Posted in Aged Care, Communication, Working with Elderly

The Goodbye Wave

Feelin’ the Family “Warm Fuzzies”

One of my fondest childhood memories is of our grandparents seeing us off, waving goodbye from their front porch. Smiling contentedly, and without fail at each and every departure time, they’d take up position watching and waving at the top of the steps.

Whether it be the big Sunday family lunch gathering or just a random quick visit to drop off groceries or pick up a bag of lemons from grandad’s garden – it didn’t matter the reason for the visit or how long we were there.  Waving us off was just one of those habitual heart-felt routines that our grandparents performed when it came time to seal the deal and bid us farewell.

Grandma Dollie
(circa 1977)

Of course, that’s after the obligatory round of goodbye kisses, hugs and hair ruffling that seemed to go on forever, before we finally got to bundle ourselves into the car for the ride home.

And I remember too, if we turned around at any stage during our exit, as mum or dad manoeuvred the car down the driveway, that they would still be stood there, happily waving and watching for our return waves through the back window.

Then, as we began slowly to pull away out of view, they’d both sing out in perfect unison:

Bye, bye….LOVE YOU!”

I sometimes wondered, after we had gone, how long they might have remained standing there! Waving away… clinging on to happy times in a now empty front garden.

Lovely too, was that even after the granddads were gone, both my grandmothers continued the waving tradition alone, never missing a beat. As if this treasured practice was integral to keeping the family unit bound and sacred forever.

I was too young to realise then, but it was indeed likely that this cherished ritual be the final thrust in my grandparent’s campaign to squeeze out as much valuable ‘together’ time as they possibly could.

I wish now, in hindsight, that I had waved back a lot, lot harder.

Waving – a universal language
(and especially popular at train stations!)

But, as it delightfully turns out, my grandparents were not the only ‘wavers’ I would ever have the pleasure of!

Thanks to my recent adventures in Aged-Care where I work with elderly adults in their own homes… I have been fortunate to encounter clients on my travels who also conduct a similar performance when it’s time to say goodbye. 

In fact, possibly as a ploy to prolong my visit, some of my clients even go so far as to walk me right out to my car!  I guess old habits die hard and chatting all the way, we discuss the cat’s weepy eye, admire the Azaleas and analyse the weather as we go.

Unfortunately, for some of my less sprightly seniors who have forgotten that their mobility is not as reliable as it once was, I then have to turn round and walk (or wheel) them back inside again! The thought of driving off and leaving a wobbly pensioner on the footpath clinging to their letterbox just doesn’t bear thinking about. So, I don’t mind in the slightest having to spend a bit more time escorting them back to their front doors again.

Besides, it’s a nice little moment that I know will bring a significant amount of joy to someone else’s day. And to be honest, I consider it a compliment that it feels so comfortable for them to think of me wave-worthy in the first place.

“Off we go… let’s get you back inside again, Mr Gadabout!”

Stranded at the letterbox

Why only today, one of my regular ladies, Florence, whom I’ve worked with for a couple of years now, makes it her business to accompany me out onto her front verandah where she likes to wait, waving goodbye as I hop into my car.

Having observed Flo become increasingly more and more absent-minded (her symptoms recently diagnosed ‘most likely’ as Dementia), to her it’s the most natural thing in the world to see me off. The same as she would a visit from any close friend or family member – except that I am neither.

“I’ll see you off, dear. And then I’ll put Walt’s dinner on”.

In my rear-view mirror I see the the nonchalant Florence surveying the rosebushes for dead-heads as she continues her well-rehearsed wave, leaning on the rail for support and so she stays in my sights. Then, just as I reach the end of her drive and I do my return wave back, she looks up at that last second when I’ve straightened up and am about to disappear from her view.

Then, a final flourish with her wrist finishes it all off!

And it’s funny… as I pause for a brief moment to watch her go back inside to peel the spuds (for her husband Walter who died 12 years ago), I’m struck with nostalgic thoughts of warm childhood family times and the ghosts of ‘wavers’ past.

So unexpected are the feelings in fact, that I find I have to stop myself from the involuntary urge to let slip a “Bye-bye….LOVE YOU!”

Awwww… feelin’ it

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Aged Care, Dementia

Dementia Diagnosis for Aunty Win

A Letter to my Fam

I received this email from my cousin Rochelle recently.

Thought I’d share it here (because I can), and also to emphasise how shitty and random Dementia is. Not to mention the despair and frustration for families who are left heart-broken as they watch on hopelessly; it is totally NOT FAIR.

Aunt Winnie taught me that girls don’t have to aspire to be receptionists or “office note-takers” or run around after others… “unless you want to, then that’s fine, too.”

Instead, if you’ve got the gumption (her favourite word) – you can make a great career doing something you love, settle down and hopefully find a nice boy “wearing not-too-tight slacks” to make a good enough life together.

