A PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY THROUGH ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE by Maria Deneau

A PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY THROUGH ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE by Maria Deneau

Repeating stories multiple times may be normal for some seniors who are active and lead fulfilling lives–a natural part of aging–but that was NOT normal for my quick-witted, sometimes sharp-tongued mother.  It was just that small shift in her behavior that made me stop in my tracks more than once when having conversations with her that usually ended up in frustration for us both.

One afternoon in 2002 while she was babysitting my son for me, she called and asked if she could give my toddler a peanut butter cup.  That’s when I had that awful sense of dread and my pulse quickened.  My son has a high peanut allergy and she knew this.  So began the slow spiral of watching my beautiful mom dwindle away to Alzheimer’s Disease–and watching the startling impact that it would have on my father as well.

Today, Mom resides in a skilled nursing facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Dad goes to see her almost every day.  She has no memory (or at least any that make sense in her “babbling speak”) or ability to do anything for herself and requires 24-hour-care.  She is at the end stages of Alzheimer’s.

 The Search for the Right Fit

THE AUTHOR AND HER MOTHER

THE AUTHOR AND HER MOTHER

Getting Mom to her current “home” was not easy by any stretch, and I wonder how much worse it could have been had I not been a professional in Geriatric-Healthcare.  I currently work in Michigan for the nation’s largest home health and hospice provider as a home health specialist, coordinating new patients and helping them transition home from a hospital or skilled nursing facility, and also by partnering with local physicians who recognize the need for medical home care for their patients.

I made the jump from advertising sales to a marketing and admissions director at a skilled nursing and rehab center while researching Alzheimer’s disease for my own family.  One of my advertising clients was the marketing and admissions director in this facility, and I was constantly asking her for advice on what she thought we should be doing for my mom and dad based on her expertise.  She was eventually promoted to executive director and ended up hiring me to fill the marketing position. (I’m sure that I was driving her nuts with questions!)  I couldn’t get my hands on enough resources and I found my way into an industry that fit me perfectly, through the fear and emotions of watching what was happening to my own mom.  I hoped that I could help guide others through my own experience.

The worst part about watching my parents unravel was also watching my dad’s health decline due to caregiver burnout.  It is a real phenomenon and it was petrifying to watch.  Dad’s goal was to hide Mom’s disease to everyone in the family (as if we didn’t see it) and their community to save her dignity and to hide his own fears.

One evening, they were at a local restaurant for dinner and Dad was so physically and mentally exhausted that he went into an almost catatonic state.  Luckily, the restaurant owners knew my parents and their situation, called an ambulance, and contacted my brother.  None of us three kids were in Cincinnati this particular evening.  I was living in Michigan, my younger brother was living in Missouri, and my older brother who DID live in Cincinnati happened to be vacationing in Colorado.

So, sick to my stomach, I packed a bag and started the drive home to Cincinnati.  Dad was admitted to the hospital and cousin Patty stayed with my mom until we could all get there. 

SPOUSAL DESPAIR

SPOUSAL DESPAIR

My dad was in the hospital for four days and the main diagnosis on his chart was exhaustion!  He has no recollection of those first few days but did make a full recovery.  My brothers and I met at my parent’s house within the day and finally saw firsthand how bad it had become at home.  Mom was totally dependent on Dad and was also living in a state of high anxiety.  In talking with my dad in the hospital, we found out that Mom had also become violent with him because she didn’t know who this “strange man was” in their house.  Finally, it was clear to Dad that keeping Mom at home was unsafe, and so began the process of finding an assisted living/memory care facility with 24-hour-care.  One might think this was the easiest part for me, since I was already working in Geriatric-Healthcare, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

