Monday, June 06, 2016


Life has been a little rough lately.  Living in "Dementiaville" can be taxing.  Not only did my mother have a brain bleed back in February, but her dementia has greatly increased since then.  I think she might have had another small brain bleed a month or so ago.  Some days I listen to her say the same things 20 times.  Right now her preoccupation is 1) with going home, even if she has to walk the 250 miles to get there, and 2) wondering where her husband is.  No matter how many times I tell her that he died 3 years ago, she can't remember.  She is also obsessed with calling her parents to come get her.  If they were alive today, they would be about 110-115 years old. She is always surprised when
I tell her they died some 30+ years ago.

I have to admit that I often feel burnout.  Her reasoning ability is completely gone.  She can't follow even simple directions.  For example, her cane might be leaning against the wall, and I will say, "Grab your cane so we can go."  She reaches for her coat, "This?"  This exercise usually continues with her reaching for every other item nearby until I come close and point to her cane.

Today I had a flasback to an MRI I had once.  They strapped me in so that I couldn't move my arms.  As I entered the tube like machine, I started to feel a little claustrophobic.  I had to take my mind to a different place.  I had to do two passes that lasted 15 minutes each.  There was nothing I could do but wait it out, and try to think about something else.  Sometimes that's how I feel now.  I feel like I just have to grit my teeth and bear the dementia craziness until things change.  I can try to find distractions for my mind, but I just have to live through it.  And sometimes I remind myself that eventually it will get much worse as things progress.  But like the MRI, I just have to tough it out.

I know it's my mother, but in some ways it's not.  Sometimes I feel more like the parent.  In some ways her personality is still there, but in many ways this is a very different person.  So it's not really like I can enjoy being with my Mom.  This is the scrambled eggs version of her.

So for now I will just try to take my mind to another place the twenty fifth time she asks me how far it is to her home, or scurries over to wash my dishes by rubbing them in her hands under cold water, or puts away the clean dishes in places I would never imagine.  I will continue to make sure her hair gets washed when she showers, and that she brushes her teeth. (After I find where she tucked away her toothbrush). I will make sure she doesn't put back on her dirty clothes after she showers, and I will try to make sure she doesn't fill her cereal bowl with cornchips she finds in a bag on on the counter.  I hope that somehow I'm building Karma, because I will probably follow in her footsteps.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Lessons in Humanity

I was at DI (church thrift store) and found myself in an aisle with a strange looking man.  He looked like someone who had lost several hundred pounds.  His legs and feet were still quite large, but the rest of him looked like he had lost weight after being morbidly obese.  He was wearing a knitted cap, and looked disheveled.  As I got nearer to him, I noticed a very strong odor coming from him.  It was over powering!  I tried to lag behind him aways so that I would be out of reach of the stench, but even 4 or 5 feet away was not enough.  I finally had to leave the aisle and go elsewhere.

After I left the aisle, I told my mother that I couldn't stand the smell.   But then  I felt bad for this man, and felt bad for turning away from him.   I decided that I was going to try to find a way to reach out to him in some small way.  While my brother and his wife were checking out, I went to put my cart back and noticed that man sitting on a bench at the front of the store.  I think he was resting.  He had seemed to have trouble walking.  I looked at him and smiled and said something about how sometimes we need a rest.  He just looked at me and smiled.  I wonder if anyone else had even spoken to him that day.

Don't think that I feel magnanimous because of this.  I feel bad that I let the physical things get in the way of seeing this man as a child of God.  I am used to working with those who are mentally disabled, but I haven't really had much contact with the homeless; which I think he was.  I feel like this man helped me to learn a lesson that day.  I hope I can remember him next time I'm in a similar situation.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Low Sodium Diet

I have to have a test done on my thyroid next week.  It will be using a radioactive ultrasound.  It's pretty routine.  But the hard part about this test is that I have to be on a low sodium diet until after the test.  I never realized before how much sodium is in every food!  I decided to write this post so that I can share some tips with others who might have to do this diet.

So the diet prohibits:
--milk products
--red dye
--egg yolks
--soy beans, soy products

Once I started looking around at labels, I found that almost everything has sodium in it!  It has been really hard to figure out what to eat.  Here are some things I've had success with so far.

Every loaf of bread I looked at in the store had 120g of sodium in each slice.  Bagels are almost double that.  I did find that corn tortillas have only 10g per tortilla, but my diet says it should be below 5g.  But the first day, when I had nothing else to eat, I did eat two corn tortillas.
The diet mentioned that homemade bread and muffins are okay.  I made 3 large loaves of bread and put in only 1/2 tablespoon for the entire batch.  So now I have something to eat!

