Chiming in at the Holidays

It’s been a long time since I wrote, mostly because it’s getting harder to find time to sit apart, compose myself and work up a draft of the blog. I do take an hour or so most mornings to take a long walk, but when I’m in the house I am pretty much in earshot or right there. If I go upstairs to my study, it’s to pay bills or something equally useful, and I tell J where I am and what I am doing. But I always “feel” the effect of my absence from the room – J is increasingly unable to motivate herself and will just sit there until I come back down, or will come looking for me. So I have to be ready to be interrupted at any moment. That’s okay if I’m paying bills, but makes careful blogging a tense affair, which is not how I want to write. Right now it’s early morning, and I may have a half hour or an hour before J appears, and I’ll try to take advantage of that.

Two weeks ago I finally called the Respite Program, an adult day program for folks with dementia, which is held in a church a few minutes’ drive from our house. Been going to do this for over a year now, but finally got up the nerve. The director was helpful and explained how it went, and took me to sit in on the program for a while – helpful to see, but also painful to realize that J probably would fit in here. Then last week I took J to see it – explained that she was always looking for something to do, and that this was one option, and she could see what she thought.

This time there were about 7 or 8 people, most very clearly suffering some sort of diminishment, but also 4 or 5 staff and volunteers, so a large group. We were introduced, and sat in the largish circle, in easy chairs, and watched the activities. A slow discussion was held, lightly structured around holiday memories, with the staff person asking what sorts of foods did you eat, or what was your favorite music from the season, etc. It was extremely slow – kind of the opposite of a circle of kindergarteners who would be jumping up and down wanting to be called on – but warm and friendly.

I did not mention to J that it served folks with dementia, just that it was for folks who no longer got out much, some such gloss. I fully expected her to hate it, call my bluff and say, “Get me out of here!” But, to my great surprise, she was interested and relaxed and willing to stay almost two hours. We sang carols, ate a snack, and chatted with the participants, and I had to suggest we go along, not knowing how long the director expected us to be there.

Later, she said, “Perhaps I could go there”, and I said I’d look into it further, that you do need to sign up for a particular time and I’d let them know she was interested. I tried to keep my excitement curbed, and my hopes modest, but inside I was thrilled and amazed that she seemed to take to it. It was also super poignant, that she felt she fitted in.

I went back a few days later and completed the application process with the director. It was the first time I acted as POA and signed a form for J without discussing it in detail with her. Sobering responsibility. But I could not show her all the paperwork without her getting hopelessly confused, or insulted, or overwhelmed, or all of the above.

Next week J starts two afternoons a week – Wed and Fri – which we were lucky to get. Those days don’t conflict with her gym days, and afternoons work much better for her.
***
Also, a couple of weeks ago, I sat down with the director of the companion service, and reviewed everything that had happened with R. She suggested she look for someone else, in case there was a hidden difficulty with R that J wasn’t acknowledging. It turns out there is a worker with a music background that might be a good match – after the New Year I will meet up with her and see what I think. If she could come on Mon afternoons, that would fit in well with the Wed-Fri Respite program, and that would leave Tuesdays to schedule doctor and dentist visits and so forth.
***
This past weekend J’s son and his wife came for a visit from out of state. It is getting to be harder for J to manage the stress of visiting or being visited, and the week before she was more anxious and “dithery” than usual, but she rallied, for the most part, and was able to have a reasonably good time. We did get to have some great meals together, out and in, and get to see some great scenery, driving down the point to the ocean on a beautiful bright blue-sky day.

***

Well, I started this draft over a week ago, and am reviewing it now and ready to send it out – tomorrow is the first Respite afternoon (adult day program), so we’ll see how it goes.

 


5 thoughts on “Chiming in at the Holidays

  1. I was thinking of you folks just this morning and wondering how you are faring. How wonderful that your careful feeling your way forward is yielding some acceptable alternatives for J (and “alternatives acceptable to J”)! If you have the time to let us know as it unfolds I would appreciate it. What great love!

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  2. Thanks from me, as well. I read every word and think lots about how life can change and roles become different. You do give great love to your family, and are so sincere in your efforts to truly help. Much love back!

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