Dr Alemayehu Part l

A Friday morning appointment with Miss Cathy and her neurologist, Dr Alemayehu:

“How has your summer been?” He asked her after we were seated in the examination room.

“Oh fine, fine”, she replied, eager to update him, “it’s been wonderful ever since you said that I could stay at home by myself; gosh, you don’t know what a blessing it’s been not to have to go anywhere when my son goes out-of-town. It feels wonderful so I truly thank you.”

“So”, the doctor said smiling at her, “you’ve declared your independence! Well, that’s very nice, I want you to know that I prayed for you.”

“Did you, oh bless your heart, thank you doctor.”

“Now”, he said suddenly becoming more doctor and less old acquaintance, “ I want to ask you a couple of questions.”

“How do you function? “How is your memory?”

“Well”, she said,” I do alright, but I get nervous.” When he asked what she meant she told him about the earthquake and having to go to the emergency last month because she was so upset over her granddaughter being in the hospital.”

He listened but didn’t comment right away, then he said, “I want you to take this pen and paper and I want you to do something for me but I want you to listen carefully before you start.”

He told her that he wanted her to draw the face of a clock and to put in the numbers where they should be, then put the hands of the clock on 10:45. Satisfied that she understood what he was asking of her he got up from his seat and left the room.

I looked on from my chair in the corner as she drew the circle, then the number “6”, then the “12” and the numbers 1 through 5 down the right side of the clock (pretty good so far) then she put the number “9” almost in the center of the circle and the rest of the numbers were in the right order but they were more or less vertical instead of following the left curve of the circle that represented that side of the clock.

“What time did he say,” I heard her ask herself,” was it 10:45 or 11”45?” Then she looked at me and asked me, “What time did he tell me-11: 45?”

I mimed zipping my lips and she said, “Come on now, hurry up and tell me so we can get out of here.”

“No can do,” I said, “ It’d be like helping you cheat on a test.”

Since she drew a very short hand that went from the middle of the clock to the eleven and another verrry short hand that pointed toward the nine it was hard to tell what time she was trying to indicate. But when she was finished she wrote “11:45” at the top of her page so that her intent wouldn’t be misinterpreted.

Dr Alemayehu came back into the room, sat down in front of her once again and studied her drawing. “Do you think this right?” and when she said she thought it looked like a clock he said, “ I’ve never seen a clock with numbers running up the middle and the time was supposed to be 10:45.”

But he seemed satisfied (enough) with the drawing so he continued with his questions.

“What floor are we on?”


“”What kind of office is this?”

“Neurology doctor”

“What’s the date?”

“Eight, August, twenty-eleven.”

“Who’s the President?”

“Dr….uhh, Obama.”

“The one before?”

“Oh, I will never forget him-Bush.”

Then he showed her the word “world” written out on a piece of paper and asked her to spell it backwards.

Next week: Part ll


I’m Okay, You Okay? Part ll

I was on my way out the door but feeling uneasy about leaving Miss Cathy by herself, even thought the earthquake had long since passed. I had my metro card in one hand and the other reaching for the doorknob. I knew I’d heard what I wanted so that I wouldn’t feel guilty but I also knew that my gut was telling me something else and I’ve learned (after so many times of not listening) that “gut” trumps whatever I’m thinking so I said, “You know what, I’m not going to work, I’m going to stay here with you.”

Although she said she’d be “fine”, I could see that Miss Cathy was visibly calmer.

I put my shoulder bag down and went to call my boss only to discover that my cell wouldn’t call out (still not realizing the extent of the damage done by the quake). But I realized that I could still text so I sent him a message, changed clothes and joined Miss Cathy on the sofa to watch the news coverage.

We sat watching the television as the full scope of what occurred unfolded before our eyes; there was no loss of life (yet reported) but the quake was felt from the Carolinas up to New Hampshire with varying degrees of impact depending on where you were. Every federal building in Washington DC (where I was headed) was evacuated and most businesses shut down for the rest of the day. The metro (which I would probably have been riding into the city) was slowed down to 15 miles an hour so they could check all tracks for damage. I listened as the newscasters did there best to report the news “ live” without the teleprompters to give them the cool, impersonal polish they usually have during regular broadcasts.

