Never Run Out of Smiles

caregiving

Thin smile with a warm wrap

Lynne called. You said I’d like this place
I do. Activities, care, safe. Staff love you. You’ve got a hard job to walk — can’t remember, find words, figure things out. You’ve got to fight through it. You’re strong. You can do it. Where’s your smile? Everybody..
always loved your smile. You used it all the time. I was afraid you’d run out of smiles. I checked, though. You can never run out of smiles. Go give ‘em one of your smiles.
Slight chuckle. You always make me feel better. OK.
She stood up in a warm shawl, hair neatly parted, framing her face with a thin smile and walked out.

I can make her feel better, for a while. I can’t make her think better, ever. Nobody else can either, for a while.

Special Caregiving at Thanksgiving

Fun activities during Thanksgiving

Lynne and her friend the Thanksgiving Turkey

Aegis reported they kicked off the week before Thanksgiving with a little fun in memory care. The Health Service Director dressed up as a Turkey and spent some time with Lynne and other residents. Lynne’s the one on the left in the photo. 😊 Holiday decorations should keep up the spirits during the upcoming “Week of Thanksgiving.” Staff will deliver different types of deserts for the residents and visitors every day on the Outdoor Living.
Lynne has been active with weights, a hair cut and shampoo and outdoor walks. One day, she came back from her walk and entered the daily stand-up staff meeting. They were pleased to see her and gave her a chair.
Lynne’s still caring for staff. She saw a caregiver have an incident with a difficult resident and said to her, “You’re having a bad day.”
A nurse told me about another bad day for Lynne. A resident hit her in the chest, hard enough to have her chest looked at, but there wasn’t a visible injury. When she was shaken by another incident she witnessed, caregivers led her onto her bike. After she pedaled herself into recovery, they asked Alexa to play Madonna so they could dance with her until she felt safe and settled. Caregivers continuously resolve such disturbing behaviors.
We have a lot to be thankful for, including caregivers in tune with Lynne during the loneliness on holidays. Bless them.

Lynne’s Joy on Her Bike Ride

Fun activities

Lynne’s joyous on her first ride with her stationary bike. You can hear Dad cheering from her Facebook portal and the caregiver urging her on.
Special thanks to the concierge last night after I told her the bike had been assembled for use. She immediately went to the basement immediately and wheeled it up to Lynne’s room while the caregiver covered the concierge desk. Oh, joy!

Deciding to be a Hopeful Caregiver

video chats fun activities

Lynne called me to video chat because she was bored. Her caregiver was standing by.

”I’ll be back in a little while to see what you want to watch on TV.”

That was encouraging to know. I suggested we dance to music from her Alexa dot. She liked that idea. Then a resident slowly walked behind Lynne to sort through Lynne’s bedding. Lynne turned around to see her. She said hello and called her by name, “What are you doing here?”

She silently continued browsing. I suggested Lynne help her leave the room. Instead of walking over to guide her out, Lynne walked out of the Portal camera view toward her door. Meanwhile her friend continued sorting through the bedding until she found two books. She lifted them up to eye level with one hand and shuffled away toward the door. I heard no sound. I waited and hung up.

I felt helpless. I couldn’t help her help another resident. I couldn’t help her protect her books. I couldn’t talk with her. I couldn’t help her dance.

I decided to believe in hope. Lynne was no longer bored. And she was helping a resident; and she found her caregiver to help her; and they convinced the bargain hunter to return Lynne’s books; and Lynne could browse through other residents rooms to replace her books; and by this time she was watching her favorite TV show; and we’ll dance another time.

I also decided we need to keep sending her paperbacks because we’re stocking Lynne’s whole floor.

At least I cared for me as her caregiver under Lynne’s COVID-19 quarantine.  

Luckily Dancing with Lynne and Lyle Lovett

Fun Activities

Lynne and Dad dancing to Lyle Lovett on her Alexa echo.

Lynne and her assistant care director, Brenda, called for a video chat last night, as Lynne does when it gets to be much. Luckily for me, they called me. I needed to be cheered up too. Inspired by interviews with her friends who remember singing and dancing with her at outdoor concerts, I suggested we add music. I told her to say, Alexa play Lyle Lovett. Her Alexa echo and my Alexa show played Lovett. She sang the lyrics and we rose out of our chairs to dance through our video chat. And we laughed.