My parents still lived in Western Hills in Cincinnati, and my dad was set on putting her into a retirement village on that side of town.  I didn’t think this was the best choice with Mom’s anxious and erratic behavior patterns, and met with their folks to discuss it.  I asked them to please go to meet Mom at home and do a complete assessment on her, as I didn’t think that she would “fit” into their calm environment with her wandering and behaviors.  They stated that an assessment wasn’t necessary, as they felt comfortable about effectively taking care of her.  Dad was also insistent about this facility as he already knew some of the staff.  Mom was admitted as a Private Pay Resident.  Unfortunately, I was absolutely correct, and she was sent in and out of the hospital Geriatric-Psychiatric unit to “calm” her down.  She was put on heavy psychotropic medications, and after the third hospital trip, the Retirement Village called my dad and stated that she could not return, as she was not appropriate for their setting and that she was basically too much to handle.  Shocker, right?  I was livid!

Here we were, right back where we started, with no prospects of what to do with her and facing a hospital discharge within 24 hours.  Other facilities also declined to accept her. 

MARIA'S MOM NOW

MARIA’S MOM NOW

Finally, we found a facility who accepted Mom and she still resides there today. They have done a wonderful job!  They have been so kind to my dad, as well.  Living through the first part of this journey into Alzheimer’s with my mom and dad has had a huge impact on me. I have now made it my mission to help people find help and resources during these times of crisis.

LOVING CARE IN APPROPRIATE FACILITIES

LOVING CARE IN APPROPRIATE FACILITIES

[Maria (Martini) Deneau is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, the only daughter of four children born to Bernard and Evelyn Martini. She is a graduate of The University of Cincinnati and is currently employed by Kindred Healthcare–Kindred at Home in Southwest Michigan as a Home Health Specialist. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, having worked in Geriatric healthcare since 2007. Maria is a National advocate for The Alzheimer’s Association, serving as Ambassador for the 6th Congressional District in Michigan and Washington D.C. She also serves as a Board Member for Fund Development at Senior Services of Kalamazoo County and as a Board Member for Professionals Focused on Aging in Kalamazoo, MI.  She has been recognized by the Ohio State Senate for Outstanding Achievement and exemplary service to the community and its youth while living in Cincinnati, Ohio.]
REFRIGERATOR by Unknown

REFRIGERATOR by Unknown

refrigerator“Once upon a time, a couple of children died playing in abandoned refrigerators.

So laws were passed requiring manufacturers to make safer refrigerators.

And laws were passed requiring consumers to safely dispose of their refrigerators.

At no point did the National Refrigerator Association step in and try to stop this.

And now refrigerator death isn’t a problem any more.”

WHY ARE PEOPLE SO ANGRY? by Deborah G. Hankins

WHY ARE PEOPLE SO ANGRY? by Deborah G. Hankins

Deborah G. Hankins

Deborah G. Hankins

The United States has become a nation of angry people. Everywhere we look, there’s anger. It has happened because, at a very basic level, we’re afraid. We’re afraid because we’re observing an uncontrollable erosion of our lifestyle, and we have little control over it.

When a person is frightened their first reaction is anger. Think about the last time you were frightened. Most likely, you can remember a flash of anger which immediately followed. Someone cut you off in traffic, and you narrowly avoided an accident. You had a flash of anger. Your child escaped your grasp and dashed onto the street. You became angry. That anger was a vestige of the basic fight-or- flight response which was intended to protect us.

Today, the fear is less immediate and obvious, but it’s a constant in our lives. We work hard and each year that hard work is less rewarding. The bills get bigger and the paycheck no longer keeps up.

In the past, we expected our children to accomplish greater things than we did. My grandfather quit going to school in the seventh grade and became a bank vice-president. My grandmother was the child of a poor factory worker in Richmond, Virginia and plucked (literally) from the street by a group of well-meaning wealthy matrons and subsequently given up by that same group for adoption. My mother graduated from nursing school. I graduated from college and eventually got a Master’s degree. This wasn’t unusual. People expected more opportunities for their children and grandchildren than were available to them.

This has changed radically. Rather than offering a ladder to success, a college degree burdens young people with crippling debt. It’s impossible to save enough money to ensure a comfortable retirement, and there’s great doubt whether Social Security will benefit those who are currently middle-aged.

