Personal Grooming & Hygiene.

Recently, it donned on me that we cannot totally rely on the Nurses or Volunteers in the Nursing Home, in terms of mum’s periodical upkeep of personal grooming and hygiene (PG & H) in cutting the hair and nails, digging the ears and scrubbing off the accumulated ‘dead cells’ on her feet.

I’m not implying that the nurses or volunteers aren’t doing their job or being irresponsible, but I believe it means a lot to mum, me and my wife, as it’s really meaningful with an opportunity to express our love in a more personal, tangible and practical way.

Hence, I realised that elderly caregiving is not just about paying periodical visits to mum but beyond that we need to take a personal approach in caring for her as we would ‘love ourself’.

Through the course of time, we have come to enjoy the periodical PG & H  ‘rituals’ (to put it simply), in bringing mum home every quarterly, where my wife would prepare a simple home cooked meal for her and I would cut her hair, dig her ears carefully, under a bright torch light, ensuring that her ear drums would not be damaged and you’ll be amazed to find how thick the wax are accumulated inside the ears.

Until I started to do the PG & H for mum, I wouldn’t have realised how the ‘dead cells’ have accumulated and how it would have adverse effect on the skin only after I had scrubbed her feet.

In conclusion, I can only say that each time we carried out the PG & H for mum, the entire session would always give us a sense of satisfaction and enriching encounter of a deep personal connection with one another, not only as a family, but on top of that, with a sense of respect and dignity for mum as an individual, like everyone else, not withstanding her dementia.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for teaching us to love others as we would ourselves.

One Day At A Time.

Quote:
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
(Matthew 6:34 niv)

This is my favorite Scripture and I’m learning to apply it in our journey with mum, learning to take one day at a time and ‘letting go’ of tomorrow, as ‘tomorrow will worry about itself’.

It’s not easy, because as her children, our concern for mum is her stability and familiarity in her environment with little changes, as much as possible.

This concern was much more felt, recently, when we heard the nursing home, which mum is currently staying, has been bought over by another company. The staffs told us that there’s a chance that mum might be relocated to another place when that building has been renovated by the end of next year.

Situations like these are beyond our control and, at the moment, the only thing we could do is pray to Jesus and hope everything will work out in God’s favor for mum.

Till then, worrying will not help in any way at all but to trust God and take one day at a time with mum.

With that in mind, I’d like to share the chorus of a song sung by Christ Lane, entitled,
“One Day At A Time”:

Chorus:
“One day at a time sweet Jesus
That’s all I’m asking from you.

Just give me the strength
To do everyday what I have to do.

Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine.

Lord help me today, show me the way
One day at a time.”

At this point in time, I hope readers who are facing some uncertainties for their loved ones, whom they are rendering caregiving, will find the words, in this chorus, soothing and encouraging and take it one day at a time.

God bless you!

 

Dementia Emotions

 

A word coined by my wife, like weather forecast, which gives every one an advance pre-alert as to what the weather for that day would be like. Yes, even though it’s not 100% accurate,  it serves to prepare you for the worst weather.

How I wish there is something like weather forecast. It would indicate mum’s temperament, and mood, for each day, like a ‘dementia emotion’ forecast  – in short, “Emoti4cast”.

Let me share the reason why I feel the need for a “Emoti4cast”:

Today seemed like any other day, but without a ‘Emoti4cast’ indicator, I wasn’t prepared for what lies ahead. Unknowingly, an emotional “thunderstorm” was already brewing when I visited mum at the nursing home.

Usually, she’s at peace and serene, whenever I visited her. But today, both me and my wife were caught off guard.

The moment mum saw both me and my wife, she was angry. Mum said that we didn’t care for her and had left her alone. She retorted by adding,  “I have so many children and yet none is here to accompany and care for me!”

Wow! At that point in time, I wished there is a EMoti4cast to pre-warn me for this encounter.

But then, how do we explain or correct our loved one’s unintentional mode of misconceptions?

As mum’s memory lapses are unpredictable, I wondered:

“how I wish the emotions of a loved one, wrestling with dementia everyday, can be charted, or even forecasted in a Emoti4cast  app!”

At that moment, I can see that my wife was very hurt.  She was trying to control her tears from falling when she heard my mum’s angry remarks.  I’m thankful to God for my wife’s response as she’s aware that it wasn’t intentional due to mum’s dementia.

I must say that it wasn’t easy for my wife to restrain her reactions. But yet, she managed to exercise patience and gentleness  during mum’s angry mode of misconceptions. It is indeed a significance of God’s love and compassion that my wife chose to exercise in responding to undeserved or unnecessary rebuke like these.

At that point in time, we decided to bring mum down to the garden. Our intention was to ‘quieten and soothe’ her  misconceived disappointments.

