Posted in Society, Working with Elderly

A Bank Account of Memories

“Happiness depends on how you arrange your mind!”

Here’s a lovely story that just randomly popped into my Inbox today.  I thought it just too hard to resist so I’m sharing it on here because it’s so gosh darn sweet. PLUS it includes a pic of a very lick-able ice-cream…. ice-creammmm.

Hopefully it makes you smile, offers a bit of perspective and then gets you thinking about priorities you might like to re-evaluate within your own life. And that maybe life’s too short for all the silly stuff?

At the very least, it will leave you wondering if you’d look as cool wearing a HAT, as this beautiful lady.

ENJOY!

Insightful – and LICKY!

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she was legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. 

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. 

“Oh, I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. 

“Mrs Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.” 

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. 

Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.” 

She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories. 

Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.” 

Then smiling the whole time, she asked me to remember the five simple rules to being happy: 

  • Free your heart from hatred. 
  • Free your mind from worries. 
  • Live simply. 
  • Give more. 
  • Expect less.

And you know she’s right. Reminds me of a great saying I heard once: Being HAPPY is not a pursuit – it’s an obligation.

Now outta my way, I’m off to get ice-cream!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
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
Posted in Aged Care, Respect

The Wooden Bowl

Just a nice story about Compassion & Respect (and wayward peas!)

“I guarantee you will remember this tale of The Wooden Bowl, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now. It goes like this:

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. Every night, the family ate together at the table.

Unfortunately, the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped his glass, he always spilled milk on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

“We must do something about my father,” said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”

The husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather would eat alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the big table. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. If the dropped the bowl, it would clatter with a loud noise, but at least it would not break.

This went on for some time. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. 

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?”

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little wooden bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. 

The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. They looked at each other, and felt a cold sensation wash over them. Though no words were spoken, both knew they had acted poorly and needed to take action. 

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

<Author Unknown>

A big ol’ BOWL

“On a positive note, I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things:  a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life’.

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldnt go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back sometimes.

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you.  But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can – happiness will find you.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decisions.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I dont have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.  People love that human touch; holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”

Pesky, trouble-making peas…

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie


Posted in Aged Care, Working with Elderly

Lovely Lips for Lois

Love amongst the Lipsticks?

I witnessed the most perfect display of selfless and unconditional love today.  An unexpected, yet beautifully-presented scene that just randomly played out before me – in rotten old Target, of all places.

And while I’m pleased that I happened upon such a thought-provoking little interlude, I’m also doubly chuffed that I managed to snap a very nice photo of it as well. Working in the aged-care industry, I’ve long since realised the value of capturing the special moments as they come along – no matter how inconsequential they might seem at the time.

A picture is worth a thousand words, don’t they say?  

I hope you’ll find this heart-warming piccy, which I’ve saved ’til the end of my story (hee hee because I can), worthy of being talked about.

In the meantime, a picture of some cheeky looking Galahs to tide you over:

Who’s a pretty boy then?

Let me set the scene:

Firstly, and you may not know this, but shopping centres during the week days, transform into what can only be described as the perfect pensioners paradise!

Yes, indeedy. For while the rest of us are off being dutifully occupied at work or school (or ‘other’), teams of opportunistic Retirees get to roam freely in herd-like fashion throughout the malls.  Albeit a silver-haired, slowwww moving herd – but a herd all the same.

Hey, they’ve got the time – why shouldn’t they make a day of it?

Chatting leisurely with other like-minded Golden-Agers, casually pushing trolleys or towing low-maintenance free-wheeled trolley devices… they get their errands run unhindered, unflustered and un-rushed. Enjoying the shopping experience safely at their own pace and without judgement or pressure from any of us raucous unruly lot, thank you very much.

Not to mention packing out cafes and teashops to the brim when it’s half-time and they’re primed for the proverbial nice hot cuppa.  (Cream cake too, if blood sugar meds allow it).

Fear not though, for by the time we self-appointed important peeps all barrel into the shops and the supermarkets to hunt and gather for the family din-dins, these older folk are long gone.  Back at home, unpacked and un-shoed…they’ve completed their quests and are now poised in recliners awaiting the next thrilling instalment of Family Feud.

