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.

Sharing the Love

Video Chats Long term memories

Kris Kristofferson

Lynne called. She was quiet until saying, “She’s nice and I don’t want to commit and not follow through. I feel like I fit in. It took a while.”
I agreed she is nice (I had no idea who she was talking about). “But you always follow through. She helps you walk. You get a good sleep. You eat good food. You ride your bike. You listen to music. You always follow through.”
She agreed and I piled it on. “You always followed through in high school. I was writing from your journals and letters today. You didn’t want us to buy a house on a hill because it was too difficult to walk home from school. We bought the house anyway, and you bought a scooter you hid in your friend’s garage, so you could drive up. You, your friends, and your brother drove all over town. I never knew.”

She laughed. I added another story. “You felt the chemistry brewing with a causal boyfriend after talking with him throughout a ballgame on a date with a different boyfriend, followed by a month of eye contacts, chats in the hallways, teasing from girlfriends. Finally, one day he told you to call him if you wanted to see a ballgame with him and his brother. That was your chance to find out if he was serious. You said, “Call me if you want me to go with you.”
“You knew he didn’t know your number. You waited. You prayed. Finally, he called. You knew, you knew, he would be your first love.”
Lynne smiled. “Yep.”
I piled it on some more. “Your good friend on the yearbook staff told me you were the one who organized work, because she was such a flake you felt you had to keep her on track.”
Lynne laughed but objected. “She was not a flake. She did a lot for us in the yearbook. We worked on copy together.”

We paused. “OK, Dad. I’m ready for bed. I love you.“

She calls and I’m there for her. I can tap into her joy to let laughter flow over us and rinse away fear for a while. I’m learning more intimately about her and loving more deeply as I learn. I’m learning more sympathetically about me and healing more deeply as we share. Being there is a balm for the years I was away.
I am living the lyrics of Kris Kristofferson’s song, Loving Her Was Easier: “Coming close together with a feeling that I’ve never known before in my time. Wiping out the traces of the people and the places I have been. Dreaming is as easy as believing it is never gonna end. Loving her is easier than anything I’ll ever do again.”

Trying to Remember Connections

Fun activities

Lynne called.  “I’ve got COVID.”

Fun activities

“I’m sorry,” I said, startled. “But you’re healthy, good lung capacity….  Hey, wait a minute.  Nobody’s called me. Someone would have called me.  I’m going to hang up and call you back.”

The concierge confirmed no residents tested positive and they’ll test again in a week. Following those results over time they could  remove restridtions.  I gave Lynne the good news. She was happy with that. We chatted a while. She said, “I can’t stop crying.”

Her camera wasn’t on so I couldn’t see her. She kept fumbling with it until she turned it on. She was pleased with herself. The chair was not in front of the Facebook Portal so I couldn’t see  her.  She started crying. “This COVID thing,…..”

“Of course you cry.  You’re in a lockdown.”

“I feel like a baby.”

 “It’s healthy to cry. You’ve got music.  You can tell Alexa to play music.”

“Oh, yea.”

“What music do you want?”

“Lyle Lovett.”

“Tell her.”

“Alexa, play Lyle Lovett.”

Alexa did.  Lynne stood up and danced.  I saw half of her dance.  She sang the lyrics and danced to her bed.  And  she cried again and sat down.

“Lynne, I can’t see you.” 

She moved the chair over. She told Alexa to stop. She saw my face. “What happened to your nose?”

How did she spot that, I wondered.? I had a bandaid because my sleep machine rubbed my the paper-thin skin on my nose and caused it to bleed until it scabbed over.  When I saw it in the morning I was  too sleepy to know what it was until I picked it off. It beld because I take blood thinner so I taped it tight to stop the bleeding.  She doesn’t miss a thing.

We chatted. The TV wasn’t on and it was time to go, so we hung up.  

She woke me up at 10:15 pm with a staff caregiver because Lynne was sad.  I tld him the Alexa was off because I couldn’t drop in on her. It was unplugged. I told him tennis was on TV so he looked for the remote and to find the channel manually. I turned on my TV.  She and I watched tennis like Karen and I used to do. We talked about Serena’s hair. I said it looked like a mop on top of her head. She said, “Its’s beautiful. It’s purple.”

It was purple.  We shared memories when she played doubles tennis in high school and won fifth in the state championshp. I couldn’t remember her partner’s name.  “Sophit. She came over here to play tennis.” 

“You have a better long term memory than I do.”

She laughed. “Dad…”

We talked until we were past tired and decided to go to bed. Nothing had worked quite right: thinking she has COVID, forgetting she could  turn on music, unpluging echo, tutning off the video camera,  crying, calling me after I went to sleep, wanting to go to bed but unable to without caregiver help and afraid to go out the door to ask.

I told her I’d call the concierge. We hung up. The concierge said  she’d go right up and get her in  bed.  

I tell myself to remember we chatted, we laughed, we cried, we danced, we watched tennis, we shared memories and we persisted.  

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