Monday, October 10, 2011

Mom's Having Fun!

My sister from Missouri came to Wisconsin to help out my Dad for a couple weeks. What a pleasure to have her here!! Yesterday, we went together to see Mom. When we arrived at the nursing home she wasn't in her usual spots. She has a recliner that she likes to sit in that is in the quiet living room by the nurses desk. She wasn't there. She wasn't in the bird room or the activity room. I didn't see her in the halls so we decided to actually look in her room.
When we came to the door, she was leaning over her bed talking to her two baby dolls!! It was such a sweet sight. She heard us and turned around but then sat next to her dolls and cuddled them.
We went in and I sat on the floor by her and my sister in a chair. We told her the babies looked cute and she seemed very content. Then we took out these toy wands that came from the dollar store. I've carried one in my bag for quite awhile and mom gets a kick out of it because it makes a magical music sound. The new ones my sister brought made noises and the one would keep going as quickly as you could push the button. Mom's face would light up and she would keep pushing it. Dolls and toy wands made my mom smile and we all laughed and enjoyed the moment. There were three wands and we walked around casting spells listening to the music. Crazy...maybe... but Mom was having fun and showed expression and that made my sister and I very happy. Another highlight, mom ate all of her food. She heaped a spoonful of mixed vegetables on her Jello and ate it up! Then she ate a chicken salad sandwich, the rest of the veggies and the rest of the salad. Yes, it was a good day with mom.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Dad Is One Tough Guy

This blog is suppose to document my mom's illness but as a family we are tightly woven and I want to tell my dad's story also. Dad has lived on the same farm his entire life...82 years old. Without mom by his side he now lives alone. His mind is sound and he has many friends and he loves to be on the farm. We sold the cows two years ago before mom went in to the nursing home but up until then at age 80 and mom at 74 they had cows, chickens, dogs, cats and Guinea hens. Every summer there was a huge garden with enough corn to feed the community.
Obviously things have slowed down. The cows are gone and the pasture is grown up but today when I kept calling my dad on the phone wondering where he was...finally this afternoon he calls to report in..."I put on the mower and I have been in the back by the pond. Mowing the trails. It's beautiful back there. You should see the color of the maples, aspen and oaks." This short conversation brought a smile to my face. Dad at age 82 is still able to get out and ride the tractor.

O.k. there is more to his story. Dad has been the town Dump/Recycling Attendant for more years then we can count. What does this involve?? Each Saturday and Sunday, he sits by the town garage and directs community members as they bring in their refuse. This job involves helping people with their bags but the important part is the conversation and social outlet it has become for several. People come to the dump to see dad and bring him beer, pie, soup, sandwiches and a variety of goodies. He brings home lots of treasures to say the least. He is a town icon...people look for Donnie as they pass the town garage and see his truck...they are glad to see he is still there meeting and greeting people.

Well, on Sept 3 that is just what my dad was doing. Meeting & greeting neighbors...then a guy rides up on a bicycle...he says he is thirsty and dad tells him to get a water from the truck...people come and go...and dad offers the guy a coke...he goes to the cooler and sees the beer and asks,"Can I have this beer instead?" Of course dad agrees and then he asks to sit next to dad...the neighbors have all left and it is just dad with this guy...Then the guy says he has to go to the bathroom...Dad tells him to go behind the dumpster. Dad said it seemed to take awhile for him to come back but then he sees something from the opposite side of his head and then dad realizes that the guy is beating him in the head with a rock...Dad falls to the ground and is bleeding and the guy kicks him several times in the head. Dad yells, "What the hell is wrong with you??" He takes dad's knife and keys and gets in the truck and drives right by dad lying in the driveway.

With in minutes someone comes by and sees dad. The ambulance is called and he is rushed to St. Mary's hospital in Duluth. On this same morning, I have a very nice visit with my mom at the nursing home and I think of dad at his job visiting his friends and I am comforted to know that he is where he should be enjoying the day. I leave mom and meet a friend for lunch and then the phone call from my husband. "Donna, You've got to come home. Your dad has been in an altercation and they are taking him to the hospital. We've got to go now.??????????????????What?

This was the beginning of some very challenging days. Dad was bruised badly and his head was swollen like a pumpkin. The guy and the truck have not been found. There are many details to this story but the main thing is three weeks later...

Dad is out riding his tractor mowing the trails enjoying the fall colors. Yes, My Dad Is One Tough Guy. May God continue to bless him with good health and good friends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Days

The past week has been a busy one. Ken and I were going to go camping last Tuesday. As usual, I started the day with a phone call to Dad. I always ask him how he is doing and he said, "Alot better than last night."