Yet, here I found myself today, thanks to a late cancellation, breaking all of society’s sacred unwritten rules… I decided to make an impromptu visit to my local shopping centre.

And as I stood in the Toiletries aisle languishing in such mid-morn freedom, deliberating on whether to go the strawbs or the vanilla flavoured lip balm (it’s a tough life), I could hear a softly-spoken male voice at the cosmetics section behind me.  Upon changing my angle, I saw it was an older gent with white hair standing alongside what was evidently his matching elderly wife in a wheelchair. 

With stiff stooped shoulders and her wasted hands lay motionless in her lap, she clearly had serious health problems (I speculated she may’ve had a stroke or maybe MS, but hard to really know).  However, that wasn’t an issue for this pair who, oblivious to me and my life-threatening lip balm dilemma, were focused on choosing lipsticks.

And even more fortunately for her, I thought – her husband was doing it spectacularly!

“Honey Beige, Melting Melon, Glazed Caramel… what the heck?  Some of these colours, Lois… sounds more like food to me.  That reminds me, we’ll do the groceries after this”.

Lovely-sounding-hubby was now donning his reading specs in order to decipher the ridiculously teeny tiny writing found on most lippys.  A man on a mission and with no shop assistant in sight, he clearly felt at ease in what was typically a woman’s domain.  Regardless of her health state, his wife was still a lady and therefore there was no reason in the world why she shouldn’t maintain the beauty regimes that allowed her to feel feminine and ‘normal’.   

“Pink Opal… Berry Beauty… Flushed Fuchsia.  But they’re ALL pink!  There’s just such a lot to pick from, Lois.  And I was thinking ‘pink’ was just PINK!”

In my head I had to agree…. STUPID SAME-COLOURED LIPSTICKS!

Pink, Pink – YOU STINK!

“Nude Mauve!”

“Erotic Blush!”

“Ravishing Rose!”

“Good gracious me, darling… a bit naughty-sounding some of them, might be a bit much?”

I laughed out loud at this comment, nearly blowing my cover but managed to change position while edging closer to the action.

“Here, let’s try this one, Lois.  Forever Precious it’s called… that’s definitely you my darling.  And it’s such a pretty pink.”

As Lois sat motionless, in her purely supervisory capacity, her adoring spouse crouched down before her to apply yet another shade of pink to the back of his wife’s lifeless hand.  They’d obviously been at it for a while because they seemed to have the routine down pat.  He would mark her skin for testing, pause to stand back and admire, then discuss yes? Or no? (with himself) before a gentle wipe with the tissue in preparation for the next one. 

So, yes by now I was melting on the inside – it was just gorgeous to watch!

“This Smokey Pearl one here… that’ll match your new pink blouse, Lois. The one we bought for Bryce’s graduation.  But let’s get the Charming Coral one as well.  Just in case, yes?”

Apparently, Lois could speak but it must’ve been only just, as he had to lean his ear right into her face to hear her.

“Ha ha yes!  ‘Charming’ – just like me!  Ha ha ha… good one, darling”

Brilliant! Lois was being silly too!

“Here’s one…Spiced Coffee.  Oh, for goodness sake, Lois!  How about we have a think about it all and go get some ‘spiced coffee’ of our own at that nice café over there; they might have some ‘glazed caramel’ we can chew on too.  What fun!”

As they wheeled off out of the shop, I couldn’t see Lois’s face, but I felt sure she would be smiling and thoroughly enjoying herself.  Having such a kind and genuinely loving man by her side, helping her choose lipsticks no less.

WHAT MAN DOES THAT?!

And how he spoke to her…. the way he interacted with her!  Such patience and grace, the undeniable care and commitment he showed for his dear disabled wife; it was truly truly admirable. 

In fact, I had no doubt that Lois, in her sad wheely-bound existence, thanks to this sweet and devoted man – got to smile every single day of her life .

Now, as promised——- the photo to end all photos!  

ENJOY.

A Thousand Words.

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie