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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I want to write about happy things, simple things, random topics, you name it. I don’t want to keep returning to the same unhappy or irritating topics, but that seems to be my life these days. I think I have tried really hard to be upbeat in the face of adversity, but I keep encountering so many snafus that life seems a little absurd. I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s my attitude that’s attracting these problems. What I do know is I try really hard these days not to ask what’s next.

So what’s today’s unbelievable situation?

My mother’s doctor’s practice refused to sign the necessary papers so she could move today as planned.

Why? The doctor’s policy is that he has to have seen the person recently so he knows he’s sending the best information to the new facility. That makes good medical sense.

What doesn’t make sense is that the staff at the practice says that yesterday was the first time they heard about those papers—which is why they feel we were rushing them. The papers and the request were faxed to them on Monday, March 22. The new facility left messages for them throughout last week with no response.

So yesterday, Monday, March 29, after the facility had been in contact with them throughout the day, at 4:50 p.m. someone from the office called the facility and left a message saying it was a no go.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve had trouble getting a response from the practice. The doctor is great with my mother, but administrative tasks don’t get done quickly there. In February our pharmacy made at least four requests for a prescription refill—which did not start out being time sensitive, but by the time there was a response, my mom had run out of her medication.

We were planning to change providers because it just makes sense due to the set-up at the new facility, but after our experience today, we would have done so anyway. Enough harm already.

The attitude we faced this morning seemed to be based on that saying “your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on our part”—despite the fact we didn’t give them an unrealistic amount of time to respond—especially for a practice with a focus on elder care. If they had contacted any of us to tell us Mom needed an appointment first, I would have brought her in. What I especially didn’t appreciate was that staff members didn’t seem overly concerned that one of their patients was getting caught in the middle of an administrative problem—whether or not it was their fault or our fault. My mom needs to move for medical reasons just as her current facility needs her to move.

Nobody took the time to say, “Wow, for whatever reason, we didn’t receive the request. Since we didn’t know, it’s going to take a bit longer.” No, instead they were hostile to the new facility staff and unsympathetic to me. And, I never once heard a word about how this affected my mother.

After the facility person’s visit failed, and I could only reach voice mail, I walked in to talk about the situation in person. Once I had waited twenty minutes, I was able to schedule an appointment. They squeezed Mom in today, but by then it was too late in the day to make the move. Since people with dementia are at their best in the morning, it isn’t a good idea to make a big change once it gets closer to dinnertime.

So Mom’s move happens tomorrow. Same schedule, different day.

Physicians take an oath to “Do No Harm.” But everyone who works in a medical practice or facility needs to understand that poor implementation of processes can do a lot of harm to both patients and those who love them. If the communication systems in place don’t work well, we don’t need to be treated as if we caused the resulting communication breakdown—that’s just poor customer service, whether your service is providing fast food or caring for medical needs.

At the bare minimum, medical personnel need to understand that when they see us at some of the worst times of our lives, they need to muster up some compassion for how hard it is to take care of all the associated details, especially in light of how heartbreaking many conditions are all on their own.

This is my only mother—and she has Alzheimer’s, whether or not it’s convenient for her, her family members or anyone else who has to deal with her. She’s painfully aware of much that she has lost and so am I. Is it so much to ask that we be treated as if we matter?

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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I am often a little too good at being spontaneous. Nonetheless, I think I can be that way without too much damage because I usually have such a good handle about what’s ahead on my schedule. I am Chronos—keeper of the calendar and clocks in my house—or I am at least as much chronos as you’re going to find in this Lambert household.

Which explains why I feel pretty unsettled right now. I still don’t know when something really big—my mother’s move—is going to happen. We’re waiting to get a date, as soon as the two facilities sort out the details and get the paperwork back from the doctor. Best guesstimate? Next Tuesday! Yes, today is Thursday.

When you’re moving someone with dementia, it’s not like you can do a lot in advance. Whatever grasp that person had on Time has most likely been lost. Last move, we couldn’t tell Mom because she might have run away to avoid what she had been dreading. This move, we can’t tell my mom because she still might run away—in anticipation of something better.

She doesn’t need much where she’s moving—her clothes and shoes, pictures, any blankets she likes, and any other personal effects. What I’d like to do is get a move on packing up the things she doesn’t need, but that probably would be too unsettling for her. Even though she doesn’t seem to spend much time in her room or seem to care about her possessions, I think she’d feel disoriented by changing her room while she stayed there.

Meanwhile, the world keeps spinning, ever the chronos taskmaster it is. Sherman tells me his boss is trying to schedule a department meeting for next week—and all I can tell him is when I “think” I’m going to need his help. Aargh.