I text’d family and friends asking how they were (if they were on the East coast) and to let them know that we were okay.

One of the reporters commented that we’re lucky to be living in a time when technology has advanced to a place where even if land lines were down and you couldn’t get a strong enough signal on a cell phone to call, one still has the ability to communicate via text. To illustrate his point the camera pulled back and you could see most people on the streets were busy texting on their cell phones.

The same was not definitely not true of the earthquake in I experienced in Manhattan in the early 1980’s or even ten years ago when I was still living in New York City on 9/11. I don’t think I had the ability to text on my phone that day or if I did it was so new (to me anyway) that I didn’t know ‘how’ to text. No matter, the events of that day are buried deep, no need to dredge them up now, suffice to say, I don’t think texting was as prevalent as it is now.

I sat next to Miss Cathy wondering, “what was I thinking?” to even debate whether or not to leave her alone. I was disappointed in myself that my first (and only) response wasn’t to stay and support her. And (during the quake itself) when my first instinct was to make sure my IMac didn’t topple over (granted I was standing right in front of it) instead of immediately rushing out to take care of Miss Cathy, I had to wonder (again) if I’m seriously cut out for this job.

I’m like that overwhelmed parent that leaves the baby in the car seat “on top” of the car and starts to drive away before realizing that ‘something is missing’ AND then remembering his primary obligation and purpose.

I hope whoever is keeping score won’t deduct too many points from me for that day.

I turned and asked how she was doing and she said, “I was heading into the bedroom to take a nap when it happened but I’m wide awake now.”

“I guess that earthquake fixed you for sleep”, I said smiling.

Miss Cathy said that ‘if’ it happened again she would go downstairs to a neighbors apartment. I told her that the best place to be if an earthquake ever happened again (and I’m not around) is to move away from all windows, especially the sliding glass doors, and stand under a doorframe in the back of the apartment.

I held her hand and made her promise she wouldn’t go outside the apartment and risk falling down the stairs. I told he that her balance isn’t good on her best day and in a panic with the ground moving it was a recipe for disaster.

She promised she would heed my advice (but she also promised to stop talking on the telephone in the living room while she was cooking) so I knew to take any pledge she made with a grain of panic.

The phones were back in service an hour or so later so mom jumped on the horn to call family and friends, expelling some of her nervous energy.

I took the time to go back to my room to do the same. The news reports said that the last earthquake to hit anywhere near Washington, DC was more than 100 years ago-an amazing little factoid.

Less than a week later most of the East coast was battened down bracing for Hurricane Irene. Again, we were spared any major damage by the time it hit our area as Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm but holy moly-that’s a lot of Mother Nature for one week!

Since there had been so much coverage on the weather channel about the impending hurricane Miss Cathy was mentally fully prepared. She wasn’t nervous at all, just concerned as she watched the coverage.
Hurricanes and earthquakes can be traumatic for the most stalwart of us, making it all the more difficult for anyone with cognitive and/or behavioral issues. Special attention must be paid during and after to keep them calm and to explain the unexpected in a manner that is reassuring to them in a way that they can understand.

The experience taught me that like other aspects of our life living with Alzheimer’s that have had to be adjusted, it’s best to be prepared in the event of a natural disaster and I found some great tips on the Alz.org website at: http://www.alz.org/nca/

So, thanks to what I’ve learned I’m okay. Do yourself a favor, learn what you can do so that you’ll be okay, too.

Paper Chase Part l

My brother and I have started the process of getting Miss Cathy’s “Estate” in order. We also want to sure that when the time comes she’s able to take full advantage of Medicaid for long-term care in a nursing home.

The process is daunting; hiring a lawyer (good luck setting all of this up on your own), researching what to ask, what to expect, and the paper work and forms, Oye Vey! Part of me is frustrated (and panic’d) that we’ve dragged our feet for so long and another part of me wants to cut the two of us some slack and remind myself that “things happen when they’re suppose to, and if we didn’t do it before it wasn’t meant to be so if we’re doing it now, it’s the right time”, so, there’s that constant push/pull of reprimand and encouragement going on in my head (it’s getting awful noisy in there).

