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Alzheimer’s Symptoms – The Fall

 Hello ladies, Lynnelle here. 

Our normal schedule is to post our witty, sometimes humorous, always truthful take on an aspect of our over-60 lives twice a week; Mondays and Thursdays. Today’s post was to have been talking about our wardrobes. On my side transitioning a full-time, professional wardrobe to a working-from-home-in-the-country-casual wardrobe. I’m all about simplifying and have been making an effort to “capsulate” my wardrobe. On Barb’s side, she lives on a 40-something foot sailboat. Full-time.  Nuff said about her wardrobe challenges.

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We will be sharing our wardrobe projects and challenges, but it is going to be difficult for me to spend time or mental energy on anything other than caring for my Mom in the coming week. A couple of weeks ago I shared a bit about my Mom and our challenges with her progressing Alzheimer’s Disease.  Little did I know then that less than a month later my sister and I would be full-time caregivers and that she would be in such dire condition.

Elderly falls are the worst

Very early on Friday, 22 September, Mom fell in her room at Poet’s Walk, the memory care facility we called her “home”. The portable x-ray didn’t show any break, but she was in pain and couldn’t walk or even sit up. Friday and Saturday, she didn’t get out of bed. Sunday, the aides sat her up in a wheel chair putting her in excruciating pain. On the evening of Sunday, 24 September, to the ER we went.

In the ER, the CT showed a fracture in the pelvis. The MRI didn’t show anything more. The fracture is not operable and will take about 6-8 weeks to heal – a normally healthy adult to heal.  We are looking at 8-10 weeks for Mom. The ER doc wanted to admit mom to the hospital “for observation”.  FOR OBSERVATION is a critical differentiator for Medicare patients. There will be another discussion that addresses this and the quality (or lack thereof) of communication at the hospital (St. David’s Medical Center Round Rock).

Fast forward to 30 September; Mom is released from the hospital (having been officially admitted on Wednesday 27 September… again, the status of “for observation” vs “admitted patient” is VERY different.).  She has a catheter, cannot care for herself, cannot sit up on her own, can’t communicate well… unless she is unhappy about something. She can certainly communicate her displeasure and discomfort. Very well. 

Full-time caregivers

Having cared for our Dad full-time during the last month of his life, we are seeing familiar characteristics. While Mom has not eaten much of anything, has been bed-ridden for over a week and in a hospital for most of that time, she is AMAZINGLY strong. (It took 5 – FIVE – strong nurses and techs to change her catheter before being released yesterday.)  The woman can fight. She may recover and get through this. I wouldn’t be surprised. But, I also am not expecting her to get through this.

Karen and her husband are shouldering the load of her care, in that Mom is at their home. This afternoon we meet with a Visiting Angels rep to discuss help with Mom overnight.  She doesn’t sleep for more than a few minutes at a time and talks, talks, talks to someone we don’t see. But whoever it is, they are in regular communication. Mom has also pulled out her catheter a couple of times and needs to be monitored for that. Karen and I talked and decided we could help each other during the day, but we each needed overnight to make sure we are able to care for her during the day. We will meet with a Hospice organization and will hopefully have finalized assistance by the time you are reading this.

I don’t know what I’d do without Karen and I’m sure she feels the same. We are truly a team. We worked together through Dad’s last days and are together for Mom. If there is one wish I have for anyone is to have support and love as you help a loved one at the end of their life.   Thank you all for your virtual support, comments, likes and good thoughts. It means a great deal. For my upcoming posts I’ll be sharing glimpses into this journey, always looking for the silver lining, humor ,and truth. Thank you, again. 

Bags, Totes, Purses, and Backpacks

Barb here. 

It’ll probably come as no surprise to learn that I hate to shop. So far we’ve discussed bras, make-up, my two pairs of shoes, and more. While I like to spend money (sometimes too much) I don’t like to shop. I shop one of two ways.

  • Panic because I have nothing to wear/use/carry stuff, so I go to the store and purchase something that’s too expensive or too cheap and just wrong.
  • Take for-flipping-ever to analyze, search on-line, compare prices and attributes and purchase something that’s too expensive or too cheap and just wrong.

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Next to bras, I’ve always hated to buy handbags and my 30-year-old line is that I want one to be inexpensive enough that I have money to left to put in it.

While cruising, I essentially got rid of handbags and used a small backpack, a zipper tote, or (tres chic) a waterproof gear bag with a luggage strap attached. Since we are living aboard in a city for a couple of years, I needed a bag and the winner is… one EW bought for me. Yep. EW surprised me with a small shoulder bag for Christmas.

