Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

So today I'm gonna take a break from the craziness of Christmas and relax a bit. I'm going to go chat with everyone on Everyday Rurality's front porch. Well, she says it's a bit wet for sitting on the porch, so we'll have to invade her virtual kitchen and sit around, drinking coffee and chatting.

I'm gonna take Dad along with me. He likes to get out, so maybe he'd enjoy a virtual trip! Actually, I'm thinking Dad would think it was very silly. He doesn't understand why folks would want to have online social connections and blog. This, despite the fact that he met his ex-wife on! He was 82 and she was about 72! The match turned out to be a disaster, but at the time I had to commend both of them for going out on the edge like that!

So, let's chat! Here are this week's questions and my answers:

1. Who makes the best cookies in your family?
I'm sure Dad will agree with this, but my mom used to be the best cookie baker, ever! She had several wonderful recipes. I especially liked the  rosettes she used to make a Christmas. She had a special rosette iron and would dip it in batter and then fry the cookies. Yum! Right Dad?

2. What was the most satisfying or pleasing thing about Christmas 2011?
For me, it was having a Christmas tree and decorations in my house again. When we first moved our Christmas things were left at the old house. It took over two years to sell it and get all of my things under one roof. Then, we were always heading back east for Christmas, so we just didn't bother. This year, despite our going East again, I took some time and decorated. I love it! 
So, Dad, how would you answer this? Hmmmm, I'm thinking he'd be glad that we decided not to exchange gifts and not to fuss too much about the holiday. I think he's also thrilled to have a wonderful 'girl' friend who cares about him and cares for him.

3. How many photo did you take while your family was together for Christmas? Tons? A few? What pictures?
Despite taking several cameras with us on our trip, we hardly took any photos. I did insist on a group shot, and that will be posted on my other blog in the next day or so, with a similar shot from 22 years ago! I wasn't with Dad at Christmas, but I'm betting he didn't take any pictures. Up until recently he couldn't even find his camera, and despite having an iPad and an iPhone, he forgets how to use the camera feature on them. 

4. Do you have a fireplace, wood stove, or pellet stove?
We have a gas fireplace in our new home. Years ago we had a wood burning stove and used that to heat our house. I loved it... except for the delay between getting the fire started and heat being generated! Dad doesn't have a fireplace in his current apartment, but he insisted that houses he had built have Rumford fireplaces - these are taller and shallower and throw more heat.

5. What time did you get up on Christmas morning?
Without little ones in the house we were able to wake on our own schedules. Since I was two time zones away from home, I actually slept a lot later than I usually do, and probably got up around 8 or 8:30 AM. 

If you want to participate in the chatter visit Everyday Rurality's blog and click on one or more links from others who have joined us for the chat.

See you next week! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Everyone Can See This

It's happened again. Dad sees something on his computer screen and he thinks that everyone can see it. He seems to think the computer screen is like a TV and that people can tune to a specific channel and see what he is seeing. This morning I was screen sharing with him and I went over a series of emails that had gone back and forth between me, Dad's lawyer, Dad's financial advisor and a trust accountant. After going from email to email, showing and reading my initial query, the response from one person and the next, Dad commented, "I hate this!" I asked what he hated. He responded he hated that everyone could see his business. When I asked what he meant, he said that anyone could see it - I'm not sure whether he meant on a TV or a computer, but he felt that what he was seeing on his screen was something accessible to all people, someplace, somehow. I tried to explain it, and he sounded a bit relieved, but this time I'm not convinced that he was really satisfied with my explanation.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let Me Write That Down

Dad has always been a note taker. Years ago he even had a pen with a light in the end of it so he could jot down notes in the middle of the night without waking my mother.

Now he will write down just about everything. I think he has adopted this strategy to reinforce what he is hearing, as well as to leave a record to refer to later. Dad's strategy backfires when he can't find the notes he has made, or when he can't understand them out of context! Dad often writes his notes on the back of an envelope, or on a small scrap of paper. Sometimes he will add notes from one day to the end of another note that he wrote several weeks previously. Occasionally a note he wrote several months ago will surface and he will become confused about the content.

I bought a special notebook for Dad - an early Christmas gift. He can write the date on the top of the page and then write down his notes. When he completes a task, he can go back and cross it off.  Maybe having all of the notes in one place, in sequence, will help him keep his thoughts in order.

I found this notebook at Staples. It is similar to one I have coveted from Levenger for years, yet it is a fraction of the cost. What appeals to me is that pages can be moved and more pages can be added. One can also purchase different types of pages, which may also be helpful to Dad.

I am thinking that if Dad adopts this slight change in his note taking strategy he may feel a bit more organized. Time will tell!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turn On Your TV

The over day I received a call from my dad. He was audibly upset. He told me to turn on my TV. "Quick," he said, "*(&%$ (the ex-wife) has put a list of my things from the condominium on television. Why would she do that?"

It took me a second to realize that Dad was looking at his computer screen, which does sit right next to a television, and was confusing the two screens. Evidently he had opened up a document that we had created months ago and was looking at that. It wasn't easy to convince him that the document was on his computer and only visible to him.

From Dad's voice I could tell that he was agitated. So, I worked to keep my voice calm and measured. I explained, several times, that he must have clicked on something to open that particular document so that it was showing on his computer. Dad sought reassurance that the information was not visible to everyone watching their TV. Finally he chuckled at his misunderstanding, and went on to ask me about some other topics.

I like that about my dad. I like that he sometimes can laugh at his own foibles.... but I'm not always convinced that he really does recognize his misunderstanding. I'm thinking that perhaps he has learned, when he is confused, just to chuckle and shrug it all off.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Static Guard

Dad gets caught up on things, like dog hair that is caught on your hem by static electricity. He will call to ask for help with something. Yesterday it was luggage tags. He wanted to print out some tags for a trip he is taking in six weeks. In my way of thinking he certainly doesn't need those tags at this time and he probably has other things that need to be done, but his mind has gotten stuck on this task.

It happens frequently. I used to try to redirect Dad to a more pertinent or timely task or activity. That would work for a bit, but, like pulling that dog hair away from your hem and letting it go,  his mind will often jump back to the task he was originally stuck on.

So now I am trying a new tactic. Ta-daa.... Static Guard! Not really, but it seems that if I help Dad deal with the issue he is stuck on then he can let it rest. In this case, I helped format and print out the luggage tags, remotely. We talked about where to put them so Dad would find them when the time was right, and I jot a note to help me remember (hey, this is a good mental exercise for my aging brain... maybe there is something in this for me, too!) Later, when the time is right and if it is necessary, I can held Dad reconnect.

For me and my dad, redirecting his mind or actions didn't always work. I'll have to see if reconnecting is a better solution. I do know that Dad seems to feel a bit better about having taken care of a particular situation that is obviously weighing on his mind, and that, in my opinion, is good.

This isn't all that different than my waking up in the middle of the night and beginning to think of a number of things I must get done. I used to have long, sleepless nights fretting about this and that. I have learned that if I get up and take care of the task, or at least write down the things that are weighing on my mind, I feel better about my situation, can let it rest and I'll fall back to sleep.

How about you? Do you or someone you know get 'stuck' on things? What do you do to move forward?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Need a Map?

Dad called this evening. He was looking for his camera. I often remember where things are stored in his apartment, but this time I wasn't sure. I suggested that he look on the shelves in the laundry room. I added, look on the 'white shelves' in the laundry room. Dad responded, "Shelves?" I could tell he was a bit confused. I added a bit more detail, reminding him of the two white bookcases on the wall opposite the washer and dryer. He responded, with a question in his voice, "Washer and dryer?". Then he made a comment that he was now standing in the bedroom. The bedroom is on the opposite end of his apartment from the laundry room. He went on to say he didn't see the bookshelves. I suggested that Dad walk down to the office, he said, "You mean the den?" As he walked that way he recalled that there are bookcases in the laundry, off of the den/office. And he also said he was a bit "befuddled". 

This has happened on a few occasions. I'm not quite sure whether Dad is forgetting the names of the rooms he is in, forgetting where certain pieces of furniture are located or is confusing this apartment layout with his previous apartment. However, there is another way to look at this...

Looking at this from Dad's point of view:

In this instance Dad might have been misdirected by my saying 'white shelves'. He did question that and it appears he headed to the bedroom, perhaps not registering that I had said, "laundry room".  In the closet in his bedroom he does have a white storage cabinet with shelves, and there are some white wire shelves. Either of these places could have been a logical place for his camera. When I said, "washer and dryer" Dad was clearly confused. In his mind he was heading to the place with the white shelves (his closet) and he knows there isn't a washing machine or dryer in there. It all became clear when he finally realized or registered that I was suggesting the laundry area off of the den.

I think we have all had instances where we have been told one thing, but register it a bit differently. Have you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How Many Ways Can You Say "Hello"?!

Dad calls me. A lot! I think he calls frequently so he won't forget what it is he wants to tell me, or ask me. (Although tonight he called, and when I called him back he couldn't remember why he had called!) Since his girlfriend moved in the number of calls have diminished. Some days.  She told me that she will often try to put him off from calling, at least for a while.

Yesterday I was gone for about two hours. I had four messages on the answering machine from Dad. They were all virtually the same: "Hey, this is Dad. I'm getting an error message on my computer that I don't understand. Give me a call when you get home."

Each call was made to my home phone. He didn't think to call my cell.

Another day, while at home,  I had four calls within minutes of each other. Two on the home phone, one on my cell phone and one on my husband's cell phone. We talked each time. I'm not even sure if he realized that he called me on different phones.

I find it very interesting that some days Dad seems to only use one of my phone numbers, and other days he uses all numbers. Maybe it's because he is using an autodial feature and isn't paying attention to which number he selects. Who knows. It's still nice to be able to connect so easily!

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's the Secret?

I wish I knew the reason. It might be worth a book and some money if I could find out why and publish a study on it. I hope it is genetic - it would be a great trait to inherit! Of what do I speak? My dad is insanely healthy! He amazes his friends and his doctors. Dad is 90. He takes one prescription medicine a day, and we're not convinced he really needs it. He takes Galantamine., which is used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's. Dad has been on the drug since his diagnosis. The disease hasn't progressed too terribly quickly and Dad seems to be holding steady with his memory issues. So, either the drug is working quite effectively or he doesn't have Alzheimer's. Other than that, Dad tries to remember to take an 81mg aspirin, Vitamin E and calcium daily. I put the OTC pills in a monthly dispenser box and Dad keeps the Galantamine on the dining table with a small calendar. Each day when he takes it he crosses off the day. He's usually very good at remembering to do this.... but he does forget the vitamins now and then. I'm not particularly worried!
So, if I ever discover the secret... I'll let you in on it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Groundhog Day

Have you ever watched the movie, "Groundhog Day"? In the movie, Bill Murray plays the part of a weatherman who finds himself repeating Groundhog Day over and over again. He follows the same actions and has the same conversations. Sometimes when I am having a conversation with Dad I feel like I am caught in some sort of time warp, just like in the movie.

Today Dad called me about 'the letter'. This is a letter that his lawyer sent to his ex-wife's lawyer almost a week ago. Dad wanted to know if I had seen 'the letter':

"Yes, Dad, I've seen the letter. The lawyer sent me an email with a copy of the letter."

"But this isn't the same letter. It's missing something," Dad states as he is apparently looking at the letter.

"What is it missing, Dad?"

"There used to be a chart with some prices and I don't see that now. All I see is the letter. "

After getting on Dad's computer via screen sharing....

"OK, Dad, this is 'the letter', I say as I swirl the cursor around the letter that was already displayed on the screen.

"Yes, I see the letter. But where is the chart?"

"The chart is a separate document. If we go back to your email from the lawyer," I say, as I am showing him on his computer, "you can see the documents he sent to her lawyer. Here's the letter," I say as I circle the cursor around the .pdf file, "here's the chart." I again circle the cursor around the .pdf file for the chart.

"Oh, yes. I see. Thank you. So, the chart is a different document?"

"Yes, Dad."

"OK. I got it," states Dad.

"But, where is the letter?" asks Dad.

At this point I'm not quite sure what he means by 'where': Where is it physically? Where is it stored on his computer? Whether it has it been sent, and so forth. So after a few questions and some demonstration on the computer, I show him where the letter is filed in his documents and where the letter exists in his email. While we were doing this I clicked the buttons to have the letter printed at his home. I let Dad know that I have printed out the letter so he can have a paper copy. Dad turns to his printer, and happily exclaims, "Oh, yes. Here it is. How did you do that?! This is wonderful."

But then, Dad's voice sounds puzzled.

"But, where is the chart? I don't see the chart that was with the letter."

So we begin the cycle again.
This is very frustrating for me. I have learned to bite my tongue and refrain from saying something like, "I already told you that the chart is a different document!" I have learned to not to show my frustration or even anger in my voice as I direct him to the letter, explain that the chart is a separate document, and so forth. I want to maintain his dignity. He doesn't remember that he has already asked these questions. He doesn't seem to remember my answers. I figure that, through repetition, the important points might stick or through redirection I can focus Dad's attention on something that may have greater relevance to his life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Computer Woes

My father studied Engineering and has always loved gadgets. So it was natural that when personal computers came along, he was one of the first to have one. My husband and I were also early adopters of technology and our children were raised on PC's.
I am not certain what it is about Engineers, but it seems they can't just let things be. They have to tinker with it, and change settings and dig down into the nuts and bolts to see what happens if.....
Computers are no different! My father would often go into something like the registry and change settings, and the computer would come to a screeching halt. Or, he'd go into Explorer and move things and then not know where to look for them. Or he'd delete items because he thought they were superfluous. As our sons became better at understanding the workings of computers than my husband and myself, they became the 'go to' guys when Grandpa did something to his computer. They became very adept at finding the solutions, but they were always very frustrated and would make themselves scarce when it came time to bail Grandpa out of his latest mess.
I think we were all somewhat relieved when my dad switched from a PC to Apple. We could honestly say that we couldn't help him because we were unfamiliar with Mac computers. But recently, that has changed. I have been getting an increasing number of phone calls about problems my father is having using his computer: about his printer not working, about a document he can't find, about having trouble using the Internet, or about an email problem. I try to talk him through each step to help him proceed, but with my inability to 'see' his screen and his difficulty understanding what I'm asking him to do, and my failure to break things down into small enough steps, and my unfamiliarity with the Mac platform, it just doesn't work. We both get extremely frustrated. I am forced to put him off for usually until the next day, before I can get up to his apartment to try to help him.
I was talking to my oldest son, who works in the computer industry, asking if he knew of some reasonably priced software that would allow me to have remote access to Dad's computer. My son let me know that Mac's have video chat and screen sharing capabilities built into them. Wow! A perfect solution. I purchased a MacBook computer and it has been worth every penny I spent on it.
Today was yet another example of the power of these applications. I received a call from Dad because he wanted to send something to a friend, but his all-in-one printer/fax/copier wasn't hooked up to fax. I began a screen sharing session with him. From the comfort of my living room I was able to access his computer. I was able to help dad scan the documents he wanted to send, open and write an email, attach the scanned documents and send them.

Earlier this week Dad called because he 'lost' his address book. Again, in a matter of minutes, I was sharing his screen and could search for the address book and place the icon back in the dock.
The iChat feature of the Mac has given us many opportunities to work together to solve problems through screen sharing and to simply chat, face to face. We have been loving it!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Color My World

Dad moved into an apartment at a continuing care retirement community late last fall. I really liked the apartment he selected. In many ways I like it better than his previous place and it's only slightly smaller.

The apartment has tile floors in the halls, living area, bathrooms and kitchen. The bedrooms and an office are carpeted in beige. The kitchen is small, but for Dad, that's not an issue. The previous tenant had upgraded to cherry cabinets, granite counter tops and stainless appliances by Frigidaire. Dad was pleased. Most of the apartments we toured have GE appliances and for whatever reason, Dad thinks GE appliances 'stink'. The walls throughout the apartment were white. Stark white. I suggested painting. Dad said no. He said he likes the white walls. Along comes Barbara. She is the resident move-in assistant and decorator. She is young and cute. Barbara suggests picking out some colors for the walls. Dad readily agrees! So, now you know where my opinion ranks next to that of others cute girls!

We met Barbara at the apartment. I've brought some pillows from couches and chairs that Dad plans to move. We pick out a soft, light moss green for the walls in the living area. The color is the same as his sofa, just toned down a few notches. We pick out a light beige for his office. Most of the time Dad has been saying the colors Barbara or I suggest are too strong. Too bright. Too much. We walk into the kitchen. Dad flips though the color wheel book and points to a red. "How about this?" he asks. Had you been there you would have heard two thuds as both my jaw and Barbara's hit the floor. We settle on a brick red, sort of paprika, to go on the two walls with the cabinets. Dad agreed that the two other walls would look nice in the same beige as his office. On to the bedrooms. Again, Dad surprises us with his choices. He picks a bright spring green for his bedroom. He selects a 'Pepto-Bismal' pink for the guest room. I suggest that he may want to think of something more along the melon side of the spectrum as his rugs and furniture are all soft green, beige, gold and/or peach. So, he picks out a shade of pumpkin orange. I thought it looked great on the color chip...

Dad's apartment was painted before he moved in. What an improvement over white! Unbelievably, every one of his rugs fits somewhere in the apartment. The rugs and his upholstered furniture coordinate well with the wall colors - how uncanny! One of his rugs has designs that exactly match the bright, spring green of his bedroom. Another rug has features that actually mimic the orange in the guest room.

So, Dad has settled in. I've had the opportunity to spend the night a few times. The only question that remains is just where do I purchase eye shades so that the neon bright, glowing orange of the bedroom doesn't keep me awake by pulsing through my closed eyelids?!! The guest room is wild! It glows! I joke with Dad that he will effectively cut his electric light bill in half, as the bright color lights up the rest of the apartment.

Color Dad happy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting Up To Speed

Oh, I have failed miserably at keeping up my blog - and I do have lots to say, I just don't get around to it. Maybe I can do a better job from this point forward and get a weekly post published. I would love to do this so that looking back I'd have the stories of Dad in one place, and I can chronicle his later years.

So... here's what's happened:
  • Dad is living in an independent living community and he loves it. He likes the fact that there is food available, people to talk to and things going on. He finds it hard to call maintenance to deal with minor issues and he has yet to relinquish his huge tool box crammed with just about every tool imaginable.
  • Dad is still dealing with legal issues over his divorce from my step-mother. 
  • Dad has found a girl friend, in her mid-70's, and she is going to relinquish her apartment in the community and move in with him. We like her a lot, but wish they would take a bit more time to make sure this is what they both want. My dad reminds me that he doesn't have time! 
  • I purchased Dad's car from him. He occasionally comments that he misses driving, or more likely, he misses the independence of driving himself, but he is basically quite content. My life has been very hectic as of late, but things should calm down a bit so I can spend more time with my dad and his 'girl'!
  • Dad's mental status seems to be on hold. He has his good moments and his bad moments. Some days he understands that he isn't firing on all cylinders! Some days he can't hold onto a piece of information for even the briefest moment, while other days he is much sharper. 
  • My husband and I have finished (for the time being) renovating a house we found closer to my dad. We moved in recently and our former house has just sold. We are busy moving the remaining furniture and household goods and preparing the hold house for its new owners. 
We brought Dad and his woman-friend out to our new house last night for a picnic. My son and his girl friend came as well. We all had a great time - despite the disarray at our house. The movers came the day before and we have boxes and furniture, unpacked items, and pictures all over the place. But, it was fun to entertain and fun to spend some time together as a family! And, as my son pointed out, we finally have more than three chairs - we have so many chairs now, our guests have choices!