Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Dementia Brain, Grey's Anatomy and Tick Looking Moles

I blow off a lot of steam in my blog. I’m really not as surly as one might think as you read through my inner most thoughts. I write about them because---well, because I’ve been writing about my inner most thoughts in diaries since the early ‘50s and I wrote with such bad spelling back then you’d need a decoder ring to figure out what I was saying. Most of us have busy minds that take us to places, at times, we wouldn’t announce out loud---unless we’re a blogger. Bloggers do tend to over-share which works out great because no one has read us the way one would be stuck listening to a rambling, old uncle at a Thanksgiving Day dinner.

I’ve had the above paragraph in my computer for over a week of wondering where it will lead me. With my stream of consciousness writing style, I don't usually set out to write about any particular topic. But with all the crappy things going on in our world I feel like I should take a bite out of the elephant in the room and write about something that matters. Where would I start? His leg? His trunk or maybe his belly? The problem is the damn elephant is too damned big and diseased and he's completely out of control, destroying the damn Republican Party tent. Why should I care about their tent when it was the RNC who let the damn crazies out of the asylum? The same crazies who are marching that damn animal around the drain of Democracy. Some writer I am. I just repeated a swear word five times in three sentences. Good writers---if they use swear words at all---use them judicially. 

The point is I feel like a cork barely holding a fermented liquid in its bottle. Hey, maybe I could study the anatomy of elephants and aim that bottle so the cork could become a kill shot missile. Metaphorically speaking. I really love elephants I see baby elephants every day on my Facebook page. Facebook with its steady stream of baby elephants, puppies, kittens and panda bears is my happy place. Where else can you find memes like Keri Beevis, author of gruesome psychological thrillers, churns out saying things like: "I'll bet giraffes don't even know what farts smell like." Her mind truly is an paradoxical place to live.

I had my yearly dermatology appointment this week which was as welcome as getting an STD, not that I’ve ever had one but I’m binge watching Netflix’s Grey’s Anatomy and an episode I saw recently had the interns passing a case around to each other. My old dermatologist retired early because of covid and his son took over his practice and I was worried he’d look like Doctor McDreamy or Doctor McSteamy which would have made the process of being naked so much more embarrassing. But thank goodness he's skinny and looks twelve years old. At one point I wanted to smack him for patronizing me by calling many of my mole “wisdom moles”---never putting a real name to them. He seemed so pleased to find so many of them that I wanted to hand him an ink pen and tell him to play connect-the-dots. He did a biopsy of a spot on my ankle and I’m still waiting to hear back about it. Last winter I thought it was a tick and I pulled it off only to discover no critter resided inside that black, crusty thing. It grew back. I picked it off again and it wouldn’t heal up, got itchy and bloody, grew back yet again.

I wasn't the least bit worried about the spot until the doctor said he sees cancerous moles on ankles all the time. Then this week while I've been binging on Grey’s Anatomy Izzie Stevens got brain cancer from a mole on her back and was given a 3% chance of survival. What are the chances that out of eighteen seasons of that show I'd be watching the metastasized skin cancer episodes while waiting to hear back about my mole that looked like a tick?

Change of topic: We have a new resident who moved into the CCC a month ago and she became the topic of conversation at dinner one night…after she left. She’s got short term memory loss and the question came up about how/why she got into the independent living section on campus and didn’t go directly into the Memory Care. She constantly repeats the same questions. If you sit next to her at a meal she’ll ask you literally ten times in a row how long you’ve lived here, if you like it here, how long can we stay here and she’ll tell you how her family supposedly put her here without telling her a head of time they were doing it. She walks about with a schedule in her hand, afraid if she misses something she’ll get kicked out.

A lot of compassionate people were at the table who have all tried to help her. We talked about the criteria some of us knew about for how the CCC decides when you get moved to a higher level of care and most of us agreed she’s not there yet---she’s not a danger to herself or others.