I love milk!  Going without milk has been difficult.  I thought I would buy almond or rice milk, but they all have about 60g of sodium per serving.  Finally I found a coconut milk that doesn't have any sodium.  It's a little chunky, but it satisfies my craving for cow's milk.

I don't think there is such a thing as a non-sodium salt substitute.  But I read online that red wine vinegar only has 1g per tablespoon.  I've been using red wine vinegar instead of salt on meats, salads etc.
Here are some foods that I have had success with:
--Oatmeal (old fashioned). I put in some cinnamon and banana
--salad with a dressing made from red wine vinegar and olive oil
--chicken sauteed with a sauce made of red wine vinegar, olive oil, basil, and honey.  I also put a little bit of the sauce on the potato wedges I boiled.  That tasted pretty good.
--Green beans with garlic, no salt.
--Tonight I made Chinese food for the family.  I ate some of the rice, but cooked my vegetables and meat separate with some vinegar and honey.

I went to the whole foods market here and got some unsalted snacks.
---unsalted sunflower seeds
--unsalted pumpkin seeds
--unsweetened dried banana chips
--unsalted almonds

So far I am getting enough to eat, and it tastes pretty good.  I bought some peanut butter without salt. It really lacks something without the salt, but if I put a little honey on top it tastes good.

I decided that I really just have to make myself a different meal from what I feed my family.  If I plan it just right, I can use most of the same ingredients, just season it differently.

My one hope is that with this diet I might actually lose a little weight!  That being said, I'm already thinking about what I want to eat once I can eat salt again.  :)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Busy Week

Our Chinese exchange students left this week.   They were here 11 days.  They were very nice boys, and we only had two problems with them.  First of all, the dog would not stop barking at them!  I finally told them that the dog is like a mirror.  Whatever they project to him, he will give back to them.  So then they started to relax and talk to him.  He stopped barking.  But it took 4 days for that to happen!  One morning, one of the boys went to the bathroom and the dog started barking at him.  (And remember my dog is part mastiff, and weighs 125 pounds!). When the boy left the bathroom he RAN up stairs!  The dog chased him, barking all the way!  We had to start locking the dog in the bedroom when they were home.  I was sure relieved when they all worked things out.

The second problem was that there were two chinese girls staying with a family nearby.  Sometimes they would come to our house, and then the four of them would get in an argument and the girls would pout, and the boys looked shell shocked.  I'm sure glad I had two boys instead of 2 moody girls!

One thing we did while they were here was go bowling.  They had never bowled before, but ended up doing really well.  My husband also took them shooting one day.  The truck got stuck in the snow and they had to work for about an hour to get it out.  But all in all they enjoyed the day.  The night before they left, we had hot pot here at our house and invited the girls to come too.  It was the end of Chinese new year, and these kids are only about 13.  It's hard for them to be away during the most important holiday of the year!  So I think it helped to have hot pot here.  The boys decided to make dumplings for us.  They were SO SLOW!  I finally told them I would help and I grabbed the cleaver and quickly chopped up the vegetables.  They thought I was amazing.  Lol

My mother finished up her physical therapy and occupational therapy this week.  We still have speech therapy coming, and a nurse that comes to help her with showers.  I will miss the nurse most of all when they stop coming.  But I'm glad that my Mom is physically doing better.  Her brain is still a little scrambled though.  This morning she couldn't find her brush.  I told her it was in the drawer.  When she came back out, her hair did look brushed.  She said she had used a little one.  It wasn't until later that I realized it was probably her tooth brush.....  She is obsessed with the thought of going home.  She wants more than anything else to go to her own house.  I keep telling her that she can't live there alone, that she needs someone to take care of her.  But her dementia makes it hard for her to understand reason.  Any time someone comes to our house, she tries to figure out a way to get them to take her home.  I don't know if this will ever change.  And I know that even if she had someone to live with her in her home, she probably still wouldn't be happy.  I told her that she needs to learn to be happy in the now, and appreciate the life she has instead of always wanting something else.  But the dementia rules in these discussions.  Her life can never be what it was.  I guess it does bother me to hear her talk like that because I involve her in what I'm doing, and I take her places.  She doesn't seem to recognize all I do to try to help her keep busy and be happy.  And when I talk to her about it, she just says she wants to die.  I keep thinking about one of the ten commandments that says that we should honor our father and our mother that our days may be long upon the earth.  I'm not sure that living long is always something to look forward to.

We are really enjoying volunteering at the MTC.  It's amazing how quickly these missionaries learn.  We only see them a few times before they graduate to teaching people through SKYPE.  But it's amazing in those few weeks how quickly they improve.

I wrote before about my chinese friend that I was reunited with.  We had her and her family over for hot pot last night.  It was great to visit with them and reminisce about old times.  We definitely need to get together again soon.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


The first part of January my mother had a brain bleed.  We really aren't sure if it was caused by a fall, or if it caused the fall.  My intuition tells me that it caused the fall.  She spent 3 days in the hospital, and hated every minute.  She wasn't eating in the hospital, and wasn't cooperating, so finally they decided there was nothing more they could do for her.  The doctor asked if I wanted to send her to a care center, or take her home.  I told him to let me take her home, because maybe she would eat at home.
When I brought my Mom home, I handed her a sandwich and she started eating.  She has gradually improved since then.  She is doing so much better, and I'm sure the doctor would be surprised to see her.
I am, however, getting an education about head injuries.  When my Mom first came home, she became extremely anxious.  She was pacing the floor, ranting and trying to escape.  Having never dealt with a head injury before, I didn't know what to expect.  Her speech was jibberish for quite awhile.  I thought it was her dementia, but have since learned that it is a result of the head injury.  She was saying things like, "We have to go and repentilaty, laty, laty."  And "I want to fissy wissy beddy shoddy."  I really think she thought she was communicating, but I was clueless about what she meant.  She has just recently stopped saying nonsense words, although she still has trouble finding words sometimes.  Here are a few funny things that she has done lately:
--She washed the dishes one night while I was out.  I had my son sitting with her, and he texted me to tell me what she was doing.  I told him to just let her.  The next day I found a lot of dirty dishes in the drainer, and clean dishes put away in weird places.  Like, a loaf pan was in the utensil drawer.
--Last night she asked for some salt to salt her rice.  I handed her the salt shaker.  I looked back just in time to see her taking the lid off of it!  I think she would have ended up with a lot more salt than she intended!
--We went to the thrift store, and she found a couple of small things she liked.  I think the total was $3.  She worried that she couldn't afford it, and didn't have enough money to buy them.  I told her she has plenty of money.  She reached around in her purse.   Suddenly she said, "How much of these do I need to pay for them?"  She was holding a handful of pens.....
--She has different therapists coming to the house:  speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.  She also has an aide to help her shower twice a week.  I have noticed that she has a lot of tricks up her sleeve to get out of doing what they want her to do!  She can find all kinds of distractions to stop doing the exercises, or to get around doing what they want.  For example, the speech therapist will ask her to list certain things (to see what words she remembers).  She asked her to name as many colors as she could.  My mother was struggling to remember the words for colors, so said,"Who cares?!"  And boy does she sass them!
--She told me she wanted to call my sister to ask her to take her to her home and live with her there.  I told her she couldn't go live with her because she has her own family.  Finally I let her call her, and my sister told her for herself.  Then just the other day she said she needed to call her sister.  I finally deduced that she meant daughter.  She said, "No, she is my sister!  First there was her, then me."  I said, "No, you are thinking of your sister Reva."  She said, "Oh yea, that's right."  But then she flipped again and was calling my sister her sister again.  I told her again she has her own family.  My Mom said, "No she doesn't."  I reminded her of my sister's husband's name.  She remembered him, but didn't remember they were married.  I said, "Yes, they got married a long time ago."  She said, "Well why didn't they invite me to their wedding!"  Lol.
--Today it was snowing and my Mom said, "Look at the water coming down!"  All day she had trouble thinking of the word for snow.

I really can't complain though.  It's so much nicer to have her more back to normal.  She isn't ranting or trying to escape any more.  She isn't talking jibberish anymore.  She can feed herself and take care of bathroom needs.  The one thing that I hope will improve is her stamina.  She gets tired much more quickly than before.  But my sister brought a wheel chair, so we could always use that.
The more I deal with my mother, the more I realize how lucky my Dad was that he died quickly.  He had no warning, and just had a couple of chest pains before he died.  He wasn't bed-ridden.  He didn't have to go through cancer treatments.  He didn't have to have someone else bathe or feed him.  He could still communicate.  He could still walk, and was living in his own home with his wife up until his death.  I hope that when my mother dies she has just an easy of a passing.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tender Mercies