Last time we moved Mom on such short notice I said I was paying someone else to do the next move. Not even sure how that would work, especially since once again we’ve received little warning.

I probably will be doing the moving work again, but I have to remember that my job needs to be more about helping my mom feel better about the transition than about my getting everything in its place.

So, I plan what I can and am trying to schedule flexibility into my calendar. But flexibility is a kairos concept and I’m the one who’s going to have to fit whatever needs to happen into the reality of chronos.

Can’t anyone ever make such a decision without throwing it in my lap last minute? And do we have to do these things when March keeps throwing me snow to clear from the parking lot? (OK—the last move happened in August, so snow was not a factor that time!)

Oh well, the truth is I’m counting the days—even if I only have a rough estimate—because I believe Mom is moving somewhere where she’ll feel better. We didn’t ask for the move, but in the end, I think it’s for the best.

Having Alzheimer’s must often feel like being stuck in the worst kind of kairos—the kind of time where you can’t figure out when things are ever going to change for the better. What I’m hoping is that as Mom being to settle into her new home, that, instead, she’ll more often be able to access the kind of kairos where you don’t know what time it is, but you really don’t care because you feel peaceful enough to stop your worrying about chronos and its relentless turning of the world. You can relax in the moment and just be.

Excuse me while I remind myself—again—just to be. Everything will happen when it happens.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

What if things get better? Then what might I do? What might I be able to share with the world?

Those were the thoughts running through my head before I realized I was about to cry. I’m supposed to be jumping for joy. If nothing else, I think I can access a sense of relief. But, of course I also want that joy that follows after relief sets in. It’s just that I just don’t know how to get there.

What if I didn’t always feel there was some urgent and important task to do? What if I could just be? How do I move beyond the firefighter mode?

I think I’ve been writing this same blog post since July 2009, but I have to tell you the fires haven’t really stopped.

Now, many of the fires just might stop—yet I’m not sure I’ve moved far enough on how I’m going to live my life when I get to choose how to do so.

You see, yesterday I had a long, very satisfying conversation with my new insurance champion. Yes, I think the job title/program sounds pretty dorky, but I’ve tried to be a champion for myself without having all the tools, so I’ll take the help, dorky title and all. Lisa said the right things with the right tone. She agreed it was time for me to live in 2010, not 2008 and 2009. Time for me to settle my mom into a better place and time to enjoy the busy last months leading up to my kids’ high school graduation.

And, I don’t know why, but that drove home the hours that can’t be recovered. I try not to dwell there, but that there represents a sometimes overwhelming amount of loss to me. Even if it were just lost hours and not heartbreak and loss of wellbeing, it would be a lot.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Maybe it’s really that this week’s very positive trifecta of the remodeling, moving my mom, and possible resolution with the insurance allowed me a chance to turn my focus to the before and after of my life. Life was always chaotic and crazy here—I personally think that’s kinda’ the way we like it—but with a lot of enjoyable busyness.

Jackson was doing better in school and getting involved in activities, Christiana was getting into the activities she was already in and starting to find her place among friends, I had a book project and was working through more of the ADD challenges, Sherman’s health was improving and he had decent bosses, and we were just getting ready to fix some long term problems around the house, both through maintenance and finding a place for things. Crazy busy, but many positive changes afoot.

Then my mom fell—and we couldn’t pretend her memory problems didn’t exist anymore.

Next came Christiana’s depression.

It’s hard enough watching those you love struggle. But there are so many administrative tasks that go along with illnesses: scheduling and attending medical appointments, medicine management, bill-paying, and driving. And with Mom, I also had to deal with her possessions. Ironically, these types of activities are the opposite of what feeds a person with ADD.

However, what scares me is that crisis and anything that stirs up emotions can also feed a person with ADD—or at least give such a person focus, even if the food is really toxic.

What then if I can choose how to spend my time? What if I can stop rushing? How will I know what to do each day if everything isn’t urgent?

When I saw the gorgeous, partially newly-finished stairs at our main entry, I jokingly asked how I could live if I didn’t expect to see ugliness when I first entered our house.

Turns out my emotional reaction to the insurance champion’s call is really like using different words to ask the very same question.

