Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Plans for a memorial service for my mom

There are no words to express what I feel for what you all have given me these past weeks. Please know I will never forget the love you've shared during this time when I have felt lost and broken. I will miss my mother for the rest of my life, but knowing she's with my dad again makes me smile. He's been waiting for his dancing partner for a very long time and I know the two of them did one of their jitterbugs they were so, so good at as he escorted her through those pearly gates. She's surrounded by friends and family she's been missing and I feel at peace knowing that she's home and in a better place.

Some of you have written to ask about a service for my mom.

We're not planning an immediate service, but there will be something in the future.

She requested cremation, and some "Hazel Ashes" will find their way here, there and yonder in some of her favorite places over time.

Right now what we're thinking is that we will take some of her remains to Atlanta to be placed next to daddy.

Probably there will just be an informal graveside service.

I will let everyone know details, of course.  

Right now, we just don't know when that might be.

For those who are unable to attend, I'm hoping you'll raise a glass at the time of the service and share a thought or two of my mom with those of us who are there.

And no, it doesn't have to be her drink of choice - some of us just don't like Diet Pepsi.

obituary -

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The End of the Journey

Mary Hazel Messick Wilkinson

November 2, 1926 - July 28, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Mom Update

Cannon Memorial Hospital
Monday, July 27, 2015

Mother's sleeping fairly comfortably.  Her breathing is very labored at times, but she seems peaceful.

When I look over and see her with bruises all over her arms from necessary tubes and IVs and an oxygen mask over her face it makes me unbearably sad.

This is the woman I see in my mind and in my heart - always.

A woman with great style, an irreverent sense of humor and a wonderfully earthy laugh that comes from deep within her soul, and up from the very soles of her feet.  

One who lived her life by the words - - - 

"Do no harm, but take no shit."

She has taught me much.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Update

Know what I love?

That I can sit in a corner in Panera's with a cup of coffee, a 4 Cheese Souffle and have a good cry without anyone noticing.

Sitting here catching up on all the email, Facebook comments and messages that each of you has taken the time to send me and I have no words to tell you how much they all mean. Even typing that makes me feel less than adequate in my gratitude and thanks.

Donald is at home waiting for the internet technician to arrive and hopefully, get us hooked up again. 

Mother is having a comfortable day. No signs of restless anxiety today.

I've just left her apartment in Blowing Rock where we're making pretty good progress with the packing. Someone bought some of her furniture, took some and will be back in a few days for the rest.

And now - home.

Love to all.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mother Update

I am late with Mother updates.

We've been without internet service at home since Thursday (technician is supposed to come tomorrow - fingers crossed). 

I want to once again thank you all for the continued prayers and support. 

As of today, my mom is still at Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville but is now in Hospice care. 

Today she has been  resting comfortably.

Yesterday was a tough day.

Prayers now for comfort and peace for my mom, please.

I'm with her and she is, right now, amazingly aware, sweet but groggy and in God's hands.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Today Mom Update

Sitting here at Cannon Memorial Hospital thinking about what a great hospital this is.

And watching my mom sleep.

She tells me sleeping is the best thing a person can do for pneumonia. Who's gonna argue with that?

They just brought her lunch and she's not interested, but I have to say - it looks and smells good enough (seriously!) that I may have to dig in. Roast pork, carrots, baked potato with butter & sour cream available (lots of each). Milk (which I'm already drinking) and vanilla ice cream (which doesn't stand a chance of melting with me around).

Her breathing is much less labored than it was last night, her color is good, she tells me she loves me and that I'm a sweet daughter.



life is good.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Need some prayers, please

One of Mother's favorite staff members at her new home, Cranberry House, noticed that Mother seemed to not be feeling so great last night.

This morning, they got her showered and dressed and she seemed okay.  A few  hours later though, she told Kathy she was not feeling well.

Kathy said she was looked pale and just not quite right. 

Gigi (administrator, former nurse for many years) checked her vitals, realized she was wheezing badly, running a fever and in distress.  They called the EMTs who were there in 4 minutes and they took her to Cannon Memorial.

When I got to Cannon Memorial they had her in the ER, had determined she had pneumonia and possibly congestive heart failure and fluid in her lungs.

She's been admitted and is resting comfortably.  She is aware of where she is, who I am and was calm as a cucumber.   She does not like the oxygen mask, but when the ER nurse explained that they were giving her a breathing treatment and the mask was necessary she said, "oh, well.  I guess that makes sense.  Okay.  It can stay."

I went by Cranberry House earlier today with the car loaded down and that's when I learned the news about Mother.  

Her room is looking wonderful.  With Kathy and Gigi and Rhinnanon's and the rest of the staff's help, it is looking and feeling like home.  Mother's major complaint about her new living quarters has nothing to do with the living quarters, but with the poor choice of clothes I chose to take.  They're all too damned tight says she, so today I bought her some new, cute, but bigger clothes.

