Michael’s Morning Star

Old tunes played on a keyboard with singing

By a man who knows how to do it, bringing

Clapping and smiles under hill country trees

Serving hope love and kidding

A big family are these.

Tired from activity

And the big Texas lunch

Of brats beans and burgers

Swigging beer with no liquor ‘cause happy is quicker

And joy found in more ways than munch

It’s now nap time so staff

Spring to usual day to day tasks

Of wheeling and walking and tending to those

Whose minds may have faltered but not their hearts,

Peace there’s found in these here parts.

All back home the pictures we share

With far away family feeling part of it there

‘Cause seeing the smiles, happy we look

Can’t argue with a good photo took

At Michael’s Morning Star Memory Care

~Julie Robinson

Oh! #Octpowrimo, 25 days into the month of poetry.

Oh! The creative push to write a daily poem for Octpowrimo month has helped me write descriptive scenes in my fiction writing giving it better rhythm but not rhyme goodness me but that is a current problem! Anyone else?

Between fiction writing and oil painting and cleaning out my garage, I find myself “painting” poetic scenes in my mind.

And like a painting I have here still on my easel even before I add additional brushstrokes, I have done them in my mind first, same with the written work that needs additional keystrokes.

So, if that wasn’t enough stroking for one post… here is my poem for day 25: Strokes

Daily Strokes

Stroking a kitten’s like stoking a fire

Petting revs her purr motor higher

Arched high she springs to action

her claws get some friction, her fur some rough lickin’

Pouncing off she finds work of all kinds of hard play

And then there’s window sentry light sleeping where she’s keeping

A watch for her stroker, her purrfect re-stoker

To lay lap curled contently consumed by the fire of the day.

~Julie Robinson

The Moment of Know

Twas the moment of know

The curtains they blow

The window pushed high

The caregiver low

Out of his mind

He went real slow

Now he wants to go “home”

It’s ringing, the phone

Can you come get your husband,

Did you know he’s not there,

No, I’ve been asleep,

I sleepily stare.

Dark is the town

Out driving am I

At a time that I never

Out of my mind.

~Julie Robinson

This is a true story except I’m not, I hope, out of my mind. Couldn’t get this in the poem but I hardly ever go anywhere at night and it was very mysterious indeed.

All Colors Brightly Gleaming

It brightens a color

But, color, it’s not

When it’s cold it’s ice

When it’s angry it’s hot.

It once was a poison,

‘‘Twas all the rage

Of painted up faces

In the Victorian age.

An empty blank canvas,

Peace flags flying grace,

The hope of a Bride,

In Cotton and lace.

Full moon rising

And carved concrete fountains,

Pillowy clouds puffing

Up snow capped mountains.

From rocks finely made,

To glittering beaches stored,

All high and foamy cresting waves

Must crash their lives against your shore.

“What? Radiance in the making!

Why must you come to such an end?”

“Because”, says he, “I get mixed up

When I get brushed on, my friend.”

White

~Julie Robinson

I just love this month long poetry writing challenge. I’m stuck on colors right now… I think I may do brown tomorrow.

The poetry writing has come at a good time for me. I’ve been sick with a bad cold and it’s got my poetry lights turned on. And it’s giving me something to think of as I go about my usual day of caregiving.

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For awhile I was churning out little clay animals, mostly owls, but I decided to make a turtle here and I snapped it’s picture as he looked like he was trying to climb out.

Feeling Stuck

I got a bead stuck up my nose… in all honesty, I stuck a bead up my nose when I was about eight years old and had to go to the doctor to get it out.  When you get anything stuck anywhere there is a franticness that sets in.  The bead gets dug even deeper, the kid with the elbow between the chair slats wedges even tighter (one of my kids).

When my grandson came to visit a few years ago he got his finger stuck in my pantry door.  Anything stuck makes me feel so frantic on the inside and his wailing really made made it worse.  I highlight those stuck moments in my mind along with other painful moments like falling off my skateboard.  I thought I could go faster if I ran and jumped on it.  I went up in the air and landed on the concrete where I felt like I kept landing… it was a strange sensation… and I remember laying there looking up at the sky and plumeria trees (we lived in Hawaii) and boy do I remember having to go to school the next day and sit.