Maybe if I write this blog post enough, I’ll figure out those what-if’s—or at least mourn the lost hours enough so that I don’t waste future hours by staying in the past. That’s why I didn’t beat myself up for my mostly illogical response to good (great?) news.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert


So I’ll finish writing this post—one more time—and get back to doing some of the things I want to do today. And, I’m going to enjoy doing them . . .

because things really are looking up. I acknowledged my pity party when it hit me, but today I’d rather jump for joy. Good thing I’ve had lots of practice over the past year since Christiana, the family photographer, has been having us jump—again and again—in photo shots.

Ready, set, jump!

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

The irony is that my last blog was titled “The Opposite of Being Still”—and since that post I haven’t had enough time to be still long enough to write.

So now I still don’t have time, but I’m going to go crazy(ier!) if I don’t make the time.

What is great is that I do have some good results for all that craziness. The biggest piece is that—God willin’ and the creek don’t rise—I have found a new home for my mother. The two facilities are still working out when the move can happen, but I feel really good about the move. In fact, although her current residence asked us to look for a different place, I think the next residence is going to feel more like home to her and to us.

Many people like to tell me that whatever my mom is doing is because of her Alzheimer’s—well, of course much of it is. But I also think some of her agitation is due to who she’s always been. It makes sense that she’s going to continue to be that person with perpetual ants in the pants who really doesn’t want to be confined to a small space. Of course, she has to be in a secure building, but that doesn’t mean she has to be in a locked wing if she’s in a different type of home.

And that’s exactly what we found: a purpose-built building only for people with dementia. Everyone there has memory difficulties, so all the staff members in the building are trained to work with people in her situation. Weather permitting, residents can access the outdoor courtyards and paths which face all different directions so season of the year isn’t such a limiting factor. Will my mom participate more in a different space? Not sure, but at least she can have more regular access to movement and going outside.

Another factor in life feeling more satisfying is that we have had a contractor finishing out the trim work on our big flooring projects downstairs. Now all the work we did really looks complete—and beautiful. And, the contractor isn’t done. He’s attacking the ugly stairs and stairwell that greet us when we enter from the back door, which is our main entrance when we park in our driveway. Tomorrow! I’ll put up with a little more chaos in exchange for increased beauty and functionality in my home.

As for that unfinished business with the health care providers and insurance company . . . I’m feeling some forward movement. There might actually be a path through what has seemed an impassable morass. If nothing else, many of the secret handshakes are being exposed and we have been “accepted” into the insurance company’s “member champion” program—we need a champion, that’s for sure. I’ve done my best to be my own champion first—and I have the documentation to prove it.

Sometimes you have to move a lot before you get a chance to be still. Maybe it’s just the extra hour of sunshine this late in the day, but I feel a little bit of hope that all the movement I’ve been doing lately is going to lead to just a little more time to slow down.

And for now, that is enough.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I’m pretty sure I had a couple minutes unplanned this past weekend, but that’s about it. Is it any wonder my blood pressure was not as good as usual? Even though I arrived at my doctor’s appointment half an hour early due to my own confusion, I still felt rushed. That’s why as I waited on the table, I tried to do nothing but concentrate on my breathing, just to do what I could do to slow myself down.

I wasn’t really successful. I continued to work on feeling calmer in the few hours following the appointment, but still had a ways to go even though I didn’t do anything of note in that time period. Dr. Dennie did a better job of helping me move on in yoga class.

It’s too bad that although several of the things on my weekend “to do” list were social events, there were so many that it was hard to enjoy them as much as I could have on slower days.

I’ve been running since Thursday night (well, running more than usual!) when we bought another vehicle. Sherman found one that he thinks will work for plowing the parking lot—once we find a plow. After a test drive on Monday, we scheduled to pay for it and drive it home Thursday—which we did. Check.

Although the kids didn’t have school the next day, I had a breakfast gathering with three women from my high school class. It really was a great time reconnecting and reminiscing, although we had to acknowledge that life challenges many of us despite our best attempts at happily-ever-afters. I found it hard to say goodbyes to move on to the next appointment on the calendar.

Next I took the dogs to the vet with Christiana, only to find out we had to leave the Doxie—and I would have to come back to pick him up during her track meet at the nearby high school. Paid for the maintenance and repairs on our other vehicle, then let Christiana drive it home while I went to the DMV to get plates so we could drive the new-to-us vehicle. Was pleasantly surprised that while I was trying to grab my “number,” the voice on the loudspeaker was trying to get me just to come straight to the available clerk. That task went way better than expected!

On to the track meet where Christiana was running and I was timing. Sadly, the dog wouldn’t be available for pick-up until after the meet had been going awhile, but before it ended. I didn’t want to miss any of her events to go get him. Let’s just say I handed off my timer’s clicker after her first event and returned (several hundred dollars poorer) just in time to watch her last event.