We listed some artists we could enjoy next time. And then wham, I remembered the most cherished Father’s Day gift Lynne gave me, a concert at The Gorge with Crosby, Stills and Nash. Their finale was Teach Your Children Well, one of my all-time favorite songs I’d been hoping to hear. We stood in the sunset with the packed crowd roaring the lyrics as tears flowed out of my eyes.

We’d like your help. My youngest daughter and I listed some artists we think are her favorites, but we don’t know everyone she’d like on the list, particularly starting in the ’80s to the present. Help us please: name favorite artists and concerts she loves to sing and dance with. We are posting the list below by her Alexa echo so caregivers fill her apartment with music. We all should sing and dance once in while, especially in lockdown.  

LYLE LOVETT  CROSBY, STILLS & NASHCAT STEVENSEMMEY LOU HARRIS
MARY CHAPIN CARPERNTERWAILIN’ JENNYSDOLLY PARDONELTON JOHN
GEORGE MICHAELMADONNAMICHAEL JACKSONU2
ABBATHE BEATLESROLLING STONESTHE EAGLES  
SIMON AND GARFUNKELCARPENTERSALLISON KRAUSEOLIVIA NEWTON JOHN
LORETTA LYNNGARTH BROOKSTHE JUDDSCARTER FAMILY
THE CHICKS   

Breakthrough Video Chatting

Fun activities

Lynne talking to Dad on the Facebook Portal

We added technology to simplify communication between Lynne and family and friends. The movers set up Alexa so Lynne would say, “Alexa, call Dad.” My phone rang and we talked. She liked It. Several times a day she liked it. So did I. She filled in my empty social calendar.
Juan, the Life’s Neighborhood technically skilled activities director, insisted we could do better with a device called Portal, sold by Facebook. Lynne could say, “Portal, call Dad.” She could call every one of her friends on Facebook by using their name. Every one of her Facebook friends could call her on Facebook’s Messenger and it should ring her Portal rooted in her room, compared to her wandering phone. They could Facebook video chat on the portal’s 5” wide screen. I ordered one that seemed to arrive by the time I got down to my mailbox.
Juan installed it and we discovered a nice surprise. The Portal screen has a camera that follows her movement as she roams around the room. That’s an improvement because she disappears from her phone screen during chats.
Wow, did it work on Father’s Day with my son’s family on their patio in Bellingham. Lynne’s sons, Henrik and Simon, joined us. Lynne video chatted with us as the boys walked around to face everyone with their cell phone.
Lynne is video chatting with others. Monday a friend didn’t connect with her on a planned call but Lynne called back on Tuesday via video and they had a wonderful talk. Her friend thinks Lynne saw the call on the Portal screen and pressed her profile face to dial her back. Lynne told me her friend stopped by. Perfect! That is how we hoped it would work.
Nevertheless, Lynne told me Tuesday it doesn’t work. I do not know why. She rarely answers when I call during her active social calendar in the new neighborhood. Eventually I call the concierge to ask a care giver to connect us. They call on Lynne’s phone and I call back on Messenger+. I usually meet an unfamiliar caregiver who is unfamiliar with the Portal. I explain it to the best of my limited knowledge.
I contacted Juan who said he is thinking about different ideas to help Lynne. He agrees the simplest way is call the concierge and ask for help.
Nevertheless, we persist.

This is Hard

Short-short story

Midnight. My two sleeps in my apartment were challenged last night. A beep-beep-beep sound penetrated my first sleep at a way-to-early time, first raising awareness and next  understanding – it was a warning beep. For what? My heart? My bi-pap sleep machine? I hit the bi-pap stop button. Pulled off my sleep mask to find the source of the beep. The beep had stopped. When did it stop? I checked my bi-pap screen. No warning lights. My heart monitor  screen on the floor? Green glow means OK. My radio alarm? No alarm lights on. My phone? No alarm going off. What? Silence. Sleepy. What?  Check them again. Walk out my bedroom into my kitchen. Nothing on the microwave. The oven. What? Was it a truck backing up on the street below my open fifth-story window? The beep was too loud for that. 

I was alone with questions. If Karen was alive she would help me figure it out. Or ask why my alarm went off. At least I avoided that question. 

What to do now? I had too many options for my sleepy fog.  

I could go back to sleep. I tried it. Didn’t work. Got up. Frustrated. Pasted comments from friends on Lynne’s Facebook page so I’d have a written file in case I ever figured out what to do with them. I made notes for a to do list. Ate breakfast and climbed back into bed for my second sleep of the night. Frustrated. This is hard. 