It has eventuated that I have done both.

Aunt ‘Winnie-the-Poo‘ – – –  YOU ROCK!

(We miss you so much).

Winnie – younger days
(great hair!)

To my dear family,

I’ve been back from overseas for almost 2 weeks and there have been a few changes with Mum (our Winnie), so thought I’d send a group email update so you all know where that’s at.

Unfortunately, and as predicted by most of us, her mental health has declined significantly.  

I took her to her GP and she completed a MoCA test (half hour competency testing), where the results were not flash:  ie: 10 out of 30 is bad.

Poor mum scored 2…(TWO!)  Is that even a number???

Thank the Lord she defiantly remembered where she was from, although truthfully, I think she must have fluked the second point by just sheer good luck!

We also discussed her anxiety levels and turns out, they’ve put Mum on a little ‘upper’ to assist with her mood.  Arthur is great with mum and loves her to bits which I could cry with relief about cos he’s such a caring wonderful man.  

Obviously, as a retired school teacher, he revels in the role of directing and correcting!  (Plus, the Citalopram will be doing it’s job – keeping Mum calm and ticking along, happy to stay back after class with another special Arthur ‘detention’ !!!)

In the meantime, the Geriatricians will without doubt, assess Mum for ‘Care-Home’ level care, and I assume officially diagnose her with Dementia. This should happen soon.  Hopefully, while I am still in the country – although I may be called up any day now so not sure what we do then… 

Thankfully, in this zippity-do-dah-day (haha another one of her ‘funnies’) most stuff can be sorted online and organised via email etc.  And legally, I don’t need to go to the lawyers- which is just perfect.

Happy family, beachy days
(and the discovery of ginger beer!!)

The best thing is that the staff at the Respite home where Mum is now are all on the same page as I am.  And they have been concerned with her deterioration for a while – the head nurses have an amazing rapport with her, plus they’ve kept me fully up to speed on things. 

I am just SO impressed with the set-up there!

Win gets to stay in her current apartment WITH Arthur – and the Care Team actually comes to her! This includes 3 showers a week, getting dressed daily and undressed, breakfast, lunch and dinner, dispensing medications, clothes washing, housekeeping etc.

At the moment, Mum is just having shower and dressing assistance (extra $100 a week).  Once the new level of care comes through, we will apply for a subsidy as their combined total assets is less than $119k.

This new level of care will be paid from Dad’s deceased estate account (ie: $23k – and then the good old government takes over…PHEW).

I did have Mum come stay with me by herself last week (and my girls too, much to their horror), for a night recently. She spent the WHOLE TIME thinking Arthur would be coming to pick her up at any second – watching out the window, pacing up and down etc. 

I could tell she really would have preferred to go back ‘home’ to Arthur; we had to phone him a few times during the night when the panic set in. 

You should have seen it the next day, though, when they re-united.  I just about died… they had the biggest SNOG I’ve seen in ages….in front of all the staff…everyone…THEY DIDN’T CARE!!!

(I think I was actually JEALOUS!)

Arthur & Winnie’s ‘golf’ wedding cake
FOURRRRR!

Mum’s just fine where she is and like I said, Arthur loves her to bits. So as weird as all this is, Winnie’s definitely safe and cared for. She actually does realise her memory is bad (kind of), but quickly seems to forget she had that flash of realisation and so we just move on.

She happily accepts shower assistance, and for her own dignity and personal presentation, I’m terribly thankful for that.  Physically, Win looks and IS well.

Don’t know what else to say but I really hope this email doesn’t cause any concern for you guys.  I really feel she is in the right place and I think we should all feel blessed that she married Arthur last year – as crazy as that seemed at the time…. WHO IS THIS MAN WITH THE GIANT MOUSTACH WHO IS IN LOVE WITH MY MOTHER? 

Because it certainly takes the load off me – not that I’m complaining…

It’s just hard, you know?

Anyway, I hope all is well with you guys – sorry if I’ve rambled on but I wanted to put you in the picture seeing as you are her family,,, the people who love her the most. 

God, does she even remember?  

You know what…I really don’t know any more.  Today for example, she called me Geraldine.  As in Aunty Gerry, her twin, who died when they were in their 20’s.  And I can tell when she looks at me that she’s not ‘Mum’ anymore.  I hate that the most about this awful disease.

Anyway, I’m waiting for confirmation of my next placement abroad – not sure when or where that might be but I’m loving my Oncology nursing and the fabulous people involved in the industry so that makes it all worthwhile (as well as being the best distraction from the Win & Arthur show!)

Will keep you all updated as the rest of the saga of our gorgeous mum/sister/aunty’s life unfolds. 

Love you guys,

Rochelle

PS: please, don’t worry about mum.  She is fine, really.

PPS: we must all get together in the SAME room one day.  Life’s too short. – I could end up losing my mind, just like Mum.  ARRRGGGHHHH!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie