Archive for the ‘Memory’ Category

Wednesday morning, I took Mom to the Unitarian church for the monthly Senior’s Lunch. Usually, the chaplain from our Fellowship has taken her and brought her back. This time she had a class just before and I was to take Mom and she would bring her back.

So at 11:30 I took her and dropped her off and then went to my company’s office to drop off some paperwork and then went to pick up some lunch. I sat down in front of my computer and started eating and suddenly an email popped up telling me that Mom had taken one of her “turns” and they wanted to know what I should do. She had called the home number and my cell (which I had forgotten to bring with me) and left messages on both. She had sent the email at 1:30. I got the email at 1:45. I tried calling the church three times before I left the house and three times (during red lights) on the way there.

I arrived at the church and found Mom sitting up, looking fine. Apparently, a doctor had been there and had taken her pulse and said it was “really fast” and that she should be seen at the hospital.

I took her pulse and it was fast as well a irregular but it usually is after one of her “turns”. She hadn’t actually passed out and unless she actually passes out, she has been fine afterwards. If she passes out, I have called an ambulance. I decided to take her home. She said she was feeling fine. She got up but by the time we got across the back of the church, she was feeling dizzy again. I got her to lie down and gave her some water which , again, usually helps her perk up. We tried again and, again, she felt dizzy after only a few steps. Her pulse was still a little fast and still irregular so I called an ambulance. On the way to the hospital her heart rate went up to 160… They put her on a medication to bring the heart rate down and over the next few hours it went down… and then went too low (29, at one point — 60 is normal). The crash cart was on hand, just in case. They were talking of keeping her in. They talked about putting in a pacemaker. Finally they let her go home.

The diagnosis was Sinus Tachycardia which apparently an irregularity brought on by stress — either mental stress (fright or flight) or physical stress (improper diet, failure to take medications, getting up suddenly, age-related, too much coffee…). Sometimes it is short duration and you recover quickly but if it continues, it can kill. The “good” thing in all this is that they were able to take a really good look at what was going on with Mom when she was having one of these things. Previously, they were more or less guessing about what was going on. over the last few years she was on 4 times the amount of blood pressure medication as she should have been. Once they took her off the medication, she stopped having her “turns”. In recent weeks, she had had a couple of dizzy spells.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that in the last couple of weeks, Mom has been forgetting to take her Metformin for her diabetes and forgetting to put on her Nitro patches. Since those have been the medications that she’s always been able to manage on her own, I had been monitoring but not having to take over for her. In the last few weeks, she’s forgotten she even has to take her Metformin and I have to remind her and actually show her the medication. In the case of the Nitro patch, if I remind her, she remembers. I can’t trust her with the other medications. She’ll take them repeatedly or not take them even if I leave them out for her. I have to hand them to her and give her the water to ensure that she takes them. At least with the Nitro and the Metformin, it is easy enough for her to manage them… if I remind her and easy to check to see that the patch is on (and off at night) and if there is or is not a 1/2 tablet in the bottle.

Food is another problem… Left to her own devises, she will eat bananas all day long and eat all the yogourt in one sitting. She’ll eat cheese and crackers instead of the raw veggies I have put out for her. I can’t buy large tubs of yogourt because she’ll eat half the tub and leave the rest out on the coffee table, under the coffee table or under the couch. If I tell her it needs to go in the fridge, she says it doesn’t have to be refrigerated… apparently the “Keep refrigerated” on the container is “optional”. That’s IF I don’t find the container two weeks later… I can’t buy individual containers of yogourt because she’ll eat all 20 over two days… instead of the carrots and humus that is right beside it.

I bought some frozen toffee puddings to have for the odd treat. Yesterday, I found she’d eaten one for breakfast and later in the day I found she’d eaten another one for lunch. She didn’t remember having eaten them and refused to believe that she had. I got angry.

Then I realized that getting angry wasn’t the answer and that coming up with a sensible solution was the better way to deal with problems.

SO… this afternoon I ran out to Sears and bought a full-size upright freezer and a full-size fridge (without a freezer) for the basement. That way I can bright food into the house and put it in the basement fridge and freezer, bringing up just enough for the day and only the stuff that is good for her. Since the fridge in the kitchen is a side-by-side and the freezer is too small to actually fit what we need, this was an easy solution and one that Mom would accept. I could have gotten a fridge-freezer more cheaply ($1000 as opposed to $1700 with the extended warranty) but I still have the problem of not enough freezer space. Given the money I will save in wasted food and taking Mom to and from the hospital because she hasn’t eaten properly. They arrive next Thursday.

The next thing I did was set her up with Meals on Wheels for Mom. She’ll get hot lunches three days a week and she’ll have nutritious frozen lunches and breakfasts for Tuesdays and Fridays when we go to Chiropractic. She can cook them herself when I am working. They are low-sodium, low-fat, and appropriate for diabetics. The hot lunches arrive fresh at the door which means that she’ll have someone come to the door and that, in itself, will provide some stimulation for her. The range of frozen meals is amazing! They have chicken, fish, beef, pork, and vegetarian options. They have a section of Chinese-inspired meals, a butter chicken option, a huge variety of soups (Mulligatawny!!!) and desserts. AND… They work out at less than $5 per meal!

I can get the frozen meals delivered daily and also go and pick up them in bulk at a central location. That way, I can ensure that she’s getting a healthy, balanced diet that is appropriate for her, that she will like and that she can feel she has some control over.

Not only is a healthy diet good for her physically, it is good for her Alzheimer’s. The better she feels, the longer we’ll have her with us and THAT is my priority.


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A few weeks ago, my sister loaned me the family photo albums and I have been hard(ish) at it scanning and uploading them to my Fotki albums.

It has been years since I looked at most of these photos and there are some I don’t ever (consciously) recall seeing before. I have to sit down with Mom and go through the albums and sort out some of the faces I don’t recall or don’t know. Sadly, there are only a few of my step-Dad’s family photos and none of them include anyone beyond his parents and sisters. I do remember a photo of his grandfather (which grandfather I cannot recall) but so far I haven’t located it.

Many of these photos were just loose in boxes in the past. Some had been in the old sticky albums which damage the photos. Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be any really bad damage, beyond some yellowing. I seem to have a lot of the negatives for the photos, myself. I am debating as to whether to put the photos and the negatives together or keep them separate in case something happens to one or the other. However, if they are scanned and uploaded, we will have one set of copies safe.

Great grandmother Margaret (Balfour) Tocher

Maggie, Mamie, Jennie (seated on floor), Nancy (baby) and John Tocher

Grandfather McIntosh and Mom

Aunt Amy, Aunt Mehru, and Dad, 1926

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Tonight I lost a favourite cereal bowl. It was hand-made and one-of-a kind. I got it at the Great Bowls of Fire benefit for the Ottawa food bank.

Recently, Mom has taken to getting angry at me if I suggest that she’s forgotten something. Usually it is because she has done something dangerous… like taken her pills when I have already given them too her. She will swear up and down that she didn’t but when I try and logically explain how I know she took the pill(s) she gets angry… often to the point of throwing things at me. Usually it is the phone receiver or the TV remote.

Sometimes, like tonight, it is because, for the umpteenth time, she has put water in her cat’s dry food dish. For some reason she has gotten it into her head that he won’t eat it if it isn’t soaked in water . In fact, he won’t eat it if it is wet. The problem is that whenever she goes near the dish, he follows her about because he things she is going to give him something else… like caviar or roast suckling pig.

I see him chowing down on the dry food all the time. In fact, when we were in the old place, he would come into my room and eat Benjamin’s food which is not soaked.

All that happens is that he won’t eat the dry food and then it goes moldy. I have tried to explain that if he eats moldy food, it could make him sick or worse but she still insists that he won’t eat it unless it is wet.

Tonight, she simply denied that she put water in the disk. Since I changed both dishes yesterday, throwing out mold food, I didn’t put water in the dish (both dishes, actually, if you count the second dish in the kitchen which she put down this morning), and the cats can’t reach the taps… It had to be her.

Not only is it dangerous for Amber but it is wasteful and the food isn’t cheap. Since I end up throwing out about 1/3 of what gets put down for Amber, probably about 1/5th of the food is wasted.

Tonight she got mad and yelled at me and a moment later, my bowl was across the room in a bunch of pieces. She said she “dropped” it but since it landed half way across the room… I know she threw it.

I know it is my fault for bothering to try and get her to remember to do or not do something or bother trying to tell her she took an extra dose of her meds.

I need to stop and let go. Just pick up the dish and throw the spoiled food out… Hide the pills in a new place and not worry because she took one dose extra… I worry that she’s going to hit me with something and may well have thrown the bowl at me if I had been in the room. It just isn’t worth the risk of her hurting me or herself.

Normally, she is placid and easy-going. It is just once in a while and always when I have pushed her trying to be logical or to “make” her remember.

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I thought it apropos to post my PhotoHunter selection this week on the blog that I started about living around my mother’s Alzheimer’s.

My mother

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A comment was posted to my previous post on showing Mom the Street View images of places she lives and where she was born.

Some links were shared to more photos.

Former United Free Church, Canonbie (Alan Reid)

This was the first church where my grandfather preached and beside the manse where Mom was born.

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For a few years, there was the hope that one day, I would be able to take my Mom back to Scotland to see some of the places that have featured so much in her stories of growing up. I have not seen the house she grew up in in Dumfries, Scotland, or the house she and her mother moved to when my grandfather died. She may have taken me there when we went when I was 5 but while I remember a great deal from that trip, I don’t recall that.

Thanks to Street View on Google Maps. I can now stand outside the houses, at least vicariously, with her and be able to reminisce with her about the places before they disappear from her memory.

I can also share them with family, as well.

