Saturday, July 26, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes

It's been a rough year for my siblings and I as we've watched the rapid decline of our Mom. This picture was taken in June of last year when I met up with my sisters and Mom at our annual family reunion. She knew it would be her last one but we were hopeful she'd see a few more. I visited in September and she was doing fine. She took Russ and I outside to give us plants to take home and showed us her flowers. I took her and Angie out to eat and she served herself at the buffet and talked to us. She seemed to be acting like her same ol' self.

In October, Barb called and said that she had to start taking over Mom's financial stuff because she had forgotten to sign checks, missed paying a few bills and was seeming a little more confused. They took her to the doctor for some tests and he confirmed that she has dementia. From there things started happening at rapid speed and by November she needed someone to help her get dressed and fed. She started doing things that were uncharacteristic of her and would get into OCD types of loops and they'd have to redirect her.
She would have confused spells and then clear spells. By December she was even more dependent needing assistance for even the simplest of tasks. She was losing weight rapidly too. This picture is of us at her doctor's appointment after a CAT scan classified her dementia as Alzheimer's. I started checking out books from the library and reading up on what to expect. Her symptoms didn't mesh with most of the books I read on Alzheimer's. It was going way faster than they described and instead of talking a lot Mom had gone into a silent world. I would say "I love you" and she would say "Okay" and she would answer questions with either a "yes", "no" or "okay" but offer little more conversation. I was beginning to think she was having a bunch of mini-strokes. I was told these would not show up on any scans but it's common for the elderly to have them without anyone knowing.  It was just happening too fast for just dementia.

Angie was driving over to her house every day to get her up and out of bed and feed her breakfast. Richard would get her lunch and keep an eye on her and then Barb would get her to bed at night and bathe her. It was getting harder and harder to keep watch on her. She wasn't very steady on her feet anymore and a few nights Barb heard her getting up in the middle of the night and moving in a loop to the bathroom, back to her bed, pull the covers up, pull them off, and then back to the bathroom. Other times she would get up and be searching in drawers for something but not know what she was looking for. My siblings were starting to get concerned that she would fall during the night.

In mid-January their worst fears happened and she got out of bed and fell flat on her face. Barb heard it and ran in and she was bleeding and vomiting. They called an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital. She was bruised, had a big lump on her head and had a brain bleed. We were told rarely does anyone her age survive a brain bleed. They didn't give us much hope that she would survive it. She was immediately put into Paliative Care and taken off all her medicines. They stopped her IV's for fluids and were just going to let her go. But....they didn't know our Mom very well. She has a way of bouncing back. Prayers were being lifted up for her and she pulled through. Angie and Barb continued giving her water and feeding her. They eventually had to change her status back to Hospice care. She was amazing them. They then put her in a Rehabilitation Center to try to get her taking care of herself and walking again. She worked at it diligently and you could see in her face how hard she was trying to get back to normal.
They finally released her to home hospice care in mid February and they took her to Angie's house to live. Hospice provided a hospital bed and all the things she needs for at-home care. Angie is her full-time care giver   now and she is doing an amazing job. Mom continues to decline rapidly and
we're not sure how much longer we will have her with us. She is down to about 70 lbs and is eating very little now. She is more confused each day but some days she is very alert and we see glimpses of Mom in there. Hospice has told us several times that they don't expect her to live much longer and she continues to amaze them with rebound after rebound.

We've all prepared ourselves that she might not be here by her birthday in August but I would love to see her make it to 90. She's a fighter for sure but her body is failing her and I'm fairly sure she won't see 2015. But God can do great miracles and her time has already been determined by we will wait and see what HIS plan is for her.

I hate this disease called Alzheimers. It's hard watching her become something she never wanted to become. It totally scares me knowing this disease is strongly in our genes on her side and if any of us live to be very old, we too might follow this path. In some ways it's like looking at a mirror into our futures and it's not a reflection any of us want to see of ourselves. I love my Mama and I pray that God will give her a peaceful and pain-free departure from this life and wrap her in HIS arms as she goes to her place of rest.

It amazes me how rapidly this disease has attacked her as I write and compare the June picture at the top to the June picture at the bottom. In just 9 months we've watched her fade from us at warp speed. I guess in some ways it's more merciful than 5-10 years of this. If I had known then what I know now there are so many things I would have done differently. I would have talked to her more and asked more questions and had her tell me more stories. The stories and memories are all lost within the depths of her confused mind. I really miss talking to her now. To anyone who may read this, take time to hug your Mom and hear her stories. Take a lot of pictures and take her out to eat or let her show you her garden. Sometimes we all get wrapped up in our busy lives and forget about our elderly. They have so much to teach us about life. Knowing how much she loved her crafts and her genealogy it's sad watching her staring at a television now because that's all she can do. She kept busy in life and I had hoped with as much as she used her brain it would prevent dementia from finding her but it didn't. All the dates she had locked in her brain are gone, all the knowledge of sewing and crocheting and ceramics are gone. So she sits and watches TV or sleeps in her chair and waits......and occasionally she'll surprise me with an "I love you, too, Donna" when I'm visiting or saying hi on the phone and it warms my heart. I cherish those words so much.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Real Black Friday for Amber

We spent Thanksgiving at Hannah's house last year (2013) and Amber drove over from Durham to spend the day with us. She had to leave early to get back to work her Black Friday shift from 8 pm to 8 am. Hannah, Dantrell and I went Black Friday shopping in Goldsboro. Hannah wanted to buy a new laptop for school and we had several other items we wanted to get. The next morning Hannah came to wake me up and said Amber's car was stolen. While she was working (shortly after the shift started) someone went into the break room and stole keys and wallets from the employees lockers. Amber's keys were among them and when she went outside after her shift, she realized her car was gone. She had left her purse in the car but had put her debit card in her pocket because she had planned to buy something. So the thief got her purse, wallet and several other items with her car. She, of course, was crying her eyes out. She hadn't slept for almost 24 hours and was exhausted. This car was her first vehicle given to her by her Dad after her first year of college. It had gone with her on many road trips. Her boyfriend, Casey, was in Charlotte with his parents and he hopped in the car to come back for her. We hurried and got ready and met her at her apt. Casey went and had the locks on her apartment changed because her apartment keys were also on the keychain. She felt violated and frustrated. She was sure she'd never see the car again.

Russ and I got online and looked for a good rental car deal and told her we would leave my Ion with her and if it wasn't returned we would give her that car as a replacement. We drove a rental car home to GA. She had to wait until Monday to talk to insurance because it was a holiday weekend. She filed a report with the police and after looking at surveillance tapes they realized they had his face on camera. He was wearing a hood and seemed to be familiar where one of the cameras was because he dodged it but there was another one that he obviously didn't see because he looked right at it unaware.

Since I was then left without a vehicle, Russ and I went car shopping. I had planned to make a trip to Akron to help out with Mom and needed a vehicle to get there with. We found a Nissan Altima in Seafoam Gray (blue/gray) that we liked. It had a few bells and whistles on it so it was quite an upgrade for us. We were sure we'd never see Amber's car again and had figured we would be signing the Saturn over to her. About a month or more after the theft, she got a call from the Insurance Agent that they had found her car in Jacksonville, FL abandoned on the side of the road with the car keys in it. They put it on a truck and brought it to her. It reeked of alcohol and cigarette smoke and had ashes all in it. Several of her items that were in her car (including her purse) were taken but they did leave a jacket that was worth something to her. They left her bible as well. (the most valuable thing in there). We gave Amber the choice of either keeping our Saturn and selling hers or keeping hers. She opted to keep her car because it had sentimental attachments to her. We drove out and picked up the Ion a few weeks later. It was quite a learning experience for her. It made me angry that someone thought it was a fun idea to joyride in a young girl's car. But in the end, I got a new car and we now have an extra vehicle to loan out as needed.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Let Me Tell You About My Grandkids - Part Two

In July of 2013 Hannah called to tell us that she and Dantrell were expecting their first child. I was so thrilled because I knew that as the Mom of the babies' Mom, I would get to be more involved in the whole event. It was so much fun going through this with her and feeling more a part of the entire pregnancy and birth. We found out in the fall that they were having a boy and they picked the name Brayden. The middle name wasn't decided until right before he was born. I told Hannah and Russ and I would get the furniture and bedding for his room as our gift to her. I found a bed and dresser I liked at IKEA and she was thrilled with it when I sent pictures. She wanted black furniture but all the main stores seemed to carry only dark browns. We looked at pre-made bedding sets with her and nothing seemed to grab her as what she wanted for his room. I asked Kelly Farmer if she would sew her bedding items for us and she was excited about it. We made a few trips to fabric stores sending Hannah pictures of different color combinations. She finally settled on yellow and gray chevrons and giraffes as the motif for decorations. I found a mobile at a thrift store and Kelly recovered it with one of the fabrics and hung giraffes from it. She made bumpers, a blanket, curtains and spit rags and bibs. She covered baskets with the fabric too. Hannah painted some pictures for the wall and she and I did some name pictures. I loved the way it all came together.

She was due on February 24 but I was sure she would go early so I drove to NC the first week of February to be there when he arrived. She was worried she would go into labor and I wouldn't be there so I wanted to reassure her by coming early. We had fun shopping for clothes for him and getting everything washed and ready. By the second week I think she was ready to be done so we started walking and eating pineapple and trying all the suggestions online for inducing labor. We started seeing her first real contractions on Saturday, Feb. 8 and then on Sunday we officially got her labor going. The hospital was maddening and didn't want her to come in too soon. Since it was her first child they expected her to be in labor for awhile. I timed contractions for awhile and then eventually overruled them and told them we were coming in. It was a good thing I did because she went fast. By 9:14 a.m. he was here...all 7 lbs and 4 ozs of cuteness. She had intended to have an epidural but she ended up doing a natural birth because it all went so fast. Brayden Xavier Hunt arrived on February 10. Aunt Amber arrived just in time to see him minutes after birth. It was love at first sight for all of us. Such a cute little one he is.
Hannah embraced Motherhood and was in awe of her new son. She grew up right before my eyes that day as she conquered several of her biggest fears. I was so proud of the way she fought through the natural birth and breast-feeding trials. She found strength she didn't know she had. She and Dantrell both were eager to learn how to care for baby Brayden and I spent another week and a half with them teaching them the ropes. Brayden and I bonded in those two weeks and it was hard to leave him. He is now almost six months old and cute as can be. He is one of the happiest babies I've seen in awhile. It doesn't take much to get him giggling and he loved to have fun. I'll end this post with a few of my favorite Brayden pictures.

Update on Life Since my Last Post

As you can see it's been quite awhile since I've written on here. I always have good intentions to keep up with this and then life gets in the way. So much has happened since 2012 Christmas so I thought it was about time I updated my blog with some of the highlights and pictures.

First, the blog definitely needs some updated pictures of my grandkids. Liam is now three and Ryan is almost 2. They are both talking up a storm and cute as can be. Their favorite thing right now is Disney's "Cars" movie and especially Lightning McQueen. They own just about ever car from that movie and carry them with them everywhere. They even sleep with them sometimes. Cory and family moved to a house owned by Stephanie's Dad this summer and the boys now have more room to run and play. They love to be read to and Nana and Papa try to keep them stocked with books to read whenever we visit. Love these boys and wish they lived closer. In October they hope to welcome their new baby sister, Kinley Lynn to the family. I think it would be nice if she were born on my birthday but we'll see if that happens or not. Kinley is a name that they've had picked out for years and Lynn is Stephanie's middle name. I'm sure she will be the cutest baby girl we've ever seen. (just a little biased when it comes to grandkids)
 While we were in Colorado in May, we had a gender reveal party with them after they'd gone for a reveal ultrasound. Stephanie bought a cake with a pink icing center and let Russ and I cut into it for the reveal to us. I started crying, of course, because I'm a sap at heart. I know Stephanie has wanted a girl from the beginning and I was happy she gets to experience raising a girl and I cried because I was happy to  have my first granddaughter. I haven't been able to shop in the pink aisles for years so that's pretty exciting for me too. I can't wait to meet her in October. Steph has been having fun decorating in pink and buying new outfits when she sees them on sale. I'll end this post with a few of my favorite pictures of my Barnhart boys.