” … or we could do that.”

It has been difficult deciding answers to questions involving Pete’s care.   If you noticed, we went from hospital to rehab, then to home, then to assisted living, then to skilled nursing, then to assisted living (Denver/Lakewood) and then to assisted living again (also Lakewood).   When Pete and I were in Louisiana, Lori, Craig, (our daughter and son) and I had conference calls every week … usually Friday evening or Saturday morning.  I  had found myself trying to argue … with myself … two sides of a question.   Know what?  It doesn’t work!!!   The problem of making decisions is certainly one of the reasons Pete and I moved to Denver.

Let me use a situation from these past few weeks as an example of using the administration of the assisted living complex to help come to a reasonable decision.  I would suggest you make sure the administration in the assisted living complex in which you or a loved one is residing … or plan to reside …  discusses questions about “what do we do” in this manner.

Pete is built like his father…  short, stout, heavy shoulders and body … his father came to the States from Denmark and was very much a Scandinavian.   In March of this year, Pete could walk a few steps with a walker.  When physical therapy  was stopped, Pete began to lose ground and ultimately could barely stand with a walker.   Pete also was on a medicine to help him sleep.   He became like a zombie and did very little to help the staff get him in and out of bed.  Some of the staff suggested that they use a mechanical “lifter” to get Pete in or out of bed.

About a month ago,  a mechanical “lifter” was brought into our apartment to see how it would work.  I almost screamed.  I did not examine the “lifter”… I just reacted.  Back in Louisiana one of the homes had used a “lifter” to get Pete into bed …AND IT WAS THE MOST HORRIBLE SIGHT I HAD EVER SEEN.  I had to leave his room every time they used it.   So here we were with a “lifter” again … and I really did not want it used on Pete.   It was, most assuredly, a different “lifter” than they used in Louisiana.  And, I along with one of the therapist, was worried that he could lose any IMG_0886strength he had since he would be lifted place to place.*

This is when a discussion with another advocate is so important.  Moving to Denver has put Craig, our son, in almost daily contact with Pete and me.   And, I value his opinions so much.  We approached using the “lifter” as trying to find a way to use the lifter, but still letting Pete be involved in moving bed to chair and back again.  The method used could be the choice of the staff person doing the transfer … bedIMG_0884 to wheelchair or back.   This was not a verbal proclamation of the administration; it developed from leadership from the nursing staff and their willingness to include Craig and me  in the discussions.   At the direction of the Administration, all of the staff who worked with Pete were given a  workshop on how to use the lifter.  There was a morning staff workshop and an afternoon staff workshop.   I was so proud of the staff …. honestly taking part in the demonstration and asking questions.   It was like I had, again a group IMG_0885of teachers in a workshop!!!

So, we now have educated individuals who are able to choose their method of moving Pete … the “lifter” or helping him go bed to chair or back with the strength of his arms and legs … and with the help of the staff, of course.   Pete has begun to leave his “zombie” state!  It is wonderful to see him standing … with the aid of a walker … as he moves his body onto the bed — or onto his wheelchair.   I am so pleased.  The lifter is in his room and is available to any staff member.   Would your assisted care facility have included you in the discussion?   Would your assisted care facility have allowed the staff to use their choice of method of transfer?   Or, would they have insisted on “their way” … the lifter?  It really makes a difference when your loved one cannot speak for himself or herself.  And, when you yourself do not want the lifter to take away any strength still left!!!

Love y’all.

The top  picture is of the “lifter.”  The grey suit  is one of the harnesses used to “lift” Pete from bed to wheelchair or back.  The blue harness is made of net and can be used in a shower or such.

 

 

Let’s Take a Look.

When I wrote the essay, “What is Assisted Living?”, describing our current living arrangement, I did not include any pictures.  Thanks to our grandson, Mark, I was able to include a picture of Ida in a past essay … and am able to add some pictures to this present essay.   It is a pleasure to share our apartment with all of you.

The apartment consists of a nice, wide entrance hallway, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a relatively large living room with high ceilings.

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This is my bedroom/my office .

  

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We have a wide hall as you enter the apartment.  This table is in the hallway.

 

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Looking at the hallway from the living room.  You see the kitchen sink to the right in the picture.

 

 

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Looking from the living room, Pete’s bedroom on the right  and my office on the left.

 

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In the living room, looking into my office.  Bathroom to the right.

 

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Looking into the living room from the hallway.

 

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Looking into the other side of the living room from inside the living room.  The refrigerator is to the left of the picture.

 

 

I am really enjoying writing this BLOG.  And, I am learning so much about this piece of software.  As I commented to Craig, our son, the other day, “This is a good learning experience for an old woman!”

Love y’all.

Let Me Tell You About Ida!

I introduced Ida at the end of  the essay:  “What is Assisted Living?”   Ida is too “large” a presence in my life for me not to give you the opportunity to get to know her … certainly on paper!!!   Let me tell you about Ida!

