A Weekend of Lights, Cameras, and Lots of Action!!

I learned on Friday May 7th that I had been selected as a Thriver for the Robin Roberts series Thriver Thursdays! A week after that, I was introduced to her production team and filming was set for May 22nd and 23rd. Initially I didn’t tell a soul because I just didn’t believe it was true! The producers worked with me to determine the hours we’d be able to film with Mom at the group home, and with my family members and friends. That’s when I started to believe it!

I spoke with the owner of Lifesprings Eldercare to get permission to film inside the group home and we set up a game plan to film Mom in the family room area, on the deck and in her bedroom at the end of the shoot. On the morning of the shoot I realized how big a deal this actually was when I arrived in the front of Mom’s group home to find three men unloading a huge truck of camera and sound equipment. The first task I was given was to film my arrival at the home, so Go Pro cameras were attached to my car and I left the area, drove a mile as instructed and drove back into the driveway and parked. I then went to the front door and rang the bell. The camera crew was behind me with huge cameras and a boom microphone and I was wearing a microphone as well. There were additional lights set up inside the house as well.

The World’s Best Caregiver Janet greeted me as always but I was entering the front door for the first time since the start of the pandemic. I usually entered in Mom’s bedroom but for the video shoot I was allowed in. Mom and I then did a variety of activities and she for the most part was oblivious to all of the cameras and mics around her, though several times she did look directly and the camera and the men operating them. The camera guys would zoom in on pages we were reading or activities we were doing! We spent about 30 minutes inside and 30 minutes on the deck. Janet and the other caregiver Sharita also looked out for the other residents inside the home. For the last part of the shoot, Mom was wheeled by Janet and Sharita down the wheelchair ramp on the deck directly to her bedroom. We took a few more pics and said goodbye. We were there for almost three hours and Mom was alert for the entire time!! It was amazing!

Next stop was my house and the crew quickly determined they wanted to film in my front yard. I was interviewed first and it took a little more than an hour. It was an amazing interview and I felt so comfortable, but it was more emotional than I thought it would be, primarily because I had to focus on the loss of Tim and our lives together and how the two of us cared for Mom as Team Veney. At the end of the interview, I was really overwhelmed so as I walked over to my family and friends I was in tears, and so were they. My niece Nia was next and she did a fabulous job talking about Mom, me and Tim. I was so impressed by her entire interview. After her shoot her husband Keith and their kids Krista and Karter got a tour in Joy and we had a ball! Next up were my friends from church Louise Walsh and Jan Lipscomb who were interviewed together about the support group they started for me after Tim’s death. They were sensational as well and shared that I had inspired them in our group meetings as much as they had inspired me.

Next up were Kim and Kendal and it was a very emotional interview for me to watch because the interview was so focused on great loss – of their parents / grandparents and dealing with Mom’s not recognizing or knowing them. The last segment of the day was one cameraman, me and Gabriel, one of the producers shooting the LEGO pieces that are part of my Art Against Alzheimer’s exhibit for The Longest Day Alzheimer’s fundraiser. They were blown away by the LEGO models and the meanings I attached to each of those models. By the time the crew broke all of the cameras, lights and sound equipment down it had been more than 10 hours since the day had started.

I knew I was so emotional during the day because I was so sad Tim wasn’t with us for this really amazing event. Yet, one of the most stunning things about the day for me was the presence of Tim all around the photo shoot. First you could see my RV Joy in most of the shots and the name Joy is on an orange background for Tim. Second, Tim had selected our patio furniture years ago, AND of course the cushions he selected were primarily orange, his favorite color. Those very chairs were the seats that all of us were interviewed on! Everyone involved commented on how we were sitting on Tim’s chairs. Finally while filming the segment with Kim my next door neighbor Michael, who has a disability, walked into the shot and all you could see was this big orange figure! Turns out Michael was wearing the orange t-shirt we’d all worn on the first anniversary of Tim’s death. Tim was absolutely there for the entire day!

The second day of the shoot only involved me, one cameraman and a producer (both named Gabriel). This day was to shoot BRoll, which is primarily action shots with very little talking. I walked through my old neighborhood of Petworth in DC, stopping at the house I was born and raised in . Then it was off to my church home of the last 15 years, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Capitol Hill. I walked through the garden and sat and reflected as instructed all while on camera. It was so cool that my friend Tracy, who was part of my church support group and our Rector Michele Morgan used my phone to take pics of the photo shoot for me!! I was so grateful to them! Our last top was to one of the highest places in the city where you can see almost all of DC. It’s on the grounds of a Catholic Church in SE DC. In addition to taking lots of photos of me with that stunning background, we also took selfies together to remember our weekend together!!