It wasn’t expensive, and it isn’t perfect, but it’s small, has a few different compartments, holds all I need for a normal trip ashore, and (most important for those on a boat) every single compartment closes. Think about it: you want nothing to fall out of your bag when you are handing it from dinghy to boat or dock. Trust me, those open outside pockets or open totes are not my friend.

I love my little cloth bag and will use it until it dies. I have my eye on my next bag, also compact but with a few more compartments and a bit higher cost. There are bags I’ve sworn I’ll never get.

1.  Designer bags worn at the elbow as our moms did. I’m a cross-body-strap woman.

2.  Teeny tiny lipstick bags for dates. How cute. I can forgo with a bag that’s holds enough so I don’t have to put stuff in EW’s pocket.

3.  A large, overstuffed, over feminine bag that makes me so tired he has to carry it.  You’ve seen that? When I was in Texas for Lynnelle’s birthday we stopped at Buck-ee’s —a truly amazing convenience store on steroids. I took a lot of photos, and then I saw this—Pa following Ma around with a large ladies’ hand bag on his arm. It’s not a good look for him.

Seeing that couple is what inspired this post. In the early days of my marriage I promised EW (at no prompting whatsoever) that I would never make him carry my large purse. I’ve stuck with that. That’s why we have small backpacks and gear bags. He looks manly carrying a backpack and I get to fill it as I wish—after all, I never told him I wouldn’t ask him to carry a bag, just not a large ladies’ purse.

Lynnelle here.

I’ve got nothing to add here. Wish I did, but I like to shop. I love bags. I wouldn’t ever ask Kurt to carry one; hold one while I tried on more bags, maybe – but not carry. He could remain stationary.

The definition of “shop” is something we can discuss at some point.  For me “shopping” isn’t necessarily buying, but more planning, dreaming, strategizing.  That is, unless you’re talking about grocery shopping. If Karen and I are going out “shopping” we do tend to come back with something in a bag, but sometimes not. If we go out grocery shopping, then that is a given we’re coming back with multiple bags (not the kind of bags I love, but more akin to the kind Barb loves).

This is all I have to add, even though I opened by saying I didn’t have anything to add.  See? Get us started and we don’t stop!  I’ll bet if you get Barb started shopping she may be a tough one to get stopped.

31 Days of Hurricanes, Earthquakes, You, and Me

Looking back at the past 31 days as we write this, the following has happened:

Hurricane Harvey;  25th August, landfall at Corpus Christi, then backtracked into the Gulf and hovered in the Gulf for days off of Houston before moving east to Louisiana and then north.

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Hurricane Irma; 6th September, passed by Antigua, plowed into St Maarten on through the northern Caribbean before crossing over Key West and up Florida’s West coast.

8.1Earthquake Southeast Mexico; 7th September offshore state of Chiapas, north of Guatemala.

Hurricane Maria;  18th September, hitting Dominica hard then on to devastate Puerto Rico. Fortunately predicted to head north and east avoiding a direct hit on the US, but is expected to still skirt the Carolinas. 

7.1 Earthquake Southern Mexico; 19th September, state of Puebla, southeast of Mexico City

6.1 Earthquake Southern Baha; 22nd September, peninsula Mexico offshore in the Gulf of California —  

Heck, Mexico has had 4 (FOUR) earthquakes in the last 24 hours (as of 25 Sept) registering over 4.1 in magnitude, and they continue. If you want to watch the count, follow Earthquake Track.

Thirty-One Days

I can’t imagine how many people have lost their lives, lost their homes, lost their friends and families, lost their way of life as they knew it. It’s overwhelming and for us that are on the outside looking in, while we try, we cannot even imagine what millions of people are going through today – and for months and years to come. Not only their world, but our world also, has changed. How can it not?

By now, 31 days of media coverage, one terrible catastrophe after another, we can get desensitized to the magnitude of what has happened. In Mexico’s case, what continues to happen. 

Let’s not get used to these tragedies. Don’t let this be our “new normal”. Like a marriage or other commitment that takes discipline and effort, let’s not lose the empathy and compassion that swept over us when we saw that first, unimaginable picture of devastation. We can’t do it all. But we can all do it – whether we think 60 is old or not.

What Moves You?