When we first came here, Ida was assisting Pete most days.  She was caring, knowledgeable, efficient…and so sweet!    The top priority in finding a place for Pete and me was that he receive the care I wanted him to have.  We did not find it at our first assisted living facility in Lakewood (Denver).   So, we started our search again.  We did know more questions to ask this second e IMG_0858around!

Now, every staff person here is helping Pete.  Each one of them could be the “star” of an essay.  But, I have to start with Ida…

Because…how often do you meet a 4 foot 8 inch, 75 year old caregiver … with championships in    pool and in golf???  Once in your life — if you are lucky.                                                                                             (The picture is Ida with Pete.)

Yes … that is Ida!!  Ida took CNA courses in high school and started working in a hospital at age 17.  She soon joined respiratory therapy working with the little babies.   For the next 33 years, she was at two hospitals (that ultimately merged) taking care of little ones in respiratory therapy.

During these years, Ida’s recreation was playing pool.  Her team … of which she was team captain …  won several local competitions and qualified to go to Las Vegas tournaments three years in a row.  As Ida tells it, the first year competing in Las Vegas, the team was so aghast at being there, they did “nothing” in the tournaments.  The second year, they made it to the finals of the competition ,,, winning some money!  The third year … they did “nothing”  again.   Ida put her pool cue down and never played again!!

At age 55, Ida began doing private patient care … and learning how to play golf.   A local clubhouse was offering free lessons.  Ida took the lessons and was soon recognized as a “natural.”  She joined the Notre Dame Women’s Golf League and began to win competitions … e.g., “overall best shooter”, “closest to the pin.”  Ida played with the Women’s League for 17 years.  She now plays golf for fun … about twice a week … and keeps her average in the 84 – 92 range.

Ida’s private care work was quickly noticed by acquaintances wanting help with family members.  When our facility here opened in March of 2017, Ida was recruited to come here … it so happened that Ida had cared for the mother of our marketing person!!

And, that is how Ida came to be taking care of Pete.  She talked to him; encouraged him; she combed his hair; she had high expectations.  And, she was my assurance that there was a facility that would take care of Pete in the manner I wanted.  Expectations are positive; all caregivers practice the same methods; successes by residents are complimented; time is spent with the families of residents.

And, Pete and I are together.

We are very fortunate.

 

 

 

What is Assisted Living?

Maybe I should not be writing this essay.  Maybe third time will be “charmed!”   My first essay about assisted living was from the point of view of the sequence of facilities Pete has been in.  That is, after his stroke/fall, he was in rehab, home, in assisted living in Hammond, in skilled nursing, in assisted living in Denver, and in another assisted living in Denver.   Such an essay did cover this past year, but it did not have a place for details.

 Thus, I wrote a second version!

The second version discussed just the assisted living facility we are in now.   I liked that better, and I was really content with the resulting essay.    So, I “saved” the second version.  At the same time, I deleted parts of the first version that were still in the essay.   You can guess the result:  the poor little program could not decide what to do…and did nothing…and I lost my second version!!!

So…third time is charmed!!!

Now, what does our assisted living look like?  In general, assisted living implies an apartment consisting of bedroom, living room and bathroom.  The bedroom might be part of the living room.    Our apartment consists of two bedrooms, a separate living room, and a  bathroom.  The living room has a nice high ceiling.  I am thinking that we will probably be here 4-5 years…and I do not want to feel closed-in sometime in the future…and I do not want to move again.    A kitchen sink and a relatively large refrigerator are in the living room space.  The living room holds two recliner chairs, the television, two desks, and a table and two chairs…and my small 2-shelf piece of furniture that holds my buffalo collection…my only piece of furniture from both of the houses!

Assisted living also implies that some services are available.  Our facility takes care of administering Pete’s medicines.*  Three meals a day are provided for both of us.  Aides come in around 6:30 to 7:00 in the morning to wake Pete and dress him for the day.  Three to four times a week, he is given a shower.*  The aides take him to breakfast.*  He and I do lunch and dinner together.  The aides get him ready for his naps and for the night.  Weekly, all of his clothes and my clothes are washed, dried, folded, and put in their place in the apartment.   The apartment is cleaned weekly.   Cable TV and WiFi are provided.

There are also activities in which the residents can participate.  A selection of activities available here includes off-site walks, gardening club, trips to the grocery store (three times a month), trips to Wal-Mart (once a month), Tai Chi, Cheese and Wine Social (Fridays, 3:00 PM to about 4:30 PM), craft projects, off-site trips (museum, local restaurants, scenic sites), lectures and movies.  It took me about two months to select playing bridge and the book club.  I was just not use to choosing something to fill my time—and it was difficult accepting a mind-set that this was my neighborhood.  There is an indoor exercise center with a treadmill and bicycling machines — available to all physically appropriate residents.

When assisted living is discussed, the conversation usually centers on services and activities.  All other things being relatively equal, it is the staff that makes all the difference.  It is the staff that gives that shower when the resident needs it; it is the staff that brings a food tray to the room when a resident does not feel well enough to get out of bed; it is the staff that takes your wash twice a week because almost all of your clothes are soiled; it is the staff that gives you a hug when you need it.   As we were putting our Louisiana home on the market … with the lake home already sold … I commented that now all we have is a 2-bedroom apartment.   Ida, one of the aides here, immediately added, “,,, and you have all of us.

* Services denoted by a * are a la carte.

Saturday, July 14th, is our 57th wedding anniversary.

We were married Friday, July 14, 1961, in the Loyola University Church in New Orleans, LA., at 4:00 in the afternoon.  I am Catholic; Pete, my husband, is not.  So, at that time, we could only be married in a small ceremony at a side altar…and no mass.

Pete and I were graduate students at Tulane University…right next door to Loyola University.   We chose the wedding date to be between summer school semesters.  We were both teaching summer school.   And there began a pattern of our lives being quite similar.   We each received a Ph.D. in mathematics…Pete. in 1966, and me, in 1969.  We had two children during that time.

I remember one of the first anniversaries:  we laid cement for a sidewalk beside the garage.  We probably went out to dinner most anniversaries…we certainly did in these last 10 – 15 years when we spent summers in Wisconsin.  Pete had his stroke/fall in March of 2017.  So, last year, our 56th anniversary, Pete was in an assisted living community in Hammond, LA.   And, I was in our Louisiana home.  We were not together.  I had tried to take care of Pete at home and soon realized I could not…even with Ruby helping.   Around August or September (of 2017), I made the decision to move Pete and me to an assisted living community in Denver.  Our son is in Denver, and it became clear to me that I needed help with all the decisions that were to be made with regard to Pete’s health.  And, I wanted a place that would let us be in the same apartment.

And we are.   The Assisted Living staff here is providing the medical and physical support for Pete so that we can be together in our apartment.   I  tried to tell him just a few hours ago that Saturday was our 57th wedding anniversary.  He made a circle with his wheelchair; looked at me; and said “57th ?”  Nowhere along the way had I ever thought we would be in an Assisted Living Community in Denver for our 57th anniversary…and many more anniversaries to come, I am sure.

 

I forgot the ice cubes!

We have been in this assisted living community 6 months.  My mind goes between what we might have been doing in our past lives…and what I am doing now.   I don’t compare…I just think about the difference.

I have a pot with a few succulents in it.  A small pot, and it sits on the windowsill in my “bedroom” here in our assisted living community apartment.  I really like the pot and the arrangement of the plants.  The pot was a gift from my cousin which was sent after we arrived in Denver.   I had a beautiful arrangement of cacti back in Louisiana..on a deck.  Ruby, who helped me with so many things in Louisiana… always reminded me that I needed to be careful and not water the cacti too much.   She told me a trick she used.  Regularly water your succulents with “just so many” ice cubes.  I put two ice cubes in my pot here every Tuesday morning.   And — every Tuesday morning watering my pot is close to my first thought as I walk into my “bedroom.”   “Ruby, the succulents, and two ice cubes.”   But, this past Tuesday, I went the entire day in the moment…in the assisted living community.  I played cards with friends here; I napped; I did lunch and dinner with my husband; I watched the Rockies lose a baseball game.   And I did not think of my plants.

Wednesday morning…first thing when I walked into my bedroom:  “I forgot the ice cubes.”  I put two ice cubes in the pot and wondered how I could have ever forgotten to water my beautiful pot!!  It is the one thing that takes me back to Louisiana and our home there.

Let me explain the title!

Old Fashion”   I have always considered myself more forward thinking than most people my age…at whatever age.   But as I look back, I really think I set my life to follow common norms.   My values, my actions would probably be considered “Old Fashion” by most…certainly these days!

 “With a Twist”   I was never going to retire.   I retired.  My husband and I are in an Assisted Living Community…he, because of something similar to a stroke; me, because I could not let him be alone through this time.   Our Lake Home in Wisconsin …where we spent so many summers…and where I thought we would continue to spend time…has been sold.   Our home in Louisiana is on the market.  We have a two-bedroom apartment in Lakewood, Colorado, in an assisted living community.   Even the words “with a twist” do not seem strong enough to describe this change in life style for either my husband or me!

Audience:   Mary has been here just over a week.  Her family thought she would be better in Denver than in Houston.  At the dinner table, I heard her saying that she just could not explain to  her son what she was experiencing in this Assisted Living Community.

And, there is Jim.  His wife passed away about a month ago.  He moved into this Assisted Living Community, and he is very lonely.   He just had not expected to be here.

Probably the one commonality all of us in this Assisted Living Community share is that “we did not expect to be here !!”    To a great extent, I am writing this BLOG to put some words with my thoughts about being here.   I am also hoping that others in Assisted Living communities…or similar communities…will share thoughts and questions.   I would be so pleased if my words provided the start of conversations with others … others with whom life has provided “a twist.”