The two Gabriels (GabeSquared) treated me to brunch at Busboys and Poets in SE DC and it was a fabulous time with great food and conversation. I feel as if our weekend photo shoot has connected us as friends. I learned during that meal that there are 6 Thrivers chosen for each season (this will be season 4) all focused on different topics and that the show will be produced over the summer and will air this fall. They will be in contact with me to publicize my segment of the series and I’m so grateful I’ll be working with them in the future. As Gabe put it, “once a Thriver, always a Thriver!”. There is hope that all of the Thrivers can go to NY at some point now that COVID is ending. Previous seasons had Thrivers going to NY to appear with Robin Roberts. Whether I get to meet her or not, being honored as one of the Thrivers is incredible in and of itself! This is a weekend I won’t ever forget and I plan to continue to Thrive and Inspire caregivers who care for those with dementia. One of the coolest things about the entire photo shoot was when I was instructed to look directly at the camera, fold my arms and say “YEAH, I”M A THRIVER!” I hope all caregivers know that they too can Thrive! Love you Mom, this is all for you and the millions of others suffering from Alzheimer’s!

The Power of Connection Part II!

I’d divide the Month of April into three parts. Not by the beginning, middle or the end of the month, but by the power of connections I made during the month.

For the entire month of course I was connected through our deep love to my Mom. Once someone goes into Hospice, there’s no set timeframe for the end of life, so you spend as much time with your loved one as possible and I only missed seeing Mom three days this month. Some days Mom would chat a lot and be very engaged, and other days she was somewhat alert but didn’t say a word. Regardless, I made every possible moment with her filled with as much joy as possible. She’s given pain meds whenever she gives any indication that she’s in pain, but most of the time we laugh a lot as Mom reads her magazines.

I made connections in different areas with people I was already very connected with. I’ve given many presentations to support groups and at conferences for Johns Hopkins Medicine and though my contacts there who have become friends over the years had heard about my LEGO work we never discussed using LEGO bricks in any of the work I’ve done for them. So I met with my three contacts in mid-April and gave them a presentation on LEGO Serious Play. Not only were they very impressed with my presentation, they’ve already booked several sessions for their caregivers and professional staffs. Of course I’m wishing I’d met with them well before now, but so grateful that a new and powerful connection is now underway. That new connection inspired me to continue to share LEGO Serious Play with as many people as possible because I strongly believe in it’s restorative power for professional and family caregivers.

I also made several connections out of sheer necessity. There was a recall on my RV Joy and while she was in the shop getting that work done, I also authorized them to get her ready for this year’s camping season. They fixed quite a few things and kept me apprised every step of the way, even sending me pictures of issues they found. It was some of the best customer service I have ever received and though the repairs were costly at $2,700 I know I will be very safe on the road. I also ran over a nail in my car and needed two new tires, but connected with our local Mr. Tire which was always Tim’s favorite place and they took great care of me as always. Then when I was on my way to see Mom this week, my car battery had died, so my original battery had to be replaced by my Ford dealer where they also take very good care of me. At almost $4,000 it was a very expensive month, but the investments are well worth it given I’m usually always on the road alone.

My other re-connection this month was with my RVing Women sisters as we gathered for our first camping rally of the season. Though we were still keeping our safe distances and wearing masks it was fantastic to be with them again. We also had a special treat of being interviewed by the French press who wanted to talk to RVW Chapter members about being out on the road seeing the country given that Nomadland was up for (and won) the Oscar for Best Picture. It was fun being in the article and then seeing the article first in French until we received the English version.