Please, if you were not impacted by these disasters, please choose an organization which best meets your personal values and give what you can to the location of your choice. Perhaps you honeymooned in St. Maarten; or chartered a sailboat from the now decimated fleet in the BVI; maybe Dominica drew you to her lush mountain hikes and waterfalls; or maybe you enjoyed a luxury hotel or cruise ship stop in the USVI. Perhaps you have family in Houston, take great pride in Texas, or have also experienced a massive flood. Perhaps you have a photo next to the Mile One Mark in Key West, or enjoyed a rather wild week there in your youth (or last year). Perhaps your favorite vacation ever was in Mexico where you enjoyed the city, the beaches, and a lush resort.

Just like in your town and mine, in all of these locations there people who help, people who hurt, people who need help, and people who would destroy our faith in humankind. There are kids, babies, the elderly, and parents who are trying to care for everyone; there are heroic doctors, nurses, police officers, and neighbors helping neighbors. There are roughly 3 million people, in the US and US territories alone, who have lost basic needs such as power, part or all of their homes, their jobs, and some or all of their possessions and—most wrenching—beloved family members. They are taxi drivers, health care workers, writers, cleaners, gardeners, bankers, store owners and store clerks, teachers, the clergy, and engineers. All of them need our help.

Where to Donate?

Charity Navigator http://bit.ly/2y2gmBz, a nonprofit that has independently rated over 8,000 charities, compiled a list of some of the best organizations to donate to in the wake of these disasters. Its team considers several factors when giving a charity a score out of 100. Please know that Charity Navigator is, itself, a nonprofit and the site will give you popups for donations as well. Do or don’t sign up with them. We believe their reviews and information they provide about the organizations is valid.  

Specific to Harvey – Michael and Susan Dell Foundation have launched the Rebuild Texas Fundhttps://www.rebuildtx.org. The Heels Diva (aka: Lynnelle) was lucky enough to attend the live telecast on Friday (22 Sept). At the end of the evening the fund had already collected over $2 million.  As we write this on the morning of the 25th, the collections are over $68 million.

Be generous, but be smart. If you have any doubts about a fundraising request, check the Better Business Bureau, in the US.  Tribe, please let us know if there is a Canadian, UK, Australian, or other equivalent to our BBB in your countries.

Special Note from the Teva Diva

(aka: Barb)

EW and I love the Caribbean. We spent over four years there on our boat, visiting all but a very few islands. As sailors, we see the Caribbean differently than most tourists do. Cruisers generally stay longer on each island (sometimes months) and get involved in the local communities by volunteering and most of us willingly and with great sprit enjoy local community events, from a sunrise Christmas celebration to the Carnival to the monthly Hash.  We were in St. Augustine for Irma and I know that millions lost power and many hundreds or thousands lost everything in that hurricane. And I know that people here in Florida need assistance. Here is a photo gallery of destruction in the Keys by the Palm Beach Post.

However, my heart and attention are in the islands—not simply because I’ve been there, but because, having been there, I know the challenges they will face and that vast majority of citizens will have no other choice but to stay and face them. For example, after Irma there were over 70,000 power outages in Florida and over 99% of them were restored in 4 days. On island after island there is no power at all, no safe drinking water, and no food stores. Some parts of some of these islands can expect to be without power for months. Months. Total population on the heavily impacted islands is over 3 million people.  After Irma, other islands helped their neighbors: the people of Puerto Rico helped St. John, the people of St. Croix helped St. Thomas, and the people of Dominica pledged over 2 million to help neighboring islands (including St. Thomas). Each of those three islands were decimated by Maria.

These islands rely on tourism, yet—depending on the island—there will be no tourism jobs for a few months up to a year. And yes, you may have heard chilling accounts of looting on some of the islands. I’ve verified many as true. Some people may be desperate for food for their families, others are simply criminals able to roam with weapons while the authorities provide what aid they can. With all my heart, I hope that island authorities receive professional military or police help to restore order. 

The needs and the challenges vary by island. Some, like Dominica, are fully independent and have no affiliation with a “parent” country. Others, like the BVI, the USVI, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten are part of larger, wealthier countries. First and foremost, I ask each of you to encourage your respective government to provide the needed assistance to your fellow citizens on distant shores. While I understand this will be expensive and create great challenges, our governments have a responsibility to the people on every island that flies their flag. Period. Full stop. No exceptions.

​.

Anti-Aging Creams for (normal) Women (on a Budget)

Barb here:

Goop” is what my dad called mom’s anti-aging products—usually just after he kissed her and got a taste of something that didn’t appeal to him. (Perhaps bacon flavored facial creams would have a market?)

My mom, was a well freckled red-head. (She would say “auburn”. I was known to say “carrot-colored” until I learned tact.) When she died in her seventies, her salt and pepper hair was salt and chili peppers, and her skin was flawless—soft, unlined, and beautiful.