The first step was a lot of research (mostly online) finding out what to expect and the steps to take. The more I read and the more I learned it seemed like pretty dangerous water to navigate alone so it became glaringly clear was that we’d need a lawyer. Given the legal world we swim in it’s best navigated by sharks (i.e. lawyers) anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for lawyers, I just hate that I feel powerless in that arena, like I’m always having to depend on a lawyer to translate and interpret my options, the law and then advocate for me. And the whole process and outcome never seem to be as clear-cut as on TV. The way the system works you’re as good as “dead man walking” if you enter into a courtroom to represent yourself. The “legal-eeze” in the documents alone is enough to make you feel like a damsel in distress so that one of the lawyers on the TV commercials (from the firm of “Rip-off, fly by night and takes all your money up front with no guarantees of getting you want you asked for) appears to be your knight in shining armour.

So, it was with that skepticism that I started my quest back in April. First, I contacted the local chapter of Alzheimers.org and they gave me a referral list of lawyers in the area that specialized in elder-care (a growing market of lawyers that work with families on estate planning, wills, Power of attorney, etc). They even have an organization called “The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys” (website: http://www.naela.org) and can be researched state by state.

The list for my area wasn’t that long which surprised me given that we live just outside a major Metropolitan area (and judging from the assisted living, retirement communities and the huge amount of space given over to handicapped parking in the local shopping areas) I assumed it would be like shooting fish in a barrel to find a lawyer.

There may not have been a plethora of lawyers to choose from it was a start and in the end all I needed was just one good lawyer that we’d been comfortable working with.

I wrote down a short list of specific questions that I asked each lawyer during my initial phone call to save time and to help eliminate lawyers that I didn’t think would be a good fit for our situation. I didn’t want to waste my time or theirs so I made a point of being very specific and stressed what my ultimate goal was for my mother and asked them about there experience doing what I needed. These were my questions:

1) My goal is to help my mother qualify for long term care in a nursing home and have Medicaid pay for all of it-how do I achieve that and respect her wishes that her home not be used to pay for her care?
2) What is the Medicaid “look back“ that I’ve heard so much about and are there any ways around it?
3) Is her current will valid?
4) Does she need “estate planning” if she has little in the way of assets?
5) Do you charge for a consultation and if so/what?
6) What is your hourly rate?
7) Do you charge by the project or by the hour?
8 What has been your experience working with “elder care”?
9) How many estates have you set up?

If I was lucky enough to get the lawyer on the phone (and they were gracious enough) to indulge my questions I took notes so that I could compare and contrast later. Asking about the Medicaid “look back” was the most eye-opening question because the laws have changed recently and one lawyer cited old information and it made me realize that I shouldn’t assume that “any or all” lawyers I talked to had the most current information.

I left messages with secretaries for those not available and it took the better part of a week to talk to the seven lawyers on my list. After eliminating the lawyer with the outdated info (that was no-brainer) and the one who said that eldercare was really not the mainstay of his practice, I was left with five to choose from and they all said and offered pretty much the same thing (with a slight variation on their hourly rate which ranged from $275 to $400 an hour) except one.

Interestingly, only one lawyer, Cheryl Chapman Henderson asked me a question none of the others did. After my standard “Q and A” she asked me, “Do you know about the VA Pension Benefit?” and when I answered “no” she proceeded to tell how Miss Cathy might be able take advantage of this little known program offered to widows of a veterans who served during a time of war (any war). She had piqued my interest with that little factoid so that exchange put her on the top of my list-I liked that she brought something to the table that I would otherwise never have known about.

She also told me that they hosted a free estate-planning workshop at her firm so I signed up, thinking it would help me to gather some more information that would help me make a decision as to how to proceed.

Next week Paper Chase: Part ll

Reaching out

I was talking to my good friend Stefano the other day, telling him that I’d been reaching out to people on Facebook more and that I had “friend-ed” someone I knew through him. He told me that he had just told this same friend about my blog because his friend was going through a similar situation with his mother and suggested that we talk to one another.

I had no idea of his situation when I “friend-ed” him, only remembering that he’s an interesting person that I met in New York but was living in Europe that I hadn’t been in touch with for awhile. Well, I don’t believe in coincidences and wasn’t surprised when Lester, the friend and I were on the phone soon after talking about Alzheimer’s.