The most amazing! connections I made came at the end of the month. I had connected with a woman named Melissa more than a year ago who is very well known and respected in the senior living / home health care space who had participated in my Pilot LEGO Serious Play virtual class in January. She had also attended a virtual presentation of mine, BUT we’d never met in person. We not only met for the first time this week, we saw each other three days in a row at events she invited me to! Melissa graciously connected me to some amazing folks in the memory care, assisted living and health care spaces who I will likely be working with in the future for presentations and LEGO fun! It felt strange at first, but was so incredible to network again (even with our masks) after 14 months of being homebound and to meet some amazing young people doing incredible work with seniors! I was absolutely blown away yesterday to visit Brandywine Living at Potomac, an incredibly gorgeous brand new Assisted Living and Memory Care facility where the first few residents have just moved in. I had a great chat about LEGO Serious Play with Brandywine’s activity director.

Today was definitely the best day of the month and the best way to end the month!! With several upcoming LEGO Serious Play sessions scheduled for June I ordered a case (the only way to buy them) of LEGO Serious Play materials. They are individual sealed bags of LEGO bricks to be used with a facilitator. LEGO shipped the materials on April 21st and gave me a tracking number. I tried pulling up the tracking info for the next couple of days but it wasn’t available. I got home from camping on the morning of the 24th and tried the tracking number again. To my surprise it said the package had been delivered on the afternoon of 23rd. There was no package and no one in my neighborhood had seen the box and video cameras didn’t detect a FedEx truck anywhere on our block before, during or after the time the box was supposedly delivered. Very concerned about my $565 worth of materials I filed a claim with FedEx and as of this moment I’ve not heard a word from their investigators. Hoping that LEGO might have some advice for me, I reached out to them on Wednesday night. Late last night they answered my email and announced that they would re-send my entire order at no charge to me. It was the first message I saw this morning and I thought it was a joke, but this afternoon I was notified that new box was shipped and then I jumped for JOY!! I have been a loyal buyer of LEGO products for most of my life and am a VIP customer, YET I didn’t expect them to replace my order, I was simply hoping they’d push FedEx to look for or replace the order since it got all the way to my Zip Code, just not to my house. It’s amazing to me that one of the most important connections throughout my life that I love so much showed me today that they love me back! I give them the Customer Service of the Year Award! Connections really are everything!

The Power of Connection!

Tuesday March 23, started like every other day. I got up at 4am, worked out, then got ready for work. I had just pushed the button on my coffeemaker at 5:55 when Janet called from Mom’s group home. Mom was in pain and moaning, so 911 was immediately called.

Mom arrived at Southern Maryland Hospital’s emergency room at 6:55am. The first call I received was around 8:30am requesting permission to treat her, but it was the second call around noon that stopped me in my tracks. I was told that Mom has some sort of infection / inflammation in her gallbladder which had spread to her liver and that they’d give her something for the pain and the surgeon on duty would call me shortly with “options”. My head started to spin.

The call from the surgeon came around 3:30pm. She explained that Mom was in acute liver failure and needed some sort of surgical intervention and she was calling for a decision on what I wanted done for my Mom. One of the hardest things I’ve done over our now 15 year journey was to explain to the surgeon that my Mom didn’t want any type of surgical intervention or tubes or anything done to her. I asked if Mom could survive without surgical intervention and was told that Mom’s condition was extremely critical and that it was unlikely that someone her age would survive this. She stated that any surgical intervention would likely hurt Mom more than help her without prolonging her life. I asked if I could see her and she said due to COVID she couldn’t authorize it but she’d try to get permission for me to see Mom. I was asked if I wanted hospice to be called and I said yes. Our family has had wonderful hospice experiences with my grandmother, aunts and my sister.

Permission was granted and I arrived at the emergency room right before 5pm. By that time Mom had been alone for about 10 hours. She looked small, frail and literally scared to death. I was devastated. I asked if there was a prognosis and was told she’d likely live for a few days or weeks. We were moved to a room and I was told I could stay with her as long as I wanted and could spend the night in the Lazy Boy chair in Mom’s room. I advised that I wanted Mom to be taken back to the group home and they agreed to discharge her on Wednesday.

I began reading to her from The Book of Joy by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It’s an incredible and uplifting book and Mom started to nod as I read certain parts. She was breathing funny and I was pretty sure she was dying. They gave her oxygen so she could be comfortable. I played spa music and continued reading. Her eyes had been closed for most of the evening, but then at 11pm her eyes opened and she was awake for almost the rest of the night. Every time she looked at me she nodded and smiled. She was recognizing me!