She should be much happier when she gets back to Cranberry.

Send some prayers and good thoughts, please.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Continuing the journey . . .

Yesterday we started doing some packing up at my mom's old apartment. Took a few pieces of her furniture, some clothes and necessities to her new place for her.

She is bouncing back and forth between being okay with things and being very angry. Anyone believing all 88 year old women might be docile in a situation like this? Uh uh, no.

The staff continues to be amazingly kind, professional and just awesome in so, so many ways. (and quite good and open at giving much needed hugs to devastated family members in addition to everything else).

They understand, loads more than I, how hard it would be.

My mom has lived in her little apartment in Blowing Rock, NC for almost 20 years.

Alone and independently and quite content.

Up until just the past few weeks she's cooked, she's cleaned, she's washed dishes, paid bills, taken out her trash, bathed.  All normal, every day things we all take for granted.

In only the past few weeks she's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, become unable to do most of the physical things she was able to do, and been moved to a new and strange place filled with people she doesn't know.

She'll be going through an adjustment period consisting of now having everything scheduled - her medications, her bathing, her meals, etc.

Personally, I cannot even imagine.

So, although Don Barley and I know she's now where she needs to be, it's hard. And harder for her than for us.

Still tons to pack up and to do at the Blowing Rock apartment.

But not today.

Today is our day of rest.

Please continue sending prayers and good thoughts - every single one is appreciated and every single one helps.

Friday, July 17, 2015

My Mom - Today

Every day I learn something new about loving an Alzheimer's patient.

Mostly, it's that, for me, this person who looks like my mom and sometimes acts like my mom, isn't the woman I've known so well and loved so much for 66 years.

My mom is in there, but so is someone else.

It's that person that sometimes gets really angry with me that I'm heartbroken about.

Donald and I have learned not to get upset or be hurt by things that are said one minute, because they've been forgotten the next.

We've learned not to try to remind her to take her pills because that's a ridiculous assumption on our part.

We've learned not to tell her what day her next doctor's appointment is.

So, today we knew we were scheduled to move into the care facility we found and are impressed with.  We knew but we didn't mention it to her.

Mother had been excited about it too. 

Until the next day, when she wasn't.

So.  Frankly, we had no idea how today would go.

We didn't know if she would remember that she had been excited about it.

Or that she would remember getting mad at us for interfering in her life and making decisions for her.

As it happened, everything just magically unfolded.

She had to have a TB test before the facility would accept her, so we went by her doctor's office on the way to the facility.

But before we did that, I was helping her get dressed and she had a weepy spell because she needed someone to help her.

And she looked at me and said, "will you take me to the nursing home today, please?"  I've stopped saying "no, it's not a nursing home - it's so much better!"  Because, with her generation, that what it was.  Nursing homes.  

I did not know she had just had this same conversation with Donald in the living room because I was busy running around on the sly throwing clothes, nighties, robes, undies, medications, etc. into a bag so we could just take her to the care facility after leaving the doctor's office and hope for the best.

She relieved us of the guilt of feeling as though we were kidnapping her and forcing her someplace she didn't want to go.

After finishing up at the doctor's office and on the drive to the facility, she was fine.  SO much finer than I had anticipated and hoped for!  It was a pleasant drive.  

She and Harley sat in the backseat and conversed and took care of one another.


Mother was ready to make this transition today and the timing could not have been better.  We were blessed with serendipity.

Because, as I've come to realize, what she remembers now may not be the case even 15 minutes from now, so I think all the good thoughts and prayers everyone has been sending helped more than any of us can really know.

The only really hard part was when we got ready to leave her this afternoon - hard for her, hard for us.

But we're going back tomorrow to take some more of her clothes, some books and some framed photos for her dresser.

Still lots to do to make her space "hers," but we're getting there. Baby steps.

At least now I know she's in a safe place with some of the kindest people imaginable.

The facility is really nice, lots of little rooms with comfy furniture scattered about for folks who want a little quiet time, and some larger activity rooms. Tonight was movie night and they were watching Annie.

I don't know what they were serving for dinner, but lunch was baked chicken, half a baked potato, creamed corn and chocolate pie for dessert.

When we got Mother to her room today, the staff had put some orchids on her bedside table for her, and a sign in the window welcoming her. 

And there's a hummingbird feeder and regular bird feeder right outside her window. 

We have all already fallen in love with some of the staff who have been taking really good care of my mom - some very special folks. 

And they all fell in love with Harley today!

Today was one of the good days.

And to make even better, we arrived home to find flowers on our doorstep from our friend (who we haven't even met in person yet!), Lesa Holstine.

Aren't they scrumptious?!


Irreplaceable, treasured friends.

They make our hearts sing at the most unexpected moments, don't they?