When I got back to my apartment I googled the question of how to respond to people with dementia who keep repeating the same questions over and over again and I got some tips I can’t wait to share others. We’ve been doing it all wrong, we’ve been trying to reason with her, giving her sympathy for the way she thinks she got dumped here, urging her to talk to her family about it. Telling her it takes time before she'll feel at home. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

In a nutshell we’re supposed to be responding to the emotions, not the words. In her case we need to say variations of: "Your family made a good decision putting you in this beautiful and safe place where you can stay as long as you need." Keep our answers short then quickly use distraction to change the topic. "How do you like Mary's scarf? Isn't that a good color for her?" I don’t know if we can make a difference by changing the way we react to her but we all have a vested interesting in this issue because who knows which one of us will get to that stage sooner rather than later. 

However, the way the world is headed maybe having a dementia brain is not really such a bad thing, especially in a place like this where so many residents are looking out for each other. ©

39 comments:

  1. You have my sympathy trying to converse with the woman who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's/dementia. My mother now has zero short term memory. It's very difficult to be patient and try to have some semblance of conversation with her. No new information can be processed, and even incorrect information cannot be changed. Everything is set in concrete now.

    I really hope that's not my future.

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    1. It's really hard, isn't it. Our new resident sounds just like you described in your last two sentences. By the time you're your mother's age when she got dementia they will have found some very good treatments if not a cure.

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  2. Whenever I've been sick and taking boatloads of medication, my brain doesn't feel right. I wonder if that's how dementia feels. Two days ago, I had to go to the oral surgeon for removal of a broken tooth, and prep for a dental implant (I can already tell you that this is not fun). I'm taking antibiotics, and they gave me a small supply of super-duper pain pills. I haven't touched those. Whenever I take something like that, my brain is scary. I'm grateful that Tylenol and Advil are good enough right now.

    A few days ago, I was visiting with a woman who works in healthcare education. She had just completed some training on how to help those with dementia or similar problems. I found it so interesting. For example, she said if dementia patients are physically unstable, try not to grab them. Instead, put out your arm and tell them to hold onto you. I don't even remember the explanation of why this works better, but it had something to do with the way the brain processes certain actions. Someone reaching out to steady them might be perceived as a threat and result in fear. We all need a crash course in how to help those who are mentally challenged.

    Hoping you get good results from the dermatologist!!

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    1. Hope your recovery from oral surgery gets better and better each day. It's really hard to concentrate with pain or with pain meds in your system.

      We have a dementia support group that meets here every week. I should check to see who facilitates it, to see if he/she can give general guides and tips.

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  3. Oh boy. I bet we have the same dermatologist. And his son who looks 12. LOL. I've had more things carved off than I can count. Fingers crossed for good results for you. I am binging Season 18 of Grey's and honestly, the early years were so much better. It feels like a show that needs to end now. And yet I keep watching. Ha!
    I visit hospice patients with dementia often, and distraction is a great tool when they are ruminating and repeating themselves. That said, if they are anxious, it can be hard to distract them. You are kind to google solutions. Good luck!

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    1. Is your doctor on East Paris? If so, the dad is enjoying retirement and the son didn't think he would. He's playing pickle ball and golf and something else I don't remember. The son thought he'd be back to work after a couple of months off.

      I don't know why I resisted watching Grey's Anatomy back when it was on regular TV, but I did and I'm only up to season 7 now. I'm into the mass shooting episodes now that happened at the hospital. I can't image playing the same characters for so many years. Currently I have a crush on Alex, Izzie's x and I'm hoping they'll get back together before he leaves the show.

      Talk about kind...visiting Hospice patients with dementia is right up there on the kindness scale.

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    2. Indeed he is! Glad to hear Dad is enjoying retirement. He and I are the same age...six months apart. I saw him for years and really liked him.

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    3. It's a small world. I liked him too and I will warm up to the son.

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  4. Your new neighbor sounds like Arlene in "Grace and Frankie." (you have to get a few seasons in to meet Arlene). I think we all need your tips -- that's a whole post in itself! Good luck with the mole -- I hope it's nothing too serious but so glad they are checking it out. Keep us posted.

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    1. I'm hoping to hear back today. They told me 4 to 7 days and I'm on day 6, but I don't know if they met calendar days or business days and I'm going by calendar days.