Through the night we hummed along to jazz, the oldies and some gospel music too. I continued to read to her. By morning when breakfast arrived she had no idea how to use the spoon for her oatmeal so I fed her. I turned on the tv and she watched the people move across the screen. She began pulling on her oxygen tube and was very fidgety but I didn’t have anything with me to keep her hands busy like I usually do. I found the hospital’s menu in the drawer and that saved the day! She read the menu items over and over and was literally having a ball. Who knew menu items could be so exciting!!!

By noon on Wednesday I had met with the hospice leader and some of the rest of the hospice team who were assigned to Mom and she was admitted to the hospice program. I was told Mom would be picked up and transported back to the group home at 4pm. I was relieved. Just then the nurse supervisor came in to notify me that I had exceeded my visiting time limit and needed to leave as soon as the doctor came and spoke to me. I was surprised as they’d told me I could stay as long as I wanted and Mom was leaving in four hours anyway. But I said OK I’d leave. Ten minutes later the doctor arrived and took one look at Mom and how great she looked compared to the previous day in the ER. She told me to “disregard” what the nursing supervisor had told me, that it was clear to her that Mom was responding to me being there. I can’t imagine being in the hospital during this COVID period because very few people come into the room and there’s virtually no interaction unless the patient is in crisis. I was relieved that I could stay and the nursing supervisor returned and apologized to me. For the remaining four hours before Mom’s transportation arrived we hummed and sang, read the menu and laughed at absolutely nothing. We were together for 23 hours and it was priceless.

Mom is happily in her own bed in the group home, is now feeding herself again we are taking it day by day. She’s being pampered every single minute by Janet and she deserves it! I really need to get her a Wonder Woman cape! On Friday afternoon I went to meet the hospice and group home nurses and the hospice social worker who was there too! After they all left, Mom and I had a wonderful visit, and you KNOW it included LEGO bricks!! I had just attended a lunch-time session called “Six Bricks” given by a LEGO facilitator from Ireland and tried some of her techniques with Mom. It was amazing!

The COVID pandemic has left millions of people isolated, alone and unconnected, and that’s so devastating because the Power of Connection is what keeps us going! I know how fortunate I was to be able to be with Mom in the hospital this week. I was terrified for the first few hours when she was doing so poorly, but the more we connected through the night, the stronger we both became. Never underestimate the Power of Connection! Please connect with someone today!

A Different Kind of Happy Hour!

Almost everyone knows by now that not only do I love all things involving LEGO bricks, I am also a trained facilitator in a methodology called LEGO Serious Play (LSP). This year I’ve been focused on using LSP with family and professional caregivers and staffs of assisted living, adult day programs and memory care facilities to help them ReBuild Joy with LEGO bricks. Last November I also took a course that taught me how to facilitate LSP sessions virtually, which I never thought was possible until COVID hit.

There is a large group of LSP facilitators from around the world who connect via a LinkedIn page and through gatherings to share ideas and collaborate. I’m now part of that group and will be gathering with them next week for an exciting four hours of learning and sharing. One of my new LSP facilitator friends is Anat Shabi and she hosts a LSP Happy Hour on Fridays at 5pm London time which I was looking forward to attending. After missing a session two weeks ago because I screwed up the start time due to the time difference, yesterday I got the time right and attended an amazing session!!

In honor of her birthday this week, the theme of Anat’s Happy Hour was Gifts, our gifts to the world and the rewards of giving! I was stunned by the global representation in the group, with folks from the US, UK, India and New Zealand!! Some in the group where it was 5pm enjoyed their favorite drink, while the rest of us who were attending during the lunch hour or late at night enjoyed water or coffee. After friendly greetings we got right to work on the theme of Gifts and I learned something cool in the first two minutes! Anat instructed us to close our eyes and pick five LEGO bricks from the pile of all colors and shapes of bricks we had in front of us and then build a model to represent one of our unique gifts and how we share it with the world!! It was more difficult than it sounds and incredibly four of the five bricks I picked were the color green! Don’t know how that happened but it was amazing!! The group’s sharing of their “gifts” stories was very powerful!!

For the second task we went to breakout rooms with a partner to discuss a gift we had given to others and how it made us feel!! I was partnered with Christina from New Zealand who shared that she’d been following my posts involving on LinkedIn and was very happy to meet me in person!! The feeling was mutual!! We spent our 10 minutes together sharing the stories of our models!! I learned how kind and giving Christina is! Before I knew it our time was up and we were back in the large group.

