“When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look.” -Acts 7:31, 32
Friday! Friday!! Friday!!! Friday!!!! Friday!!!!! Woot woot! You all know I love my job and enjoy most every day there, but I do love the weekends too. 🙂 But first, let’s kick this day’s rear together, eh?
Every morning I get up at the wee hour to get ready. 2 notes here:
- Adjectival use wee bit apparently developed as parallel to such forms as a bit thing “a little thing.” Wee hours “hours after midnight” is attested by 1891, from Scottish phrase wee sma’ hours (1819); so called for their low numbers. Wee folk “faeries” is recorded from 1819. Weeny “tiny, small” is from 1790.
- Wee, to people in their super late 20s like me, can also have a bathroom reference…but I digress.
At this wee hour, every single day, I open the bedroom door to find my two cats sleeping below. First a bio:
Silver- Silver, my personal lap cat, was born in 2004. He was found outside of the Radio Shack we owned and operated for several years in a lake town called Stockton, Mo. He is around 250 pounds (at least he feels like it when he sits on you, demanding his hourly back scratch.). He is a feline AIDS carrier, so we have to watch him closely for illness, but he is doing quite good for a nearly 20 year old cat. He has been an inside cat for half his life and an outside, savage cat the rest, and he greatly appreciates/prefers this inside life. He has a deep meow that, when holding his stuffed mouse, sounds quite savage. Here he is in photo form:
Flashlight- (aka Flashbulb, Flash, Bulb, Dim Bulb etc…) Flash just appeared one day on our back porch in the winter about 4 or 5 years ago. I am a sucker for the underdog…uhhh…errr…undercat…and she was cold. I bought 6 bales of hay and made a makeshift home outside and started feeding her…but we soon got suckered into letting her in. Flash is a true Ozark Mountain cat. One hand has 4 fingers, the other 6. Her tail goes an inch or two out, then takes a strong left in an almost perpendicular direction. Perhaps because of the tail, or possibly for some other genetic issue, she is very uncoordinated and tends to fall and trip and stumble. She will also bite you…or lick you…or whatever she wants to at any given time. She doesn’t seem to smell things the way Silver, or other cats do, preferring to feel the item with her nose. She is a scrapper, for a little runt (?) and will fight off Silver as needed. Her meow is quaint and sweet and kitten-like. She is a lap cat to the rest of the house. Here is the Bulb’s photo shoot:
So, these two greet me by the door. Here is the sequence/conversation that ensues:
“MEOW. MEOW! MEOW” -Silver
meow, meep, meow. -Flash
“What is it, guys??? Did Timmy fall in the well?????” -Me, with the same tired (literally, in this case) joke from this episode of Jeff’s Collie called “The Well”:
Editor’s note: Jeff was the original owner of Lassie, and Timmy came later in the 571 episode long show. Never once did Timmy (Or Jeff) fall into the well…but he did fall into: “two lakes, a gap between railroad cars, two abandoned mines, quicksand, and a badger hole”, to name a few places. (Source) Flashlight may have learned her coordination from Timmy and Jeff.
“Meow. Meow. Meeeeow!” “meep”
Then off we go to the utility room to get some dry cat food. It is important to note here that there are three levels of cat heaven in our house, all tied to food. (Duhhh…don’t you know me?)
- Entry-level heaven is dry food. We feed the some slightly premium cat food that helps with sensitive stomachs. This is the basic sustenance that they require two full bowls of, with no bowl bottom showing. When there is bowl bottom, we hear about it.
- The mid-heaven and highest-heavens are mismatched between the two cats. Cat treats, apparently laced with catnip and some form of cat crystal meth, is Flash’s highest priority. She has been known to climb the drier, open the door, presumably with her trick paw that we have dubbed “The Swiss Army Paw”, and help herself to her treats. Meanwhile, wet cat food is Silver’s cat crack. He will quickly disperse his own plate when we deliver it at 5pm, then scootch Flashbulb out of the way and steal her’s. He wouldn’t get away with that if it was a cat treat (He would have pulled back a bloody stump.) These critical foods are only given out at 5pm. In the 4 o’clock hour, the begging begins. I swear they can tell the time and know when they have a chance… BUT, never at 5am when I stumble in. That early, they only get the dry food.