What do you do in ongoing life stucky-ness?   Being a 24/7 caregiver for a person with any illness with no end is stuck time that drags on.

We are stuck in my husband’s dementia.

Usually I deal with it better.

Today I am not feeling well.

I feel like I’m coming down with a cold which is making me feel aggravated with his telling and repeating all his weird delusional tales he makes up.

Stuck in dementia… trying to at least emotionally climb out like the painted turtle above.

 

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iPhone art. If you look closely in the lower left hand corner you will see the paper holes. I had taken a picture of some smears on my piece of paper and then doodled around with the iPad pencil. Sometimes I write a poem to go with my paintings.  (See Adrift Haiku below story)

Have you seen Adrift?

My daughter and I watched the movie Adrift last night on Amazon Prime.  If you haven’t seen it yet I promise I won’t spoil the story.

We sat together on the couch watching it and nearly hit each other over the grief when they showed the thing … that happened, the thing that was revealed was so surprising.  It’s a true story.

What is it called when the author knows the thing that happens and keeps it a secret?  It makes me kinda mad, like they were keeping a secret and holding it back from you to punch you in the face with it for effect.  It was strangely satisfying though because I think it made us feel a little like the character felt when it happened.

What happens in the movie (except the thing I can’t tell you that happened), is no surprise.  And, that there would be a rescue was no surprise since it is based on a true story.

The way the director weaves in the days prior, during, and after the storm of a couple who fall in love not long before they set sail to the time of a great storm that changes their course, leaves us all adrift with them.  We were on that sailboat… what a cinematic accomplishment.  And, we always kept in the back of our mind that there of course would be a rescue.

But, the surprise:  it cut deep.

See the movie and tell me what you think.

Adrift Haiku

Adrift is not lost

A storm can n’er be conquered

But peace can be found.

~Julie Robinson

I couldn’t help comparing Adrift to being a caregiver to my spouse who has dementia.  Not everything can be equally compared.  But sometimes I am Adrift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting a Colorful Muddy Road, Acrylic on Canvas

My husband was cranky so when I mentioned his going to the adult day care he told me in a tone that I knew was going to be a “brick wall” conversation… that I needed to be the one to go.

Sometimes I run through phrases in my head that fortunately I don’t speak. All those years of my mom’s teaching me (and my big teenager mouth) to let those thoughts rattle around awhile before deciding to let them shoot out the chute… pays off time and again.

So I told him he’d maybe feel better if he lay down awhile. The sound of my voice was so soothing I surprised myself. Thanks mom! I know it was hard work raising me.

So today we stayed home and I made chicken flautas. Everyone’s favorite. Here’s the recipe. I don’t do exact amounts but I will try to here. I’ve been cooking these up for perhaps 20 years and the amounts don’t have to be exact. Trick is to use leftover chicken and soften the tortillas before you stuff them or they will crack.

I’ve had these in a restaurant… but always deep fried. Never like mine… so GOOD!

Julie’s Chicken Flautas

1 cup of cooked chicken, shredded or diced up small

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 can green chilis

1 tsp cumin

8 flour tortillas, warmed

Roll up cooked chicken, grated cheese, green chilies and cumin in each flour tortilla. Seal each one good and tight with a wooden toothpick. They resemble little flutes – where they get their name flautas, Spanish for flute. Brown then them in a little oil in a skillet. Serve over shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes and top with sour cream and salsa. They are a pretty presentation. Sometimes I sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top to make them appear so extra tasty. Don’t forget to remove the wooden toothpick before serving.

So, I decided as I was serving the delicious meal that sometimes it is better to stay home and invite people over. I invited my parents, who I was intending to meet out for lunch, and asked them to bring cupcakes from our favorite cupcake shop: The Sweeter Side of Rails. We like the tuxedo and the peanut butter cup. That made it all the more sweet.

And after they left, I painted over the above painting which I had painted last year when I was doing clouds differently than I am doing now. And what did I do, of course you know if you’ve been reading my blog….

…but add a very wet reflecty muddy road that is in itself a weird kind of respite for me..