He told me that a little over a week ago he had flown to New York to visit his mom in Queens after being in Los Angeles for work. He said that he was surprised by how different his mom was, that he knew something was wrong with her and that something had to be done immediately to get her help. I listened to his story, verbally nodding in agreement and acknowledgement that I knew exactly what he was talking about as he related stories of her erratic behavior.

His situation is different from mine (of course, no two experiences with dementia are exactly alike). For one his father is still alive, but elderly himself so isn’t able to cope (mine is dead) and Lester’s brother lives on the West coast (and mine is only an hour away in Virginia) so he’s more or less doing all of this by himself but the end result is the same-he’s the adult child of a parent that now needs his help to guide her through the end of life as she guided him at the beginning.

I listened as he told about her conspiracy theories, paranoia, forgetfulness, confusion and his very real fear that she was going to get in a car accident because she was still driving herself to school where she still teaches. He said that she was very clever about how she covered up her shortcomings and had developed shrewd methods to compensate for her mental deterioration.

I could hear in his voice how tired and sad he was and there was a moment as we talked when I could hear the realization hit that his mother as he knew her may be gone forever.
I told him to think of her in a different light, to (take some time and) mourn the loss of the mother he knew but to remembered to hold onto the love (which is still there and always will be) and to focus on developing a new relationship and new bonds with her, as she will be ever changing because of the disease.

From all that he told me and all that he’d learned (and learned to do) in just a week’s time I told him that he’d done a remarkable job considering. I shared bits of my experience where it made sense but tried to be sensitive and remind myself that this wasn’t about me and my experience-this was about listening and hopefully helping someone who was just joining the “brotherhood”.

As we talked I made a few suggestions; I learned in AA years ago never to “tell” someone what to do, the normal reaction from most adults (and kids, too) is to put up a wall and become defensive when being “told” what to do so whatever you’re saying never gets a chance to be absorbed, processed or possibly acted upon.

So I “suggested” that he not argue with his mom and that right now “being 100% honest with her” (which was the basis of the relationship that he had with her before all this happened) wasn’t as important as getting her to the lab for an MRI and an appointment with a neurologist for a complete evaluation to determine what her condition is and at what stage. I told him that I’m very much of the “ends justifies the means” school and to lie to her if he had to achieve his goal which is to help her.

I told him about Alzheimers.org (an organization he said he didn’t know existed) and how helpful they’d been for me with everything from resources to support groups. I told him about the legal ramifications of what he was about to undertake and what he might need; power of attorney, medical directives, estate planning, etc as well as thinking about long term care facilities and how to plan for that. I could imagine that his head was about to explode form so much information coming at him all at once. He said that it was more than he had anticipated but that he was grateful.

The best piece of advice I gave him was one that was given to me early on by several people-that as a “caregiver” to make sure that he takes to take care of himself.

I didn’t really know what that meant in the beginning, so focused was I on my mom and her welfare that I wasn’t really doing the best job of taking care of myself, so I don’t think I was best prepared for the “marathon” that this process of care is instead of the ‘sprint” that I was my initial approach.

Truth be told, l think that I’m “just’ beginning to take care of myself (a year into this process) which definitely impacts how I can care for my mom. But, it takes what it takes and as Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better”.

I told Lester that he wasn’t alone and that he could add me to list of people to call for support or if he ever just wanted to vent and have someone to listen (and not give advice, judgment or an opinion) I was here for him.

I got off the phone realizing that in talking to someone who was new to all this that I knew more than I thought I did. I was sorry for his situation but happy (for lack of a better word) that I could reach out and give what so many have given to me by way of support, empathy and information.

Folding chairs

Last Friday morning I walked into the kitchen for my usual coffee before my brother and I were headed out for an appointment with a lawyer to go over Miss Cathy’s estate. Tony had come over the night before after work to surprise mom with the visit. I knew she was very happy to have “her boys” all to herself and would be in the kitchen whipping up a fattening, artery clogging breakfast as only a mother could.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I saw Miss Cathy standing over the sink but something wasn’t quite right. It only took me a second to know by her less than usual “peppy” response to my salutation and the way she was slumped over that something was wrong. I went over to her, looked at her face and saw that she looked confused and disoriented.

