Chat @ Care-giving: More Facebook Help

If you took my advice a few weeks ago and tried out Facebook (or got your senior to try out Facebook) then it may be time to share these hints from one of my recent Yahoo Voices articles:  Hot to Get Rid of Annoying Facebook “Friends” Without “Unfriending” Them.

Chat @ Care-giving: Express Yourself

The awful feeling of isolation was one of the most bewildering problems I experienced while care-giving. I reminded myself that being with my beloved senior citizen was a privilege. I saw my sweet husband every night. I have marvelous friends who checked in on me and prayed for me. I also dealt with a large number of medical and service people almost every day. So why did I feel so isolated?

Looking back I realize that I felt most isolated when I quit communicating.  People who cared were all around me, but I got very tired of talking about the same things, all the time.  Still, my life was so involved in my care-taking that I had little else to talk about.  So, I’d listen and nod, keeping my troubles to myself.

If you’re folding in on yourself like that, allow me to share this with you.  Your friends, family and spouse may not care about every little detail of your charge’s day, but they do care about you.  They want to know when you’re feeling discouraged and overwhelmed.  That doesn’t mean you should brain-dump every frustration you’re dealing with, it just means you should be transparent and allow others into your world.  The isolation will fade when you do this.

Facebook was a lifeline for me as I sat in waiting rooms, emergency rooms, therapy rooms, hospital rooms and nursing facility rooms.  I also enjoyed the outlet this blog gave me.  It really didn’t matter if anyone read it.  My postings were just a way to say what I wanted to say and to mark the little victories I did have.

I also write poetry.  Rummaging through some of my old poems I found this one and submitted it to Yahoo Voices.  They liked it and maybe you will, too: Someone’s Sestina.

Chat @ Care-giving: Mom Was All About the Shoes

Recently Yahoo asked me to write a review of Dallas Shoe Boutiques. Well, there are about Ten Bazillion, so I wasn’t sure where to start. Then I remembered how much Mom loved shopping for shoes and the job got easier.

The first one I recommended was J. Renee.  The store, under several names, has been in Preston Royal Shopping Center forever.  Mom discovered it when her friend, Rose, went to work there.  FYI, Rose was a man.  Most likely he was Mr. Rose, but the Mr. had fallen away years ago.

Mom loved shoes and Rose sold her many, many pair, when they both worked for Titches (Remember Titche’s?)  Mom adored Rose, because as much as she loved shoes, her feet were very hard to fit.  When Rose got in a pair he thought would do the trick, he’d let her know.  If they were too expensive for her (even with her discount), then somehow a pair of 7 1/2 AA’s would disappear until they were marked down to something she could afford.

When he retired from Titche’s, he went to work for Vandy’s and even though Mom didn’t have a discount there, she did have Rose.  He’d call her whenever Vandy’s was about to have a sale and he’d say, “I’ve been keeping an eye on several pairs of shoes for you.  Do you think you can get by to see me before the sale starts?” Off Mom would go and make both of them very happy.

Rose died years ago.  Mom and a goodly number of female employee’s from Titche’s (which, by then, had become Joske’s) were there to mourn his passing.  Even though she no longer had her scout, she’d made a habit of shopping the half-price sale at (what became) J.Renee.  The habit stuck.  When I took over driving her around for her errands, I’d often hear, “I got a postcard from J.Renee.  Do you think we can stop by?”  We always did.

The Yahoo assignment required that I include reviews of three other shoe boutiques and cover them all in 400 words or less.  But I decided I had to tell you about Rose.  Here’s the article: Dallas Is a Shoe-Shopping Paradise

Chat @ Care-giving: Get Your Senior Connected

Feeling isolated was one of the things my mom used to complain about most as she aged, but she was actually more connected than a lot of seniors.  Try as I might, I couldn’t convince her to try the world-wide web.  She loved her paper and the daily mail, but she was sure the internet wasn’t for her.