I fill up the dry food in both containers, scratch their respective heads, dodging a snap or an attempted lick (they look the same until it is too late) from the Flash, and then shove off to pack my own lunch and go.
(Note: Silver also requests I sit him in the sink with a trickle of water to wet his whistle…and a quick back scratching…as I go and when I get back. He is quite needy.
Oh, my cats…gotta love them. 🙂 Won’t replace them someday…but gotta love them. 🙂
What on Earth does this have to do with dementia????
(Sock drawer opens. Writer pulls out new, cat-theme painted shoe horn and goes to work!)
Top Nine Things You Can Learn About Dementia from my Cats
- Routine– My cats have their routine down to a science. Like clockwork. 5am…make owner get dry food. 5pm make owner get wet food and/or treats. If we do this, all is well and we get lap cats. If not, the litter hits the fan… In dementia, the patients need routine. It isn’t a good thing…it is an essential thing. When mom was mid-stage, any variation from routine caused her a mess. For example…if someone abnormal came for bath duty, what was remaining in mom from a modesty standpoint screamed “This isn’t normal” and trouble ensued.
- Sleep times– My cats sleep/rest at least 15-30 hours a day. They do get up and roam at night. Silver holds a stuffed mouse in his mouth while whining to try to wake us up. Some days there are a half dozen stuffed items from his toy box by our door. It was a rough night. In dementia, nighttime roaming is called sundowning. I have 2 dozen or more pieces here discussing this, but it is hard. All we can do it try to meet their felt needs as best we can, keep them safe, and wait. Sundowning is very hard on them and on the caregivers. Here are some things that can be done to try to help: (Source)
- Unexpected bites– Flash, as mentioned, lashes out occasionally. Rarely, but you have to assume it is always in the range of possibilities. She very seldom hurts us, but it is scary if you are not expecting it. Dementia patients MAY also lash out. Some who used to be timid turn Iron Mike and swing fists. Others that used to have a bad temper turn into kittens. Be aware that it is possible. Teepa Snow has some great videos that show how to redirect and to mitigate the hard behaviors like anger and lashing out.
- Hiding things– My cats tend to play with ping pong balls that end up getting hidden from them under the piano or the couch. They love that. They wait around for it to reappear (it seldom does) for quite a while in anticipation. They also dig the laser pointer. They chase it and are spellbound when it disappears. Their litter? You guessed it. They hide their toileting there… What do these have in mind, in varying levels? Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps to a point. Mom used to keep a pillowcase or a big box of her most precious things and it never left her sight. Was there money in there? Nope…more likely pictures and old toys. But, if it was unavailable, she panicked. There is something to the peek-a-boo game that never goes away. We get a little scared when we cannot see what we want to see. Some feel excitement, and others fear.
- Familiarity breeds content– This is somewhat a rerun of the routine point, but not exactly. My cats do ok with other folks as long as they are quiet and at least try to pet them should they come near. My daughter’s dog, though, has only bad reference points from their time being chased by them outside in the ‘hood. The more you can stay in the realm of the familiar, the happier they are. With mom, in the early stages, before even we understood the nature of her harm, she would always point conversations back to the familiar. We should have found that to be a warning sign. Open-ended questions would steer to family or piano or gardening… Mom wanted familiar because she could control that. Reference points that were gone had to be avoided like a strange dog.
- It is safer inside, but...- My cats have both lived a decent part of their lives outside, fighting other cats/possums/birds/T-Rexes and the like. However, they also got the joy of eating grass and/or a fresh mouse. They got to sit on out porch and watch the cars go by. Some days they miss that, but we need to keep them inside where it is safe. I often wish we could protect them and have them spend some time outside! Folks with dementia also need some outside time. They know it…which is partially why they wander away (and get lost). We are built appreciating the vitamin/life-giving warmth of the sun…and we yearn to be free and be able to enjoy it. It is very hard…one of the hardest parts of home caregiving, perhaps, to balance this. When my wife’s grandma had cancer, we stayed with her for several months early in out marriage, to help her stay home. She would wake up and want to go outside to see the stars or get fresh air…at night. In the middle of the night. We had to sleep, at least some. Toward the end of her life, we ended up having to put door knob covers on the door that were loud and hard to navigate to be sure she was safe and didn’t wander away. It was a very sad life hack.
