Hindered Hobbies

“I better get busy on dishcloths”

“I was so mad when Jackie Caulicout was chosen to sing at graduation”

“why?”

” we both sang, and there were 2 events,  class night and graduation, I would have preferred graduation but I got class night and she got to sing at graduation.”

high school graduation
moms high school graduation

 

Mom has had so many hobbies and interests; music and singing were right up there at the top of her hobby list along with,  gardening, reading, traveling,  crocheting, crossword puzzles, and so much more.   She struggles to do all of them.  

Mom had a beautiful voice, she took  voice lessons at  Boston Conservatory, she use to sing at weddings,  I mean, she could sing and sing well.  She loved music.  She played the piano and organ her whole life.  I still think she can play when she sits at a keyboard, maybe not perfectly but she can tap out a recognizeable tune.  She will try to sing along in any musical situation and wants to sing on key, when she cant, she just stops.  Her voice is weak and cracks a lot so she feels unable to sing around others.  She does sing for the little ones though,  so” 2 little blackbirds”,  “pat- a- cake” and “rock a bye baby” have become  my favorite songs that she sings.

 

 

 

 

When we see old people who have lost the abilities to do so many things,  I dont think we always realize that they have a variety of history which includes their hobbies. The things they once enjoyed doing they can not longer do.  The things they looked forward to doing. The things that when they were working and raising families they didn’t have time to do.  Hobbies.  Hindered now by their physical and congnitive abilities.

So moms beautiful singing, has been replaced with lullibies and tapping out “A” “B” “C” on the piano.  I try to play music more often at home so she can at least hear what she once enjoyed.

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Just stirring from her after dinner nap

“What time is it?”

“It is 7:30 “

“ohhh, I might as well get comfortable in my bed.”

“okay mom, good night, Ill come and tuck you in”

“I’ll probably read for a little while .”

She doesn’t read.

The  church newsletter  arrived and she picked it up to read it,  her hands tremble so much that she can not find the words as they dance around..  It seems like a very long time  that she spends  sitting and staring at that paper.   I can only  hope she has read at least some of it.  Even after she reads it,  the newsletter, or anything , she will forget she has read it and attempt the process once more.

Often we read to mom, not a whole book or anything, but tidbits of information, brief articles from the paper, the church newsletter and even a new recipe.

Such an avid reader at one time, with a wide range of interests.  Reading was one of her favorite hobbies.  Books or gift certificates to get books has always been  a great gift idea for mom. We would frequently go to the used book store with a bag full of books she had read and trade them in for  yet another bag full to be read.  She had an incredible range of interests,  religions, romance novels. She would read about places and people, from Royals and Bette White, to training your dog with Ceasar Milan.

“what are you reading mom?”

“I forget,   I’m sure it will come back to me as soon as I  read a couple if pages.”

“what about the quote book I got you for Christmas, it’s beside your bed.  I thought you might enjoy it.”

The book is 365 positive quotes, they are very short quotes.  I love the book, it is quite positive and I was hoping it could hold her interest long enough for her to read and retain at least one short quote or a  piece of a quote or part of what she had read.

quote book

It was a couple years ago when I realized she was just not reading or if she was then  she was not comprehending.     I would go her room to tuck her in or  to turn out her light  and she would be there with a book open on her chest and she was fast asleep.  Oh, I know, who hasn’t done that, right.   I know, but that was not the sign she was not reading or comprehending.    The next night it was a different book, opened to the middle of the book.  Every once in a while she will retrieve a previously read book from the bookcase.

“I think I’ll read this book , I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet.It was in the bookcase”

For years we both read every night, we would share our books with each other before we went to purchase or trade them  in for more.  We have not bought or traded any books in a few years.

She doesn’t read.

What can you replace reading with?

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Mom has traveled all over the country, often times by herself.  I already told you about her last trip to Florida to see Scot, so she can no longer travel alone.

How do you replace travel?

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Mom started really crocheting a lot  when she quit smoking (another admirable trait). (She didn’t really smoke very long either, and  back when she started smoking it was the so called cool thing to do and she was, well,  she was cool.)