Driving Me to Distraction

I allowed my parents to keep driving much longer than I should have, but having two cars in the garage was a point of pride with them.  Up into his eighties, my dad would load up the car and take mom on road trips.  I wore out my prayer rug whenever I knew they were going, but I bit my tongue.  Then Dad’s eyesight got so bad that he couldn’t pass the eye test and I was saved from having to be the bad guy.

Mom was always afraid of driving, but until the last year of her life, her fear didn’t stop her from getting out there in the car and white-knuckling it to a Sunday School Class meeting or the grocery store.  After my dad was gone, I did finally have to put my foot down about that, but she had a marvelous circle of friends that called regularly offering rides to book club meetings or other events they’d be attending together.  I had my reservations about the friends’ driving too, so I just prayed for everyone in the car and everyone they’d meet on the road.  You learn to pray a lot with elderly parents.

What I Wished For

For years on end, I spent one day a week with my parents, doing whatever needed to be done.  Mom looked forward to that day like no other.  I always suggested helping out around the house or doing something else that I thought would be more useful , but Mom wanted to GO!

I also talked to my parents daily and listened to their frustrations.  It seemed to me that a large number of their perceived problems could be eradicated by the internet.  Instead of having to remember to tell me everything when I called, they could send me emails.  Instead of having to watch whatever was on TV, they could surf the web and stream whatever they wanted.  Instead of the constant search to locate their favorite products, which had been discontinued at the grocery store or pharmacy, they could check on-line sources.  Instead of all the trouble they had ordering medicines over the phone, they could do it on a website.  My suggestions fell on deaf ears.

Hoping that someone else might have better luck with their seniors, I wrote this article for Yahoo Voices: Social Networking Primer for Timid Baby Boomers.  Try printing the article out and giving it to your senior.  Then let me know if you have any luck.


Chat @ Care-giving: Help Along the Way

While I’m on the subject of recommendations, let me make a couple more. Abrams-Skillman Self Storage and The Consignment Embassy.

Remember back in September when I had to hurry up and get my Mom’s stuff stored so we could get the maximum refund on her independent living apartment?  Well, I researched the locations and Mr. Bill compared the financial offers and we ended up at Abrams-Skillman Storage.

At first it was just a storage place, albeit a nice clean one with what Bill thought was the best prices.  We picked out a unit and the next day we put everything from Mom’s apartment into it.  The next time I thought about it was after the funeral.  Unfortunately that was a lot sooner than I anticipated.

Next thing I know, I’m sorting through things and deciding what to do with all of them.  I was there day after day and soon felt sort of like a regular.  The staff and I always greeted each other warmly and if I needed something, either they had something to borrow or to buy that would help me get out of whatever bind I’d sorted myself into.  They were helpful in other ways.  They kept trying to figure out what I needed before I needed it, like pointing out that the loading dock was right across from my unit and stuff like that.

Then we were down to the nitty gritty.  We asked about the auctions and they filled us in.  Then we needed an extra storage place for a day, while the auction guy did his thing, because we were saving the bedroom suite for a family member.  No problemo – they gave me one right next to my original unit and when the auction was over, they let me stay in the one that I’d moved the furniture into.  All that was very helpful and they really didn’t have to do it.  The fact that I only made $150 off the auction items wasn’t their fault.  Obviously the Storage Wars gang didn’t show up for my auction, but somebody made a killing.

Then there was The Consignment Embassy.  We’d actually consigned a mirror there once and the transaction went very smoothly.  I never went in, but Bill said they had gorgeous stuff. Anyway, out of the ten or so consignment places I dealt with, she’s one of the few that responded in a timely manner and she was the only one willing to take a stab at value before I’d hauled it to her store front.  If you’re on either side of a consignment deal, I’d recommend starting there.

If you get stuck in a place where you need some of these services, these are my recommendations.  Hope they can help you out.


Chat @ Care-giving: The Place for Mom

Straight from visiting Parson’s House Assisted Living Facility, I went to Caruth Haven Court and remember, at the time, I was thinking that Mom might be in assisted living for years.  She hadn’t had the code episode yet.

Though I grew up in East Dallas and thought I knew the Central/Northwest Highway area by heart (after all that’s where Northpark is and I LOVE Northpark), I didn’t know about Caruth Haven Court.  When I take Bodecker in that direction, I’m always on my way to Old Town, which means I jog to the right. To get to Caruth Haven Court, you stay on Bodecker.