Home briefly, and then off to a local high school music production. To bed—perchance to dream? A little bit, but not excessively, that’s for sure.

Saturday: club fun run, 50th birthday party, wedding reception, dinner, and game that I pretty much slept through. Sunday: adult learning and church, too long at Lowe’s picking up construction supplies for contractor who is coming on Tuesday, visit with my mom, picking up the house before my in-laws arrived for dinner (which Sherman cooked!) and then it was already 8:30 at night.

Which might explain why I crossed my wires on the doctor’s appointment time this morning or why I went to bed last night upset at just about everyone . . .

Too much in too little time, as well as a few big tasks weighing on my mind, not to mention any emotions connected with those tasks.

Cannot, cannot, cannot repeat another weekend such as this one if I want to do what I need to do and still take care of myself. I was trying to be there for everyone yet only did the first activity in the morning for myself.

Various people continue to ask me, “Are you taking care of yourself?” Is there a good answer? I eat, exercise, sleep, pray, and do things for myself both alone and socially. I have both support groups and professional help. But as anyone who has been in a tough spot knows, none of these things changes what I must do or face in my life.

Once again, so much comes back to how I respond to what I cannot change. And that response could still use a little tweaking . . . now to find the time to be still enough to be open to answers.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

When my father was in hospice care, a friend loaned me a copy of a book called Final Gifts, which is written by two hospice nurses. Reading this book made a huge difference to me and opened me up to a new awareness of the dying process.

That said, I wonder if my mother is in the dying process or if having Alzheimer’s puts a person in the dying process, whether or not his or her end is soon, because eventually Alzheimer’s is fatal to all who have it. Is it also possible that losing the normal brain processes opens up a window to the eternal and its wisdom?

Mom doesn’t say a lot that makes sense these days, although sometimes the message is pretty clear. What’s going to happen to her? Where will she be? Big worries about her future, for sure. We try to reassure that no matter what we’ll be there with her. I haven’t mentioned much about the comfort of Jesus, because I haven’t thought she could grasp that anymore.

But maybe I’m wrong and she can grasp that way more than I can.

Final Gifts explains how the dying process is about separating from this life and moving into the next, only when a person’s body is shutting down over time, a person sometimes moves between both worlds. The book discusses that it does appear that the dying person can sometimes see someone or something that is not present in our tangible world of the here and now.

Is it possible that a person in this time of their own purgatory can see Jesus? Can hear wisdom that comes from elsewhere?

Sometimes my mom says things that remind me of Sybill Trelawney in the Harry Potter series. The Divinations instructor seems to know very little about prophecy that is true. Her everyday self doesn’t say much that seems to matter. But in a few rare moments, wisdom flows through her—wisdom which is outside of her awareness.

A few months ago Mom was talking about things we didn’t understand. We had walked with her for awhile and she was tired and resting prior to her dinner. Very clearly, at least twice, she said, “My time here is done.” Sherman and I just looked at each other. And then she went on stringing words together that didn’t really form a thought.

I half expected a call that night.

Very recently I had the good fortune of reconnecting with someone I knew as a child. In a very fortunate God-incidence, she has just begun her tenure as the health and wellness minister at my church. She spent a lot of time with my mother in our 4-H singing group and in the youth choir at our church. My mother mattered to her. I know God’s hand is in bringing her back into both my life and that of my mother.

She had her first visit with Mom last week. Although she knows my mother doesn’t understand much, she introduced herself and explained their previous connection.

Mom had been talking about something not very relevant to the situation, but then she very clearly paused and said, “I want to tell you something, Elda Mae isn’t here anymore.”

Then she went on with her words while my friend remained stunned. Even an experienced visitation minister knows when wisdom is speaking.

What I pray for now is that Mom can hear more of the peace of Christ in however she is hearing these very clear messages in her very unclear brain. If she is moving in that connection between worlds, it is my hope that it is the comfort that will reach her as she moves toward her end on this earth—but her beginning in a world where Elda Mae will very much have her time—forever and evermore.

So in my fears, I, myself, have to pause and trust that my mother is wrapped in God’s arms and is beginning to feel his presence more and more. May she hear words from those hymns she played throughout her years as a church organist.

The ones I hear right now are from the fifth verse of “Thine the Amen”:

Thine the glory in the night no more dying only light thine the river thine the tree then the Lamb eternally then the holy holy holy celebration jubilee thine the splendor thine the brightness only thee only thee.

(Herb Brokering, 1926-2009, © 1983 Augsburg Publishing House)

Amen to that.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert