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Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Longer Nights, Shorter Days

Today seemed to fly by more swiftly than Friday. Mom was up and down a dozen times during the night, rummaging through her dresser drawers, trying to pull off pajamas, going through clothes in the closet and trying to put them on over her pajamas, and using the potty chair.

She finally settled down about 3:00 AM and slept. Since she was up and down most of the night, I let her sleep until 11:00. She still seemed exhausted after eight hours sleep and ate very little breakfast.

The occupational therapist called at 11:45 and said she had one more visit with Mom and wanted to know if she could come by then. She was here by noon. She worked with Mom on arm exercises for about 45 minutes. Amy was very sweet. She left her cell phone number and told me to call anytime if I had any questions or when Mom’s situation changes and she needed more care. She’s a very sweet and caring person. All of Mom’s therapists and nurses have been wonderful. This was the last visit today. Mom’s been discharged from home care because she’s reached her full capability.

After Amy left, Mom and I sat in the living room and I read her the recent letter from her friend. I put Mom’s writing tablet and pen on the snack table in front of her so she could write a letter back. For the past several months, I’ve had to give Mom ideas as to what to write. She’s not been able to think or concentrate enough to figure out what to say in a letter. I’ll jot down a few notes on a piece of paper, tell her to write about those things, and I’ll come back in the room a few minutes later. She’s asked me to read the letter over to make sure it sounds okay, and I told her it’s fine. It took her two weeks to finally finish a letter to her friend the last time.

I called her friend to let her know that Mom has Alzheimer’s because I’m sure by now she’s realized that Mom’s letters are not the same as they used to be. She used to write long flowing letters about everything she did for the week and apologize for the length of the letter. Now, her letters are a half page to one page long, with repeated sentences, and apologies for her messy writing.

She said that she thought that might be what was wrong because Mom had written the same sentence over and over in several letters. She felt bad that Mom has Alzheimer's but she said she gathered that when Mom asked when her birthday was. Mom and her share the same birthday and began writing to each other more than 30 years ago through an ad in Workbasket magazine about birthday pen pals. She said she would continue to write, wished me and mom the best, and thanked me for the call.

Mom’s mind is deteriorating more and more. The few things she loved to do, reading books and writing to her friend, have become burdensome to her. She no longer reads, and she’s struggling to write.

Alzheimer’s robs her of a bit more each day. It steals her memory, her abilities, and it’s slowly stealing her pride in the lucid moments she has when she realizes she’s not able to do what she used to do.

When she finished her short letter today, she said, “I’m going to quit writing letters. I don’t know what to write anymore.”

She was mentally exhausted after two hours of trying to write 15 sentences. She finally finished her letter by saying, “Hope you have a real nice summer.”

Yes, I needed to call her friend before mailing this letter. I’m not sure how much more Mom will be writing, but at least her friend will know that Mom cares and is doing her best. I so much appreciate her continuing to write to Mom.

Mom wanted to go to bed at 3:00. She ate very little dinner today. I kept her talking and coloring until 4:00 when she began to doze off during our conversation. She was in bed and asleep by 4:45. The days are getting shorter. :(

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Blogger flintysooner said...

When Dad could no longer mow the lawn he announced one day that the lawn just did not need mowing. By that time I knew that meant he knew he couldn't do it and that was the end of it. That was very hard for me because I knew that was a big change.

10/13/2007 6:38 PM  
Blogger ~Betsy said...

My mom was an avid reader of Harlequin Romance novels (frankly I found them trashy, but she loved them). I have an entire book case of these paperbacks, but she can't follow a sentence long enough to read one. We've switched to magazines now. In fact, there is a good one out there that I found at Giant Eagle: "Reminisce". It's a bi-monthly publication full of large print, short pieces and fantastic photos from back in the day. My mom 'reads' her issues cover to cover. I have a few older editions if you'd like to try them with her - email me and I will mail them to you. bobrienharrison@hotmail.com

I hate what this disease does to them, too. Is your mom on any meds for the night time rummaging? I asked for Risperadol because my mom was doing the same thing. The noise through the monitor drove me nuts and kept my husband awake. The meds worked for a while, but I can see they now need increased.

Hang in there - you're a wonderful daughter.

10/14/2007 1:02 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

I know what you mean, Terry. I have a feeling I'll be reading the letters to her and writing back to her friend for her soon. All these little steps backward are difficult for them and us as caregivers.

10/15/2007 10:13 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

I just may take you up on those older magazines, Betsy. She had one that she bought at a library sale and loved it.

She was on risperadol, but the doc took her off during her recent hospital stay. I think I'm going to ask him about putting her back on it. It seems she's only started doing the roaming, rummaging and sorting through drawers again since it's run out of her system. I don't think that's what was making her feel dizzy anyway. Time to call the doc. :D

10/15/2007 10:17 PM  
Blogger Lori1955 said...

It always amazes me how the mind works. When Helen lost the ability to read it didn't all go. She could still read billboards and store signs. She would read everyone to me as we drove down the street. But give her anything else to read? Couldn't do it.

10/16/2007 8:34 AM  
Blogger Frank Baron said...

It's kind of like watching the undoing of a lovely jigsaw puzzle - piece by heartbreaking piece.

You can tap me for a psychic strengthening hug anytime you need Jo.

10/16/2007 9:55 AM  
Blogger nancy said...

russ too used to be an avid reader, the newspaper mostly. near the end i would read it to him. whether he got much out of it i don't know, but he'd always tell me to keep reading so....

10/16/2007 8:07 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Oh yes, Lori. Mom can read billboards, road and street signs. ...AND license plate numbers. :D I know the feeling.

10/17/2007 5:17 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Awh, Frank, thank you for the hug. You can tell you're a writer...what a beautiful way to express the decline from this disease.

Nancy, I've been reading articles from the newspaper and short humor stories to Mom. She loves being read to. As you said, I'm not sure if she gets much from it, but she never tells me to stop. ;)

10/17/2007 5:21 PM