I’m Happy She’s Happy, but ..

fun activities

Happy Times with the boys

For the last six days Lynne’s memory care unit prohibited face-to-face conversations because one caregiver had Covid-19. All tests since have been negative.

She has been busy and happy with activities. I am happy she’s happy. However, I miss the fun chats we had so I have tried to cheer me up by finding ways to chat with her more often. I’m struggling.

Ten times over the last six days I spontaneously called, hoping she’d gleefully call me back by tapping my face on her Facebook Portal to return my call. After all, she’s told caregivers I’m the greatest dad in the world.
She might not believe that anymore because she never returned my calls. Maybe she needs to be reminded to check the Portal. Maybe I could program the Portal to sense Lynne’s presence and say, “Dad called. Tap his face.”
One day she sat by her window and I called up to her to chat. She was excited and stood up. She turned away from the window and never returned. I yelled louder, called her Portal, her phone, the concierge. Nothing. Apparently she found something better to do and forgot about me.
The last three days I threw a pickleball against her windows. She was busy elsewhere.
The Portal and Alexa were supposed to increase chats by eliminating problems with video calls. Calls need to be scheduled a day ahead. Caregivers need to be by her side. They need to locate Lynne. They need to complete more urgent care first, so they often call late. Sometimes they never call.
Hoping Lynne would call on her cell more often because she enjoyed lively conversations, I reviewed ways to make conversations more fun. I got my chance on the 4th when a frustrated caregiver called. She tried for half-an-hour to set up a scheduled video chat on the Portal with Lynne’s friend. I couldn’t help her. I used an energetic voice to ask an open ended question, “How was your day?” It worked. Her day was good. She was cheerful.
“What’d you do?” Immediately, I knew it was the wrong approach. Alzheimer’s began erasing her short-term memory years ago.
“Oh, we had, you know, it’s, .. ah, … we, ..um, the thing, ….. I can’t remember… I can’t remember things, and it scares me.”
I agreed it’s scary, and don’t remember anything else except we agreed she’s on a better floor. Her long term memory works. She remembered names of high school friends. Why can’t I remember to share memories from family and friends after years of care for my mother and her?
Monday night Lynne and a caregiver called for a video chat. I shared memorable images from an interview with a friend. She remembered most of them and laughed a lot. She said, “I love you, Dad. I’m doing things, you know. Lots of things.”
Determined to improve video chats I set up my new Alexa Show in my office and contacted Amazon about how to link it to Lynne’s Alexa dot. Aegis scheduled a time with a caregiver so we linked up at the same time. We did it. A few minutes later, Alexa told me Lynne had dropped in. She was excited. We chatted and then she had to go. She was busy.
I’m happy she’s happy. I miss her. I keep busy because I have lots to learn to feel like the greatest dad in the world.

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.

Fun with Video Chats

Progress on “Fun with Phones” the last two days was as smooth as bumping over rocks and into potholes in a pickup on a remote forest service road. When I delivered her daily card and Oreo, I told a caretaker I couldn’t do video chatting on my android phone. She whipped out her phone, texted the question and got the answer: Messenger+. Duh–for years I hadn’t known how to do that. I installed it and called Lynne’s phone. She showed up on my screen as she headed into the lobby. I hid behind the coat racks. She chatted as she put the phone to her ear, moved it to show the ceiling, got herself back in the picture and started over at her ear. We laughed when I walked into the lobby with our phones still working.

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Phone Time While Confined

I’ve been exploring with family and staff how to return Lynne’s phone to her for phone conversations. She was using the concierge desk for phone calls which interrupted their work. We needed to solve the problems that led me to take it away, stressing about losing it, keying incorrectly, keeping it charged, answering incorrectly, talking into the microphone, avoid hanging up too early and guarding against fraud. It seemed hopeless. Frankly, I kept it plugged in at my apartment with pink lights racing up and down the cord in spite of self-talk to face facts, save money and get rid of it. I couldn’t flip it into the wastebasket.

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