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Colorful Puddles After a Rainstorm, Acrylic on Canvas

Besides the sweet smell in Texas when “It’s fixin’ to rain”, one of my favorite things is puddles after a good rainstorm with reflections of a now bright sky. I love to put those last touches of bright red in the fresh puddle that make the road rise up.

I express this feel of a scene often in my paintings because it says “Look up, the torrent is over and it’s a brand new brightness.”

Being a caregiver has been a bit like that rainstorm.  But, it has been helpful for me to find acceptance in who I am now. I don’t have a husband who is there for me to love and care for me.  Instead I’m left with a man who sometimes packs up because it’s time for him to go home.

But “The position has been filled”… as was succinctly stated to the dog standing outside the door in Mary Poppins.

…Filled by the One who makes a storm, knows fully about the puddles, the colorful brightness, and how to fill my artist’s heart with joy.

img_4216-1“Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Owlright” is a canvas bag I painted. Such a cutie!!

Dementia is progressive.  It does not get better.  There is no cure. And we who care for someone with dementia are at risk ourselves due to the ongoing stress of it all.

That brings me to a question I saw posed online, I think it was a writing prompt.

Wife, or Caregiver?

I think the question could be expanded to…

Husband, or Caregiver,

Daughter, Son, Granddaughter… or caregiver... and on and on.

I will speak to the spouse/caregiver because it is what I know and live.

An answer to the question is found where the lines got blurred between my husband as spouse and me as fully caregiver.

I am so glad to be able to share this information because I believe it is so helpful for the mental health of the caregiver.  And, for those of you who read my blog, you know I am an artist so forgive me, a non scientist, as I get “all scientific” with my seven stages…

First I ought to say… My considering myself to be a caregiver and no longer a wife happened incrementally over the course of several years.  Here are the stages we have been and are still going through:

The seven stages of my becoming a caregiver.

Stage Zero:  (All spouses take care of each other throughout their marriage – sometimes one spouse needs more care… and it can’t ever be seen as equal as the spousal role is to love the other – so this stage is a reminder of that…)

Stage One.  Unnoticible to those outside the husband/wife relationship:  husband has small changes in his personality, husband apologizes, difficult time is covered over by husband/wife relationship. (+/- 1 years)

Stage Two.  Wife confronts husband on his now more apparent personal changes, gets angry pushback.  The relationship suffers. (+/- 1 years)

Stage Three.  Husband is unable to concentrate on work and otherwise is acting in outlandish and inappropriate ways in his business, but, thankfully, wife is able to talk him into retiring.   Still, he is able to hold a conversation, be excited about politics, and he still reads.  He still drives.  The family still plays games together and he can fully participate.  Wife is able to talk her husband into retiring and moving out of state. (+/- 1 years)

Stage Four.  Husband is acting in inappropriate ways socially and wife talks him into letting her come along to his next doctor’s appointment where he is diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.  Husband no longer reads yet spends all of his waking hours watching cable news.  (+/- 1 years)

Stage Five.  Husband gets confused with bill paying and has trouble concentrating, begins to have problems working his television.  Wife takes over all finances. (+/- 1 year)

Stage Six.  Wife has husband evaluated for driving the automobile.  He loses his license. Husband begins believing he is running a business and also begins thinking “he needs to go home” and will pack his bags.  Wife sees that the business ideas are being stoked by his constant web surfing so wife takes away all electronic devices.  Wife is able to verbally talk him out of leaving.  Husband is unable to stay home alone.  (+/- 6  months)

Stage Seven.  Wife has now crossed over into full caregiver because husband has become incapable of understanding most things.  Wife is able to manage his television viewing habits so as to have him watch for the most part, good movies and reruns of shows like I Love Lucy.  Husband is now completely unable to play a family game.  Husband has times of psychotic type behavior where he, in agitation, tries to escape.  Will walk down the street and not want to come back.  Wife has needed to call the police to come help with this problem.  Husband does not wash himself even if he is in the shower and will put on the same dirty clothes afterward.  Husband sleeps in his clothing.  Husband cannot at times find the bathroom though there is a label on the door.  Cannot find where his bedroom is.  Husband will want to eat though he just ate a full meal.  (3 years… and counting).

