Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Aromatherapy for Seniors, Alzheimer's Patients (and Others)

"There is no cure for Alzheimer's" I read again and again. I've alternated between accepting that claim and refusing to accept it. Scientists promise a cure in the future, but what about now? Even if there is no cure currently, maybe it's possible to stop its progression. This - stopping the progression of Alzheimer's - is in itself a blessing and this is my goal for my elderly mom.

I think I get a wisp of a sense of how difficult it is to remove plaque when I think about my semi-annual teeth cleanings! Ouch! It is so  much easier to not allow the plaque to build up in the first place. Or when I think about my own high cholesterol numbers, which is why I've been on Lipitor for so many years. As I just discussed with my doctor, the plaque in the arteries cannot be removed, but it can be stabilized. Or its buildup can be contained by smart eating. Such would be the plaque in the brain of Alzheimer's sufferers.

When it comes to my elderly mother, my mission is to halt its progression, and to stop this dreaded disease from further debilitating my mom's mind and robbing her of her intellect and memory. When Aricept had to be discontinued due to gastrointestinal side effects, I discovered that the Exelon patch bypassed that issue, as it was transdermal, and she's been on the Exelon patch ever since with minimal side effects.

My most recent protocol is aromatherapy. AROMATHERAPY? I do yoga and all, but I have my limits in this wellness craze. 

Still, need mandated that I venture forth once again into cyberspace, at which time I found a study done by faculty at the Tottori University, Yonago, Japan, which used the essential oil rosemary. Rosmarinus officinalis. The same rosemary that we use for cooking to make food smell yummy? The same herb that I have growing in my garden? The study also used the essential oil of lemon. In this study, the two essential oils, rosemary and lemon, were added to water in a diffuser. Both are presumed to have properties that, by traveling through the nasal cavity, and thus avoiding being broken down in the liver, directly affect the hippocampus or amygdaloid body, which is in charge of discharging neurotransmitters. A compound in rosemary, 1,8-cineole, causes an increase in a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. It is the breakdown of these neurotransmitters which causes the lapses in memory and cognition.

What did I have to lose? What does my mom have to lose by trying this?

I ordered a diffuser and ordered the essential oils, and we went to work. The morning aid comes in to give my mom her meds and follows the protocol indicated in the study, exactly. She puts just enough water in the diffuser that the oils diffuse in under two hours, while my mom goes back to sleep. She sleeps as close to the diffuser as possible because she loves smelling the sweetness. Pretty interesting from somebody who insisted she had no sense of smell. Is there something in this essential oil is igniting her sense of smell?

If there's any water left over, in the evenings she holds the diffuser close to her nose and just breathes in the vapors. She loves the sweet smell. And as a bonus it may actually be helping to WHAT the neurotransmitters.

Is it affecting, or improving her cognitive functioning and her memory?

I believe so.  I maintain a log of what she does, what she says, and have been keeping this for months now. We also have a week-at-a-glance book that her aids and she fill in daily. In the last 5 weeks I've seen extraordinary improvement. In addition to the Exelon patch (which, by the way, is designed to block the enzymes that break down the neurotransmitters), she is also taking the doses of coconut oil (see next blog post.)

Doubtful? Read the Japanese study for yourself by following the link above. If your parent or spouse is suffering from Alzheimer's, what do you have to lose? What does he or she?

As for the rosemary growing in our garden, I have snipped off some branches and every now and then take a deep whiff. A big inhale... AHHHHH! And while inhaling I think about how much my brain loves this.....

And this is over-the-counter! The same type of naturally-growing plant that pharmaceuticals often try to mimic in their medications.

With this nasty disease, Alzheimer's, which usually results in death, it's best to take an all-inclusive approach. And remember, it takes 20 years for the symptoms of Alzheimer's to appear. So why wait until it's too late? Do some aromatherapy with the sweet-smelling scents of rosemary and lemon.

(See also: BBC: What Does Rosemary Do To Your Brain?)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Burden Interview: Of Mothers, Caregivers, Sons and Daughters

"You're better at it," wrote my brother in an email after I complained that he wasn't doing anything for our elderly mom while I was doing everything. 

His words still sting like a bumble bee.

Was that really supposed to appease me, or my primary care physician who was becoming extremely concerned as my blood pressure was rising higher and higher and higher and I was becoming pre-diabetic from lack of physical exercise? Or was it supposed to provoke?

Add to that the layer that he, my brother, lived only 20 minutes away from our mother, while I lived 300 miles away. 

A Boston-based 2012 study indicated that daughters, twice as often as sons, become the elderly mother's caretakers. But still, sons comprise up to 30% of those care giving for elderly parents.  In Canada up to 30% of those caring for elderly parents are sons, shows a Canadian study. The "elderly parents" are usually mothers, since women generally outlive men. 

While the men in the Canadian study indicated positives as well as negatives in caretaking, they still assumed that responsibility. Married men generally had the support of their wives, with whom they discussed decisions they were making. 

So how does it get to be the daughter living six hours away becomes the primary caretaker when the son, living 20-25 minutes away, does virtually nothing? And what repercussions does this have on my, the caretaker by default, health, finances, social life and emotional well-being?

After another email months later to my brother in which I outlined everything I'd been doing vis a vis my mom and the toll it was taking on me, his response was "Thanks."

Mine back was was "I don't want your thanks. I want your help."

While I could never anticipate my mother's declining cognitive, and physical, condition, I also could never anticipate that I would get absolutely no help or support from my "bro" or support from my sister-in-law, receiving instead just the meek justification for why it was that he was totally defaulting on the small things, including asking for information about her current health, and the very large and major things and decisions.

The word "burden" is used repeatedly in all studies about adult children as caretakers of elderly and frail parents.  And it completely amazed me that there is something actually called "The Burden Interview," which I discovered on an online search.