Perspiring heavily, it looked like she was gripping the counter for dear life so I told her I was going to put the folding chair behind her so that she could sit down. I didn’t know what was going on with her but I knew that it was imperative to sit her down before she fell down. She wasn’t very communicative and her movements were very slow, as if she were trying to show me that she understood what I was saying but her body just wasn’t responding the way she wanted.

She didn’t seem able to move much at all; she just seemed to hang on. Seeing that she wasn’t making much progress on her own I held under her armpits and helped guide her down to the chair as gently as possible, talking to her the entire time, telling her what I was doing and how far she had to go before she was seated, reminding her not to “plop” down in the chair which is her habit.

Once she was seated I was able to look at her more closely and ask her a few questions to determine whether she might have been having a heart attack or stroke. It didn’t appear that she was so I got her a glass of water and wiped her brow and neck. Once I got her to sit down she couldn’t seem to calm down, she squirmed with what little strength she had until finally I was able to quiet her. She then told me that she thought she as going to throw up.

I reached for the nearest thing I could (which was an empty planter) and gave that to her while I went to her bedroom where she told me she had a supply of bags for vomiting. When I got back she had not thrown up yet but she’d dropped the planter, unable to control her fingers. She retched more than she threw up but there was some fluid and it seemed to help her to expel it.

I was able to keep her calm enough to sit for a few more minutes before walking her to her bedroom so that she could lie down. In her bedroom I got her to sit quietly as I debated with myself whether or not to call her doctor but in the space of those moments I took deciding she seemed to get better, I could actually see that the confusion was leaving her face and her movements became more fluid.

We took her blood count and it elevated (222 and her blood sugar is usually in the 140 –to 150 range). By the time we made the first “stick” she was talking in her normal voice and insisting that she wanted to go back in the kitchen to make breakfast. We got her cleaned up and I made the decision not to call the doctor but to tell him abut this episode when we see him next (which will be soon). I watched her as she walked (she insisted that she could walk un-aided) back in the kitchen and I sat with her as she prepared breakfast for my brother and me.

I reminded her that if she had been alone this was one of those occasions when she should have pressed her “medical alert” button and she agreed. But watching her “in the moment” it concerns me now that I don’t know that she would have had the presence of mind to do that. I know for a fact that if I hadn’t come into the kitchen she wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to pull over the chair that was less that a foot away for her to sit herself down.

She may have been able to hold onto the counter until whatever it was, low blood sugar, excitement about my brother being here or just a wave of nausea passed, and then do whatever was necessary to keep herself safe but I don’t think that would have been the case. She very well could have fallen and we would (potentially) have a repeat of the episode that started this entire journey in January of last year when she fell on the bathroom floor and wasn’t discovered for three days.

I know that the slightest interruption (good or bad) in her routine can cause a change in how she acts or responds, from something as very subtle as her demeanor changing to something like what happened on Friday. I don’t know if that was the case or not, that’s something I’ll talk to the doctor about.

After all the bickering, boredom and cost to my personal life its moments like last Friday that remind me why I’m here and I’m grateful that I can be. Like my friend William says, who takes care of (not only) his mother but his father as well, “It’s an honor to be able to spend the time with them and to do whatever I can to make there lives more comfortable after all they’ve done for me.”

Give me my flowers as I live so I can smell them

I took Miss Cathy to another funeral this morning. They seem to be one of the few things she gets dressed and leaves the apartment for these days. Hey, I’m just glad she’s getting out and “getting some air on her” as she used to say to my brother and me when we were little and she wanted us out of the house (and out of her hair).

It’s a fact of life that as you get old-old people around you start to die. Years ago, I remember asking my Pop about death and dying after so many of his friends crossed over. There was a period of time when it seemed that almost every time I called home he (or they) were going to a funeral. At the time this phenomenon was specific to Pop because he was considerably older than mom so they had friends almost a generation apart.