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  5. You are kind to look up ways to deal with the new woman with dementia. Your heart is in the right place, Jean, and you make a difference in the lives of those you meet (in person and through your blog). Keep it up! - as we sure need kindness in the world these days. Thank you!
    (P.S. Hope you get good news on the mole!)

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    1. I don't know about that. I just think since she's our first person here who has noticeable dementia that the way we treat her is setting a standard. So it's kind of self-serving in case any one of us starts sliding. I'd hate to see her feel more isolated if people start avoiding sitting next to her.

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  6. It is kind of you to look for ways to help this lady and to share. Helping her can only help the rest of you also by not becoming frustrated. And you are right, if we live long enough, we all face similar times.
    Still laughing over the giraffes. Only logical.

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    1. The author who comes up with so many silly and funny memes concocts some of the most gruesome murders in fiction I wouldn't and to live in her head. LoL

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  7. All of my physicians have been female for at least 30 years, now. My dermatologist is actually a PA, but quite competent, and I have no problem being naked before her.

    In training to become a long-term care ombudsman 20 years ago, I learned to enter into the resident's (not "patient's") world as they are unable to enter into mine. Good advice - similar to what you wrote. I would make a nudge in wording at one point, if I may. Rather than, "putting you in" perhaps "guiding you to"?? I deal with my husband's dementia on a continuing basis and I've been dealing with my closest friend's dementia for 7 years, now. I can deal with one or the other, but I decided that today would be the last time I try to deal with them, together. It is too challenging for my poor brain.

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    1. It is hard and frustrating to deal with repetitiveness which is why I felt we really needed some guidelines. I can't image how hard it is for caregivers in Memory Care places. Thanks for the tweak.....

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    2. My husband was diagnosed 7 years ago -- I'm awed that you could care for two people with dementia, much less one. I would bet it was too challenging! Gads...

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  8. Unfortunately there's no consistent info on whether people know they're slipping into dementia, which may be a blessing. We've all heard the sad stories of those who DO realize they're losing mental abilities, and it's probably why we all panic a little when we don't easily understand instructions, or completely drop our train of thought...which has been embarrassing me since I was in my 30's. Good on you for finding out the kindest way to interact with this woman!

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    1. I have never had a good short term memory and about ten years I started joking about how I wanted people to remember that so when I'm 80 they won't see my bad memory as dementia. Now I am 80 and I don't see much difference...a little bit which is scary!

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  9. This took me back to conversations with my Nan when her memory started to go, she would ask the same question over and over, me I just answered over and over

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    1. It really saves your own sanity not to get mad about it...hard to do though.

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  10. I hope you soon get good results and that you're set until your next regular appointment. If not, there are wonderful surgery results that may look rather gruesome the first day, but turn out beautifully. I have a working, blinking, closing lower eyelid on my right eye after I lost half the lid to a infiltrating basal cell carcinoma last summer. Thanks to smile lines and just plain old wrinkles, you can't even find the incisions. It's just missing a lot of eyelashes, but then I was never one with lush eyelashes. My neighbor had a melanoma on her knee and now is going strong.

    My brother was diagnosed with end-stage esophageal cancer when my other siblings and I were just starting to notice some changes in his acuity. He and I were a year apart in school and I knew his abilities, so was surprised when he asked me to calculate the number of gravesites that would fit in a plot of land he was considering buying. He wanted me to calculate it by just computing the square foot of space needed for individual gravesites but he wasn't adding any calculations for walkways, etc. He was a mortician who owned his own funeral home and cemetery, and wanted to expand. Soon after, he was bought out and came to live nearby the other three of us. Symptoms of dementia increased as he grew sicker, whether from advancement of dementia or from the changes in his body and medication routines. He used to call me all the time asking if he had someplace he had to be, as he seemed to remember some appointment he was missing. He would be quite agitated. Whether it was right or wrong, I always complimented him for his attention to fulfilling his duties and told him that he must be remembering some upcoming appointment and promise to alert him when it was the day of the appointment. I would deflect as much as I could by asking if he remembered when he used to set five alarm clocks back when he was twenty-three and living with my sister or something from further back in his memory that he might be able to access.