This discovery was a true relief, and I gladly read the questions and circled my answer, recognizing so many aspects of what the questions addressed. Twenty of the 22 questions on the Zarit Burden Interview begin "Do you feel....."  or "Do you feel that..." One question begins "Are you afraid about..." and the last and 22nd question begins, "Overall, how burdened to you feel..."  Answers ranged from Never (score of zero) to Nearly Always (score 5).  I wish that the question "Do you feel that your health has suffered because of your involvement with your relative?" should score a 5 and that my doctor's feelings about this should add in a bonus 5 points. Feelings are big in this test.

Test takers have 30 minutes for this test. Mine took much less, let's not say how much less. Then I added up my score. Yup! "Moderate to Severe Burden."

The one question that I'd like to see the questionnaire ask is: "Do you feel angry at other family members who are doing less than you are?" or "Do you feel that other family members should be doing a better job at caring for your relative?"

I do, and I do. I wish the Burden Interview asked these questions because the complete lack of participation in my mother's caregiving by the person geographically closest to her adds a lot of stress too.
When one family member is clearly dis-involved, and wants to dis-involved, there is no communication that is going to get you the understanding, and the help, that you want. There is no way to go but to accept that and let go. To do otherwise would be to increase ones emotional stress, and therefore burden and the consequences of that. 

"Anger deprives the sage of his wisdom, a prophet of his vision," says the Talmud.  More conversations, more attempts to get somebody to see your distress or point of view would end in just more frustration, and disappointment, and a self-destructive cycle of anger.

CARETAKERS of ELDERLY PARENTS: How many others like me are there out there? I would guess I'm not the only one. 
It's often repeated how commonly families break up over money, especially after the death of a parent and the distribution of the estate.

Or, in this case, they functionally and emotionally break up long before. And when that's the case, don't hang on and let it raise your BURDEN SCORE even more!!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

There's Always Edible Arrangements for Mother's Day

I don't feel like sending flowers. I don't feel like it, and anyway, flowers just die.

Two weeks ago I arranged the Peapod order to include fresh pineapple single serving cups. My mom has never tried those and it was worth a go. Perfect serving sizes for seniors, easy to open and to dispose of (including to recycle). She loved them. So much so that one week later when I asked her to have one, there were none left. I had the aid look, thinking they had to be somewhere, then the other aid. "She ate the last one."

I guess the pineapple single serving cups were a success. Healthy food, healthy living.

So then what? Peapod has a $60. minimum order. With the $10 delivery charge, that's $70. A lot for just pineapple single serving cups.

So instead of flowers, I ordered her the Edible Arrangements.She'll get her fruit and flowers all in one.

And they come in a handy practical container that can be used anywhere for anything - much better than a glass vase that can break and be dangerous.

And if none of my relatives WHO LIVES LOCALLY, i.e. if none of her other two children show up to to the decent thing, at least she has a beautiful bouquet of edible fruit, that will last her well through the week.

The delivery guy showed up at 10:30 this morning, very early, very nice, for Mother's Day. Beautiful.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Why I Hate Mothers Day: To All the Daughters of Unloving Mothers

Here we go again.

Psychology calls it the "Unloving Mother." Others call it the "Not Good Enough Mother." If you're like me, either term will do. We have the experience: The label tells us that we are not alone.

Mother's Day is coming up.

And another instance when my mother figured out how to obtain money she didn't have for the drug addicted unnamed family member just passed.

For somebody who has to ask what day it is, she has an extraordinary ability to find out which rock to hit to get cash from it. I discovered this latest ruse late last night, when I looked onto her statement.

"I don't recall doing anything with $2000.," I thought to myself. That's because I had not. She had telephoned the bank and had had the maximum funds transferred from her Overdraft Line of Credit into her checking account, and written UFM a check for that amount, which he promptly went to the bank and cashed, and there it was, in "pending" although the check had already been cashed. It was too late to stop payment but I filled out the online stop payment form and clicked, as reason for stopping check, "coercion." I had to wait until the morning to get through to the bank service reps for more information.

Morning. Service rep:

"I'm going to connect you to the fraud line," she says. "You said it was coercion."

"I'm not interested in the fraud line," I tell her. "Are you going to arrest my XX year old mother?"

"No, but it will go into collections, and she'll get telephone calls," Ms. Friendly Banker Representative Supervisor told me.

"Well, she's not making payments on it."

"Then when she dies the executor of her estate will deal with it."

I can't bear the sadness around this relationship. There's a continual yearning to have closeness with ones mother. That never goes away, a fact that I wrestle with. It will take me many many years to heal from this. God give me the strength.

Mother's Day is a few weeks away. I'll be mourning the relationship I never had, and the way I was lied to, over and over again, even as I attempted to take care of her in her old age, in her withering days. But I"ll be trying to have a good day, a day that I can have some control over.

When your mom is mentally ill, or elderly, there's always a question of how much to hold onto that relationship and how much to let go.

Days like Mother's Day have created huge conflicts in the past. This year it will not. Maybe I'll hire her an aid to make sure she's up and alive, but I will not call and I will not be conflicted about it. There's so much reality around this now, - it's impossible to ignore. It's impossible to feel, to know, each time I phone her, that I am not being authentic with her. That when she says, "Why are you tired?" that I'm not painfully aware that the real answer is "Because I"m tired of dealing with you and your lies and your depression and your mismanagement of all your money and that UMF gets literally your last dollar while I try to keep you alive, and still you persist; that you are always thinking about how to get money to UFM, even though you never let on.  That I am being crushed under its weight. That I simply cringe every time you say 'I love you.'"

Maybe the next day she'll say something about my not calling. Maybe I'll say, "Oh it was Mother's Day? I didn't realize!"

This Mother's Day is to all the suffering daughters of mothers who are not good enough, to all the daughters of mothers that Psych Today calls "unloving" mothers, to the daughters of mothers who do NOT put in that call, and do not send that card or buy that box of chocolates, who try to remain authentic to themselves and hold onto reality because our hearts don't just break once... They break again and again and again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Drug Addiction and Grandparents: The Unfortunate Link

Drug addiction requires two things: Drugs and a User. 