The first is the house she grew up in. It is the one on the right. It served as the Manse for my grandfather’s church, though the church was down town.

You can even see that the old house name, before the houses were numbered is still there…. Halldykes

The second is the second floor of the right side of the building. When she lived there, across the road was an open hillside with pasture land for sheep grazing, might have been fallow or had a crop in, depending on the year. Now there is a housing estate on it.

And here is my grandfather’s church, formerly Buccleuch Street Church, now Bethany Hall, a Baptist church.

And here is where she was born… The Manse, in Canonbie. I can’t wait to show it to her in the morning…

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Mom nearly scuttled the application process for the new place.

I had a letter from our chiropractor about Mom’s situation and had wrapped a note from myself around it and put “Attn: Membership Committee” on it. I put it on the stairs with some other things to take out today and drop off to someone on the committee. I couldn’t find the doctor’s letter.

I asked Mom but got the usual…. “I haven’t seen it!” and “I haven’t touched it!”

Invariably, she HAS seen it and Has touched it. In fact, usually, she has seen, touched, opened, and gotten tomato sauce all over whatever it is I am looking for.

After a good long search, I found the envelope in her filing cabinet, with the letter from me opened but luckily not the chiropractor’s letter.  AND, thankfully, not covered in tomato sauce, honey, or something I’d rather not know the actual identity of (as in the case of the letter from the financial counsellor with the discharge of the bankruptcy).

I took everything over (forgot the letter from my company telling them that I still work full time there… However, I can have it emailed and send it over via email.


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Empty mugs.

How is it that an 85 year old woman who was out all morning (with me) could go through 7 (SEVEN) coffee mugs in one day????? She left about 1/2 cup in each. But, there they were lined up on the coffee table….

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This morning, Mom apologised for yelling at me. So she remembered that which is “good/bad”. I’d rather she had forgotten.

Today was Vernon’s funeral (a good friend of hers for many, many years and husband of not so many years of another dear friend of hers at the Fellowship and the larger congregation in town). So sad to say goodbye to a wonderful man. Virginia looked so shaken and very low.

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Tonight was the first time in a long time when Mom has gotten angry when I have said she has told me something a number of times.

In this case, she had seen something on TV about a ship that was sinking and the rescue helicopter pilot refused to allow the ship’s crew to bring aboard the ship’s cat. She was pretty upset about this and repeated a number of thoughts many times in the few minutes she was relating the story. Usually, I can weather the reapeated thoughts or questions. Tonight, however, she kept coming into my room to repeat a particular thought as though it was the first time she had thought of it.

Finally, I said “Okay, Mom. You said this a number of times.”

By now she was back in her room and she yelled at me “Oh, I did not!”

I said “I’m sorry, Mom, but you did.” She came storming into my room, screeched “I DID NOT!” and I thought for a moment that she was going to hit me. I had my back to her, so I don’t know.  Maybe not the best thing to say but I said “If you hit me, Mom, I will call the police…” She said she wasn’t planning on hitting me and I have to take her word for it.

I feel badly…. But everyone reaches a breaking point. Usually, I manage to deflect her thoughts onto something else. Sometimes when I say “I know. You said.” she asks “Did I?”. Occasionally, she gets miffed.

She hasn’t responded like this in a number of years.

Mom has never taken criticism or my feelings of anger very well. Even as a child, I wasn’t allowed to get angry or question or criticize. Her response has always been to do what we in the family call her “Martyr Routine”. “This is the thanks I get…”, “You never appreciated anything I did for you…”…

A very few times in the last number of years, her response has been an irrational outburst.

One time, I was trying to get it across to her that she had to stop loaning people money after I had had to bail her out of a couple of sticky bill situations. I kept trying to tell her that she simply didn’t have any money and if she didn’t stop loaning to certain family members, we were going to be out on the street. Suddenly, she looked at me with a terrified look on her face and started a panicked wailing. I had never heard her make a sound like that in my life and I had never seen her in such a state!. To make matters worse we were in the car and she tried to open the car door while I was driving. I had to keep pressing the automatic lock to keep her from opening the door.

I managed to pull into a parking lot and get her calmed down but it scared me.

I am sure that it was the feeling of losing control — in this case feeling as though she was being told she was incompetent. The fact is, in one sense she was.

The thing is that I had a real sense of what it will be like in a few years when we “lose her” to the dementia and she loses all sense of her self.

When I was in middle school, for a short time, I used to go with a friend to help out at a senior’s residence. The ward we visited was the dementia ward. We got to know a few of the people there. There was one woman who could only talk about a fire…. repeatedly. Another woman used to steal things and impishly refuse to tell us where they were (she hid my scarf one day). She would also like to try and get someone to give her sugar. As she was diabetic, she wasn’t allowed sugar.

One of the women would sit quietly until suddenly someone would walk near her… startle her… or just smile at her and she started wailing. It was that same wail that Mom made in the car.

I know by morning she will likely have forgotten it but I won’t have and I will still feel badly.

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