…and she replied Dead People. I had to stop and think for a minute before replying…then repeating what she said…You see dead people? She confirmed that they are outside walking all around. I asked her if she saw her mother (family deceased in the photo above) and she replied, no. That would explain all that she said about not believing what she had seen…it’s incredible.

Now, do I assume she is having a dementia attack and hallucinating, or can I dare to believe that she got a rare glimpse of the other side because she is wandering on the outskirts of another dimension? Do old people in her position also see things like this? I don’t know but I will research it. I believe that there are things going on around us all the time that we can’t see. There are radio waves, tv waves back when we all used antennas on the roof, now there is wifi for our tvs and phones, wireless everything…and we can’t see it, but it’s there. When a baby is born, it has been said that they can remember their past life but cannot speak to verbalize it and forget as they start growing. Is it possible that Mom saw dead people? Since I can’t disprove it, I’d have to say yes.

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Mom’s Trip to the Doctor

young_pretty                    doc_office

Oh what a day it has been! Mom has out done herself today. Dementia patients have a hard time handling change of any kind and even though I know about that, it is always hard to deal with. Today’s change of routine was in the form of going to the doctor. I scheduled a vacation day so that I could take Cardine, her home aide, and my mother to her doctor appointment. Cardine arrived at 7:30 as usual, and we right away started waking Mom up so that she could get dressed and ready for her doctor appointment. Not sure when it all started going south, but from the moment she opened her eyes, she had decided that she was not going to the doctor both ignoring us and being very uncooperative. Cardine and I both looked at each other instinctively knowing that it was going to be a hard day ahead.

By almost 10am I had pretty much come to the conclusion that there was no way…negative…no way she was going to get dressed and leave the house for anything or anybody, so I reluctantly called to cancel the appointment. Not more than 5 minutes after I cancelled the appointment, she went into the bathroom for her morning routine and agreed to get dressed…and who knows why or what changed. I ran to the phone to call back and grabbed back her appointment hoping it wasn’t yet filled. Success, still open, so Cardine dressed her and we made our awkward way down the steep driveway to the car with the mother in tow each holding her up under her arms. I could hardly believe it…she was seat belted in and we were on our way and on time. We got to the doctor’s office, dropped her off at the front door and I went to park the car while Cardine and Mom went in. Although she had to wait quite awhile in the exam room, pictured above, she compensated by ignoring us and falling asleep on the table, obviously not happy with either of us or the situation. I look at the 2 photos above and wonder how can life look so beautiful and hopeful at one time and so sad in another. But apparently, for the most part, aside from the side effects of her meds causing an induced Parkinson’s disease, she is healthier than any of us with a good pulse and blood pressure. Considering how many sweets she eats, I am amazed…and a little confused!

Appointment went well after all the stress of the morning and we got home in one piece, gave her lunch with a bath chaser! I can tell you that she was none too happy about the bath! What is it about dementia patients that make them hate being bathed? Even so, at the end of the day, I have a somewhat healthy, clean and fed mother for the day. Tomorrow is another day. Let the weekend begin!

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Dementia Patients Will Always Gravitate to that Which They Have Been Passionate About!



Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho, it’s off to work we go…My mother has always loved and aspired to be in the work place. Growing up in her parents house, she would hope and dream about someday joining the work force, being in Manhattan, working for a company while doing what she loved. It just goes to show you how different we are, as I had always aspired to be my grandmother, a wife and home maker with absolutely no desire to work outside of the house. While I can accomplish more at home with respects to creativity and home, my mother felt more useful in the office. Maybe her desire to be in the work place had something to do with her mother being a home maker…and maybe my desire to be a home maker is because her my mother wanting to be in the work place…who knows. I guess  you can drive yourself crazy trying to analyze it when in reality, it is what it is.

So, now with mom smack in the middle of late stages of her disease, she still aspires to go to work. She has verbalized this to me in the morning while I am making my exit out the door for work. She has said “sure wish I could go to work instead of you”. I say “so do I”…And at other times while in the middle of a dementia attack, she would even try to leave the house to go looking for a job. Leaving the house became a quite a dilemma, therefore needing to get a home aide while I was at work to keep her safe.

To compensate for her great loss, she now goes through papers…any papers, old bills, newspapers, notes, letters. She lays them all out on her bed very neatly being mindful to make little organized piles covering half of her bed. Not sure what type of filing system she has but she seems to know what she is doing. One morning when Cardine, her home aide, was here during the week, she told me that my mother was worried that nobody would show up for work that day and that she would have to send Cardine home and close up for the day. She was imagining that she was running a business here at home and that because of the snow, nobody would be coming that day. I found it amazing that a person can be so into their own head, remembering so long ago and continue to try and act out what was so dear to her, while somehow making herself feel at peace. The mind is a strange thing and everyone is unique in the way they compensate.

So now, I try and leave out her boxes of papers so that she can organize and file when she has the mind to, keeping her busy, literally for hours upon hours. She has a closet filled with games, puzzles, playing cards, coloring books, but it is her papers where she feels most useful and at home. I think the word useful is the key word…back in her day, she worked at some very prestigious companies with very important positions, working closely with her boss and co-workers. She felt useful and needed, and knew that she was very good at what she did. They relied heavily on her and she took it very seriously. Hanging onto her work life is a way of hanging onto who she once was, who she still aspires to be… well, actually who she thinks she still is. She may have this terrible disease called dementia, but deep down inside, she is still the much needed and useful person she once was.

The image above shows Mom’s family…Sister Lillian, Mom, Mother, Father, Cousin Raymond and Uncle Sam. Taken up in Greenwood lake where her Aunt Adlaide lived. Who knew that young girl had such deep thoughts on where her life should go….but the good news is, that she accomplished it…she lived her dream…she was a valuable employee to the likes of the Rockefellers, ABC, Forbes Magazine, Bozell & Jacobs Advertising. She was good at her craft and she was valued and needed. What more could a person ask?

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