After arriving, I had a chat with the marketing person in what they call the Family Room, which was also an example of one of their apartments.  It was quite nice, but also quite small.  I was interested in other choices.  We took a look around.  Everything outside the small apartments looked perfect, but I knew Mom’s vision of her assisted living space was bigger than what was available.  There was one floor plan that I thought would work, but none were available.  I thought another floor plan seemed adequate, but I doubted Mom would.

What I liked best was the dining room.  They were having lunch as I strolled through and it was easy to imagine my mom in the space.  Dining rooms had been the hardest part of assisted living for me to swallow.  In some of the facilities they were just downright depressing, but this was open, airy and full of people who looked just like Mom.  Sure there were wheel chairs and canes and oxygen tanks, but they seemed less overpowering at Caruth Haven Court than at other dining rooms.

I’m a very transparent shopper, so I told them exactly what I was thinking.  I explained the reason I liked Parson’s House, as well as it’s geographic undesirability.  I also mentioned the other two places I still had to see, but I admitted that all things considered, Caruth Haven Court was in the lead.  They didn’t have my first choice of floor plan available and of the only other possible choice they just had one.  I wasn’t ready to put down a deposit, but I did ask for first right of refusal.

Then we had the code episode.  Hospice loomed on the horizon.  On the recommendation of Mom’s doctor we moved to Walnut Place.  He suggested keeping her there, even if we were able to get her well enough to go into assisted living, but Mom decided pretty quickly that Walnut Place was not what she wanted to call home.  Don’t get me wrong, for rehab, Walnut Place was extraordinary and they were a true blessing when Mom moved to the nursing floor, but Mom had visions of a different kind of life for herself.

I became a virtual basket case.  I was caught between the reality of Mom’s true condition and offering her the hope she needed to carry on.  Her only chance was to believe that if she worked really, really hard at her rehab, I’d find her a lovely place to live out her life.  I needed to return to Caruth Haven Court and think about what her life would be like if she were on hospice there. If you are already on hospice, then you can’t move there, but you can go on hospice after you get there.  This time I took Bill with me.  My judgement was clouded and erratic.

Bill could see Mom living there also and he loved their cookies.  When you take a tour, they give you a big stack of remarkable chocolate chip cookies.  I liked them, but Bill loved them.  I’d donated the stack I got from my first visit to him and he was ecstatic when they gave us another stack for the tour we took together.  But we couldn’t commit right then.  There was one other facility within the geographic boundaries that might work and I wanted Bill to see them.  Unfortunately, there was only one apartment available that fit our criteria.  Even though he thought I was right, Caruth Haven Court was probably the right place, he didn’t want to put down a deposit.  We just arranged to have the first right of refusal on that apartment.

The next morning I received a bouquet of flowers from Caruth Haven Court.  Not some big arm-twisting arrangement, just a small thoughtful vase with a sweet card.  It didn’t twist my arm, but it did touch my heart.  I was having some difficult days.

Our visit to the other property was two days later and we’d barely begun when I got the call that someone else was considering “Mom’s” apartment at Caruth Haven Court.  We finished our tour, but at the end we raced back to Caruth Haven Court and put down a deposit.  I was euphoric when I returned to Walnut Place to share the news with Mom.

But she wasn’t feeling well.  The nausea she’d been fighting all week was worse.  We were on our way to hospice.  By the beginning of the next week, I had to call Caruth Haven Court and tell them Mom wouldn’t be coming.  Even if she made it through the crisis that made me call hospice, she’d never be well enough to enjoy Caruth Haven Court’s dining room the way I imagined she would.

One would think that this would be the end of my story, but it wasn’t, because when you choose Caruth Haven Court you become family.  Even though Mom never made it there, they’d gotten to know me and through me, they were looking forward to having Ruth (and her extensive wardrobe) at their facility.  The saleslady continued to call me and check on me in the coming days.  She even dropped by one day to see me at Mom’s bedside.  The deposit was returned to me with no fuss and no ado.  That’s why I had to take time to tell you about Caruth Haven Court.  If you have a loved one in the Dallas area that needs assisted living, you need to visit Caruth Haven Court.  That’s where Ruth would have gone if things had gone the way she wanted it and that’s where you’ll be treated like family.