Crocheting, they say,  is a lost art. Mom has crochet for at least 50 years, but most of it has been in the last 30 years.  She has made such beautiful afghans, sweaters, mittens, stuffed animals, curtains (I loved my curtains, she made me) and so much more.  She taught me to crochet a long time ago, but I did not do anywhere as much as she did.   I’m trying to find pictures of some of her best work.

 


I first noticed her having  difficulty with crocheting  about the same time everything else started falling apart, a few years back.

Frustrated.

“This is the third time I have ripped this out, these directions are to confusing.”

“let me look, see if I can help”

I would read her the pattern from the book as she would crochet the item.  Eventually I would just complete the difficult parts for her.  Her abilities evolved to only being able to complete the simplest pattern or stitch.

“I should get busy on making dishcloths.”

”everyone loves them, that’s for sure”

Her heart and intent are  as always is in the right place, and she carries her crochet bag , with her hook and crochet cotton with her everyday when she goes to daycare, still.   I have mentioned that maybe she should just leave that bag home since she really doesn’t have time to work on dishcloths at daycare, but she insists.

“you never know when, I might get a chance to work on it”

She has not made a dishcloth in well over a year, she can’t.

How do you replace crocheting?

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A few years back, quite a few now.

“I guess I just don’t watch enough T.V. ,  I am having a hard time with the crossword this week.”

Slowly crossword puzzles transitioned to word searches  ( she will still carry her word search books with her, in the same bag as her crocheting) and now  that has been replaced with the coloring.

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She is unable to  garden, travel,  play the piano, crochet a new dishcloth, or complete a crossword,  due to either her cognitive or physical limitations.

Do  we attempt to find new hobbies that  fit with her new  (lesser) abilities?  Are her interests even the same as they once were?  How do I concentrate on what she can do, when I only see her losing her ability to do all the things she loved doing?  What now?  

  Old age has a very cruel side.

 

image
watching the chickens or looking at photos  (replaces reading?)
mom picking weeds
picking the grass out between the rocks  (replaces gardening?)

 

 

 

 

 

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Uncomplicated Relationships

“Pretty blue sky today”

“Mom, your lunch is ready”

From her slumber she replies groggily

“Lunch? I thought it was dinner time”

Moms sits at the head of the table which faces the  outside through the sliders and to her left is a picture window. It is a fairly wooded backyard with lots of birds. The view outback  is beautiful in every season.

“Pretty blue sky”

“Yes, it is”

 a minute passes, maybe…

”pretty blue sky today”

”it’s beautiful”

 

Mom will fixate on a word  or a phrase,  occasionally I can predict what the phrase will be for the day. Her thoughts are elementary these days.  Anything slightly complex is too confusing for her, she gets frustrated.  The frustration shows in her eyes  and it is incredibly difficult to watch.  “Eyes are the window to the (soul) heart” they say,  it’s true, I swear that I can see her heart through her eyes.

It is hard  for us to think in simple terms once complexity becomes our norm.  In moms case she no longer has a choice. Her brain just wont let her get to the right stuff.

It still amazes me to think of what she would accomplish in a day or a week  and the organization and drive it took for her to do it. The complexity in which she lived, I believe she was happy for the most part.  She is one to be admired, life was not at all simple for her,  she could made it look that way though.

life is good


 

Kids always keep things simple, for them I believe it is because they don’t know anything else yet.  For mom it is because she can no longer manage the complex thoughts.  She connects with young children quite easily.

nana with paxon and timmyt

Mom  will lean forward in her seat and put her hands out in front of her and wait (patience is one of her older traits), sooner or later someone may arrive to her outstretched hands and  when they do her eyes change and  they soften.


piano with paxton

Paxton held moms hands today and just looked at her for the longest time (I couldn’t take a picture because I was so involved in watching and admiring their simple intensity) and mom was smiling, then all of a sudden Paxton launched herself up on mom and gave her the best hug ever.  As I was watching Paxton, (my  2 year old granddaughter) with mom, I realized that their relationship is quite simple , with an overflowing amount of  love.  Mom truly lights up when my grandchildren (some of her great grandchildren) are around her.  She interacts with them on their level.  Even when she doesn’t understand what they are saying she is happy with them around.  They color, they sing,  they chat, they smile and hug. Accepting and uncomplicated love.

