Hey – boy howdy did this year ever go by quick! Of course, we were busy part of the time, and not busy part of the time. It’s been mostly good all the same. Cheryl and I are still adjusting to living with mom, it’s never easy to have two mature women in the same household, any man knows that. But, we’re getting used to her peculiarities and she’s learning to ignore ours. It’s good for all of us I think, since I don’t believe we are ever done “Growing” and in fact growing up.
Lately I’ve been working on an iPhone app that is nearly done now. I have finished (yesterday) all the major functionality that needs to be in the application. This one was a challenge. Briefly, I had to learn (re-learn) Mac, and especially the new OSX, and then go on and learn the development environment for iOS which is called XCode. Then, I had to learn the entire API (Application Programming Interface), it’s not that complex, since I already knew so many other API’s, it didn’t turn out to be that much of a challenge, there’s tons of resources available online these days.
Next, I had to take the requirements and translate those into working models, then tests, then design the application in a three phase set of deliverables. I tried to get the deliverables into two-three week milestones, but they wound up taking a bit more. Let’s see, I got this computer on Sept. 2, so that’s almost exactly three months to build the app from birth to earth so to speak. There’s still some refining touches to do, about another weeks worth of work I’d say. Then some followup. Not too bad.
Cheryl just started working with a friend of ours from church. He’s got several “Booths” at an Antique Mall here locally called “Memory Lane.” He used to have a kiosk at one of the local malls, but gradually decided that was too much work and the Antique Mall seemed the better approach. As far as I can tell he’s still working his tail off to try and get organized, that’s what Cheryl’s going to help with. It will be good for her to get out a couple days a week and work outside the house. We both get to feeling “Stuck” if we’re around here too much, and around mom too. It’s never easy living with somebody who has Alzheimer’s / Dementia.
I wrote an article some time back where I promised to write more about living with a person who has this disease, the impact on their life, and the impact on yours. Let me give a little update then. Mom’s condition is, or has been mostly stable this past year. The literature and all the doctors agree that relational interaction is the best thing for Alzheimer’s patients in order to keep them stimulated and to prevent further “Brain atrophy.” We’ve been somewhat radical about getting mom to stop ordering stuff from journals and over the phone and such. It just got to a point where mom couldn’t say “No” politely any longer on the phone, and these guys (telemarketers) seem to have gotten the word out. She was ordering hundreds of dollars of “Junk” each month. And the pills, supplements, and various and sundry crap were driving us nuts when we first moved in.
We made sure mom was on the National Do Not Call list, I had originally signed her up some years back, my sister did it again in October of last year. Now we had a leg to stand on when we talked to all the telemarketers when they called. There were dozens of phone calls every day when we first got here. It nearly sent us over the edge. We started the campaign right away, and we were diligent. Now, nearly a year later we’ve worked that down to less than 10 phone calls a day, and most of those are from folks we know. Sometimes it’s as low as 5 phone calls a day. Ah, peace.
We still have to be diligent and threaten to report folks, one fellow admitted he’d gotten mom’s phone number off a list he purchased. I had to think, where could that list have come from? Only one place: From Time Warner Cable – our telephone company! So, I filed a BBB complaint about those guys, and I filed an FCC Do Not Call List violation against them for having done that (I’m pretty darned disgusted with them!). They are supposed to check the National DNC List prior to publishing any phone numbers (or selling them!) so I am justified in what I did. The wrote back (sheepishly) that they’ve contacted us and removed our number from any lists they will sell in the future.
Anyhow, those minor battles characterize much of what has gone on this year. We’ve been to the doctor’s with mom an average of every other week, some times two or three times a week, but then we’ll go 5 weeks without a doctor’s appointment. We had mom go through a colonoscopy again – that was fun. Her GI doctor, decided it was time again to do this procedure. I was completely aghast at the assembly line they had the morning we took mom in there for her procedure. They literally had dozens of folks lined up for their procedures and it appeared as if it was going to go on all day. The medical “Industry” we have built around our old folks is shameful. As usual they found nothing wrong with mom’s gut, in spite of her diagnosis a few years back of Crohn’s Disease.
The intestinal disease that mom has is a very non-specific diagnosis (Crohn’s). My sister says they use it to describe a variety of illnesses from diarrhea to constipation to IBS to you name it, anything wrong with an older person’s gut gets this label apparently. So, we go along with it. We have found, however, that mom wasn’t eating well when we got here. She was apt to eat cereal and oatmeal for breakfast, then toast, then a sandwich for lunch, followed by a frozen pizza for dinner. She seemed happy to eat that every single day. So, we started a regimen of fresh fruits, vegetables and so on every single day. She still may eat her normal breakfast, but Cheryl tries to get her some soup and such for lunches, and we have salads several days a week, and we eat lots of fresh veges with dinner.
Mom’s number one ailment these days is constipation, which we use laxatives several days a week to combat those. The gut just slows down as you age, there’s no getting around that. She reads these magazines where they tell her to “Cleanse and detox” and to “have 3-4 BM’s a day.” Goodness! The poor person would be spending their entire life in the bathroom! I’m of the opinion that everybody should have at least one, that’s just fine. How they could expect folks to be running to the toilet after every meal is just incredible. How they could be telling folks that’s what they should be doing is just ludicrous!
So, we fight that battle, sometimes well, other times, mom gets frantic if she has constipation. I should tell you that she had an episode last year before we moved in, where she did get constipated for a couple days and got bloated. The gas built up. Then, my sister had to take her to the ER. They waited over 4 hours at Harbor General in the ER on a Friday night. The ER on a Friday night is a horrible place to be. You see gunshot victims, you see accident victims, all kinds of nasty stuff. Then, the admitted mom, and she stayed overnight. She woke up and had non clue where she was, the dementia kicked in and she ripped out her IV’s and walked out to the nurse’s station and demanded to know where she was. Then, she got so upset she smacked a nurse!
Yes, living with older people has its challenges. We are aware of all these things. Mom gets tired easily, and if she’s too tired, or too stressed you’re liable to see the dementia come out. It doesn’t come without warning or unexpectedly though as I’ve been relating to you. It’s quite obvious that you have to do everything you can to protect these elderly folks from too much stress, from getting too tired. After mom fell and broke her hip this past March, she’s not gotten her walking strength back quite yet. We don’t know if sh ever will, so we’ve decided to get her a “Hugo” for Christmas. That, we hope, will encourage her to get out and walk on her own again. She loves to be out, we just need a better solution for her to get out and around the block.
There’s plenty more to tell. We’re loving our new church, still meeting lots of new and wonderful folks. We’ve been out evangelizing and distributing pro-life materials. We’re being stretched and grown in new and glorious ways and used of God for His Kingdom. We feel, of course, that living with mom and supporting her is one of the most tangible ways we can impact the Kingdom, show people that elderly are not “done” and they can still teach us lessons about ourselves and loving one another.
That’s what Christmas is about. A time to gather, a time to reflect. It’s also a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. He came to earth, was crowned King in a stable, earned His Kingdom on a cruel Roman cross. But, in dying He gave us life – eternal life. We need to live for Him, follow in His footsteps, listen to His voice and seek to build His kingdom here on earth. Someday we will all die, death is the certain disease from which we will all suffer. But, it doesn’t have to be scary or threaten us. On the other hand it should make us live life to the fullest each day, living for Jesus and His kingdom!
Christmas time truly is the most wonderful time of the year!