Now, a minimum wage job neither supports a family nor leaves anything for savings. Company pensions are a thing of the past and good-paying factory jobs are rare.

Our lives are characterized by uncertainty–not optimism.
In the midst of this, we hear of a small minority of individuals and families who are so incredibly wealthy that they have enough “left over” to literally buy national elections.

What’s our reaction to the fear? Anger. What indicators do we see of this anger? In my small city, grown men toting pistols in restaurants. People so deeply divided over political ideologies that civil discourse is rarely possible. Young men with easy access to deadly weapons seeking fame by taking innocent lives. Governing bodies believing the message of heavily-edited video tapes defunding Planned Parenthood, the only easy access to healthcare for millions of struggling women.

This isn’t the America we envisioned fifty, twenty or even ten years ago. I’m not sure I want to live here anymore.

A GLIMPSE OF THE CONSERVATIVE MINDSET by Beth Rankin

A GLIMPSE OF THE CONSERVATIVE MINDSET by Beth Rankin

Today as I headed to my car to offload items needed for work (I do my professional canning in the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries’ commercial kitchen) I stopped to chat with a guy in a car going out of the entrance into the parking lot. I wanted to ask him if he had ever read (in the late 60’s) Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman, but he started the conversation in a different frame of mind.

“Do you see all the homeless sleeping here?” he asked, aggravation in his voice.wanderer-814222_1920

“Sure do,” I answered, “and I feel bad for them. It’s forty-three degrees now at 8 a.m. No one chooses to sleep out in cold weather if they have an opportunity for a warm and dry bed.”

“Well, it’s a damn shame. I see them smoking. If they quit smoking they could save their money and get a place to live.”

I told him how our experience just two years ago cost us almost $2,500 in first and last month rent and a security deposit. “That’s a lot of time not smoking to save that up.”

He countered, “Someone needs to do something about it.”

“Who do you think should do something and what should they do?” I asked, keeping my voice as neutral as possible.

His agitation increased. “I don’t know but someone needs to! I’ve lived here for fifty years and it wasn’t always like this!”

“I know,” I muttered, “There are lots of problems now that didn’t exist fifty years ago…even five years ago.”

“Yeah!” He was urgent. “There weren’t all these Hispanics. All these gay people. They stayed hiding then. No Blacks either. No druggies.”

Okay, it was apparent he believed that the people who were suffering were at fault, but if I hadn’t realized it before, it was clear now that he was a bigot. I kept my voice calm. “We here at the Co-op do what we can to help them and there are others in town who also are working hard to try to get them off the street. But,” I added, “I also agree things are not what they used to be. I wonder why their families are not helping them.”

homeless and sad
homeless and sad

Oh, I got an earful then. His own daughter, age 35, is living on the street. He won’t let her come home because she has a Latino boyfriend and if “he came over I would have to shoot him. So she chooses to live her way.”

No wonder, I thought. So I added some fuel to give him a few more thoughts.

I asked him, “I wonder why children, like your daughter, don’t learn good work ethic from their parents…like you.”

Ahhh, turned out although he had worked some in his adult life he had been an alcoholic, and his life had not taken a smooth path. His wife left him and she was a fool with the next man, according to his judgement. He said he had another daughter in prison.

I pushed my point, “So perhaps you did not quite show them the kind of way to be a productive member of society, to learn how to nurture relationships to help the people close to you through hard times?”

He glared at me (perhaps I was lucky he only glared) and suggested “Someone needs to do something!” and he drove out…the entrance.  Apparently, rules do not apply to him.

I hear and read a lot of comments from the conservative people on my Facebook feed that we need to return to the way America was the 1950s and early 1960s. I remind them, first of all, we were pretty young then and our viewpoint of the way society was then was not an adult perspective. Any analysis read now that puts it all in a golden, perfect society seems to forget that women were considered to need to be at home and let their husbands tell them what to think, that Jim Crow laws existed throughout the South and in many other areas, the Cold War provided pretty constant fear of annihilation, the McCarthy hearings in Congress served as a Communist witch hunt, that Jews and other minorities were restricted from country clubs, some schools and some neighborhoods.  It was NOT a golden time for most, just white Protestant men!

