Adios April

Dyed Easter eggs with my mom. (See the Mickey Mouse??)
Bought more melamine!
Filled the house with flowers.
Cuddled with The Peanut.

Visited Chirps & Cheers for the first time!
Spent lots of time outdoors with Piper.
Reminisced a little – that’s me and my dad!
Marveled at only having killed two perennials in my butterfly garden.

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3 Months In


PHOTO: Kelly Beall

I realize not everyone is going to care about what I’ve been going through as a caregiver. But with the crazy statistic that 65.7 million Americans care for a family member with a terminal illness, I thought I’d continue to share my journey with Pete with you.

It seems as though Pete’s reached the late-intermediate stage of Alzheimer’s, there is no set time table with the disease just a person-by-person pace. He easily fixates on things for long periods of time, particularly anything of extreme size or quantity. Think car dealerships, skyscrapers, etc. A big source of anxiety is the idea of something he needs running out, so several of everything are kept on hand at all times. Soap, paper towels, and the like. Date and time are both obsessions, as are fidgeting with his watch which he changes the settings on several times a day.

Pete still gets great joy out of reading the daily newspaper cover to cover (sometimes several times in the same day) and walking outside, so we take full advantage of both. I try to stick to his daily routines as much as possible because he’s easily thrown off, something as simple as the Girl Scouts coming around to sell cookies will leave him asking a million questions hours after the event.

As we’ve moved deeper into the disease more symptoms are revealing themselves. Pete’s begun to forget everyday words and will replace them in conversation with one of the completely wrong meaning. At times no words at all want to form and what comes out sounds more like a child learning to speak. Jibber jabber. His balance is beginning to fail him as well, and a few weeks ago he took a tumble while showering (luckily he was uninjured). Walking has slowed down and it takes a few tries to get up from a sitting position, both make his habit of wandering around more dangerous and me more hawk-like.  But he still eats like a champ! More like a teenage boy actually, the other day he housed six slices of pizza for dinner.

A recent development is what I like to call the True/False Game, where he has a thought so set in him mind that he believes it no matter what. Like one of the indoor cats getting outside last week, even though they were both napping under a bed. Another high point of his days is Piper,  I bring her with me Monday through Friday and he can’t get enough. Things about her are actually some of the only new information he remembers, so I’m grateful for any sort of joy she brings into his life. And they have such an amazing bond that it has me wondering whether she might make a good therapy dog to bring happiness to others.

One thing I never stopped to think about when I became Pete’s daytime caregiver is what sort of effect it might have on me. As with all terminal illnesses, which Alzheimer’s ultimately is, there are good days and bad. And you take both in stride not knowing when the switch is going to flip the other way. In the past few weeks it’s been in the ‘bad’ direction more than the ‘good,’ and I feel ragged. My anxiety, which has always been on the high end of the spectrum, has skyrocketed. My will to do anything after going home has plummeted, and I don’t discount the fact that I might be slightly depressed. My solace lies in the fact that I’m most likely suffering more than Pete, simply because he doesn’t remember most things short term any longer. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

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My March

Collected pear tree branches off of the side of the road.
Caught Roxy and Peanut like this and died.
Rediscovered honey sticks, a childhood favorite.
Was mesmerized at the peach tree blossoms at my mom and stepdad’s house.

 

Fell in love with cinnamon cardamom tea.
Celebrated my stepdad’s birthday. Piper, too.
Ate an orange nearly every day.
Experimented with color-blocking my nails.

 

Decided to test my black thumb with this bright kalanchoe.
Bought my first quart of strawberries of the year.
Piper got homemade treats in the mail from Capree and Wrigley.
Attended a dear college friend’s wedding.

You can follow me full-time on Instagram @designcrush

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Life Lately

PHOTO: Pete Barringer In New Orleans, second from right

If you’ve been reading for the past few months then you know that I had to beg a few weeks off from Design Crush in late December and early January. To explain why I have to go back to before I was born.

I grew up living at one end of a row house, at the other end lived a lovely older couple named Pete and Betty Barringer. They quickly took our young family under their wing, Pete teaching me to hit a whiffle ball and Betty letting me play school with her. And soon enough enough they were just like an extra set of grandparents. In fact one year I made them come to my biological grandparents’ house with us for Thanksgiving! Then when I was 15 my parents’ marriage ended and my mom got engaged to their son, Bill. He was recently divorced as well and everything just clicked. So now my “extra” grandparents were becoming my step-grandparents. Not too bad of a deal.

This past December an existing health condition of Betty’s worsened drastically and very suddenly, she passed away January 1, 2012. But that’s only the half of it, because Pete has Alzheimer’s. After the funeral he had to move back to Oklahoma City with my mom and stepdad for the obvious reasons, and my days are now spent watching over him for the time being. He’s not so far a long as to be in a home, but he’s not able to remember enough to care for himself or be left alone either. We’re sort of in the in between right now, and it’s hard knowing it’s only going to get worse.

I won’t lie, some days are really tough. Especially the ones where he talks about going home and you have to explain that this is home now. But other than that there are some great times, too. I get to hear about his time spent as a soldier in World War II and so many other stories I never would have had the opportunity to know. We all really try to laugh, otherwise everyone might breakdown and cry. I know if the tables were turned he’d do the exact same thing for me in a heartbeat.

Have you ever had to take care of a relative when their health failed him? I’d love to hear any words of wisdom or advice you might have.

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