And make a gray day a whole lot sunnier.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

the other side of the good day coin . . .

And then there are days like today that wipe days like yesterday right off the calendar like they might never have happened. My heart is broken. Mother's good day was replaced with today's "No. I am not going anywhere, and no I did NOT say that I would. And no, I did not tell anyone what color I wanted the walls painted at that place. Why are you making all this up and upsetting me?"

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Continuing the journey with my mom - Good News Day!

Today has been a good day. 

A very, very good day.

Mother finally got her new hearing aid.  I'm not even going to attempt to describe the difference.  It is not a complete night/day difference, but it IS a difference of watching mouths open and close while not truly hearing to now actually hearing again.  If not perfectly.

The memory prescription does seem to be working.  Surprisingly well.  Another biggie.

And -

Two people from the assisted living center came for a visit after the hearing aid man's visit.  Mother and the hearing aid man (whose name is Tom) met when we first moved here.  He's been a good friend to her and to me and Donald over the years.

As soon as he left, two young women came in to do the assessment needed for Mother's move.

They are both very professional, but both cute and full of personality and had won Mother's heart within the first 20 minutes.  They showed pictures of the facility, asked her a bunch of questions in such an easy conversational manner that she was immediately at ease.  Told her about the facility and what they would do for her in helping her keep her independence - not usurp it.

To condense a two hour meeting, which did not feel one bit like a meeting, to one short description.  How 'bout - "YAY!"

Mother, while at first, very distressed about feeling as though we had taken things into our own hands without consulting her, came to understand why and agreed that she would not have been up to doing the research necessary, and finally said that yes, she knew this was the right move and that it was time.


Donald and I go tomorrow.  He will measure her room to see just how much of her furniture we can take, along with some of her cherished and much loved sit-abouts.  They asked her what color she wanted her walls painted and it will be freshly painted when she moves in.

While Donald is measuring, I will be spending the time filling out the necessary paperwork.  I was warned that it would take us about an hour and a half.

They asked Mother if she wanted to move in this week and she said, sure - she was ready.

So.  She will be (Good Lord Willing and The Creek Don't Rise!) moving in this coming Friday.

We won't be able to move everything between now and then, but I've been talking with the manager of the apartment complex she now lives in and he's not going to rush us right out of there, and has assured us we can take our time (I'm sure that would have its limits, but he's being very kind and really sweet about it all).  There are some things in her apartment that we're going to be giving to some of the residents there.  Mother has made some very good friends there, and one neighbor, in particular, has done a huge amount of good things for her and many of the other residents there as well over the years. His washing machine recently died, so we're going to give him Mother's.  Someone else will get the dryer if they want it, but it just happens to have recently broken.

The facility staff workers visiting with us told Mother they knew she would be the Belle of the Ball at her new home, and any of you who know her know exactly how they reached that conclusion.  She was at her very shiny  brightest today.


Now, is when I have to remind myself of the reality of all of this and tamper down my enthusiasm because come Friday when we go to pick her up, who knows, she may say "hell no, I'm not going."  

But, she will, and it will be good.

It will be very, very good.

Thank you all for the notes (keep 'em coming, I PROMISE I will write back, and I know you understand why I haven't yet), thank you for the good thoughts and all the prayers.  Keep them coming, please.

(and here's the next bit of that unsolicited advice I promised not to give - forgive me.  Get those Power of Attorney forms completed ASAP.  Not just financial, but health and guardianship - do it do it do it).

Friday, July 10, 2015

Latest Mom Update

This journey with my mom is a real roller coaster ride.  Or a cha-cha-cha.  Or a combination of the two, if that could even be a possibility.

Good days for her/Bad days for her.

Good days for me/Bad days for me.

Yesterday morning things started out hopeful, the day ended not so hopeful with me having a bit of a breakdown in the parking lot of the Department of Social Services.  I tried to get a grip and then decided, "oh, the hell with it," betting that I was not the first person in Boone to have a breakdown in that particular parking lot.

I have to say, the person I spoke with and the staff was, to a person, kind and very helpful.

But, they can be helpful in their own way only up to a point.

This is a whole new world for me and there are dozens and dozens of facets and puzzle pieces that need to be put together.

I do as much as I can.

I stay as strong as I can for as long as I can.

And then I'm a puddle


Even during the puddles, I know I'll bounce back.  I mean - what other choice is there? 

So, this morning, I was back on the phone at 7:30 a.m. making calls and leaving messages and the day is coming to an end on a hopeful note.


I have learned that in all this, I must remain only cautiously hopeful.


Hopeful is hopeful, even cautiously, and that is so much better than overwhelming hopeless helpless despair.

I'll take cautiously hopeful - how 'bout you?

I don't mean to be cryptic, and hopefully on Monday or Tuesday I will have news to share.  As I said, I am cautiously hopeful.  

But, to speak it, might jinx it.