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Alzheimer’s Symptoms – I Wish I Knew Then

Soooo many things I wish I knew then, that I know now.  

  • checkBailing someone out of debt will not solve their problem
  • checkBe sure to make life decisions for YOUR life; not the life someone else says you should have.
  • checkYou will likely be parenting your parents

There aren’t many things I’d say I would do differently, because I really love my life. I’m a firm believer that every decision you make, good or bad, is critical to leading you to the place you are now. Still, of all the “I wish I knew then what I know now” moments, #3 above is the one for which I’d risk the present, to redo the past. 

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Aging Parents

Caring for aging parents is full of stories of lessons learned and love. This one is about my Mom. For several years, particularly the last 18 months of his life, my Mom was the full-time caregiver for my Dad. He had congestive heart failure (CHF), which means his heart didn’t pump properly, so fluids would build up around his heart and lungs causing him to be (among other things) severely out of breath, weak and overall cranky.  

Dad was able to get around with a walker (when he finally would use the damn thing), get himself out of bed, shower, and to his recliner every day. The last year we had visiting nurses and hospice come in a few times a week to help him shower, etc., but it was still Mom who was there with him 24/7.  That’s a load for anyone, much less one who is 80-something.

So when Dad told me “Your Mom is losing it.” I chalked it up to the stress of her life, caring for her dying husband of 50+ years. 

I hadn’t really seen much that I would have thought was out of the ordinary, given the circumstances we found ourselves in.

In full disclosure, my Mom and I did not have a great relationship. I love my Mom. We were never estranged or feuding, but we weren’t mother-daughter best friends. My sister Karen and Mom were much closer. Mom and I would butt heads on almost everything. I think that played a part in my not seeing some of the changes because what she was doing was annoying and I thought I was just letting old wounds surface. I should have stepped back and recognized the changes.

Alzheimer’s Symptoms – Hiding in Plain Sight

For one, Mom would start reading signs as we drove.  “Belt Line Road”.  “Dominos Pizza”.  “Exit 423”.   No conversation.  Just reading signs out loud. She was doing this for a couple of years before Dad got really bad, not regularly or anything that would make me thing anything other than… “ok, so… I wonder if she wants pizza for dinner.”  I assumed she was in her own thoughts and just said something out loud that fit in with whatever story she was lost in. As time when on, it got more frequent.  Still, not enough to think it was anything other than Mom being Mom.

One night we were sitting in the living room and I started to smell something terrible. Having had more than a few plastic containers fall from the dishwasher rack onto the drying element, I knew that smell was plastic melting. Mom had put a plastic pitcher on the stove and turned on the burner. But… anyone can have a senior moment, right? An 83-year-old woman under that kind of stress; right?

But here’s the kicker: Mom stopped doing crossword puzzles. Every morning; every single morning for as long as I can remember, Mom had her coffee, breakfast and that day’s crossword puzzle, sitting at the dining table. They had the Dallas Morning News delivered well past the time most folks switched to digital, in large part because she wanted the crossword puzzle (and Dad wanted the “funnies” aka: comics).

One day I noticed Mom wasn’t doing the puzzles anymore. I’m not sure when she actually quit, but I noticed it near the end of Dad’s life. Again, there was so much stress and sadness in what was happening that we didn’t focus on it.

If Knew Then What I Know Now

I wish I’d focused on it.  I wish I’d focused on all of it. They were all signs of her progressing Alzheimer’s.  It didn’t get bad enough for us to actually recognize something was REALLY not right for another year. By that time (after discussing with Mom and everyone agreeing) we’d sold the house, moved Mom into a senior living apartment in another city completely disrupting her life and taking away anything familiar—all the very worst things you can do for someone with Alzheimer’s.  

What would I do differently? Until Dad passed I don’t think I would have done anything differently. After, I would have admitted the things that had been happening may NOT have been only stress related and scheduled an appointment for Mom.  I would also have tried very hard to discourage a surgery she had later that summer after Dad died. Anesthesia is something all seniors should try to avoid, AT ALL COSTS.  It was a nightmare experience for Mom. I don’t think she ever recovered back to her pre-surgery self and the dementia seemed to really advance after.

Everyone is different.  There are many, many forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s presents itself in varying ways. This is my story.  I’ll welcome questions or comments about my experience, but please know that I’m not a medical professional. I’m just a daughter trying to care for her Mom in the best way I know how. I have to say, also, that my sister Karen is my best friend and lifesaver and she and I are in this together. I cannot imagine being an only child with this responsibility. I cannot imagine being an only child, without my best friend—period. 