After a little further discussion, he told me that he had taken two Nitro tablets the night before because of chest pains. He said they really made him feel better. Dad had a heart attack two years ago and had two stints put in. Since then he has not had any chest pains until the last two weeks. He has taken Nitro on two different occasions. When I hung up the phone and discussed the situation with my husband, we decided to take Dad right to the E.R. I called him back and told him the plan.

He didn't seem to think it was necessary but I said we were going so get ready. We checked in to the E.R. at 10 A.M. By 3:00 P.M. Dad was in a recovery room. They had said that his blood test showed that he had had a heart attack in the last 24 hours and needed another stint put in. It was amazing how quick the whole procedure happened. By the way, he told the E.R. staff that he had been having mild chest pains for about six weeks!!!

He was able to come home on Wednesday and then I stayed with him a couple nights and my sister stayed one night. By Saturday, he was anxious to go see mom. I said I would would drive him. It is close to 50 miles away. He walked into the nursing home ahead of me and he said mom saw him coming down the hall and was waving to him immediately. She was so glad to see him. When I came she was excited and said, "Well, Donna!!" It was joy to my ears to hear my name. She hasn't said it for about a month so I was wondering if I had heard it for the last time. It's kind of silly to be so happy about hearing my name because I don't really think she understands who I am but she is glad to see me. We had lunch together and looked at pictures and read a couple board books and sat outside in the pavillion. It was a good day.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Days Go By

Summer is flying by and the heat and humidity is overwhelming!! I wouldn't mind a cool day and wearing a sweatshirt!! I have continued to drive dad on Monday and Fridays to visit mom. Last Friday, John and Julie were with us. That is Mom's niece that has been a regular visitor throughout mom's life. We had a nice visit.

I know that it is hard for people to see mom in the nursing home. She didn't know who Julie was so we told her more than once. We said, "She is Julie Mihna. Your brother Steve Mihna's daughter." It didn't seem like it meant anything to her. Julie told me that she has a hard time visiting mom but she felt like this last visit was a good one. Mom really studied the photo albums and she ate plenty throught our visit.

What goes on in mom's mind?? What does she remember and know??? At this point, it does not matter. We look at picture albums. Read books and take walks. On Friday, she had no problem walking down the hall to see the three big trees and the blue house out the window. She is always amazed by the tallest tree.
On the way back, I reminded her, Donnie Slipher is here. He is your sweetheart." She seemed surprised and when I said, "Yep, He is right around the corner." She quickened her pace and recognized him immediately. She smiled and moved the chair close and gave him a kiss. How sweet is that?? I hate to see mom not remembering but it gives me such joy to see her walk quickly to him and give him a squeeze.

The week before when we walked in Tamra was just asking mom to go to the bathroom. She saw us and was distracted but then she asked dad to hold her baby doll, Katie and then she went with Tamra to the bathroom. Dad sat there holding the doll waiting for mom. Can you imagine? A man 82 years old with a doll tucked in his arm waiting for his wife of 45 of years. To me it is just amazing how he has adjusted to this huge challenge in his life.

My dad married mom when he was 35 and she was 30. They had six children at the start of their marriage. Needless to say they faced many challenges through the years...but in the end they stayed together and he is holding her baby doll, waiting for her to come from the bathroom where she is being helped by one of the angels at the nursing home.

Everyone that has visited mom at the nursing home agrees that it is an amazing place and that she is receiving the best of care. There are still family members and friends that disagree. It is difficult not to have their support but I know that mom is in a good place and the staff knows her personality and they love her and want the best for her.

God is in control and mom is safe. What more can I ask for??

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Visiting Mom with Dad

Since school is out, I've been driving dad over to visit mom. It is the usual routine of coffee and snack and then lunch. Looking at pictures and a little walk. She has been saying my name when she first sees me, but I have to say she seems more confused about pictures and most everything. She asked where am I? one day & I said Spooner, Wisconsin and that was all she needed to hear. Dad is doing o.k. Still active but his feet and hands hurt. It is painful to watch him walk some days. I'm not sure how long he will be able to maintain his independent life style...We will continue to take it a day at a time and know that God is in control.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Visits with Mom

May has been a busy month. I didn't get to see mom for just over a week! When I went to visit her today she looked happy to see me. "Where did you come from?!" She didn't say my name but she sure looked like she knew who I was.