In the meantime, please continue sending prayers and good thoughts that it will be good, or at least, hopeful news.

And if it's not, send prayers and good thoughts to help me be strong and continue doing whatever needs doing.

As far as how Mother is doing.  Some days she's as good as gold, and today seems to be one of those days.  Her friend Becky, who has been a helper to my Mom through the Watauga County Project on Aging for a number years taking her shopping and to doctor's appointments, etc. has been with her all afternoon visiting and doing some housework.

My Donald is on his way to Mother's as we speak to deliver her new prescription which we hope will help with her memory.  He's also surprising her with a treat.  

I know many of you are familiar with Five Guys and those out of this world burgers they're so famous for, but if you're a fan of hot dogs like me and my mom and haven't tried one from Five Guys yet, HONEY!  You do not know what you're missing.

Hazel Wilkinson will be a happy girl.

And if he remembers to bring me one - so will I!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My Mom's Journey

I wrote a piece here on June 6 about my mom.

We can call this the next installment.

Up until just a little over a month ago, my mom was as mentally alert as you could ever hope for any 88 year old, and sharper than many.  Then, almost overnight, that changed and she's now been diagnosed with dementia.

Her doctor was going to prescribe something that he believes will help with her memory issues, but then she had some tummy issues which put that on hold.

But, I should be able to pick up her new prescription tomorrow and get her started and hope for the best.

She is still in her own apartment and I go by every day or two to check on her and do what needs to be done.

Not an ideal situation, but it's the best we can do right now.

She knows who we are, she knows where she is, she knows her memory sucks and she gets frustrated about not understanding some things, but is still lucid enough to understand most things.

In the meantime, I've been calling around asking questions about things like assisted living facilities, nursing homes, Medicare, Medicaid - all things I knew nothing about one month ago, and with some of the different answers I'm receiving from different agencies, I'm still not sure I know any more than I did.

One local agency told me that they felt as though one of our local assisted living facilities might be just the place, so I made an appointment and I went.

It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

Within minutes of being there, I felt hopeful and relieved for the first time in weeks.  We went from "I've got a bed right now available for your mother," to "I'm sorry we aren't able to help you" in less than one hour's time and walked out feeling like I had been punched in my stomach.

The assisted living section sounded perfect, at least for awhile.

The diminished memory section is where mother would be moving eventually, I'm sure, but I don't think she's there yet.

And, the diminished memory section is covered by Medicaid once Mother's money would run out in the assisted living section - which would be fairly quickly.

Everything was upbeat until we got to finances.  At that point, honestly, the story changed so dramatically I was dumbfounded.  

We went from "there's no buy-in, and there's no lease, it's all month to month," to "well, she doesn't have enough money to keep her in Assisted Living for a year - she would need to do that."

We went from "we will come out and do an assessment with you and your mom and make the determination as to whether or not we think she needs to be in memory care," to "well, since she's living on her own and is still doing so much for herself, she's not going to be able to be approved for memory care.  Even if we tried to get her in there, Medicaid would come do an assessment once she's here and they would, I'm sure, disapprove it." and then, I guess, she would be asked to leave.  

So.  Because there's no profit in it for them, that bed that had my mother's name on it, according to them, is no longer available.  

I called the agency who had initially given me the name of the facility when I got home because I wanted them to know that things weren't exactly as they thought they would be.  When I shared my story with them they were stunned.

They called the facility this morning and when they hung up the phone, they were still under the same impression they were originally.  Sadly,  that impression is, in fact, not entirely correct in a face to face, let's talk finances, meeting.

It's a for-profit facility - I get that.  Unfortunately, my mom and dad were never wealthy people.  And now my mom has almost outlived her money.  BUT, she's over the limit for Medicaid help.

Not for a lot longer though at the rate things are going.

Her new hearing aid should be arriving any day and there will go a couple thousand.

She needs new glasses.  My latest exam and new lenses without new frames came to $700, so we're looking at that as an expenditure.

Today I called another agency with a title that makes it sound as though they would be able to help by at least giving guidance, but told me instead that they were not allowed to counsel, only tell me the guidelines for Medicare and Medicaid limits.

I asked if they had a list of assisted living facilities and nursing homes they could send me and she said, no she was sorry but she didn't.  She named a couple, but I found more through the yellow pages than what she was able to give me.

Honestly, I'm at wit's end.  I have never felt so helpless, so overwhelmed and so stymied in my entire life and I can't quit crying.

So.  That's where we are on this journey that seems to have no end or resolution.  And the only thing I can do is cry and write about it.

Send some good thoughts our way, please.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

"Oh, Kaye!"

First Sunday of the month - Hooray!

It's my day to play "Oh, Kaye!" at Jungle Red.

Today I'm chatting about Harley Doodle Barley and homemade doggie cookies.

I hope you'll drop by -