So now, who is leading the charge to bring America back to those days? White men!

And they complain…and blame the victims. They have no ideas for solutions, but say “SOMEONE” needs to do “SOMETHING” but not with their tax money, and since they do not participate in civic volunteer activities of that sort, not with their personal effort.

I did not get to ask him my punchline, “Do you consider yourself a Christian?” Most bigots do. Rather amazing. Maybe they read a different Bible than I do. They certainly do not follow the teachings of Jesus.

A PASSION FOR CLEAR THINKING by Beth Rankin

A PASSION FOR CLEAR THINKING by Beth Rankin

What’s your passion? What gets you fired up enough to get involved?

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Me? I have several now. Have had many over my life, but right now there are two that capture my attention.

 

Awareness of our food and how full of chemicals much of it is and unhealthy results of conventional farming practices can affect health. I learned this only 5 years ago and I am a strong advocate to Know Your Farmer. By eating locally you not only can chose food sourced at places where you support the growing practice, but by supporting a local farmer, you are contributing to a healthier local economy.

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But right now, it appears the Presidential campaign season has started and is full swing. Like Christmas advertising that starts the day after Halloween, we Americans are in for lots and lots and lots and lots and lots (ad nauseum) of campaign propaganda. Get ready for the roller coaster for the next 15 months.

My political leaning is liberal but I read a lot of information from and about all the candidates. I want to know as much as I can about each of them in the hope that any discussion will be intelligent.

I ran into a problem already though. One friend of mine took me to task because he felt I had made a negative comment about Donald Trump and was concerned I was going to get nasty in loading Facebook with negatives. 

The issue I made was that when the two (expletive deleted) guys beat up the homeless Latino man and attributed their actions to Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants being bad, I reported what Trump’s comment was. And I offered one question.

As you probably know, all Trump had to say at the time was “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.”   

My comment was “No words about this action being wrong. No concern about the victim. Is this the kind of leadership our country needs?” My friend felt this was negative commenting on my part. I do not think so. I hope to make people think, not just have a emotional reaction.

Now I see several days after his comments, Trump has added “Boston incident is terrible. We need energy and passion, but we must treat each other with respect,” and “I would never condone violence.”

So NOW, after he gets backlash, he has changed his statement to one of more concern.  This is the kind of action I have seen from Trump over the last month. He says a lot of things that have to be later amended. I think this is the way he is and I for one do not want him to be our nation’s leader.  I do not think what I pointed out is bashing Trump. Bashing him would be saying he is an idiot. He’s clearly not an idiot. He just is not a man who considers all he needs to before opening his mouth.

But my point is NOT to point out concern about one candidate. Each gets equal treatment. If I see something that is inconsistent with helping the people of this nation, it needs to be considered.

Some people choose their Presidential candidate based on one issue and one issue alone. Women who claim they are Pro-Life thereby support candidates that are anti abortion without any consideration of other issues of health care, education programs, and job opportunities for the people who are not earning a living wage. Very narrowly defining what is right hides a lot of what is wrong.

Passion is great but it has to be able to expand to include all the influences to that issue. Just like I believe the problems in the food system relate to environmental concerns and thereby lend my support to movements to educate how fracking ruins our water supply, how coal mining and the toxic residue of its waste affects the land so things can no longer grow so areas like the coal counties in West Virginia need economic redevelopment, how not teaching our children methods of problem solving and how to handle responsibilities leads to increased escape into drugs….all these side issues are fueled because of my passion for healthy food.

So, my passion at this season is for education and clear thinking. Feel your passion but by all means, use your brain.

 

[Beth Rankin is a remarkable woman of many talents.  She says, “My life and how I am feeling about it is https://goingplaceslivinglife.wordpress.com/”  Portrait of Beth Rankin by permission.]