We looked at photo albums and enjoyed a granola bar. She said I should make more of them! We had lunch together. She wasn't interested to much in eating but she ate some turkey, dressing, green beans and most of the cherry pie. I am always glad to see mom eating. I can't imagine the day that she won't...we walked the halls and she was going slow. I said, "Come on you can go faster than that." She said, "Oh, no" so we plodded along...and then she read the door Sundance Therapy. I had a chuckle she read the words and then did a little jig right there in the hallway. She certainly still knows what dance means.

She enjoyed looking at the photo albums especially the old pictures of her family. Named all her brothers and sister and she is always happy to see a picture of her sweetheart "Donnie." She points to him and says, "I like him." I tell her I talked to him on the phone and he said, "He loves you and he is crazy about you and he is coming to see you!" She usually replies, "really!" She seems happy to hear about her sweetheart.

As we walked down the hall, I thought briefly, "Mom is looking older, more confused and slower." I wish her boys would come spend time with her...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Birthday Party Sophie is 77!!

A week ago, we had a birthday party for mom at the nursing home. It was my sister Bonnie's idea. I have to admit I wasn't too excited about it at first. I wasn't sure if any one would actually show up and I was wondering how mom would react to the situation. As it turned out, at least twenty friends and family gathered together for a couple hours. Mom hung out with us the whole time. She didn't really seem to recognize her friends but she did eat cake and look at old photo albums and she was glad to have dad sitting by her and when I walked in she said, "Donna!!". Such music to my ears!! She looked was all fixed up with her hair curled and finger nails polished. It's so nice that the staff makes sure the residents are ready for special days.

Earlier in the month, my niece Netta came with her husband Justin and their 15 month old son Jacob. That would be mom's first great grand baby!! What a pleasure it was to spend the week with them. I am so glad that they came to Wisconsin and saw mom in the nursing home and spent time with her. I know mom is not remembering a lot but I believe that she does recognize family and she does know when we are there and she does know that we love her. If no one visits for a few days, I do believe she gets more anxious. I really wish my brothers would visit. How can they miss this whole part of mom's life??

Last night, I went to visit mom after work. I asked the activities director how mom was doing. She said that she had been coming to activities and planted a lettuce bowl during the planting activity. She also mentioned that she sees mom going outside to enjoy the warm weather. It's nice to know mom is not just sitting alone in a room but she is out with people and doing a few things.

When I found mom she had just left a sing along music activity and she was snoozing in her favorite recliner. I waited for a bit and then she woke up and said, "How did you get here?!" She always looks so surprised and happy to see me. We chatted for a bit and then went to the dinning room. Mom doesn't understand when I tell her we are going to eat. She seems confused about where or what I am talking about so I have to just talk her into coming with me. She was holding tight to a little stuffed dog. She would look at it close and snuggle it. When we arrived at her table another lady already there immediately said, "That's my dog!!" I told her I thought it was mom's because she had been holding it for awhile. Mom just kind of scowled at her. She doesn't seem to have the words to verbally reply in these situations. Florence was already at the table and started up a monologue about "her boy" that was in a hole in the army and they didn't think there was breathing on & on the story went as the other lady continued to badger mom about her little dog. It was crazy listening to all that talk...finally a nurse went to get a dog for the other lady. She was glad to get it but she still thought she should have mom' too.

Mom ate her hamburger and pears all on her own and I was able to coax her into drinking some milk and eating a few carrots. She enjoyed the old pictures I brought along and was resting with her baby doll when I left her.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A New Season

The winter has been a long one...and although the calendar says it is spring and it is actually April 3 the weather is still chilly and there is lots of snow on the ground. I've been busy with work but I try to see mom once or twice a week. Bonnie and Dad visited her together on Friday. Bonnie took mom and dad for a ride around Spooner. They sat in the back seat together and had an ice cream cone and looked at the houses. Mom seemed to enjoy the outing and I know dad was happy about it. I am so thankful that my sister has time to spend with them.

My last visits with mom have been positive. She sees me and says my name and we enjoy holding her baby doll, looking at photos and then we go to the dining room. Mom enjoys the sweets, especially ice cream. As soon as her food was served, she grabbed the little plastic cup of ice cream, took the lid off and started eating. I said maybe you should have some of your sandwich but she was totally focused on the icecream. It felt good to see her enjoy something so much. She hugs me and I say I love you and she almost always will say it back.

Mom definitely needs more help with things. She seems confused about most things. The CNA's are so good to hear. Patient and they have a sense of humor which mom still enjoys.