 

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Over for an afternoon visit, Timmy, (my 2 1/2 year old grandson) insists on coming outside with me to help  get mom  off of the day care  bus.  He will start chattering to her right away, before she even has her foot on the ground, he chatters  about, I’m really not sure what its about, but he goes on and on. Once off the bus , mom will  acknowledge that he is talking to her.

“you don’t say, well you have a lot to talk about”

as she leans in to me

“What is he saying?  I have no idea what he is talking about”

she is smiling the whole time and often reaches for his hand.

 

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Timmy will run in and up the stairs, talking to mom the whole time.

He will wait at the top of the stairs still chattering away as she forces her knees to bend enough to get up the stairs. Timmy connects with mom wholeheartedly and it is obviously special for them both.  He points to her chair and takes her cane or gets the other cane in the corner.  He will walk around with her cane for a bit, he always returns it to her. Timmy and mom might roll the ball, and chat, they eat cookies, go outside and sometimes watch Mick.  (Mickey Mouse) Most days, when he is leaving, he will run over to her and give her the best  good bye hug, sometimes he just blows her a kiss.  She smiles a big smile (again her eyes soften) and blows a kiss back.  Accepting and uncomplicated love.

nana with timmy

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The kids keep things simple, most adults unconsciously ignore or think they have outgrown the simple.

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The kids will do the same thing over and over and over and each time they will find humor, fun and entertainment in that same action.  We enjoy watching them.

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Paxton:  “momma do it again”

Megan:  “ready set go”

Paxton:  “again”

Megan:  “ready, set go”

Paxton:  “again”

We have  all been part of  the repeated actions/sayings of kids and know  how cute/funny/sometimes annoying it is. Yet we will continue that repetition for a very long time because it is obviously making them happy.

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After a visit to Megan’s, when mom and I were riding home in the car,  is when I truly realized the connections with children and old people.  The 10 times Paxton wanted  Megan to repeat the game actions, and the 27 times mom mentioned the color of the sky are as different as they are similar.   Similar because it is what their capabilities  happen to be.

“Pretty Blue Sky today”

“very pretty”

the traffic starts to pick up the closer I get to Fall River and I focus on my driving

“pretty blue sky, not a cloud in it”

“I know, huh”

my mind wanders and a minute or two passes

  “pretty blue sky today”

… I didn’t respond, I just thought.  I thought about Paxton “again momma” and I thought I need to  acknowledge moms comment,  ( commenting on the sky).   I halfheartedly converse with her about the sky, (of course) but  as unimportant and repetitious as I feel it is, it is probably the most uncomplicated topic for us to share and for her to think about as we travel back home.  I don’t need complicated conversation that minute. Mom and I  can no longer converse with any complexity. Just hearing a loved ones voice can be reassuring and comforting.

Frustrating, it is, to try to vary a response to her repetition and do I even need to?

We are willing to play and repeat the same game or song or activity over and over again with a 2 year old,  while we smile and giggle with them.  Yet we will become  frustrated when it is an 89 1/2  year old that repeats the same few words, sayings  or ideas over and over again.  Why would our expectations be greater for someone who is no longer capable of the same cognitive function as they once were?  This cognitive deterioration is the realization that the conversation needs to adapt to the individual going through the process.  Just as we adapt to the 2 year old. The frustration, at least for me,  is sadness for the loss that I already feel.

“Pretty blue sky today”

“It really has a variety of blue shades and as you look straight out it is white, did you notice that mom”

“I do now, and the clouds are gray on the bottom”

“funny, that the sun is shining at the same time as gray clouds are here”

“maybe it will rain later”

then we were quiet

 

The innocent qualities of children  are  very similar in some ways and drastically opposite in other ways to an adult with dementia/Alzheimer’s.    The appreciation for the simpler things leave our minds for what we perceive as more important things and we really don’t ever welcome simple  thoughts back.

Until a circumstance jolts you back.

We arrive home and saunter our way into the house.  Mom shakes her coat off into my hands and shuffles to her chair.

“be it ever so humble”


For Your Information;

 I was researching it a bit and found that there are places that have a combined day care situation .     What a fantastic idea.     The preschool inside of a nursing home.  Just read these articles and think…. why wouldn’t we do this?

Caregivers most definitely get frustrated, but so do the individuals we are being cared for.  There are many resources available.  What frustration must she be going through.