We Love Lucy

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When I was a kid, Gran used to babysit me a lot and one of my first memories of staying over at her house was watching “The Lucy Show.” She asked me what I wanted to watch and when I couldn’t decide, she said, “you like Lucy; we’ll watch that.” Except, I couldn’t remember ever watching any of Lucille Ball’s shows before that day, but according to Gran, I was an avid fan. In a way, I guess she had amazing foresight, and she certainly played a role in fostering my love of classic tv sitcoms.

Now, whenever I grannysit, I play these shows for her. (She likes the noise of the tv in the background while she works on her sudoku puzzles. In reality, most television pisses her off–“Look at that asshole! Can you believe what they do?”) Lucille Ball seems to be her default character for familiar faces. She swears everyone, red hair or not, is Lucille Ball, simply because she knows she knows them and cannot find the right words. Once she asked me if Hillary Clinton was Lucy.

“No, that’s Hillary Clinton.”

“Hillary Clinton! I knew I knew her. Now, is Lucille Ball gone?”

“Yes. She died like 30 years ago.”

“God bless her.”

A lot of caregiving is about sticking to a routine. And for most of us, Lucille Ball is that familiar face on tv that we’ve spent many hours with since the 1950s. So in keeping with tradition and establishing some semblance of a pattern, we will continue to watch these old programs at our house. We love Lucy.

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The Toothbrush Tango

Toothbrush

I’m out of town this week, so you guys get a short post.

This toothbrush scenario presents a real problem in our house (Gran has claimed several of mine by either using them or taking them home in her purse. “I brought this one over from home!”). I now store my latest toothbrush in a separate case, which is then stashed away in a drawer.

Labeling the toothbrushes might help, but then again probably not. My cousin Cole was watching Gran one day when her youngest daughter Olivia went upstairs to check on Gran because she was taking a long time in the bathroom. Liv found her there, brushing away with her dad Nick’s toothbrush. It seems any available toothbrush may be used.

Now whenever Gran goes to use the bathroom at Cole’s house, Cole will turn to Nick and ask, “Did you put your toothbrush away?” And Nick will fly up the stairs.

I Needed a Bird Like I Needed a Hole in My Head

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Gran gets paranoid a lot–it’s typical of people who have the disease–and the last thing someone with paranoia needs is an accomplice. Luckily for us, she has an African Grey parrot, who she has had for about 22 years. Birds mate for life, so if they do not have a mate, they become attached to one person; therefore, Cody is Gran’s bestie for life. Large parrots can live for 75-100 years, so they are generational pets. This brings me to my  PSA: think twice before getting a parrot.

Ok, rant over. Actually, African Greys can be pretty sweet compared to other parrots like cockatoos and macaws, but it still depends on the temperament of the individual parrot. Even a sweet bird can pry one of your fingernails off. (Note: Surprisingly, I lost no hair in the above incident.)

Birds are quite messy, but Gran is still pretty good about cleaning his cage. She’ll sweep up the seeds around his cage with fervor, all the while complaining that “I needed a bird like I needed a hole in my head. I’m going to give him back to Rob.” Then she’ll carry on attempting to feed him twenty times a day and the cycle starts all over again.

African Greys can master a range of vocabulary and sounds, and can mimic people exactly. At Gran’s, Cody made sure that I didn’t do anything out of line. For instance, Gran hates when I cook in her kitchen, so I would sneak out whenever she was focused on something and attempt to quietly pull out a skillet. With my backed turned, Cody would then say in her voice, “What are you doing?” and I would hit the ceiling.

These birds also have intelligence comparable to a five-year-old child. Cody also knows whenever she is talking on the phone to her boyfriend and he calls out, “Joe…Joe!” When she is peacefully sudokuing, he’ll cry, “Joe…” to remind her that he is gone. Then Gran will follow with, “See? Cody misses Joe too.” Unfortunately, even though parrots are highly intelligent creatures, he’s unable to comprehend the full context behind his words, although I do believe he probably misses Joe too.

Parrots like to listen to their owners and others speak so that they can pick up new things. Whenever you want them to speak, they are typically quiet, particularly around strangers. We moved Cody in with us and I thought he would be traumatized in a different environment, but he has adapted well. Within days he learned the unique sounds of our house, and he is comfortable enough around all of us to yell out all his favorite phrases.

Despite their merrymaking, I believe even parrots need some peace and quiet, although I’ve never read anything to confirm this. Once, while still at Gran’s house, Gran was talking nonstop-“what’s on our agenda?; I was raised on a farm; look at the trees”– and the tv was on full blare. She eventually decided to “go pester Marge,” and I told her to go on up. When she finally closed the front door behind her, I heard Cody let out a noise that resembled a huge sigh of relief.

Maybe it’s not the constant noise he needed to escape but the dementia.

 

 

 

 

 

Help! I’m Climbing and I Can’t Get Down!

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“I used to climb the highest beam in the barn and jump down into the hay mound.” She looks up and points, as if she can see the barn rafters.

Chances are if you live in the tri-state area, you’ve heard Gran tell this story. 

“That sounds pretty crazy.”

“I’d run across the beams–they were like 50-60 feet up. Jim would climb too, but Marge was a little leery of heights.”

“Marge sounds like the smarter of the two of you.” 

“Shut your mouth! I knew what I was doing!”

I mentioned in an earlier post about people with dementia/Alzheimer’s reverting back to childhood. Unfortunately, this is true of climbing too. 

My very first day on the job, caregiving that is, Gran was determined to climb a ladder and examine a buzzing noise in the garage. (She did this when I had my mom sit with her for the first time. It’s like her method of testing caregivers: start threatening to climb stuff and if the person doesn’t crack they’ve got the job.) Now, I think it was an attic fan, but I’m still not sure. 

“Nobody is climbing anything.” I glance over at the ladder which is hanging on the wall. If I ran over to it now, I could beat her to it. I think. 

She’s still concentrating on the attic space. “What the hell is it?” Her eyes are too big for her face now. It could be anything: an alien invasion, attic fan, burglars.

“Could be locusts,” I suggest. 

“It ain’t locusts!”

Okay, so maybe it couldn’t be just anything. 

This conversation went on like this for ten minutes before I convinced her to come back inside and “forget” about the noise. She didn’t and she continued to investigate the mysterious noise the rest of the day. 

She hasn’t had the urge to climb the ladder in awhile or stand on end stands in the middle of the night. While both of these events were unnerving, part of me enjoyed witnessing a piece of her childhood: she was climbing the highest beam in the barn again. Just when you think so much of your loved one’s personality has died with the disease, little bits of the previous person comes out in instances like these. 

Still, you can’t put an 83-year-old in time out. 

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