As a former New Yorker, where going to a shrink is as common as getting your bagel with a “smear”, I was prone to “navel gazing “ and introspection after my time on the couch so I asked him how he “felt” about his peer group passing on. He looked at me as if I wasn’t as smart as he’d given me credit for and said, “Well, how do you think I feel?” “ After your last friend dies all you’re doing is waiting for your turn.”

Now I’m wondering if Miss Cathy is thinking the same thing because the mood has been a little funereal around here. It doesn’t help that the sermon she was listening to yesterday on Sunday morning television was all about “Love, peace and passing on”.

She doesn’t get maudlin and she’s not a very sentimental person but every now and then, she gets reflective-especially around occasions like the one today.

So, yesterday, I was surprised when she stopped me as I walked through the living room, past the reverend and his sermon, on my way out to the balcony to enjoy the cool morning air. She said she wanted to tell me that she never forgot a trip I made in my car from Kansas City a few years ago when I drove nonstop and slept in my car for a few hours before getting here as soon as I could.

She said that it touched her heart that I would show my love for family by dropping everything and doing what I did. I told her it meant alot to me to hear her say that. I started to well up watching her get misty-eyed.

“I believe in letting people know what they mean to me while they’re around to hear it”, she said, “some people wait till it’s time to go to a funereal to let what they feel be known.” “I don’t believe in all that, that’s just a “show”.

Then she looked me in the eyes and said, “Give me my flowers as I live so I can smell them.”

Good night moon ( Good morning Miss Cathy)

I was in my room writing when I heard Miss Cathy moving around in her room and then I heard the sounds of her shower coming on. I looked at the clock and thought it was odd but went on about my business for a while longer. I got up from my desk to go get something to drink and as I passed by her doorway I could see her making up her bed.

“Good morning!” she said full of her usual morning cheer.

”Good evening”, I corrected her thinking she was making a joke. I started to continue on down the hall until I heard her say, “what?” “What time is it?”

“It’s 8 o’clock”, I answered. “ 8 o’clock in the morning right?” she asked looking puzzled.

“No, it’s 8 o’clock at night.” I said chuckling.

“Well, damn Sam, I thought it was time to get up, Oh well” “It’s Sunday-right?”

“No, it’s still Saturday, you’ve been asleep for about five hours, you took a nap.”

“Oh, okay, well, I woke up and I thought it was getting light outside so I just got up and took a shower thinking it was morning.” “ I guess I really f*cked up, didn’t I?”

We both laughed and I said that it was an easy mistake to make. Since it twilight it could have appeared to somebody just waking up that the sun was coming “up” instead of going “down”.

I really didn’t know she’d been in that deep of a sleep (or that she’d slept so long). I had been walking past her room for hours making all sorts of noise so she must have been out like a light (how she got so tired from a day of eating breakfast and lunch and watching TV in the living room is the real mystery to me-but I digress).

For someone who is constantly saying, “I rarely take naps in the afternoon” –guess where you can find Miss Cathy most days by 2 pm-in bed taking a nap. Hey, whatever makes her happy and she does seem happy, so, I say, “nap away”.

And contrary to what she also says about having a problem sleeping during the day (or at night after a hard day napping) she doesn’t ever seem to have any trouble “going under”.

I’m just happy I don’t have to read, “Good night moon”.

Blame it on the a, aa, ak, uh alkaline

I finished my first week working as a cater/waiter last Thursday, which was good because I couldn’t have worked one day longer. If I thought it was hard to run a 10k (back in the old days, after a night of serious disco dancing and drinking) well, standing around holding trays full of drinks and being “in service” makes that seem like a cakewalk.

The job is not without it’s perks; I’m getting out of the house, (re) learning my way around Washington DC, I’m getting a behind the scenes look at what it takes to put on events (intimate and extravagant) and there’s the scrumptious food, floral arrangements and gift bags that we’re allowed to take home (depending on the event and the captain you’re working for).

I did meet an interesting woman at one of the jobs sites. Her name is Lois and we met after “service” as we were all taking a well-deserved break and making our dinner from the leftovers. Like I said already, I have not been working long but what I have noticed it that there is “a lot” of food left over after these events, sometimes even after the staff has eaten, there is a lot that is thrown out-the abundance and the waste is amazing. Anyway, I was loading my fourth cupcake into a take out container when I heard, “Somebody sure has a sweet tooth.”