To sustain a drug addiction requires three things: Drugs, a User, and an Enabler.  

Anybody can be an enabler. 

Your grandfather could be an enabler. Your grandmother could be an enabler. Your father could be an enabler. Or your mother. Or your mother to her grandchild. And in fact, a grandparent is often the most likely person to become the enabler.  

Grandparents are likely to become enablers because they may be raising the child of their son or daughter (often because their son or daughter is a drug addict). Grandparents may be lonely and seek the companionship of their grandchild. Grandparents have accumulated financial resources that the grandchild learns how to access.

Dr. Allan Schwartz writes (bold added): "It is a well know fact among drug and alcohol counselors that the worst enemy of the abuser is money. The reason for this is that money becomes the means the addict makes purchases of more drugs to feed the addiction. Because the addict is a person who has learned the fine art of manipulation to get what he wants, he knows how to convince loved ones to provide the money he needs to make more drug purchased. If it means telling lies the addict has no compunctions about doing so. Enabling occurs because loved ones generously provide money to the addict in the naive hope that no lies are being told and in the hope that it will help him recover. It is amazing how family and spouses blind themselves to the facts about what is really happening."

I have lived with this situation for many more years than I can count. It gets me dizzy thinking about how long. I could see the beginnings of the codependency long before the drug use began.

Many of us of the "sandwich" generation are experiencing the pain of watching our parents age, lose their health, their memories, and so on. A subgroup of this generation is also experiencing the pain of watching our parents simultaneously go broke, all due to their role as co-dependents to somebody with a drug addiction.

Treatment centers focus on the addict, on the actual drug addiction. They ask family members to participate in counseling, but it's completely voluntary on the part of the family members, the enabler(s). If the addict can go back to the codependent relationship, and continues to engage in the same behavior as before, denial, help with financial resources, lying, etc., the addiction goes on and on, and the grandparents resources will quickly run dry. 

When you are a family member and you see this happening before your very eyes, what can you do?  Anything?   

What is to guide us through these rip currents and perilous channels?

Wrote the wise King Solomon:

A time for tearing down and a time for building up;
A time for weeping and a time for laughing.
A time for wailing and a time for dancing...
A time for seeking and a time for losing.
A time for keeping and a time for discarding...
A time for silence and a time for speaking;
A time for loving and a time for hating;

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Doing Your Elderly Parent's Taxes - Today We're Doing Mom's Income Taxes

Yes, 60 can be the best age, the kids are out of the home, if we are lucky we still have our health, we may or may not have paid off the mortgage. But if you are sixty that means your parents are eighty or eighty five, or even ninety, and that means that your perfect age is now spent toiling over their health and over their wealth. Or the remnants of their wealth.

And that means toiling over their annual income taxes

Are you prepared for the day when you will have to prepare, or have prepared, your parents' income taxes? Among other things?


My mom used to do her income taxes with a commercial establishment, in her case H&R Block. She worked full-time until she was 85 and would bring all her papers over there and it was easy.

By last year there were several significant changes: she had quit work, she couldn't drive any longer, and I had Power of Attorney. 

I contacted her tax agent, who said that if I could get all my mom's paperwork to her electronically, that she could file for her, as usual.


Last year was an awful year: My mom sold her home, got divorced, and moved again.  I was often focused on those things, by necessity. It was also difficult for me to work my way through her paperwork, given her unique 'filing system'. And I don't know too much about taxes and mortgages or mortgage credits or what would constitute her tax paperwork in the first place. So this in itself involved several trips, airfare included, to go through her paperwork and seize the goods.

Once I had the goods, I had to scan everything, make electronic files out of it, and send everything to her tax preparer.

The fact that it was already April - NO BIG DEAL - I jest, because I enlisted my brother the lawyer to file for a late tax return.  Would I have known how to do that? Would I have had to time to figure out how to do that? Not in your life. 

From there it went rather easily, until it was time to actually file. I forgot to ask the tax returner to have the IRS direct deposit, until I remembered to tell her to have the IRS direct deposit into her checking account. So she had to do something - I don't know what - and get that corrected. DO NOT FORGET TO HAVE THE TAX AGENT DIRECT DEPOSIT.

Federal and state, done.

Another year later, another tax season. What would change? What could change?

Plenty. First of all, another move, another address. Second of all, a brother who has completely disconnected from me and almost entirely from my mother. Any chance of his filing for a late return? Next question. Putting my anger and resentment toward him aside....


What has also changed from last year is my mother's financial status. And how quickly it does change.

With less money now than ever, with the home sold and the proceeds now distributed between her and her ex-husband, and the monthly fees attached to living in independent living, she can no longer afford the tax filer. And she's no longer driving. That means my husband and I are downloading TurboTax on this windy but sunny Sunday afternoon, and doing and filing her taxes. I also think that it will be faster for me if we just do it ourselves, rather than my scanning everything, emailing everything, and doing through what I went through last year. Last year it was the most convenient thing. Even at that, the tax preparer and I were back and forth and back and forth with emails a zillion times, and it was me thinking through everything, "Is she entitled to medical deductions? Is she entitled to this and that?" This year I think doing it ourselves would be the most expedient thing.



So today we are doing my mom's taxes. 


 And I suppose that this, among everything else associated with taking care of your senior parent, is now the way it will be. 


Are you prepared?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Eat your vegetables, Mom.

Mom has to eat. 

But she likes to sleep very late. Very late. This is a problem because she occasionally wakes up slightly hypoglycemic and dehydrated.Then she doesn't have the strength to make it to the refrigerator or the kitchen.

Mom also likes to drink wine. She can get dinner with wine every night. This is nice. She feels great in the evening after dinner. But it is a double-edged sword because with the wine she feels great, but in the morning she wakes up slightly hypoglycemic and dehydrated.

Parenting magazines are encouraging parents to teach their kids to love vegetables and fruit. They're encouraging parents to not try to hide the vegetables and fruits in another dish, say a casserole, but to appreciate the veggies as is. They're encouraging parents to serve fruit for desert, rather than carbs.

Isn't fruit salad what we, when I was a kid, used to eat for desert?  I remember as a kid always having fresh fruit salad for desert. Even in restaurants. Rice pudding was about as sweet a dessert as we ever got. Ready-made cakes weren't as available as they are now. Economic policy and a more urban lifestyle has also made carbs cheaper and more affordable than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Over many years, Mom has become too dependent on sugar and cake: THAT IS, she has become too dependent on carbs for the main meal and carbs for desert. Carbs and simple sugars, which are carbs. 

Is my mom any different from most seniors? Or most of us, who want to hang onto eating what we like?

Now I ask her to tell me what she has in the refrigerator. 


"Great. Have that." I hear her chewing away. "What else is there?"


"Great. Have that. "I hear her chewing away." What else is there?"


"Spinach? Great, Mom. Lots of potassium and low carbs, Vitamin A, Vitamin C...  Especially because the doctor doesn't want you eating bananas."

Of course I only know all this because my doctor is also telling me to watch what I eat because I have become pre-diabetic. He's warned me. I've learned the hard way. I'm also beginning to love my vegetables. I've been reading AARP, the magazine that nobody wants to admit they get. Frankly, my mom's not interested in nutrition. But she does listen to me. She is interested in life.

"Great, Mom. Eat your vegetables. What else is there in the refrigerator?"

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Caregiver? STRESS ALERT: Take care of your own health.

"One sixty nine over eighty," the nurse at the CVS Minute Clinic said as she unwrapped and removed the inflatable cuff from my arm. "That's high. Do you always have high blood pressure?"

Always? I never had high blood pressure. I'm the one who everybody points to as living a healthy lifestyle and getting plenty of exercise.I'm the one who does yoga. Back home, I put the numbers into the search bar on the internet. 169 over 80. Hypertension. I don't know what those numbers really measure, but I know it's not good.

My annual medical exam was scheduled for the following week. I would get my blood pressure remeasured by my primary care physician, and we would discuss this.

One week later, it was slightly lower but basically the same thing. It was as high as that of some long-time heavy smokers I know. 

THIS is stress. Stress caused by a full year of managing, or dealing with, my elderly mother's issues. Trying to save her from financial devastation and medical destruction. All the while I was trying to write, publish, and promote my book, and other creative and professional endeavors (not to mention time and energy for my husband). I knew that I wasn't getting much exercise, I wasn't sleeping well at night, I knew that my routine was so centered around her, but I never gave a moment's thought to that this might be affecting my own health in some major way. I knew I didn't have as much time for my work and writing and my book as I would have liked, and that created internal - I would call them philosophical but they play out in the real world and in real lives - debates about taking care of others vs taking care of self. I knew I was stressed but you should see the looks on people's faces when I tell them I have hypertension.


At my annual medical exam, my doctor asked the usual questions: "Are you getting exercise?" My response was limp. Sometimes riding my bike, but no long distances any more. Sometimes but rarely getting to yoga. Sometimes but rarely running. Playing tennis with my husband, but only on Sundays in the spring and summer.  And my doctor told me to get more exercise and come back in three months and get retested.

This in combination with also being told I was borderline diabetic created some serious talks and evaluations regarding how I manage my own health, diet, life, and also my mother's.

This is what I learned:
  • Walgreens is amazing for anybody with high or low blood pressure. They will take your blood pressure for free. When you go, write down the result, and date it. I keep mine on my "notes" on my iPhone. I went monthly. With Walgreen's, there is no excuse for not getting your BP checked. No Walgreens? There is surely some pharmacy nearby. Senior centers often have regular and free BP screening.

  • The gym was amazing, especially given this awful winter. Even without the winter, it gave me a routine that I could stick with. I usually went late afternoon or early evening. I made sure I listened to music on my iPod that was relaxing, but kept me moving. For me this meant Neil Young, especially "Harvest Moon." I had a full workout, including 20 minutes running on the indoor track. Once a month I would use the steps machine, which would measure my average and high heart rate. THIS TOO I would write down and keep a record of. Because I don't have enough time to go to the gym and do yoga, I incorporate my yoga breathing and 'asanas' and relaxation techniques into my gym workout.

  • Vulnerability. We know we are stressed but it's more difficult to acknowledge how that stress is affecting us physically, and the degree to which it is affecting us physically. While some physical conditions are beyond our control, high blood pressure is often well within our control.  As we age, we become more and more vulnerable to stresses on our system. We are faced with conflict - ourselves vs those we love. And some of us are in the "sandwich generation." There are things I couldn't not do: Help my mother with her divorce, help her move from her home to her apartment, help her move from her apartment to the senior community, and so on. But many things, such as maintaining her car and making sure those bills were paid monthly, were unnecessary and only added stress to my life and my body. oing off for the day or weekend or week with my husband became an big deal, because nobody else in my family was willing to share responsibility for our mother with me. Dealing with the continued blood-letting of my mother's finances in her codependent relationship was another that I ultimately had to take by the horns, be strong, and weather the harsh disapproval that I knew I'd be up against.

  • Don't miss your annual medical exam. Schedule it. Put it in the system. Then make it to your appointment. If you're afraid of what the results will say, then face that and ask yourself honestly what you can do differently to make sure that your health is not irreparably damaged and that you haven't given yourself reason to avoid going to the doctor's. Have this discussion with your spouse or significant other, if one is in the picture. My doctor warned me, and I gave myself a goal of three months to get my emotional and physical house in order. Me, the healthy one.