Anat is a very skilled facilitator and the hour she led us through flew by! I learned a couple of things about myself and learned a great deal about my new friends. LEGO bricks have always been much more than a toy to me, they are truly a means as Anat put it so well to help us use our “unique gifts and innate skills of listening, inspiring, empowering and giving hope” to truly make a difference in this world. It was a very Different Happy Hour, one in which we enjoyed our favorite beverages along with recognizing and embracing the gifts we each share with the world. I’ll definitely drink to that!

Going With the Flow this week, Literally!

This has been a week! Mom turned 92 on Thursday and I had already accepted that I was only going to be able to see Mom from the deck of the group home and possibly get a glimpse of her cutting her cake and opening her card. But the snowy, icy weather didn’t even allow that, so for the first time in my life I didn’t see Mom on her birthday. I was able to take her balloons, cake and card over the day before her birthday and I’m grateful for that. But because there was absolutely nothing I could do about the situation, I just went with the flow. I loved the pics I was sent and I know Mom had a great birthday. Janet and her family even bought Mom a cool sweatshirt that said “I turned 92 in a quarantine in 2021 and none of you are invited”… that was Priceless!

Like everyone else, I watched in horror the news of the people in Texas literally freezing to death without power and water. I kept asking myself how is this happening in the United States in the same week that we landed a rover on Mars that is sending phenomenal photos back to earth. It was heartbreaking! People wanted to send help, but the news made it clear packages wouldn’t get to their destinations in time to help due to the travel conditions. So we all sat around feeling helpless. Not the time you want to just sit and do nothing. You don’t want to go with the flow, you want the water and power to flow as it should.

I woke up this morning looking forward to spending most of the day with Kendal who I hadn’t seen since the end of December. I got up at 5am to get some work done before Kendal’s arrival at 11am. Two minutes later, the start of my day took a little turn. I went into bathroom and stepped into about 4 inches of water, truly a first. I grabbed my mop and bucket and began bailing out the water while trying to determine where it was coming from. I called Michael and Sons as soon as they opened and was scheduled for an emergency call between 1:30pm and 3pm. Between Bible Study and virtual church I bailed water. When Kim dropped Kendal off, we all bailed water before Kim went out to grab us lunch. After Kendal and I enjoyed our lunch, we bailed water now coming from the shower, under the sink and under the toilet. Kendal bailed outside the bathroom and I did the interior. We then did an Art project and played with LEGO bricks before bailing more water.

We worked out in the gym and then bailed water. We went outside and played frisbee in the cold and then bailed water. At 3pm Michael and Sons advised that they were still coming but had a burst pipe at the job ahead of me and they’d arrive by 6pm. So we watched an animated movie and paused it to bail water.

Even after almost 12 hours of going along with my day and having a ball with my granddaughter, I wasn’t worried in the least about the flowing water. I had heat, and power and our day simply included a minor inconvenience of getting more physical exercise due to mopping than we had planned. Michael and Sons arrived at 5:30pm and determined that it was a clog as opposed to a burst pipe and that they’d have it unclogged in about an hour. It’s now 9pm and it didn’t work out they way we had intended. The clog is somewhere in my yard and they will be back tomorrow with a team of people to resolve it. So there’s more bailing of water in my future until tomorrow morning. So I’ll just continue to go with the flow. But as I type this my Mom is safe, I’m warm, I have electricity and water to drink and I had a glorious time with my granddaughter. Bailing water most of the day wasn’t a lot of fun, but sometimes we just have to literally go with the flow.

You Never Know How Many People You’re Helping!

I’ve been trying to write a post for a few weeks now, but I couldn’t get the words to come.

Conquering Life has been tough for me of late, I think being alone so much has taken its toll. I really miss sitting with Mom flipping through magazines and next Thursday she’ll be 92. After her seizure and hospitalization two weeks ago Wonder Woman bounced back yet again, but I wonder what the rest of 2021 holds for us. I’ve cried a lot this week primarily because of the deaths of two friends friends and a colleague.

I know that I’m following my calling and mission but every now and then I believe we all need confirmation that our chosen calling is making the difference out in the world that we hope it is (other than from our Facebook friends who are very supportive). In the last 24 hours almost on cue to help pick me up I received two phone calls and two emails from people who have only heard me speak once.

I’ve set HUGE goals for myself for 2021 and I’m working each day towards achieving them. I’m going to put this email up as my current motivation because it touched my soul. This pic is just a portion of the very long email I received from the author who is a pediatrician from southern VA. You never know how many people you are helping! The lesson I’ve learned this weekend so far is to take my own advice and just remember to take one day at a time!

Yesterday I Actually Wished I Had Dementia!

I’m glad my Mom doesn’t understand what happened yesterday the US Capitol. I wish I could forget it. At first I felt physically sick watching the events unfold on tv, and when I thought about my Mom who was always anxious, I know that if she didn’t have dementia she would have been terrified. Then at 2pm yesterday when I got off from work I was a little afraid, as I needed to leave my home and drive the 24 miles to Tysons Corner, VA for my final appointment with my endocrinologist of more 25 years. Dr. Tanen joined my team of eight doctors in 1995 who were in the middle of the thirteen year battle to save my life. I had already had 15 surgeries by then and Dr. Tanen’s primary role at first was to remove several nodules from my thyroid without surgery. We used to laugh about the fact that my thyroid is one of the few organs I actually have left. He was the youngest member of my medical team and we were the same age. Over these 25 years we also became friends. Yet, I almost cancelled my appointment yesterday because as an African-American I wasn’t excited about leaving my home with the chaos going on in DC.

I went and I’m glad I did. He was the last member of my medical team still practicing medicine and we had an amazing visit. I’m grateful for the role he played in my life as part of Team Loretta! He had a fabulous bedside manner, never made you feel inadequate for asking questions about your medical care and is just a wonderful person. When he closes down his practice in March, I hope that he and his family thoroughly enjoy retirement. They certainly deserve it.

When I returned home, the chaos was still occurring in the Capitol in DC. I was exhausted, felt physically ill and I cried. Last night at 8:30 pm I attended the nightly virtual prayer service at my church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Capitol Hill, which I also help lead a couple of times each week. That service always prepares me for rest and a peaceful night, but last night that inner peace was hard to come by. Peace was eventually restored at the Capitol of course, but yesterday will be etched in our history forever. Yesterday was only one of a couple of times I actually wished I had dementia so I could forget what we all saw.

So Many Blessings in a Year of So Few!

I had a lot of goals for the days before and after Christmas but none of them actually involved opening presents or visiting others. Because I knew I couldn’t spend time with Mom on Christmas day because of COVID and we were supposed to socially-distance from family we didn’t live with, I’d psyched myself up just to deliver my gifts and keep moving, coming back home to work on all of the goals I’ve been setting for my business for 2021. Turns out the day had some unexpected Blessings! I received a gorgeous photo blanket from my bestie Kris that captured my almost 35 years with Tim. I got to see Mom walk again from the table to the door, strolling as if she was walking through the park like we used to do. I didn’t get to see her open her gifts, but the visit still meant everything!

When I got to the house to see my daughter and granddaughter, my plan was to stay long enough for them to open their presents. I gave my granddaughter a pink and purple Jeep and a table and chair set for her treasured doll Luciana.

I gave my daughter a motivational wall hanging on believing in your dreams. I also gave the kids a gift that was 25 years old but had never been opened. It was a souvenir Tim and I bought in 1995 in Australia. It’s an orange and blue tea towel that was made by an aboriginal woman. Tim loved her stand of kitchen towels, wall hangings and pot holders. Tim purchased his favorite one, and I had forgotten all about it until found it while purging stuff a few months ago still sealed in the original package. I took pictures of it and then resealed it. After some research I learned that today that women who was selling items at a stand on the roadside is now a huge contributor to a gallery of Aboriginal Art in Sydney. I hope the kids use it well in their kitchen.

They loved all of their gifts and I ended up staying for dinner which wasn’t in my original plans. After a wonderful rib dinner with veggies, cornbread and lemon meringue cheesecake, we watched the Disney movie Mulan, and it was truly a girl power inspirational movie. So many delicious and inspirational Blessings in one day.

Meanwhile, the work on my speaking business has gone incredibly well. I’ve been in my house since Christmas day and will be here all this upcoming week continuing to work on all of my goals. I’ve made new presentations, updated my website, written entire speeches, and created specific LEGO Serious Play programs for caregivers that I am thrilled about. I feel incredibly Blessed. My website is now titled – Loretta Veney Inspires, a phrase so many people have used to describe me over the years. My new tagline is Loretta inspires caregivers to move from “I give up” to “I’ve got this”.