Embarrassed, thinking that it was a captain (the person that is in charge of all of the cater/waiters) I turned to see Lois, who was in charge of the pantry. She’s not my boss but an important person in the “food” chain. There is a hierarchy to this industry that I’m still figuring out but one thing I know already is that it’s best to know your place in the queue and who can help whom.

So, I said (quite honestly) “No, it’s not for me, I like to take my dinner home and share it with my mom -she’s the one with the sweet tooth.”

I’ve only been a week but Miss Cathy and I already have a little routine established, she kinda stays up waiting for me after my shift (or her eyes pop open the minute she hears my key in the door and is calling out “Heyyy”) and I share whatever food I manage to bring home and stories of how I’m trying to do a job that I have very little experience at (remember I “padded” my resume to get the job saying that I had cater/waiter experience back in New York when in actuality I went on a few jobs when friends in the industry needed an extra hand. I so impressed my new boss that he thinks I’m a seasoned cater/waiter and is ready to put me in charge of people when in fact I’m just impersonating a cater/waiter and learning on the job as I mimic others but I’m determined to become who he think I already am).

Anyway, back to the “cupcakes”….we sat down to take our break before “tearing” down the event, she with her dinner and me with my take out container full of goodies from the dinner I just served to a baker’s dozen of the “Masters’ of the Universe” at the Capital One Corp offices. We started to talk and I told her that Miss Cathy has Alzheimer’s and to my surprise she said that her dad does too (although why I’m surprised “should” be the surprise since the alz.org stats say that someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 69 seconds).

I was shaken out of my “thought bubble” when Lois asked,” Does she drink soft drinks?” and proceeded to tell me that her father (and her whole family) only drink “AlkinWater” and that they never ingest sodas. She’s a firm believer that the chemicals in soda pop cause/exacerbate or contribute to Alzheimer’s; she then told me that I should google Alkaline and its effects on the brain.

I didn’t think that working a catering job would be the place where I’d find information about Alz but “hey” you drink where you find the water so I started taking “sips”. In the short time we sat together she went into great depth about Alkaline, which medications to avoid (I gathered she’s not big on western medicine) and a host of other topics. We had to get back to work but we exchanged phone numbers and Lois said she’d email some more info to me.

I started doing some research on my own and came across some interesting information, Not sure what I think about the whole holistic eating and living approach but it is food for thought.

Spring in her step

“I’m going out for a walk”, Miss Cathy announced one day last week, and with that she put on one of her summer hats (it was going to be 86 degrees that day here in Greenbelt) and she was off to the Rec-center where they have a treadmill she could walk on.

“I’ll take the trash out, too” she said as if it were an everyday occurrence and not the second time I’ve seen her do either since I’ve been living here.

“Good for you!” I thought.

Speaking of trash-the other day I had set the trash by the front door (as is my habit, in anticipation of taking it out later) when Miss Cathy volunteered for the job (another first). I said, “No, don’t worry about it, I’ve got to run some errands so I’ll take it out.”

And she said, “That’s alright, l take it out because I see it as a form of exercise.”

Well, color me surprised!

I know it sounds like a little thing but I was proud of her for insisting on the chore. And to think I had been lulled into a state of doing most things so that I didn’t expect her to ever offer to do a chore. To be fair, she takes care of herself very well and she does clean up around the house; vacuuming and dusting.

But it’s more than the chore itself-it’s the fact that she’s really starting to be more independent and out-going.

To me, its just more evidence that the two weeks she spent alone has given her a new attitude and some new life. She’s participating instead of sitting and waiting……for what? To deteriorate? The end? I don’t know, but that seems to be all in the past for now.

I started my new part-time job as a cater/waiter yesterday and Miss Cathy was tickled pink when I told her about the job. Interestingly, she was never quite this enthusiastic about things that went on with my art career-not that she wasn’t proud, I think that this is a “job” that she can relate to better. “Great!” she exclaimed, “at least this will be an opportunity for you to get out of the that “sweatbox” of a room of yours.”