Mom has been in the nursing home for 15 months!! It has taken a long time for things to kind of settle down. It still shocks me to think of her there and I would love for things to be different but I am so grateful that she has a safe place to be where she can wander and interact with others. I know that her presence there is a blessing to others. Thank you God for providing all we need!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Good Day with Mom & Dad

Today, Dad picked me up at 9:30 and we went to Roy Carlson's visitation. It was sad to be there with out mom & see so many of her friends that are functioning on their own still. We just stayed for a bit and then headed to Spooner to visit mom. On the way, Dad mentioned that he thought it would be good not to tell mom that Roy had died. I agreed and I am very proud of Dad for understanding mom's illness and that for her hearing Roy died would just be upsetting and not worth the sadness or it might not mean anything to her but why take the chance.
A couple weeks ago, mom asked dad for the first time, "What kind of place is this and Where did I used to be?" He said he told her, "Your on vacation and this is a nice place with good food and a good bed." She was content with that answer & I am very proud of dad for responding like he did.
Today, mom was in the activity room exercising with others in a circle. When she saw me, she said, "Donna." Yep, that really made my day. I finished the exercises with her and then we went to sit with dad in the birdroom. We looked at books and photos and had coffee. Later, we had lunch & I said I was going to buy groceries but I would come back.
Dad was still encouraging mom to eat. She stayed with him for awhile but then she told him, "I'm going to look for that girl." He said she walked down the hall and then came back and went to the adjoining room where she likes to sit in the recliner. She calls it the living room. He could see her through the window that connects the rooms. She was looking at a magazine and had forgotten he was there visiting. We went and visited mom for a bit more & I told dad that I was glad to see that mom was looking at magazines and at least she seems calm and not worried.

When we left she was cuddling her baby doll. It's funny how as time has passed, I can look at a day like this with my mom and call it a good day. We enjoyed a meal together. We hugged and said, "I love you." I told her about a trip to Oklahoma that her and I went on & she said,"We should do that again." and I told her that we would.
I would love to have had mom's life turn out different, but I believe that God has a plan for all of us and my mom is a blessing to the people that interact with her now and some how this is all part of the plan. I thank God that mom is getting amazing care and dad is dealing with the changes of his wife with amazing love. God's in control...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Year of the Journey

Dad doesn't work at the dump on Saturdays in the winter so we have been going together to see mom on that day. It's a nice opportunity for us to be together. Mom looked great today! Her hair was clean and short and she had lipstick on and a little blush! Stripped shirt and her plaid shoes. She was playing kick ball in the circle when we arrived and said, "Bonnie!" That's my sister's name but I am always happy to have her recognize me to any degree.

We continued the game for a bit but then went to find dad in the birdroom. When I told that Donnie her sweetheart was there to see her she said, "I don't think so..." but as soon as she catches a glimpse of him she rushes to hug and kiss him.

We had a nice lunch together. It was our usual routine of looking at kids books and photo albums. Today, when she looked at the photos of my two sisters and her on a trip she said, "Well, look at those ladies." It was as if she didn't have a clue who it was??? I said, "Mom, that's you and me in the picture." No look of recognition just kind of agreed.

Mom isn't too interested in eating but dad is good at encouraging her and feeding her. He kept trying to get her to eat the potatoes and vegetables. Finally, I told her tell him you just want the pudding. It was funny because she turned and looked at him and said, "I want the pudding." It seems her tastes have changed because almost everything makes her make a funny face except sweet stuff. She smiled about that. She especially likes a apple/pear pie I bring her. Her eyes light up and she eats the whole piece feeding herself!

Days have been busy so I didn't write about Christmas. I was really dreading it but it went o.k. Not like past Christmas. I did not hear from my brothers but Kenny, Dad and I spent Christmas day with mom and it went o.k.

The question is so How's your mom doing??? She is doing fine. She doesn't remember much but she seems relaxed most of the time and the staff gives her excellent care. She enjoys holding her baby doll. Today after we looked at pictures and books I went to get her baby doll from her room. There were two dolls!!! I took one to the nurses station and said I think mom has enough to handle with one, but later when mom and I went to her room she said, "Where's the other one? There were two." Now how does she remember two dolls but not that her husband is waiting in the next room??

She doesn't remember where to go eat? or that we just played kick ball but she remembers she has two baby dolls on her bed. I told her the other mom came to pick up the other baby. I've also have started to tell her that I talked to her mom & she is just fine and going to visit her sister. Who knew that one day I would be telling my mom such fibs???

There are times my mind still can not grasp that this has happened to my mom and that she is living in a nursing home and will not come back home. That's the difficult thoughts but I am so thankful that she is in a safe, predictable place with wonderful care and I believe God has a purpose for all of us and maybe mom's purpose is to touch the lives of people in the nursing home because everyone knows who Sophie is.