Thank you for listening. I feel like I’ve just had a therapy session.  Here’s to the HaT Tribe and to sisters.  XO

Barb Here:

My heart goes out to Lynnelle and to all who have family members suffering from Alzheimer’s. It is a horrible disease that robs one of all that is precious from doing a simple cross word puzzle to remembering loved ones.

I, too, have stories about caring for my elderly parents but my parents have been gone for over 17 (Dad) and 20 (Mom) years, now. Remember the WTF weight post? My adult weight gain was at its worse during my mom’s final two years and I, too, have some regrets. Most of all, I regret that they were taken from me when I was young (I now feel that under 45 is very young) but I also regret things I did and things I didn’t do. There are three life lessons I have tried to remember:

  • checkWe’re human, so we’re bound to screw something up every so often. As long as we’re acting with love and to the best of our ability in that situation, we need to forgive ourselves. 
  • checkI never, ever failed to show them how much I loved them. Oh, Mom and I fought-likes the time I had to drive two and a half hours to the assisted living center because she made a care-giver cry.  but we also spent wonderful times together laughing, telling stories, and listening to the kind of music she used to enjoy at the Grange Hall dances.
  • checkOnce we’ve been through this (or any challenge) we need to take the time to listen to others and give them hugs and support. Note I didn’t say “advice”. Sure, if someone asks and you have the answer or can do the research, help them. But what we who are becoming caregivers to those who diapered our butts really need is the love, hugs, and the reassurance that we’re doing the best we can and for all the best intentions.

Lynnelle and Karen and all who are aiding, loving, and actively assisting your parents, never forget you are heroes.

Oh, You Posing Poser; or, how to look better in photos

Barb here:

When did we start posing like runway models?

Seriously?

We used to bunch together, smile, and have someone snap our photo.

Now we line up, stomach in, chest out, and (if we are on the end of the row) with one arm on our hip, seemingly pushing said hip forward just a bit because…Why?

The other day a photo of a three year old in my family showed the same pose.

I am not amused.

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But I am guilty.

As an adult who has begun a new career in business, I had to obtain the dreaded “head shot”. Unfortunately I had to obtain head shots of my head and couldn’t use a stand in.

I’m 60 years old and 20 (sigh) 25 pounds overweight and have been blessed with a second chin.

Head shots are not my friend.

My last official head shot this about 10-12 years ago and I didn’t like the process then, but I didn’t have that chin. Unfortunately, those old shots were deemed unacceptable. Or false advertising. Or confusing.

So, like before, I found a local woman photographer whom I trusted and posed for a number of photos wearing two or three different outfits.

In my late forties, I simply smiled.

At 60, you can bet your bippy I posed. As best I can remember, it involved having the photographer stand above me (on a frickin’ ladder) and telling me to cross one arm over my body in an un-natural stance, while I turned said body partly away from the camera and looked back and up at it.

Voila! No giant extra chin.

Consider me a fan of posing…for anyone of a certain age.

Also, I need to get a selfie stick so I can recreate that pose when EW and I are out and about sightseeing.

Not.

I never remember to put my hand on my hip, either.

Lynnelle here:

The business head shot aside, hitting “the pose” is a skill that has to be practiced to be mastered. You say, “the pose?”.   Yes.   

The pose; one hand on hip, elbow turned slightly away from the camera, hip back, foot forward & leg crossed slightly over other leg.   

It’s like golfing or tennis or anything else requiring multiple physical contortions. It takes practice, practice, practice until it’s second nature. In golf, maybe you practice the grip and forget about the stance the back swing, the follow through. Once you get the grip, then you move on to the backswing – forgetting all the other stuff.  And so on.  

Kurt has 3 beautiful daughters; Crystal, Shandi, and Brooke. All are good at “the pose, but the professional is Crystal. I’d put her up against any red carpet walk, any day. She has it down. Pat. I on the other hand, try really hard, running through all the instructions as I spaz my way into position.

Compare for yourself.

Kurt and Crystal

The Heels Diva 

Lest you think this was a one-off, here are a few more of Crystal striking the pose.

Perfectly.  Every time. 

Posing to promote your best self. It’s a practiced skill. At this stage in my life I think I’ll spend the time practicing to keep my eyes open when the flash goes off and holding my stomach in. If I can master that, I’ll be happy.

If you’d like to practice your posing, here are some helpful tips. 7 Posting Techniques for Non-Models

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