I had to laugh; cause lord knows she was telling the truth! And with that I was off, to become one of the nameless, faceless servers at some swanky affair in DC. This will be interesting-I’m going from attending affairs like this to working at them.

Since Miss Cathy is in such a great place right now I feel comfortable leaving her for long periods of time, she’s got her medical alert necklace and a new attitude so what more assurance do I need!

Continue talking

I got back from my “time off” last Thursday and unlike my other trips where I felt refreshed and energized this time was different. Unfortunately, the minute I got back it felt like I never left. Miss Cathy was chatting at me the moment I opened the door.

Of course a lot of that has to do with me and not mom, my personal life seems to be in transition so I need to establish a secure foundation and some structure in my life here.

It was great to see mom, she gave me a big hug when I walked through the door and not long after she was gone to spend some time with Adele leaving me some time alone to unpack and unwind. I could see that she had taken good care of the place while I was gone and there wasn’t much to do till I had to take her to the doctor the next day.

So, Friday morning I found myself sitting in the orthopedic surgeon’s office with Miss Cathy for one of her follow up appointments after her knee replacement surgery.

The office was a hot, non descript room full of old people in wheelchairs, casts, canes or some other indication that they won’t be signing up for Arthur Murray anytime soon. Everybody seemed to be there at the same time for the same thing. We all sat and waited to be called back into an exam room, most people killing time by talking and/or watching whatever god-awful midmorning television show happened to on the flat screen TV perched high up on the wall.

What was frustrating was that you make an appointment and show up on time but the reality is that you’re not going to see the doctor until he was good and ready to see you.
It’s an abuse of power that I have little patience for in my life but this wasn’t about me-it was Miss Cathy’s doctor and her appointment and I try my best to stay out of it.

Since this all started last year she’s shown very little patience herself with being kept waiting and her reaction can range from mild irritation to a complete melt down in the waiting room (so the apple didn’t fall very far from that tree).

Rather than sit anywhere near the television I chose seats on the other side of the room, thinking it would quieter-but no, but no (just my luck) we ended up sitting next to a couple that wouldn’t shut the f*ck up. The husband was a big blowhard of man. He talked just loud enough so that everybody else could hear his voice (his favorite sound I imagine) but no loud that’d think he was at sports arena. He sounded like a reject from the Henry Higgins School of snobbery and pretension so unless the front row of Wimbledon I don’t think you’d see him there.

It was hard to “not” hear someone so intent on enunciating so clearly in such an affected and old-fashioned manner of speech, making everything he said sound like it was occurring in 1938 New England and not an orthopedic surgeon’s office in suburban Maryland in 2011. The wife was a mousy thing, hanging onto his every word out of obligation or inertia, the perfect female compliment to his pontificating; she was the woman beside (or behind) the “man about town”.

Earlier, I was bemoaning the fact (to me, myself and I) that anytime I left my room I’d be subjected to Miss Cathy’s ramblings (I know she’s lonely but egads, can’t there be a moment when the two of us are in the same room and words need not be spoken?). But, this, this is an assault on my ears and I’m not even related to the man.

I do not want to hear this man’s opinions or anecdotes. I’d move but the only other option would be to sit near the other old people swapping stories about their particular ailments or surgeries as “Judge Punch or Judy” roared in the background. Oye! It’s Sophie’s choice!

I’d been back about 24 hours after being gone for two weeks and I felt as if I’d never left. I had a feeling it was going to be a verrrrry long day and it was, we spent more than two hours waiting for the doctor to come spend about ten minutes with Miss Cathy.

They took an x-ray then the doctor said that her knee was healing better than expected so she could expect more than 100% mobility and range of motion out of her artificial knee and she doesn’t have to come back for two years for another check up.

It occurred to me as we were leaving the doctor’s office that in the past (say three or four months ago) Miss Cathy would have been very angry and agitated by the long wait, complaining or making a mini-scene. Not this time, she was calm and didn’t complain, she mentioned the wait but it was just a statement of fact, in fact she was even trying to sleep to pass the time till her name was called.

It was a marked difference in behavior and I don’t know if it was because of her time alone or what but she definitely seemed to have a different attitude. I really have to give her “props” for how she handled herself and I need to try to follow her example.

I may not want to listen to her but I can still learn from her.