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    1. My brother is dealing with dementia too. It's hard watching a sibling change. Once is memories are gone there is no one left to compare notes with on family history, etc. Sorry about your brother. It sounds like you were really supportive.

      Amazing, on your eye, what they can do with surgery these days. I still haven't heard back from the doctor. I'm going to call tomorrow.

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  11. Blogger wouldn't let me comment.

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  12. I'm seeing a Silver Lining in being checked out Mentally in this Chaotic and spiraling downward World... those of us Aware, well, it's getting all the more stressful and concerning, isn't it? Here in Phoenix they just said Affordable Housing is about 300,000 short for just the Seniors who can't afford Rents on their fixed incomes, that's terrifying to think that many Vulnerable Adults cannot afford basic Shelter, let alone anything else like Food, Medical Care, their Medications, Transportation, Utilities, etcetera.

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    1. I know what you mean. Selling your organs for transplant isn't even an option for seniors and sometimes checking out mental from what is going on is they only safety valve we have.

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  13. Sadly your last paragraph is something I've been saying lately. I'm glad you got that spot checked. Nothing to mess with. I've had several removed and biopsies done and all not big deal but good to know right? My father got some spots on his face that were biospy and they were cancerous. They removed them and then gave him chemo in a cream form for his face. OMG his face became one big scap and when it all sluffed off he looked 10+ years younger. I saw the pictures of the scab face. It was scary. Then I went up to visit him several weeks later after it all came off and he was cured. I was so shocked at how great he looked. He was 80 at the time. He said, "hey Peg, don't I look good?" Which of course made us all laugh but damn if he didn't!

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    1. I don't know why I didn't consider cancer when I first saw that spot. I had ticks on the brain because they'd been in the news and I did tick checks on the dog all the time. It did turn out of be "pre-cancer" whatever that means and they said the got it all. But the spot is still ugly and red.

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  14. When Mom started becoming more forgetful, staying positive, responding to the emotion, and then changing the subject was a technique I eventually learned. It really was helpful. The repetitiveness could be annoying, but that was my problem. It certainly did help me to learn patience!

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    1. You bring up a good point about dealing with repetitiveness teaching us patience. Children ask endless questions too but some how we don't get as frustrated by them as we do seniors.

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  15. Music has always been key in my life, too, though song lyrics generally secondary. perhaps with some exceptions. One, I associate with my husband, "That's All." I think it's interesting to think about why different types of music appeal to different people.

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    1. It is and everyone has a story to tell about a favorite song.

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  16. This reminds me of an absolutely awful moment in my life - one that I've learned to see as funny. (It took a while to start laughing, to be honest.) My mother, Nellie, died and my brother and I went together to tell her brother, who was in a home. My uncle's name was Sandie. Sandie cried, and we all wept together - to be honest, the only time I have ever known my brother to cry. So, next time I visited I was prepared to be supportive. And the first thing Sandy said was, 'How's Nellie?' I guess if my sense of humor had kicked in early, I could have said, 'Oh, about the same...'

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    1. That would have been a good comment, worthy of a meme of dark humor. I'm often afraid to ask friends and family in my age bracket how their mom or dad is because I can't remember who died and who didn't.

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  17. I'm late to the blog. Again. But I share your "damns" of course! As for the new resident. You are all being so kind and compassionate and I love that you took it a step further to do some research. Adjusting your interactions to meet her ability to understand and follow is such a valuable lesson. I know people with dementia get fixated on a topic no matter how many distractions, but responding to their emotions (usually anxiety of some kind) is the very best thing to do. I learned that with my mom.

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    1. All of her questions are based on anxiety. Last night after our new resident left social hour several of us were talking and one of them has had an in-depth conservation with her family which really gave us more insight to work with to help her.

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  18. That is very interesting information about the memory loss. Bless her heart, I'm glad she is somewhere people can keep an eye on her. I'll be curious to learn at what point she moves to more care.

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    1. As we all are here. We just had another conversation about here and I found out one our neighbors exchanged phone numbers with her daughter and they are very aware of what is going on and they visit often. She just doesn't remember them being here.

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