Using Dementia Symptoms as a Guide for Action

There are so many things I don’t want to see. Last week our local bear threw a neighbor’s trash all over the lane. Yesterday, at 7:45 AM, I had to scrape thick frost off my windshield. These are signs of seasonal flux that force you to take action. But the decubitus on my mom’s foot is the sign of change that disturbs me most. I see it as a warning that new forms of care are now required.

Between the Pond and the Woods

Her decubitus is not the first dementia symptom to make me cringe. Mom’s early delusions were pretty bad and the wandering episodes were terrifying. But the development of a decubitus is scary in a new way. For those of you who have not seen one, a decubitus is a sore that often occurs on the skin covering bony areas. According to Healthline,  this type of sore commonly appears on hips, back, ankles, and buttocks. It’s a problem that often affects people (like my mom) who spend long periods in a wheelchair.

Since late May, my mother has received continuous medical care for her sore, which is in the region of her ankle/foot. But after five months, it still hasn’t healed. I’m also observing that other spots on her skin are changing color and look like they may develop into the same kind of thing. I’ve been advised to start treating her skin (topically) with shea butter to keep it smooth and flexible. But I’m still researching other options. Although we don’t usually think of skin this way, it is the body’s largest organ. We’ve got to do our best to protect it and keep it intact.

Just like the bear dining at our garbage cans, I believe Mom’s unhealed sore is a sign of transition. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of change you can prevent by adding a few drops of Clorox to your trash. It’s the type of situation that prompts you to do more research and think about new care options. And it’s a symptom that makes you ask a rotten old question: what’s next?

 

In Caregiving and in Life: Seasons Change

When I reflect on the eight year course of my mom’s illness, I see the slow and gradual toll dementia takes on people and families. But if I pause a moment to look at the world around me, I realize that the whole landscape is subject to slow and gradual change. Fall is a good time for contemplation.

Between the Pond and the Woods

I offer these images as a visual report on the environment where I live. The water featured in these photos is Lake Frances, which lies in the middle of Nescopeck State Park. It’s not a very big lake, and the park itself is much smaller than some other state parks near my house. But the lake has some kind of allure that makes me want to photograph it. Perhaps it’s that little island in the middle. Every time I see the island, I wonder how that tree got there. Was the island part of the shore before the lake filled in after some flood? How long has that tree been growing there, surrounded by water?

Between the Pond and the Woods

Life is so full of mysterious happenings. These questions are the ones that make me curious and engaged, even as my mom’s illness keeps me worried and often sad. Why does Mom still laugh so much when she can barely speak? How can she eat so much, move so little, and never gain a pound?

Between the Pond and the Woods

Like the changing of the leaves, these things can probably be explained by science. But science doesn’t interest me right now. On days like this, I am more intrigued by the mysteries of life itself.