The garden is one place where we can find privacy, and quietness, to listen to mum’s grievances, if any. We find the ‘green’ environment helpful and therapeutic. Mum’s thoughts of unhappiness must have been circling in her mind that triggered the emotional outburst.

The nursing home staff had earlier affirmed that mum was feeling well that day. There wasn’t any incident that could’ve contributed to her outburst.

We were sad, angry, disappointed, and yet amused, by the way mum retorted and reasoned according to her limited cognitive capacity.

I really understood how my wife felt, at that point in time, and empathized with her as the hurt can really be unbearable. But then, how can we hold it against mum, in view of her dementia, as we knew it was unintentional?

We had always made it a point to visit mum, every day, unless there is prior engagement. Despite of that, it was rather disappointing that mum had the misconception about us. We knew it was unintentional that she had rebutted us. Especially when she said that we didn’t visit her and that I only cared for my wife.

These are the occasional mode of misconceptions that we had to manage, each time mum’s mindset rotated to this “negative mode”.

In today ‘s episode, we learned how to respond when mum’s thoughts are dwelling on the “unfilial children” mindset mode. It would only be appropriate for her children to pacify her and address the issues and not the spouse.

My wife, who is supposedly mum’s favorite, had to bear with her unintentional ‘rebuttal’. She tried very hard to pacify or explain to mum, each time she’s at this mode.

The second lesson is to be very patient and gentle, by responding with God’s love , peace and wisdom.

Even if we have to repeat our explanations, and assurances, we have to remain calm in listening to every of mum’s ‘grievances.

We realized it would not be helpful or therapeutic to react with justification, and defensiveness. Mum’s anger was triggered by misconceptions and it was unintentional. It’s not a matter of right or wrong. Hence, we have to continually give her assurances and logical explanations. We had to ensure that she’s pacified and at peace before we leave the nursing home.

It seems like a carousel going round and round not knowing where it would stop in mum’s mindset.

I know we have our human limitations. But God is molding us, in such a situation, so that we can bear ‘the fruits of the Holy Spirit’. As the saying goes, “more of Jesus and less of me “.

The third lesson I have learned is like the song sung by Cristy Lane, entitled, “One day at a time”. The singer is asking Jesus to show her the way. She’s learning to take one day at a time. She asked God to give her strength to do the things she has to do every day.

That’s exactly what we need to do —taking one day at a time. Asking Jesus to lead and guide us, especially in caring for mum’s emotional and mental well-being, everyday.

We are grateful to God that this emotional outburst only happens  occasionally. We feel that it’s challenging and can be emotionally drained at the end of the day.

I hope readers would be encouraged with my blog today.

It’s not a lonely journey even though everyone’s experience is unique. We believe God’s grace, love and compassion is always there for every caregivers.

Nursing Home Problems

Nursing home problems!

For the past fortnight, mum has encountered unnecessary issues in the nursing home. The elderly lady (let’s call her ‘Macy’), sleeping next to her bed has been ranting at the nurses frequently, and intermittently, mum told Macy to keep quiet, as she was making too much noise and it disturbed the peace there. And when mum does that, Macy diverted her attention and started ranting at mum instead, partly due to the misunderstanding over her clothes which mum mistook it for hers on one occasion.

We were really worried for mum and at a loss in finding a solution to Macy’s noisy ranting, which could go on for hours, and it was really unbearable for us as visitors, not to mention mum and the other elderly residents staying there. I can imagine how hard it would be for the others to sleep in peace.
We also understood that every elderly residents do have their own challenges, and therefore didn’t think it appropriate for us to confront Macy, so we decided to tolerate and pray for mum, Macy and the other elderly residents, while waiting for the Nursing Home staffs to find a solution to it.

But the nursing home protocols would take weeks in managing this problem and finding a solution, as all parties have to agree in a consensual adjustment if they need to move Macy to another bed place, to minimise the noisy distress and discomfort to the other elderly residents, apart from mum.

While waiting for the nursing home’s protocol processes, I prayed and asked God to grant us wisdom and peace upon my mum, Macy and other elderly residents and the nurses.
After a few days of ‘tolerance’, and waiting upon God, we managed to speak calmly and explained to Macy about keeping the peace in a shared common residential ground.

Amazingly, Macy understood our explanation and was able to restrain on her ranting, and finally, there was peace once again, although the nursing home’s protocol has yet to bring the matter to an amicable solution.

I can only say,
“Thank you Jesus, for answering our prayers!”

Amen!

Visitation–Staying connected with mum helps!

Today, I just realised that it’s very important and crucial to visit mum, as much as we can, with the help of family members taking turns, so that each one does not wear out through that process. In that way, we can then establish a consistent visit almost everyday.

I believe the frequent and tightly connected visits that we’ve diligently carried out, since day one, has kept mum’s emotional and cognitive stability as she is pretty serene and cheerful when we visit her most of the time. Although some days she may  not be in a good mood but I really thank God that we rarely find her in that state.

That brings to my mind over the advise that the doctor gave, when mum was hospitalised initially, that we should always keep mum happy so that her dementia would not escalate quickly but under control in slowing down the aggravation of her dementia. Having said that, I must add on that the prescription of correct medication for the dementia does help tremendously.

Its been two years now, since mum stayed in the nursing home and by allowing mum and the other residents put on their ‘home clothes’, instead of uniforms, it benefited them with a sense of homeliness and not an institution.

Constant reminders and explanation in helping mum to clarify her thoughts does her good as we’ve learned to flow with what she’d be thinking at each point in time.

Interestingly, the one thing that’s still deeply etched in mum’s mind is when she always say her grace before each mealtime and never failed to say, “Thank You Jesus!” at the end of her prayer.

Indeed, I can only be thankful to God: “Thank You, Jesus!”

Dementia: Cruise to nowhere.

Having ‘walked’ with mum for more than two years now, since she had Dementia,  I’m beginning to realise that her state of mind is like a carousel or going on a ‘cruise to nowhere’.

At one instant, her mind may dwell on her childhood days in the 1930s and at times in the 50s or 70’s and sometimes on current affairs.

It dawned on me that it’s important to maintain her state of well being and happiness. In fact, I’m really thankful to God that mum still has her sense of humor, as she would occasionally engage us in it unwittingly.  Well, as the old adage goes, “Laughter is the best medicine”.

We also find it helpful by responding to her with our teasers and we’re glad she enjoyed it. It really doesn’t matter if we keep repeating those jokes or teasers that we find are tickling for her and the fact that she can’t remember the ‘repeats’ is truly a virtue in that sense— “Ignorance is bliss” indeed.

Come to think of it, journeying with dementia is not entirely a sad affair, although there are challenges in between, but on the positive side, there are light hearted moments that can be refreshing for caregivers.

So, on the optimistic point of view, both the care giver and recipient do need to adapt and learn to cope with ‘dementia lifestyle’, as I call it, in order to achieve a collaborative enhanced outcome.

Dementia doesn’t negate feelings, sentiments and emotions.

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It is a constant discovery in understanding Dementia and I realize that, as a caregiver, it is vital for me to  educate myself more, to better facilitate the help mum needs from time to time. I find this 2 minute animated video presentation, about understanding Dementia, it’s causes and what to do, relaxing to watch, simple and easy to understand and thought it’d benefit my readers too:


img_7676

Lately, I have discovered some new developments in mum as her Dementia progressed. She seems to get mixed up in identities of her children and relatives. One minute, she thought her eldest son was her late brother, the next minute she had difficulty trying to figure out who her grandson is. Some days, her mindset seems to be quite stabilized.

But according to my observation, her feelings, sentiments and emotions are pretty much intact. For example, when her thoughts ‘revolves’ around our new house, she’d constantly touch on when she can go back to her own home and how long she’s gonna stay in the nursing home, etc.

But I’m really thankful to God that despite of her yearning to go back ‘to her own home’ she was able to transit back to the nursing home after our family’s Christmas gathering just the other day without having any emotional or sentimental unrest.

I guess it’s really important for family members to take turns in visiting mum daily, if not then as much as we can, and ensuring a flow of consistency and connection with mum in order to give her assurances and not to leave her in a sense of lurge, helplessness or disconnection with her loved ones.

And on top of that, we need to ‘go with the flow’, like for example, sometimes mum would unknowingly ask if we’re doing anything or what are the agendas for her tomorrow. We’ve learned to flow with her thoughts and meet her needs that would seem legitimate to us and not disregard her ‘revolving’ thoughts entirely but to be mindful of giving her due respect as a human being. So, whenever her thoughts revolve on her agendas for tomorrow, we would affirm her instead by telling her that we’d bring her out tomorrow for lunch or a movie show in order to maintain her feeling of ‘normalcy’, and to avoid ‘putting her in a spot’ or embarrassment, as far as her cognitive is concerned.

Having said all these, I’m mindful that apart from the human effort in ‘walking with mum’, through her dementia journey, there is also a need for divine intervention through constant prayers and exercising her faith together to constantly pray with her as a reminder of her salvation in Christ as our family’s Lord and Saviour, as she seem quite ‘unconscious’ about it in her bout of memory lapses.

Man’s Plans Are Not God’s Plan

image

After busying with all the renovation works for our new house, and having been away in Nepal for a month, during these past 6 weeks, something significant had transpired for mum.

We had actually planned and looked forward to bring mum back to our new home to stay with us but it wasn’t God’s Will for us to carry out our plans as my wife had been forewarned by her renal doctor, just two weeks ago, to be mentally prepared for dialysis as her cretanine level had hit   ‘400’.

As I’ve said before, our decisions made for mum are coupled with prayers for God’s guidance and we would ultimately act according to God’s Will. We strongly believe in what the Bible says in Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”.

It was really heart-breaking for us to convey the change of plan to mum as she was quite disappointed and emotionally shaken to hear that we can’t bring her home to stay with us. Not only did it affect mum emotionally, but my siblings too, as there was a misunderstanding initially when we moved into our new home without bringing mum along.

One thing I’ve learned is not to be afraid of telling mum ‘the truth’, no matter how painful it may be, in every situation concerning her journey with ‘dementia’. We’ve all along maintained this conviction, from day one, as we believe in God’s divine intervention, guidance and wisdom upon us.

Thank God, so far so good, as mum is progressively able to accept the disappointment of not being able to go back to our new home and my siblings are also able to better understand our predicament in having to make that painful decision.

At the end of the day, we realise that what matter most for mum is her ‘quality of life’, emotional stability, environment and most importantly, under watchful eyes and proper nursing care 24/7.

In my own personal conviction and gratitude,  I can only say,

“Thank you Lord Jesus!”

Constant Companionship and Assurances

Before I begin this blog today,  I would like to bless my readers with a link to a free guidebook generously given by Homewatch Caregivers on ‘guide to living with dementia’ available at:

https://www.homewatchcaregivers.com/docs/default-source/senior-care-guides/guide-to-living-with-dementia.pdf

As for today, I’m really thankful to God for the timely visit that my wife’s sister, Jan, gave to my mother. What a perfect timing in time for my mother’s emotional need.

Jan was kind enough to call my wife through watsapp and let us chat with mum as we’ve been overseas for almost a month now.

It was during the chat that I realised dementia does not negate mum’s feelings, emotions and sentiments and this reinforced my previous post’s topic.

Apart from hearing mum’s emotional voice, as if she was choking her tears, and what she said about her longing to see us and wanting to go home, it seemed mum’s memory is locked in the  apprehensions of her past encounters about being evicted due to the inability to pay rent,  which seemed hypothetical to us.

On top of that, we heard Jan and the nurse’s account of mum’s intention to pack her clothes, last night, in expectation of having us to bring her home as she missed us dearly.

Indeed, it was heart wrenching for us to hear  of mum’s emotional plight and helplessness due to her dementia.

Both me and my wife then took turns, over the phone, to console her and gave her the assurances that we’d be returning home and would visit her immediately after that and process her homecoming at the soonest possible. Thank God we managed to console mum.

After the chat, Jan sent us a photo of mum lying on the bed and it seems she looked thinner which also ached our hearts. But on the other hand, it was a consolation for us that mum is still mobile independently but with assistance.

Much later, we were glad Jan told us, via watsapp, that she prayed for my mother and she was able to respond in return by praying for Jan and still remembered to ask “Jesus” for His blessings.

This evening’s episode is another valuable lesson and reckoning for us that mum needs constant companionship and assurances as she can be left in a lurge, in the absence of her loved ones, even with the nurse’s 24/7 caregiving assistance they’re just but strangers to her, and there’s nothing like home, I suppose.

 

Sentiments, Feelings and Emotions

 

emotions-pics

As the days progressed, I realise that even though mum has dementia, I still have to respect her sentiments, feelings and emotions as they are pretty much still there.

Sometimes mum expressed that some of her next-of-kin are no longer keen to visit her as she ‘doesn’t have much money’ now. It seems she’s still aware of the varying love and degree of caregiving and her expression of appreciation as every individual caregiver seems to vary too (not that she’s bias).

It is understandable that every caregiver’s time and degree of commitment varies as each individual do have their own concerns and priorities.

After all, true love is not based on meritocracy.

The most challenging for us, as caregivers, would be having to make a decision for mum when we are caught in between sentiments and her well-being.

At this point in time, we’re weighing the pros and cons of bringing mum back to stay with us in our new home, when it’s ready, or let her stay put in the nursing home which seem more favourable in terms of her well-being. We have sought a second-opinion from people who had similar experience with their parents and the majority would advise us to continue letting her stay in the nursing home.

On one hand, we cannot deny mum’s sentiments in longing to be at her ‘own home’ but on the other hand it seems more beneficial to let her stay put in the nursing home as her well-being, especially health, is significantly good with the nurses’ ’round-the-clock’ care and monitoring.

At the end of the day, we have learned to take things, one step at a time, praying for God’s wisdom and guidance and not be hasty in our decisions as far as mum is concerned.