Posted by: Laurence Harmon on 8/31/2008 | 0 Comments

"Since my Mom turned 99 at the beginning of July, she’s had increasing health issues and the roller coaster ride has picked up speed on the downward side. Without going into the medical details, she is now confined to her bed in the room of the board and care she lives in nearby. I can’t help worrying if this bed is where her final weeks or days will be spent.

"When she stopped walking and was confined to a wheelchair over a year ago, it didn’t bother me nearly as much as seeing her in bed does. Of course, I was sad that she couldn’t walk on her own any longer, but it also was a relief in some ways because it lowered the risk of her falling if she got up and tried to walk without assistance. Plus, we could still go outside together and enjoy one of her great loves, the beauty of nature, on our strolls through the neighborhood and the park. That’s gone now.

"In her wheelchair with help from myself or the caregivers, she could still participate in the social activities in her house, including sing-a-long music in the living room, arts and crafts, daily meals with the other five lady residents, plus all of the holiday and birthday celebrations that take place in the heart of the board and care, the kitchen! Now her meals are served to her one-on-one in bed, and whether or not she can be put into her wheelchair to join any activities remains to be seen.

"While I am a very optimistic person, my intuition tells me she won’t be getting out of bed again. When I see her in her hospital bed, she looks tiny, frail and vulnerable. And as I flashback to when she was a pleasingly plump woman full of life, this contrast just breaks my heart.
I visit her daily, sometimes stopping by both morning and evening. We have the best quality visits I can create--looking at photo albums together, telling her about family news and events, reading letters she’s gotten from relatives and friends, sharing favorite books and family stories, gently putting body lotion on her hands and feet, massaging her feet, or simply “cuddling her up” as I like to call showering her with as many hugs and kisses as I can.

"We’ve decorated her room with photos, cards and flowers that she can see and enjoy from her bed. The radio is always on for her to listen to--the easy listening station plays lots of songs she probably enjoys. Aromatherapy is also provided by the hospice company in the form of candles and reed diffusers.

"And I never let her see me cry, because I believe she can pick up on my levels of stress and worry, and I do not want her to worry as a result. Just as she did to protect me when I was a little girl, the words, “Don’t upset the kinder” ring in my ear. Yes, Mom, turnabout is indeed fair play.
Despite the many visits and pretty room environment we’ve created, I’m worried she’s bored laying in bed all day.

"As much as I’ve read about Alzheimer’s Disease over the last ten years, I still have many questions about what is actually going on in her brain, and what is she thinking about all of this? How much thinking is she doing at all? Is there a level of consciousness where she wants to tell me her thoughts or feelings, but can’t due to the aphasia (inability to speak) she’s had over a year? I think she still understands very simple questions because she responds with her eyes or a slight head nod, so maybe she is thinking more than we realize. This saddens me deeply because maybe there is more I can do for her if she could only tell me!

"Driving home after this morning’s visit, I forced myself to focus on the upward incline of this roller coaster ride. There are positives. She’s still eating, which shows she has the will to live. She’s comfortable and or hear moaning if she was experiencing pain.) I’m so grateful that I put her on hospice last year. because it gives me peace of mind knowing she will not be sent to an emergency room or hospital where she would be subjected to needles, tubes and invasive tests. And I am also very thankful that my Dad, who passed away three years ago, doesn’t have to witness these end-of-life changes to the one true love of his life. There are no signs of pain.

"So I will continue to ride the ups and downs on this roller coaster of caregiving, hating the downward plunges yet always looking for the next incline. And in doing so, I realize there’s a whole other meaning to the phrase 'Hanging on for dear life.'”

Posted by: Laurence Harmon on 8/30/2008 | 0 Comments

It is common knowledge that Mrs. Thatcher, 82, has been in fragile condition since suffering a series of small strokes in 2002 and since the death of her husband, Denis, in 2003. She gave up public speaking several years ago, on the advice of her doctor, and makes far fewer appearances than she once did.

But while people in Mrs. Thatcher’s circle have long known that her prodigious mind is not what it once was, they have not spoken publicly about it until now.

Details of Lady Thatcher’s condition are recounted by her daughter, Carol, 55 (left), in a new memoir, “A Swim-On Part in the Goldfish Bowl,” who says that it was during a lunch at a London hotel in 2000 when she first realized her mother was mentally slipping.  They began discussing the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s when, much to Ms. Thatcher’s shock and dismay, it became clear that her mother was confusing that crisis with the Falklands war of the 1980s.

Mrs. Thatcher’s confusion was all the more upsetting because she had always been known for her prodigious memory--“like a Web site,” her daughter says--and grasp of minute details. “The realization came as a thunderbolt.  I almost fell off my chair. Watching her struggle with her words and memory, I couldn’t believe it. She was in her 75th year, but I had always thought of her as ageless, timeless.”

Carol Thatcher describes how her mother began asking the same questions over and over, oblivious to the fact that she was doing so. She describes how on the day of the terrorist bombings in Madrid in 2004, Mrs. Thatcher was entertaining some friends for dinner but, by the time they arrived, had forgotten that the bombing took place.

Most distressing was the fact that after her husband Denis died, Mrs. Thatcher had to be reminded repeatedly that he was no longer there.  “Every time it finally sank in that she had lost her husband of more than 50 years,” Ms. Thatcher writes, “she’d look at me sadly and say, ‘Oh.’” But, she writes, Mrs. Thatcher still has periods of lucidity and can remember details about her tenure as prime minister, which lasted from 1979 to 1990, and stories from the past. “When a friend asked, off-the-cuff, ‘Oh, Margaret, do you remember rationing?’ he got a full 10 minutes of my mother’s best grocer’s daughter tips on how to jazz up tinned Spam or powdered egg,” she recounts.


Posted by: Laurence Harmon on 8/30/2008 | 0 Comments

Yesterday I went into a pizza restaurant to pick up an order that I had called in.

I paid by using my Visa check card which, of course, is linked directly to my checking account.


 The young man behind the counter took my card, swiped it, then laid it on the counter as he waited for the approval, which is pretty standard procedure.

While he waited, he picked up his cell phone and started dialing.

I noticed the phone because it is the same model I have, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then I heard a click that sounded like my phone sounds when I take a picture.

He then gave me back my card but kept the phone in his hand as if he was still pressing buttons.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking:  I wonder what he is taking a picture of, oblivious to what was really going on.

It then dawned on me:  the only thing there was my credit card, so now I'm paying close attention to what he is doing.

He set his phone on the counter, leaving it open.

About five seconds later, I heard the chime that tells you that the picture has been saved.

Now I'm standing there struggling with the fact that this boy just took a picture of my credit card.

Yes, he played it off well, because had we not had the same kind of phone, I probably would never have known what happened.

Needless to say, I immediately canceled that card as I was walking out of the pizza parlor.

All I am saying is, be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Whenever you are using your credit card take caution and don't be careless.

Notice who is standing near you and what they are doing when you use your card.

Be aware of phones, because many have a camera phone these days.

When you are in a restaurant and the waiter/waitress brings your card and receipt for you to sign, make sure you scratch the number off.

Some restaurants are using only the last four digits, but a lot of them are still putting the whole thing on there.

I have already been a victim of credit card fraud and, believe me, it isn’t fun. The truth is that they can get you even when you are careful, but don't make it easy for them.

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