Chat @ Care-giving: The Post I didn’t Get to Write

Can it be just weeks ago that I told you about A Place for Mom and had hopes of moving my mom into an assisted living facility? Yes, it can.

When I started the process, hospice wasn’t even in the picture.  Mom sent me on my assisted living search with very strict guidelines concerning geography and high standards concerning lifestyle.  That made the list very, very short.

In fact, there were only two facilities that made the cut and one of those was just outside Mom’s geographical boundaries.  First I have to tell you about the geographically undesirable one, because geography isn’t so important to me and it’s where I’d want to go if I had to be in assisted living.

The first thing I liked about Parson’s House was that it didn’t look like an assisted living facility.  I had the address in my GPS, but when I arrived I didn’t realize I was there.  It looked like a large private home with extra parking out front.  When you walked inside the illusion continued.  Yes there was an office off to one side, but it was easy to ignore.  The feeling of home overpowered everything else.  Maybe it was because I could smell the evidence of lunch being cooked, but whatever it was, I liked it.

The dining room wasn’t the largest or the grandest or the most beautifully furnished, but something about it, maybe the style of furniture said this was a good place to be.  Over to the side was a grouping of sofas and chairs.  They looked comfortable and showed signs that they were actually used.  That was something unique.

See, most of the other places I visited were pristine.  They had the very latest in furnishings and the best word I can think of to describe them is opulent.  But I’m not opulent.  The chic furniture groupings looked like they belonged in a furniture showroom, not someone’s home – and that’s what assisted living is, someone’s home.

Don’t get me wrong.  Parson’s House is very clean and their furnishing are top quality. Things just didn’t seem so opulent.  I didn’t feel as if I would be upsetting the balance of the world if I actually sat down on the sofa and read the paper.  There was evidence that someone had done just that not too long before.  I liked that.

But what I liked best was that residents were outside on a large patio, having a resident meeting.  They were planning their activities for the next month.  What a concept!  All the other facilities gave me a list of the activities an activities director had planned for the residents.  At Parson’s House, the residents got together and decided what they wanted to do and it looked like they were having fun doing it.  A variety of dogs were helping with the meeting and one of them was a Shih Tzu named Precious, just like my Shih Tzu.

And get this, instead of a professionally maintained landscape masterpiece, they had a vegetable garden maintained by the residents.  The patio was decorated with hanging baskets, each the proud responsibility of an individual who lived there.  I don’t even like gardening, but it gave everything a much stronger feel of home than any other facility.  I was hooked, but the tour wasn’t over.

They had a little of everything needed at Parson’s House, exercise, crafts and like, but a feeling of participation, rather than mere availability, pervaded.  The hoops used for one class were leaning against a wall.  Nothing was messy or cluttered, it just looked natural and normal, instead of pristine.  Pristine can be very cold.

On the other end of the facility from the exercise and crafts was the media room, but it looked more like my den.  They may have actually had the latest in technology, but what was more important to me was that someone was actually sitting there reading a book.  People lived here.  They weren’t locked away in their apartment waiting for the next meal.

As they showed me an apartment, I couldn’t help but be dismayed.  I just couldn’t imagine Mom living happily in one room.  Where would she put all her clothes?  That’s when “we can do that” showed up.  Everywhere else I’d been, they told me how my mom would live. At Parson’s House, as I explained what I thought would best suit Mom, I was told, “we can do that.”  Sure, they could put a door between two units and they offered other possibilities.  I liked that.  Would the alterations cost me money?  Sure they would, but how do you put a value on happiness and comfort for someone you love.

OK, I was sold.  I knew it was outside Mom’s geographical zone.  I doubted that I could convince her to move there, but I’m telling you, it’s where I’d want to be.   In a couple of days, I’ll tell you what I picked out for Mom.