On Independence and Alzheimer’s

I have always looked up to my “Gaga.” My mother’s mother moved to Florida from Vermont after meeting my grandfather at a company picnic she attended with her cousin while on vacation.  She bravely moved away from her large family and settled in St. Petersburg, Florida. She continued her career as a registered nurse and started a family with my Grandpa Barney. She had three boys followed by my mother, all within a span of 5 years AND while working full-time, nights. As a mother who now stays at home with 2 children under 4 years old, I cannot fathom having 4 children under 5 years old PLUS working full-time. She managed to run her household while  have a thriving career caring for others and supporting my Grandpa Barney’s business dreams, all while her family resided in another corner of the country and there was no Skype or free long-distance calls.

My Gaga spent her entire life caring for others. When she retired from nursing, she volunteered for Hospice, local assisted living facilities and the Historical Society. She spent summers in her hometown of Bristol, Vermont on a plat of land that has been in my family for 150 years. I would spend weeks at a time with her during summers while growing up and I cherished going to garage sales with her and hearing her historical society stories of her beloved Bristol. When I moved to Rhode Island for work 9 years ago, one of the things I cherished most was being able to drive up to see my Gaga on weekends during the summer. Gaga took pride in riding her lawnmower up and down her steep, half-mile long driveway. At 80 years old, she still mowed her own grass and volunteered to help others in need. Her independence is one of her greatest qualities.

A few years ago, my mom knew it was time for Gaga to start staying in Florida full-time. Signs of dementia were getting stronger and it wasn’t safe for her to live and travel alone anymore. My Gaga has Alzheimer’s Disease and it’s heartbreaking for all of us, especially my mom who has to make the hard decisions. Gaga is 88 years old and looks fabulous. She’s healthy and happy, but her mind is failing her. Earlier this week, she walked out of the assisted-living home she has been in for 2 years (one our family LOVES), looking for my uncle (who lives next door). Because she does have dementia, this could have been very dangerous if an employee hadn’t caught her and leaving without a family member is against their policies. Sadly, she has to find a new place to live with security specialized for memory-care patients.

Fortunately, my mom can devote her days to phone calls and visits to find a place she can move her mother to, but the entire process is draining and just plain sucks. The memory-care facilities that are nice enough for someone to live decently can cost $4-6,000 per month and most don’t take Medicaid. So unless you’re Bill Gates and can afford to send your parent/grandparent to the best of the best via cash , it’s a crappy situation. Not to mention, seeing your once-independent, vibrant grandmother have to get 24/7 care because she could dangerously wander out onto the streets.

I pray that the perfect place for Gaga to live and thrive at will appear and we will find a means to provide. If you’re the praying type, will you please keep my family in your prayers? I’d really appreciate any good thoughts at finding the best place for my Gaga. After a lifetime of caring for others, it is our turn to care for her.

Facebook-Free, Day 5 Update

Guess what? Leaving Facebook behind has been easier than I anticipated.  My friend Lindsey gave a great metaphor: “It was like cutting off a third arm… you think you’ll miss it/need it but you function perfectly fine with just 2…” I have two arms and things are going fantastic.

Facebook-free life has freed up so much time. Time I’m embarrassed to admit I had previously spent scrolling through my newsfeed and liking pictures/comments/shares/sad puppies, etc. I was able to plan and book an entire trip to Disney in one morning, something I could have never been able to do before my Facebook detox.

When I quit Facebook, I simply deactivated my account. No dramatic goodbye post or update, I simply chopped off the third arm. The texts started rolling in asking if I was ok. Concerned friends knew how much Facebook was a part of my life and were worried I was getting ready to jump off a bridge. For those friends I am forever grateful. Grateful they know me so well and care enough to reach out and say “Are you sure you’re ok?”

I am ok, actually, I feel like the weight of the Facebook world has been lifted off my shoulders. I realize that some people can pop into Facebook for 10 minutes at night without a care in the world. To me, it’s the same as someone being able to enjoy a glass of wine with friends versus the alcoholic at home guzzling down a bottle of vodka by themselves. I’m a Facebook-holic. I can’t have just a sip so that’s why I know it’s time for me to go to self-imposed Facebook rehab. I know it’s totally ridiculous. I know. I also know that life is too short to keep things around that do anything but lift you up.

Maybe at the end of my hiatus I’ll come back to Facebook in a different way. Maybe it will be just my family I am friends with: they’re the ones I miss the most. It gets lonely living 1200 miles away from family and Facebook was good at bringing people closer together. For the folks I am lucky enough to live close to, I’ve enjoyed our phone calls, texts and emails. The more “old-fashioned” methods of communication. I’m still on instagram & twitter because I can use those in moderation without letting my OCD take over and it’s nice to take a peek into my friend’s lives without Facebook.  I’d love to see you over there!

Have you ever done a digital detox? How did it help your life?

PS. My blog Facebook page is still active & I have set up my blog to automatically share  new posts over there since some people have told me that’s how they keep up :)