                                               ———————————

6:00 am:  I was asleep so this is based on what I’ve gleaned about Lynne’s normal wake-up routine.

Lynne woke up in her assisted living apartment to the white noise of rushing water in her sound machine. Good sleep. Turned off her machine. She sorted through her options in her cognitive fog. She never goes back to sleep. Dawn rose through her 3rd-story window with a view over the rooftops of Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood. Occasional cars drove by, fewer with the Covid-19 lockdown that squashed the early bustle of commerce at the corner of Madison and 23rd St. Silence prevailed. Way too early. Too early for a caregiver to knock on her door and say “Good morning, time to get dressed.” No one to comb her hair, put on makeup. No one with breakfast. No one with medications.

She got out of bed. She saw a blue and white sweater on the floor and pulled it on over her pajama top. She did not see her glasses. She ignored the books on her bedside table. She went to the bathroom. She came out to the living room.. What to do?

She saw books in the chair. The Lacuna. She didn’t like that book. She saw magazines. Sojourner, Dad’s magazine. Journey, Dad’s magazine. Astoria was on the table. She liked that book. She opened it and started reading. She read for a while. She got tired of reading it. She went into her bedroom and laid down on her bed. She saw The Seamstress on the table by her bed. She opened it and started reading. Then she did not want to read books. And no one had knocked on the door. She wanted to leave her room, but she could not go outside without a caregiver. She was hungry. She had to wait until they brought her breakfast. She could not sit with her friends for breakfast. She had to stay. Alone. This is hard. She walked into her living room. She saw her phone. She was surprised. Where did that come from?  She picked it up. She called Dad. 

                                       ——————————————

7:30 am A gentle jingle-jingle-jingle penetrated my second sleep, first into my awareness and second into my understanding. My phone was ringing for a video chat. At 7:30 am? Too early. Rushed over and picked up the phone. Lynne calling.

Her face popped up on my screen. She did not have her glasses on. She had bags under her eyes, or maybe yesterday’s mascara wasted after a night-on-the-face. A blue and white sweater covered her pajama top. Her mouth drooped. Her voice cracked.

“This is hard,” she said.  

Somehow, she had found her phone. I realized it was left in her room after yesterday’s video chat with her boys.  Everyone had fun on that chat. Her voice jumped with excitement as each boy joined the chat. The phones were full of laughter. The boys created hi jinks in the Messenger app with a feature that super-imposes silly images and masks on participant’s faces. Dad clicked on with huge framed glasses and clenched a rose between his teeth that kept falling out when he talked. She had belly laughs. “Oh, I needed this,” she said.

That call ended last night as always. Lynne and I slid into sadness as one boy at a time vanished. One had to go to work. Another had homework to do. The youngest had already left to finish his paper due the next day. I was last. “I’ve got to go too,” I forced myself to say. I could tell it was hard for her to lose the last face. I promised to connect tomorrow. I clicked her face off. Silence. It was hard.     

Now Lynne and I were on the phone before breakfast. Like old times before we took her phone away. She called Karen time and again at odd hours when she could find it. We reprogrammed it to make it easy to call my phone and left it at the concierge desk to know where it was and keep it charged. She usually needs a caregiver to start the call.

She was apologizing for calling, for being early, for interrupting, for not having an appointment. But it was hard.

We chatted about the day and the fun we had with the boys. Too soon it was time to click off again. It was hard.

Chatting on the Phone

Lynne is connecting with her phone to reach beyond the quarantine at her assisted living facility after I figured out how to know where it is, keep it charged, eliminate information, simplify password problems and have staff help her with it. Staff plugged it in her apartment behind the sofa, as nearly as I can figure to keep it hidden. She found it and called me, a special surprise. I had to guide her to sit and face the camera so we could see each other. We chatted quite a while. It reduces her loneliness and my worrying about it.

Her sons are calling regularly to video chat. What a thrill that is for her and for me and others. There so skilled they take a video picture of the conversation and share it with us. Her brother and sister are chatting at scheduled times when staff help and even making direct calls. Her friends have called at scheduled times. They also call when I let them now she’s answering her phone. The more the merrier for her and equally for me. Knowing she’s confined is a load for a single caregiver like me. It’s exciting to know a network of love and care is chipping in to chat with her.