Back in 1993 we moved to BeiJing, China where we lived for two years.  We were able to attend church there with other foreigners.  One of them was a man I had known about 10 years earlier when I served as a missionary.  He was part of the branch presidency in the missionary training center.  When we got to China, he was preparing to leave China.  He was trying to get a business going there (never did have any success with that) and had a college student he was working with.  She lived out in the country with her younger sister on the back porch of a farmer.  They had no running water, and just an outhouse to use.  She had no phone, and this was not a permanent address.  This man wanted to keep in touch with her, so introduced her and her sister to me, so that he could contact them through me.
These girls began to come to my house a couple of times a week.  They would spend all day with me!   At first this was a little irritating to me because I couldn't get anything else done on those days.  But as the months went on, we became friends and had a lot of fun together.  Some of my most cherished memories of my time in BeiJing involve the time I spent with them.
After the second year in China, I went home to the U.S. for vacation.  I also had to have gall bladder surgery.  After my surgery, my husband called me from China and said, "I don't want us to go back to China.  I think we need to move home."  So I never said goodbye to those girls, and I had no way of contacting them.  Over the years I have thought about them, and it has been a point of sadness to know that I had lost contact.  Recently I got thinking about it and even prayed that some day I could make contact with them again, somehow.
Yesterday my husband told me he needed to drive the car because he had some work done on it, and the repairman said he should drive it 60 miles before getting the smog inspection done.  I suggested that we drive to Sandy, about 45 minutes away, and go to a Chinese grocery store there.  We needed some supplies, so we jumped in the car and went.
As we were getting out of the car, I noticed an American man coming out of the store wearing a Chinese army issue winter hat.  As he passed me, I saw his profile and realized I knew him.  I said out loud, "I think I know him."  He heard me and turned around.  When I got a better look, I realized who he was.  He was the man who had been in the branch presidency in the MTC.  I mentioned that to him.  Then the memory of him introducing the girls to me came back.  I reminded him that he had introduced me to them.  He said, "Well, Li Jia Na will be coming out of the store in a minute."  I was so surprised!  Come to find out, the two of them were married!  They have a 17 year old son together!
This was really a blessing of God to me, because I never thought I would see her again.  And I have to admit that when I saw her, I teared up.  And so did she, and so did her husband.  :)
Here is the thing:  he is 30 years her senior.  Some people might wonder how in the world they could marry each other, but I understand.  She always used to tell me that she didn't think she would ever marry.  She is a very humble person.  She was always the "mother" in her family.  Because her parents were farmers, they were allowed to have more children.  They had 9 children in their family.  Jia Na was the one who did all of the hand!  She always put effort in to helping her younger sister dress well so that she could some day get married.  But she never expected it for herself.  I think she felt that this was her only chance, and took it.  And she has been able to be a mother in the process!  Her younger sister?  She is still single.
I really feel it was a tender mercy from God that I was given the chance to meet up with my old friend again.  As it turns out, she lives about 15 minutes away from me.  Sometimes God does give us second chances.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Mama Bear

I raised three sons and a daughter, so had to deal with a lot of scrabbles between them.  One thing I won't tolerate is fighting.  If my kids started fighting, I would get between them and order them to their rooms.  If they argued with me, I would carefully pinch right on their side, under their arm, and make them leave the room.  I have always felt an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and always tried to nip fights in the bud.  Tonight was no exception.

We have one special needs boy who comes to our activities who has some behavorial problems.  You can't blame him too much, because he is only about 12, but does not live with his parents, but in a care center.  He had one caregiver who really gave him a lot of attention, but she moved on to another facility recently.  So he has been acting up at our activities.

Tonight I noticed him "head butting" his buddy.  I've seen him do this before with a different buddy.  That young man just ignored it and tried to redirect his focus.  He really put up with a lot from this special needs kid.  But it seemed he was being particularly aggressive with this new buddy.  I went up and sternly said, "We don't hit or kick here."  He rared back like a bull and came charging at me head first.  I moved to the side, and the buddy grabbed him and stopped him just in time.

A little while later I saw him trying once again to head butt his buddy.  Suddenly I saw him take a punch, and then kick him.  That was all I needed for my mama bear to come out.  My husband works with the boys, so I asked him to go reprimand this kid.  He went over and talked to him, but I couldn't help butting in.  Just then, the directors of the program came along and I said, "Maybe if he hits or kicks people, he will have to sit on a chair or something."  He was sitting on the floor right then.  The leader said, "Well, he can sit right there on the floor."  I said, "That's true, he can sit there for awhile."  When he heard that, he jumped up and ran off!  Someone else corralled him and talked to him.  He was good, but kind of sulky the rest of the time.

A little while later, a different special needs kid, who was there for the first time, pushed his buddy.  One of the special needs friends who is higher functioning went over and told him not to do that ever again.  The special needs kid punched him.  The other guy grabbed him by both arms and said, "I could kick your butt!"  I quickly ran over to stop a fight from happening.  One of the caretakers of the boy also came over and things got defused quickly.

This is the first time we have had trouble with physical violence.  The sad thing is that if it continues, they won't be allowed to come anymore.  I would hate to see that happen, because these activities are really good for them!