  • Do what you need to do to lighten your burden around your elderly parent. That will pit you against your parent but for your life you need to. For me, it meant selling her car, and other difficult actions I write about. We fought. Often the fights were about her desire to have her car, versus my need to reduce my stress level, which was, literally, killing me. The fights were horrible because they pit me and my needs, physical and emotional, against my mother, who couldn't "hear" me, and what she wanted to do. The fights brought up other feelings and long-term issues. But being dead is no picnic, either.

The next time I got my BP taken, just one month ago, it was 142/74. Lower but still hypertension. 

Today was my last visit before my three-month visit to my doctor for a retest. 

This morning I went before I had my morning cup of coffee. The pharmacist came out and took the reading. My BP was 120/79. I phoned my husband and reported the good news, as if I were 14 and had gotten straight A's on my report card. Then I came home, had my coffee, and made an appointment for my 3-month checkup.

And wrote this blog post.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

When Your Parents Lie to You

I know that much of what she tells me is a lie.

I didn't always know that. I knew in my gut something wasn't right. But I didn't KNOW it was a lie. And I didn't know why it was a lie or why she lied. I still don't know but such is the nature of a person's psyche. 

If your parents are lying to you, it's okay to know it. It's better to know and accept it than to not acknowledge it and try to convince yourself that what is a lie is actually true. Then you get really screwed up for life.

For a few days now her memory has been awful. Just awful. She also doesn't want to wake up and blames it on her cold. But people who have colds can get up and function. I know there's something else going on.

"Is it (this)?" 


"Are you depressed?"

"No. I'm just tired. Can't I be tired?"

"Did Unidentified Male Relative telephone you?"


"What did he say?"

I don't remember.

If you're like me, you've learned to trust your gut. In my case, I have to wonder: A) She doesn't remember the telephone call because she doesn't want to remember; B) She remembers the call and its contents but she doesn't want to tell you/me. C) She doesn't remember the telephone call because she has some condition independent of all other emotional issues. After all, how am I ever going to prove that she remembers?  Or doesn't remember? The memory loss serves a practical and convenient function.

I have to harken back to just a few weeks ago, when Unidentified Male Relative showed up unexpectedly (on my end), and I discovered that he and she had gone to the bank together and had wiped out her savings account. At that time, she said nothing to me afterward, as it it hadn't happened at all. It was an awkward silence, me wondering if she'd say anything, giving her the opportunity to bring it up on her own, and she being quiet out of - fear? Of me? Of what I might say? Of having to deal with what she had just partnered in? But yesterday when the topic of finances and the savings account came up, she was quick to offer: "I did it because I wanted to." Memory loss? Or convenient 'memory loss'?

Sure enough, I find out late afternoon from Other Person that Unidentified Male Relative is there in her apartment. Other Person doesn't want me to call her and get elderly mom upset. I, however, need to call.  We have to do a reality check here.

"Was he there when you and I were talking a little while ago, and doing your meds?"

"Yes. I told you."

"No you didn't. You said you were getting ready to take a nap. That was all." I calmly informed my elderly mom that there is no money in the checking account, there is no money in the savings account, and all the credit cards have been shut down.  She argues that she's financially responsible. I say "No, you're not financially responsible." She says UMR has not asked for money. I say "Not yet." She's playing a game with me. But it's a fool's game.

What does it take to be a good liar? A persistent liar? All it takes is for the other person to be a fool, or to want to be fooled, to want to cling to a relationship or a dream more than you want to cling to reality and yourself

She says, "I don't lie to you."

At any age, it's hard to tell your parents that you've caught them in a lie. Let alone repeated lies. I think that what she's really saying is that she doesn't want to lie to me. For most of my life my parents presented things in one way but the truth was quite different. But time is running out and I have to just be blunt and honest about this - because we have to exist in a place of honesty. How much more time do we have to get to this place?

I say, "Yes you do, you lie all the time."  It hurts her to hear this, it hurts me say this. To KNOW this. Relationships cannot thrive in an atmosphere of falsifications. I can't imagine how much it destroys a person to be a liar. I take that back. I can imagine it. I see it all the time, every day. I can't imagine how destroyed a person must be to lie. A person's humanity. It's an awful way to live.

This time UMR can't get any money. My mom's finances are, for now, as they were. They are safe. I won't have to do any clean up of the mess tomorrow. She may not be very happy about it but I'm relieved. I've protected her finances, I've protected myself from the angst and stress of cleaning up the mess each time, which gets harder and harder each time, and I've eliminated one tool that fuels the codependency. I'm sad, but I'm relieved for the moment.

And for the moment, there is honesty.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Medicare Toe Nail Clippings for the Elderly - WHO KNEW???

Did you?

The last time I saw my mom, she made some comment about her feet. Okay, so they weren't so beautiful.. But who does have beautiful feet? Looking at my mother's feet is not one of my favorite activities, and so the conversation about her feet ended almost as quickly as it had begun.

Then, last week, she went to a physical therapist who suggested that she go to the in-house podiatrist for a toe nail clipping.

Although toenail clippers are a regularly used tool in our bathroom, I never thought about this for my elderly mother. Just another one of those things you don't associate with your parents, or their needs, I guess. But to go to a podiatrist for a toe nail clipping?

Not only that, but apparently Medicaid covers toenail clippings every nine weeks, my aunt told me.

I absolutely hate that expression who knew? but I can honestly say, with regard to Medicaid, WHO KNEW that Medicaid covers toe nail clippings every nine weeks? And if we had known, would we have even cared?
  Now... my mom has been at various physical therapists in a private PT place numerous times in the last few years for her back and knees and nobody but nobody mentioned this need, or this Medicaid service. Her walking has been increasingly problematic. Shoes are a also a big thing with the elderly: The proper size, the proper fit, the proper elevation and cushioning, etc. Come to think of it, toenails that are too long certainly do not help.