- Expressing need– Timmy/Jeff could always send Lassie to get Grandpa when something bad happened, and somehow he always got the point across. There were non-verbal cues, behaviors, and just a sense that something was required. I wish I could promise you could work this same magic with a person with dementia. The more you are around, though, the more you can spot subtle differences in behavior, in countenance, and in personality. You perhaps start to notice the many hidden problems that can cause changes/problems: toileting and/or a UTI, something hurting that they are unable to express (mom’s corn), and hunger/boredom/some other unmet need. Remember, too, that they may or may not be able to express this at all. It is up to us and our team to figure it out…and to keep an eye out.
- Affection– My cats love affection, when they want it…and only when they want it. In dementia, we still possess the human need (not merely a want) for affection…love…care beyond what is required to keep us alive. Here are a couple articles on the topic and I have written here extensively on it as well. (Link Link ). Just be there. Be present. When you approach, be sure to make eye contact, face-to-face before starting your visit to avoid scaring them (they often have a limited field of vision processing-wise). Hold their hand and love them with your tone, your words, and your smile. Don’t quiz or correct them. If they ask how a long-dead relative is, tell him or her that they are doing just fine. Redirect back to happy and feel free to lovingly. Are things the same? Nope. The dementia is still there. However, if we focus on what is left and the many good things there are, both of us will be happier.
- All good and bad things come to an end– I failed to mention a few more pets, current and past. Currently we also have an absolutely invulnerable, overweight goldfish named Whisk. He is far too old and often floats upside down, as in looking dead style…then comes right out of it. My cats not-so-much, but this fish must have 9 lives. We also have 15 snails and one slug (all unnamed, as of today) in a terrarium in my daughter’s room. They are super cute and generally pretty low maintenance. Oh, and I failed to mention Skipper, Silver’s LONG-Term brother/friend who passed away a few years ago after a long life, living at least 10 years, side-by-side with Silver. They used to sit on our deck corner posts on each side of the stairs, guarding us like gargoyles….and were super cute. They would occasionally each bring us a dead animal on the same deck so that we could have a treat as well. Poor Skipper contracted something and we had to have her put down not long ago…but Flash has filled the “void” (?) nicely. Well, dementia doesn’t last forever either. Sadly, the death rate, as of the morning of 7/31/20 is 100%. I have written extensively of the guilt of wishing, for your loved one’s sake, that the pain would be over and that they could just pack for heaven…then feeling terrible and selfish for even thinking of it! This is, perhaps, the worst or nearly the worst part of this stinkin’ disease…the long goodbye. But it will someday end. When the end happens, we have 2 choice: banish the memories of the struggle to the far reaches of our brain even far beyond the Cubs World Championship nightmares. —OR— We make some lemonade out of these stinking artichokes. I vote for the latter. Please, please, please, regardless which side of the end you are on, join in advocating, in fundraising, join a/my Walk to End Alzheimer’s team, serve your neighbor who is struggling with the disease, help with Facebook groups, help those who help (The Alzheimer’s Association and SeniorAge come to mind), pray for strugglers and for their help teams and nurses and a cure and treatments and….., and do anything else you can. This terrible disease can also come to an end someday with all of our hard work. Let’s start today. I am sick of losing friends and family…Thank you soooo much and have a great weekend! #EndALZ
Update: Nothing to report today. I can’t see her and I get generalities when I call. I hope to hear from the hospice nurse again someday soon. Mom was a little bloated Wednesday, which always concerns me due to her bouts with constipation. I hate that for her.
Dad Jokes to go to the weekend on:
“What’s the best way to watch a fly fishing tournament? Live stream.”
“When does a joke become a dad joke? When it becomes apparent.”
“I once had a dream I was floating in an ocean of orange soda. It was more of a fanta sea.”
Last note: I believe there WILL be cats and dogs and all animals in heaven. Not necessarily our lost ones from here, but who knows?? God made animals and considered them to be “Good”, so their is no reason to think they won’t be in heaven. They won’t eat each other there…maybe there is unlimited wet food and treats???