So, for me it was not wife OR caregiver.  It is wife has BECOME caregiver.

It is not just a war of words, though. Tomorrow I plan to discuss how defining myself as caregiver has helped me.

Is every little thing gonna be owlright? What do you think?

Me… and my ideas… and showing off my haircut. FYI in case anyone out there wonders… My hair went totally white and so I just… go with it. And now on to…

Respite Care Reform

Please read yesterday’s post where I describe respite care.

(Don’t get me wrong… I love the place and the people where I take my husband). But if I were asked…

I have been taking my husband to adult day care for a couple of years now, and I have some ideas for improvement…

What if there was/were

  1.  curb service drop in/pick up so that the person using a walker would not ever have to walk across a parking lot and the caregiver would not need to get out of the car. My husband is physically able but I see many that are not.
  2. a full service salon for haircut and nails during the times they are in care?  It isn’t easy for caregivers to do this.
  3. beds for nap time because having a rested person to pick up would be nice. For my husband the respite care is busy busy. Too busy.
  4. daily, all day care for working people.  Maybe employers would allow their employees a little allowance to assist with the expense of this.  Or, maybe there could be some tax remedy to allow people to afford it.  Our day care is five hours, three times a week which I am thankful for but it doesn’t allow me enough time to work.
  5. a calm schedule with activities for people who want to participate and movies or television for those who like to sit and watch.  It would be nice to keep the person from being worn out from the day.

Sometimes we people who give care forget about our own needs, independent from the ones who depend solely on our energy, our kindness, our patience. Respite allows us to recharge those finite resources. If you aren’t already seeking respite… go out there and find it.

I think I have mentioned that I have

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T

A

C

K

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and walls of my paintings at my house. Granted, many are because I’ve been learning, practicing and developing my personal style over the past six years that I have been a caregiver.

And trying to stay sane.

And, sanity… brings me to how much I appreciate RESPITE CARE.

Before I begin to discuss respite care I feel for most people not close to the dementia world I should begin with giving my best definition:

Respite: a short break from engagement in something, anything really, that is especially difficult.

Remember respite during primary school days?

School recess is a respite we most of us can relate to. It was where we once so easily threw off the frustration of the strict classroom and climbed to the top of the monkey bars to hang by our knees.

Remember being a new parent? (Or business owner… I think anything that is truly your “baby” would compare to the feeling…). As a new parent I remember feeling at a loss when I went out without my baby for the first time.

It was a similar experience when I took my husband to the adult day care. I sat in my car with no plan. Now what? Who am I even?

A couple years down the road I now know what to do.

Respite care is never long enough. If I choose to paint I lose track of time which is why I don’t usually paint. I don’t mind at all painting when he’s home. So even if I have a compelling artistic venture I choose not to paint during my respite time. Instead I…

  • run errands
  • have coffee or lunch out with friends
  • make a great grocery list and shop carefully for as long as I want
  • do a household task that’s hard to be in the middle of with him here
  • pay bills
  • make important phone calls
  • study my bible and memorize scripture
  • read a book
  • clean out a closet, a drawer
  • make plans, lists for things I need to do but am putting off… like tackle the garage. (The garage is last on my list (always). Does anyone else have the problem that the garage feels… foreign and full of spiders. I need to take the space over and make it work. Well I will be inducing a little self therapy on that very soon… like next Spring… I kid, really.)

Respite ought to leave a person refreshed. Cleaning out the garage during my respite time might do that in the end.

Tomorrow I will discuss a few small Respite Care Reform ideas I have that would help me. And, since respite is for me, the caregiver, I don’t mind divulging my ideas.

And, look for a future post with the great garage clean out. I think.

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At the beginning of Water Street… I stopped to take this picture in order to paint it someday.

”See that building up there on that hill,” starts in my husband, who has dementia.

“It belonged to my father when we started this town.”  I allow him to say things like this without any correction.  We have only lived here six years and most of them have been living with dementia.

He enjoys telling these stories, so who cares if they’re true.

He tells stories about everything now.

I enjoy just looking:  the trees, the people standing waiting for the walk signal on the street paralleling the river.  Where is everyone headed?  What are they thinking?

I like going this way because it is off the Main Street in our little town and on this quaint old street lined with… old memories.

My Granny used to bring my older brother and I “to town” and we would go to the 5 and dime store so she could “spoil us” which meant we got to pick out a toy.  Seems everyone knew my Granny and she liked to show us off, I think, more than anything.

My parents grew up in this town and tell stories of how different life was. Now that I’m older I pay more attention.

My mom tells of how she and her brother got to wander around town back in the 50’s when kids could do such a thing on a Saturday and they would shortcut through the tiny space between the buildings to get to the movie theater partly to sit in air conditioning.

If I had the money I would buy a space on Water Street and open a museum with exhibits that change out.  This town needs a history museum.  But, my very first exhibit would be “Water Street through time”.  I’m always imagining “ghost images” of people who have inhabited it.  What were they wearing, doing, hoping, riding in (or on), seeing?

I know my mom went to see Tarzan and went right home to jump out of a tree with a rope around her neck… now that was a story!!!

When we are driving down Water Street to the adult day care, he asks me several times (or a dozen…) if I am picking him up at 3:00.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Don’t worry.  That’s what I wrote on his yellow sticky note on the front of The Yellow Book he takes with him.

Being keyed up is part of his dementia.

Repetition is part of the dementia.

But then so is the reassurance I know he needs.

And so we drive along.

Pumpkins I painted over my old Peaches Sign

Eating with Dementia

We made homemade tortillas and smoked up the kitchen in the process (the pan I think was too hot?) requiring that we open all the windows though there was not a breath of air in this Texas Hill Country post lots of rain evening.

To complete the eventful dinner time , my husband, who has dementia, built his own taco but he did it completely upside down. He put all of the ingredients in layers on his plate starting with the sour cream, the cheese, and the chunks of chicken and then topped it with a tortilla.

I just watched (more like an artist, less like a caregiver) to see what would happen next as he turned his plate upside down and it all fell off to the table, disgustingly. I could’ve helped him but he seemed determined.

He scraped it all off with the tortilla and ate it. I figured it was just a matter of a quick wipe up when he was done. I’ve seen worse being a mom of three.

But the chicken tacos with the fresh tortillas were just delicious.

And then we ate ice cream. And who could argue with that?

I’ve been working on this a little each day… added another tree and widened the river.

Playing Clue With Dementia. Yes We Can!

First of all, I’m considering making my own worksheets for the game of Clue. We ran out about six months ago and each time we play we write out all of the categories before we start playing. Yes, we have played it a lot over the years. And, he used to be the one to win. I’ve always been pretty bad at it. Now, my game is Scrabble!

But our daughter likes to play Clue. And, she still doesn’t mind inviting him to join us, though we figured out a way to play with just 2 players.

So, I have created – on my new IPAD Pro – a new Clue worksheet.

I first perused Etsy to see if anyone has made any. None. So, maybe I am the first?

I am going to print them and get them laminated so they can be reusable with Expo marker.

Dementia Clue Works!

We play dementia Clue which means we let him do whatever he wants. We let him have some of the cards and don’t make a big deal out of it if he says the card out loud. If you are familiar with the game, a player quietly shows their card to the person whose turn it is. It makes the game shorter which is good for playing with him. He gets joy from choosing to be for instance in the kitchen or the bedroom. We tell him he is the winner. Some of his playing and antics are funny but the last time we played I noticed I lost a bit of my game playing funny bone.

Going With The Flow

A “Navy Brat”, I spent my childhood at the beach. I think it’s why I’m magnetically drawn to paint it now.

I race through cleaning up the breakfast mess and make sure my husband has plenty of coffee and “reading” material because I’ve got an ocean scene calling my artist’s imagination. Have I mentioned I’ve painted stacks of paintings, many of them ocean scenes. Not all good. Some ok. All still in a learning stage for me.

As I paint, my husband and I usually chat about what he’s looking at in the paper. He thinks he knows the people in the pictures, he’s been in business with them, his mind is delusionally entertwined with them. Mostly I say “Oh, is that right,” and “Wow I didn’t know that”, faking a tone to allow him to continue there. I know he just likes the talking and the time.

I put a live ocean scene on YouTube loud enough so I can feel like I’m there and so I can study the light hitting all the places light hits, glowing, refracting, being deflected and diffused, causing shadows.

Sometimes when I paint, I wax a little poetic… I didn’t want to title this one because it would mess up the tip of the wave… so it is

An

Ode

to the

Ocean:

a melody

and a dance.

Waves prance,

in lacy edge dress,

seagulls squawk soprano,

starkly accompanying the sea.

And there am I, a party to the scene,

only in my mind through the power of TV.

~ Julie Robinson

As all of this “excitement” is raging, my husband gets up to return to his second love, Turner Classic Movies. First he looks at my painting and says, as always, “Another ocean”. I try not to be deflated by the flat dementia tone that I know he has entirely no control over.

And he leaves me at my painting to go watch Turner Classic Movies.

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Caregiver Painting Poetry

Sometimes I write stories or poetry to go with my paintings. I’m absolutely taken in by the subject matter and get absorbed in my paintings. The picture I took of this one in my Pathways series is a little dark… but I decided to leave it that way because I thought it a mysterious path.

The writing/painting combo keeps away the dangerous caregiver stress.  (See my previous post.)

Above the painting… below the poem.

The Dusty Road

The dusty road,

After a squall,

Whispers, “Come and walk awhile”,

Needing nothing,

It wants your all.

You listen to

The dusty road

And consider its promise,

Breathing in its sweet grasses,

Seems like heaven’s abode.

Bunnies race

And deer eyes gleam.

The dusty road

‘Tis steep it seems;

And the road becomes your dreams.

The river racing

And Crickets chirp,

And you plod on and on and on and on

The dusty road

It’s mighty work.

At last, a rock’s your friend,

Long nuff you’ve strode.

The singers, the music, the song,

And to sleep you’ve gone on

The dusty road.

~ Julie Robinson

It’s Fall in my cart!!!

Caregiver Stress… My Take

Have you seen the statistics related to how badly caregivers fare? Not so good! I’ll leave it to you to google this.

Lots of research has apparently said that I’m toast.

So since I’ve been doing this for 6 years now I thought it would be a good idea since it’s almost Fall to take an almost change of season stock of myself:

do I have stress?

I had to think hard about this one.

Well, I do have stressors. That’s for sure. But I don’t think I’m stressed. Here is how I consider measuring this for myself:

1. Do I keep myself and my home clean and as neat as possible? Yes. Probably better than ever since I’m here most the time in “forced retirement”.

But I’m no perfectionist. Last Spring I planted a vegetable garden and forgot to water it often enough that it just flat gave out. I felt like a gardener failure. But right now I’m making plans to try it again next Spring and setting an iPhone watering reminder

2. Am I angry? Or do I cry a lot? No

3. Do I get breaks? Yes. I take my husband to adult daycare a few times a week.

4. Do I maintain friendships? The best I can. I run a weekly bible study out of my home. We are a crazy mix of Catholics and Baptists. Today we joked that we are the Batholics. As well, am starting back up with a ladies bible study at our church.

5. Do I have outside interests besides caregiving? Yes. I paint and, of course, blog, and am writing a book. And I read. I have a wide range of reading interests. And I oversee my daughter who’s homeschooling 11th grade.

6. Do I feel depressed or discouraged? Earlier on It was harder for me. I was ready for it to be over and not knowing how long used to just “eat my lunch”. But as time has passed I have gotten more peace about it.

I pray. And I memorize scripture.

7. Do I overeat or use alcohol/drugs to cope. Well no on the 2 latters. But the overeating I was guilty of. Right now I’m on day 5 of no sweets because I was overeating them. I should try overeating broccoli sometime.

These are the criteria in my mind for whether I’m over stressed. You might do your own inventory and with your own criteria. I suggest you do, especially after you check out the scary reports on what caregiver stress can do to a person.

Now I will sip the cranberry tea I just brewed and light me a pumpkin candle. Fall… come quick!

Melting Roses, Acrylic on canvas

The High Cost of Dementia Care:  The Process of Applying for Veteran’s Disability Benefits Part 1 of (Many?)

For “memory care” in our area the price tag is about $4,500.00 per month.

So, I am having to start thinking about how I’m going to be able to pay for the care my husband will be needing.

As I am finishing up this post, he walked out the door and I went to get him. He said he was planning to visit people. Good thing he was good about getting in the car. He isn’t always. It helped that our daughter ran down the street after him and I think I unnerved him with a big flirty smile “Hey, wanna ride?” Side note: a smile wins!

Being a Vietnam veteran, my husband began applying for disability after he began meeting with the veterans at our local VFW several years ago. It was before he was diagnosed with dementia.

So, he applied for it but because he was already mentally unable, he did not follow through with the complicated process.  I didn’t know what he was up to with all of it, he was busy busy with many things.

He was still driving.  He’d drive himself to the courthouse and ask to talk to the judges.  He was a retired lawyer, so he was used to being able to do such things.  You know, he even got himself appointed to the town council.  (I had to help him get out of that gracefully). If you didn’t know him well or didn’t spend too much time with him you’d perhaps think he was ok at that time.

After I finally took over the management of our family’s finances, I gathered up all his messy papers he had crammed in a cabinet and because they looked too important to toss I put them in a file.

I pulled it all out last week when I was looking for something else.  It was an application for disability.

We resubmitted the old application paperwork even though it was on an old form. The very kind man at our local VFW helping me said that he thought they might want to have it on the newer form but thought he’d give it a try.

While I was in there in my hour long meeting with the man, a line of veterans had been forming outside the door. One of them wished me “good luck” which I kinda think means it’s not going to be easy.

I was given a greater understanding of some of the magnitude of the Vietnam war after researching the disability application process. I found a very very … very long lists of our ships that were in Vietnam. And my husband was on one of them.

It is both humbling and surreal that I am following this process through that he had begun.

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A Book Break from Caregiving

We caregivers don’t always get a break. We caregivers don’t always take care of ourselves, neglecting our physical, intellectual, or spiritual needs. We have put ourselves last and then we are too tired to take the steps to care for ourselves. Our life pursuits are put on hold to take care of our people.  Well, I’ve been at motherhood and caregiving long enough that I thought it was high time I began a little self improvement.

So, this summer I decided I ought to read more.  So I set about the task. Here’s what I’ve accomplished:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (simply because it is the book that Meg Ryan’s character’s favorite in “You’ve Got Mail”, one of my favorite movies). I liked the book but am not compelled to read any more by this author.
  • Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorious.  I chose this one because it is a true story of a boy who got very ill and couldn’t move and ended up having a caregiver in his day care find out that he actually could communicate and he used one of those same computer devices Steven Hawking used and even got a job working in the computer field.  He went on to marry in this amazing personal triumph story.  I was excited to find out that he and his wife are expecting their first child.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck because I was looking for a classic and felt I needed to repent fore of reading the Cliff’s Notes in high school.  If I would have realized it was such a short and easy read I would have just read it.  Well, we always knew that cheaters never win.  Just one more example.
  • A Distant Mirror, The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman.  I picked this book because I had tried to read it about twenty years ago and couldn’t get through the first chapter and gave up.  It is a very hard read but boy is it interesting.  I highly recommend it and it does help that I have Wikipedia in my pocket for looking up all kinds of stuff.  It’s taking a while to get through it, but it is a book because the author expects the reader to know more than about history than I do. I read it very slowly. It is to be savored even though it is about that very grueling time.

How do I have the time? I’ve got no break from caregiving, really, I just read anyhow.  And if my husband sits with me I give him a book to read too.  He likes to go through a book even though he doesn’t understand what he’s reading any longer. He’s just glad to be able to sit near me and “read”.  And, on the break from art… it doesn’t mean I don’t art at all.  I will just balance it out with a little reading. And, of course, I made my own art bookmark.  Isn’t it pretty?  I use it to place under the text to help my eyes track.

I’m also reading books in the Bible.  I’ve read all but Revelation in the New Testament and, along with my bible study group, we have read through Genesis and are into Exodus the part right after the plagues and where they have taken a detour in the desert.