I can hardly imagine a physical therapist who does not work with seniors and I can even less imagine working with a senior and not working on their legs, their feet, their walking, their gait, their balance... so it's hard to understand NOW that they wouldn't have known.... So let's' not go there... I think you see where I'm going with this.

I never gave her toenails a second thought. And the professionals were not letting out this secret.

"Couldn't she just clip them by herself?" my husband asked, when I told him about this.

"No!" I retorted, gloating in my being right. "The nails are brittle and can easily crack." Not to mention that given their lack of flexibility, the elderly may have difficulty just plain doing the task. Cuts may cause other problems, such as infection. And so on.

It's something that has to be done by a physician, as the nails become more and more brittle.

My mom is now scheduled for a toe nail clipping with the podiatrist, as she will be every nine weeks.

I have a thought: Wouldn't it be something if our moms and dads had the same type of care from Medicaid as our cars do? Some like the little stickers that are placed on our car dashboards reminding us:

  •  every 30,000 miles your car needs a new air filter...
  •  every 60,000 miles flush the power steering fluid . ..

I would like to see that magnet to place on the refrigerator: 

Have You Had Your 9-week Toe Nail Clipping? 
This magnet was brought to you by Medicare.

Now I know!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Warm Hand and Foot Treatment - for Seniors

To the question, What Is the Largest Organ of the Human Body? You might think the lung (certainly lots of volume there), the heart (big heart, big hearted)... the large intestine (large and long)...

But the answer is the skin.  (I got that question wrong the first time I was asked so don't feel bad...). And touch is what, if it is missing, leaves children scarred for life.

Is touch any less important when people age, when people are "elderly"? 

No - but there may be fewer opportunities to get that hug or that handshake. 

Yesterday my mom had a PT appointment at her center and the therapist recommended, among other things, an appointment with a podiatrist. With her living in a center that has two podiatrists who have part time hours there, I made her an appointment. 

But that also got me thinking about none other than the beauty salon. 

She's been there for styling, for a cut, a shampoo.. but never for her feet! She's never had a pedicure or a manicure.

I looked at the flyer.  There I saw what I was hoping for. I saw Warm Hand and Foot Treatment. $15. This is clearly more than a hair salon. And that was really all I needed to know, but read on I did:  Key healing ingredients such as Keratin, Vitamin E and Copaiba Oil naturally strengthen nails, relieve dry skin, protect from... That was all I needed to know, but read on I did: ...harmful UV rays and help to prevent skin aging.

That's where I had to smile or laugh to myself. EVERYBODY who lived there was elderly. EVERYBODY was in their 70's 80's 90's. Maybe a few even in the 100s. Are we really talking about preventing skin aging?

I think the wording of the flyer is brilliant. No matter what age we are, we want to make sure we don't look even older. (Well, maybe teenagers want to look older so they aren't carded everywhere they go.... )  People in their 70s don't want to look 80. People in their 80s don't want to look like they're in their 90s. Right? When my mom looks in the mirror and complains about "that old woman there" she mimics my exact words when I look in the mirror and go running to my husband. "I look old."

So I'm going to ask her if she'd like a Warm Hand and Foot Treatment. $8 hands only, or $8 feet only. I'm hoping she'll splurge and go for the two full sets of appendages. I'm hoping that the thrill of being touched will ease her out of her depression and aloneness. There's a lot of surface area in those fingers and toes, and in between those fingers and toes... 

I call her. 

"Mom, there's a hand and foot treatment, you can get a massage and treatment. Would you like that?"

"I'll let you know next week."

When I talk to her the next day and ask again, she says, "I told you yes." This is Mom, who forgot she wanted to think about it? Or is this Mom who really wanted to say yes, but always has to disagree with everything first?

I hoping that tomorrow I'm going to make her (or I'm going to assist her in making) an appointment for a Warm Hand and Foot Treatment.  

(And by the way, what is copaiba oil?)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mothers Who Are Always Putting Up an Argument

I have arranged for a nurse to go in every morning at a fixed time to make sure that my mom has taken all her meds. She is billed $5. per day for this. At $15 per month, it's definitely worth it.

With this, I know that my mom is okay and that she's taken all her meds, and it leaves me the opportunity to live my life. 

But then what? Life is more than just waking up and taking your meds.

My mom will probably sleep most of the day if I don't call her and make sure she's up and about. And it's not because of her age. It's because of depression.

It's past that hour.... By now the nurse has long gone in to make sure she has taken her meds.

So... Do I call my mom this morning or not?

I will call her for sure in an hour or two to make sure that she's up and ready and moving for her aid.

But should I call her now?

Of course, call, you'll think. It's your mother.

Maybe not. It's usually very depressing calling her. We start her day with an argument and we start mine with an argument. Arguing and opposing seems to be how she survives, but it's not how I survive. If she says she's sleepy, and I say 'have some coffee,' she says she doesn't like coffee. If I remind her that she does, in fact that she herself bought coffee and it's in her fridge, she says that she changed her mind about coffee. Yesterday she said she couldn't go to her Dr appointment because she was nauseous and couldn't eat. As soon as I cancelled the appointment, she got up and went to the kitchen to eat. "Mom, I thought you were nauseous." 

"I'm always nauseous when I wake up."

"So then why don't you just wait a bit until you're not nausous and then eat, and then we don't have to cancel your Dr appointment."

No answer. I'm aware of what she does and how she can egg a person on into an argument whose point is - what is the point?? from her point of view? Just the love of arguing?

She will always come up with a fact in opposition and if she doesn't have a fact in opposition, she will make one up.  In fact it's what destroys me. It's been that way since I was a kid. (And maybe it's what destroyed her.) So what's the point of calling?  I don't need the argument or the negativity. 

The point would be to make sure she's up and dressed and has taken her cold medication, so that it can be working by the time the aid arrives.

Whether to call or not is not always so clear cut.

Friday, February 20, 2015

When Positive Energy Meets Negative Energy

You're in a good mood, you're ready to share good spirits with the birthday person. You pick up the phone ready to blast a Happy Birthday, dial, wait while it rings.  

It's especially important because this is your elderly parent. This is your second call for the day; the first was in the morning. This is the evening call and it will be your last for the day, so you want to make it a good one.

The phone is answered. There's a pause. Even before you hear the voice on the other end, you know it's going to be a downer. "Hello?" It's a tired worn out voice. The voice does not sound happy that you even called. Your heart sinks like a stone.

You feel like Debbie Downer has just walked through the doors of your party.

No matter what you say, the other person is bringing you more and more down. If you say, "Take some allergy relief" you hear "I don't want to ; it will make me even more tired."

"But your allergy relief pills don't have anything in them to make you tired."

"I don't want to take any medicine." 

"Okay, have some coffee."

"I'll get sick if I take coffee." 

You realize this person is not in rational mode. Everything you say will be met with a negative. You will get nowhere except more and more lost into a cyclone. There is NO conversation.

Wait! you think to yourself. No, you say aloud. "I just called you to bring some birthday cheer to you. And instead of bringing you birthday cheer, you're just complaining and complaining. I don't even know why I want to wish you a happy birthday" and you hang up. Instead of a happy birthday, you feel anger and you're not even recognized for who you are, for what you've done.

It feels awful. Not just that things didn't go like you planned, like you wanted, to bring cheer and good will..... But what just happened to your positive energy?

When positive energy meets negative, seems like the winner is the negative. How do you, the positive person, sustain a relationship where the negative energy dominates?

Not just that, if you're a positive minded person, how do you hold onto yourself in the midst of such a relationship? What happened to all that anger that was generated from frustration at not being able to utilize the energy and positive attitude that you were given in life?

I wonder.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Saddest Moment of Accepting Your Parent's Mental Illness

We get to act normal for a while and then every now and then the disease manifests itself. 

I've had a lot of time to think about this. I've had a lot of time to accept that things are going to seem normal for a while - and then they're not.

I've had a lot of time to accept that there's nothing that I can do to avert this, or to avert that sooner or later I'm going to be the bad guy. The one who always rescues my mother, the one who made sure she was out of her home and safely in a new apartment before she was financially destitute, the one who made her divorce happen because she couldn't function enough to do anything let alone appear in court to face her (soon to be ex-) husband... eventually I would be the bad guy.

I've had a lot of time to accept that it's an emotional state that she enters, and that there is nothing that I can say that will release her from that, or cause her to see anything, rationally, any differently.

So when this afternoon, I said "So what about the credit card and the taxi ride?" I knew that sooner or later warm air and and cool air were going to meet and produce the thunder and lightening. I was at a shopping center, in a big soft easy chair that they had for patrons to relax.

"He said that the card was turned off."

"Yes, Mom. I closed the card."


But of course I could, and I did. And a person who is being abused, or who is part of an abusive relationship, or a co-dependent relationship, will never, or rarely, acknowledge it.

"I had to, Mom. You're going to be destitute again and I can't allow that to happen."

What was different about this time is that I saw her illness roll in like a dark cloud. The issue was her and her Unidentified Male Relative. There would be no talking to her.

"But I'll have bad credit."

"Mom, you'll have bad credit if I don't do that. There's too much money going out to UMR"

She screamed "YOU CAN'T DO THAT." and screamed "YOU DON'T HAVE THE POWER TO DO THAT.", she was going to "get a lawyer and that will cost even more money" while I waited quietly. The voice in my head said, "There's nothing you can say." I felt like the center of the hurricane. All was quiet. Maybe it was one of the saddest moments of my life. But I had reality on my side, and that's nothing to sneer at. There was one thing I could say:

"Mom, I'm going to get off the phone now. I'll talk to you later."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Credit Card Company Screws Up and Declares My Mother Deceased

One day a few weeks ago the credit card company and I conference my mother in to a telephone call. Count it. One person Two people Three people. Three is the owner of the credit card, my mom. A few days later I'm on the phone talking to "an associate" about my mom's card and the associate says "she's deceased." I think I've heard this wrong. I ignore it.

A few days later we are on the phone again. She says, "She's deceased." I clear my throat. 

"Did you say she's deceased?"

I have here that she's deceased."

"She's not deceased. We just had that conference call, remember? It's in your notes."

"Oh, okay."  I assume that as long as I say this and they can check their records to see that indeed they just spoke to my mother, the credit card company should repair the records and bring my mother back to life.
A few days later I call back to see if matters have progressed, if they have processed the paperwork I sent in, and we have a similar conversation. "It says here that she's deceased."

I say, "She's not deceased." They also have not processed the paperwork I sent in. Or if they have, they can't tell me, I later find out because they don't really know who I am. I could be anybody calling. (But wouldn't that also be the case if the Power of Attorney was processed?? That's why they ask their little series of questions....)

One week later, I call back to see if matters have progressed, if they have processed the paperwork I sent in, and we have a similar conversation. They say "Your mother is deceased." I say she's not. I'm assuming, of course, that as long as I say this, they should repair the records and bring my mother back to life. I ask to speak to a supervisor. Sometimes they say that "The supervisor isn't going to do anything that I can't do." But of course I know that's not correct. I know that the supervisor has the power to bring my mother back to life.

Now the kicker: Legally, Power of Attorney is not valid if the person is deceased. So as long as they have my mother as deceased, they refuse to talk to me.

But they tell me I can talk to the estates department

Now we're really getting into the corporate belly. The one thing I want to avoid is bringing my mother into this and ringing the alarm about the elderly abuse, which was why I called the credit card company in the first place. 

This is my first true experience of the pen being mightier than the sword.

We're in the middle of a huge winter storm. We've had 80 inches of snow in the last 2-1/2 weeks.  I'm just trying to get some things resolved here, to make life easier, simpler.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Memory Loss from Stress

We're reading about so much memory loss, memory loss from Alzheimer's, and then we read stress is actually the NUMBER ONE cause of memory loss among seniors

Forget about seniors for a moment - what about all the rest of us??? The effects of stress on memory is strong enough to be identified amount people under 50! That means people in their 40's.

I have my theory about my mother's inability to recall. I won't get into the details but I'm sure it's because there's so much she wants to forget. She has NO symptoms of Alzheimer's. She just has things she wants to forget. Many things.

I also think that when life gets so complicated - so many lies, so many things you want to deny - that the mind deals with it by just shutting down. What is true and what's a lie? One lie begets another lie. For her to deal with how she's disappointed me, she has to deal with the reality of those who have been lying and stealing from her, those whose love she's been trying to gain (whereas mine she was secure in????).

Doctors do a few tests, ask some questions, they see her hysteria when certain people's names are mentioned..... but the lies in our family, the splits, the bad-mouthing,the anger, the hatred, are so rampant that even lately I have been unable to deal with anything, unable to remember. So that's why I'm taking a simpler approach. I'm simply saying THIS relationship is too complex for me to even have. So let it go. Then the next. Then the next. 

The other day I went nordic skiing. it was beautiful, simple, quiet, exuberant, exhilarating. It was nothing like the way I'd been living the past 2 years. It brought me back to the years of my life when I had that quiet and simplicity in my life. It was transformative. And I can't go back.

But back to my elderly mom.... Who can tell me that this memory loss of hers is NOT due to self-imposed stress?

And who among us can think that the effects of the stress in our lives NOW will not be seen LATER?

Monday, February 9, 2015

What you don't have control over

Somebody recently hearing my lament said "You have to accept what you don't have control over." Ha. Sounds like a good soundbite - but it's very cheap advice. I hate cheap advice. 

I check all my power of attorneys. This account checks out. The next account checks out. But one account I've never filed my power of attorney with them. For sure I was too overwhelmed - busy with some critical "other". I won't say it was a mistake. I'll have rachmanus on myself. but it definitely adds new stress.

THIS BANK I have to overnight it in....  And I quickly check all the rates - FedEx, US Priority Overnight... And the US Priority overnight wins. I can save a few dollars by doing it online and printout out my mailing label. It won't accept the address. I'm frantic. Aha - I've misspelled the street.  Now everything is ready. I've printed out the PoA. Added my cover letter. Everything is in the packet, sealed, ready to go. Next a trip to the post office. I didn't plan this for today. Like I have nothing else to do today.

It's been well over one week. They're saying it's not processed - it's 7-10 BUSINESS days, which can be over two weeks. I call on a Saturday night - They can't even tell me IF it's been received. And THAT office is closed weekends.

I'm freaked because HE - Unidentified Male Relative - is on his way to my mother's. That can mean only one thing. 

"You have to accept what you don't have control over." Easy for you to say.

After a while, I hear he has called her again and said he has turned around due to delays on route. 

I'm off the hook for another day or two... Maybe the bank will process this PoA by the next move....

Friday, February 6, 2015

Do you want to complain - or solve a problem?

I grew up hearing complaint after complaint. About the world, about each other, about me!! Rarely, if ever, did people get together to try to come up with a viable solution.

It's difficult with a senior parent, when the complaints begin again. You know they have arthritis, you know there's pain. But you have to get past that somehow. "I'm nauseous" is a fair complaint but you know the elderly parent needs to eat something like rice ("You mean dry rice?") or toast. "I'm dizzy" is a legitimate complaint but you know that may be either low blood sugar or dehydration. You know your parent needs to DRINK or eat some carbohydrate or something that will produce sugar for the body.

So "Do you want to complain? Or do you want to find a solution?"

The answer? "I'm all stuffed up."

You're feeling helpless, and you're feeling that your parent is acting like a child and forcing a role reversal. You're feeling that your parents wants it to be that way. Yet you don't want to play that game.

So "Do you want to complain? Or do you want to find a solution?" I said, "You're acting like a child."  I said, Do you want to complain? Or do you want to find a solution?" and I wait. I tell her to go into the bathroom and get an allergy relief pill. She goes, and within a few seconds, says, "It's not here." But I know it is and wait.

Soon enough she finds a pill and says "I already took this." I know she didn't. Soon she asks "What do you want me to take this with?" I tell her the Gatorade, which means she also now has to make her way back to the kitchen.

She does, she gets the Gatorade, and takes a few sips, and the allergy relief pill. Soon enough she's feeling much better.

Do you want to complain or solve a problem? With a senior, it's so much more complex. So much more difficult. We want our parents to be and act like our parents. But what does that mean??? I explore this in future blogs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why Isn't THIS Considered Elder Abuse?

I've been doing my damnedest to stop this flow of money from my mother's accounts TO unidentified family member.

Huge amounts of money going out..  YOu want to guess? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Sneaky purchases of the Vanilla Card made on her credit cards... The cash then used to purchase drugs... Other fraudulent sneaky ways to get at her money. Lying about why UFM needs the money is a biggie.

At that time I contacted county personnel to see if there were elder abuse provisions that could be used. NO. If she willingly gives her credit card or writes a check, it doesn't fall within their provisions of ELDER ABUSE. She knows the person. Not elder abuse.

IN CALIFORNIA, it DOES!!!  I'm going to write more about this later, but it just points to the difficulty I'm having WHEN a FAMILY MEMBER has a way of exploiting a senior's emotional and physical (yes actual fear of being physical hurt by another if she says "NO" and sticks to her guns) weaknesses to get money.  Laws in other states only step in if it's a non-family member OR if the card is stolen, etc. It's been so frustrating - because it's definitely abuse of an elderly person but the laws will not help me at all.

When it happened again a few weeks ago, and my mom was living in a new county, I called that county. Same thing. Must be state laws administered by counties. 

OH and they all say that if she comes in they'll be willing to talk to her. RIGHT. That's going to really help.