Like almost everyone I know I’m looking forward to 2021 and though I have rarely stayed up until midnight in previous years, I’m going to stay up this year to make damn sure 2020 leaves! I’ll likely cry a lot too, for all the people who have died or are sick from COVID, for all of the health care workers who have given every ounce of themselves to save lives, for all who are unemployed, without a place to live or who are alone. There is so much fear, grief and uncertainty in this world today – but I pray that over this last week of 2020 we can all find at least a few Blessings to hang on to from this year. Mom and I wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2021, and I thank you all for helping me survive the nightmare also known as 2020.

I’ve already received my Christmas Gift!

I’ll be alone for most of Christmas Day and that will be perfectly fine because I received the best gift ever today so I’m already completely fulfilled. I not only got to see Mom through the glass door, I got to witness something I didn’t think I’d see again!

To rewind back to this summer, Mom had three seizures, a fall that resulted in a broken clavicle and four broken ribs, and two hospitalizations. She was so weak by mid-summer that even after physical therapy she could barely stand by herself.

Because she can’t follow directions due to her dementia, the physical therapist wanted to stop working with her after 10 sessions even though Mom was approved for 18. I insisted that they finish her sessions even if they thought it was a waste of time. I’m never going to let anyone give up on my Mom! I spent weeks in early fall working to get Mom a wheelchair so we could do our best to keep her from falling again.

After Mom’s physical therapy ended, Janet worked very hard to help her regain her strength. So TODAY when I arrived she got up from the table and walked to the front door by herself with Janet following very closely behind her. Janet had called me on Tuesday to share that Mom had started to walk on her own again and I was really excited, but to see it for myself today was priceless! She not only came to the door, she tried to open the door to come out!

I never really expected Mom to regain her strength to this degree again, BUT it is proof as to why you should NEVER give up on someone with dementia. It’s why I only focus on all the things Mom can still do! No gift I might receive on Christmas could top the gift I received today! Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but today was pretty great! Love you Mom! Thank you Janet!

She’s One in a Million!!

This week was indescribable! Not only was it the week for my huge quarterly class at work, but I was also expecting my new bed to be delivered, I had two presentations and one board meeting after work and my contractor was supposed to finish up the work he was doing on my patio and sunroom.

All of that was manageable. The thing that was most scary about this week for me was the fact that yesterday was supposed to be the best caregiver on earth’s last day at Lifesprings Eldercare. Her name is Janet Wright. I met Janet in November 2018 when Mom moved to house #2 of Lifesprings. I didn’t know it then, but she was new to that house just like Mom, and they bonded immediately.

No matter when I visited, which was OFTEN, Janet was in control. She seemed to know every resident’s medicines and likes and dislikes by heart. She knew how to soothe each resident, how to calm them and how to entertain them. I was always in awe of her! She and I also hit it off right away. I always looked forward to seeing Mom at Lifesprings, but also seeing Janet. We’ve been through so much together – Mom getting out of the facility and falling down at the end of the end of the block last year, her three seizures, two hospitalizations, four broken ribs and a broken clavicle this summer.

Whenever something happened to Mom, Janet felt it as if it was happening to her or her own family. She cried when I went to the facility in person to tell her that Mom’s fall earlier that week resulted in the broken ribs. When Mom came home from the hospital she was not the same. Her legs were weak and Janet single-handedly coaxed and coached Mom to her current stable condition. Janet even checked on Mom one night at 2am and found her oxygen levels were low and called 911. Who gets up in the middle of the night to check on residents? If it wasn’t for Janet, Mom wouldn’t be here.

A few months ago I found out that Janet’s husband is on dialysis and needs lots of care himself. I wondered how she could be so focused on the Lifesprings residents when she had a very serious illness in her own family. Right around the same time Mom was hospitalized, Janet’s husband was too. Janet lives an hour away from Lifesprings and after her husband’s hospitalization she began to look for a position closer to her home and her husband. She shared that information with me and I was cheering for her to be closer to her home and family. The possibility also terrified me. It was Janet who got Mom and all of the other residents through the four-month COVID lockdown unscathed! Who was going to take such great care of the residents and give them their all like Janet did? Given her amazing skills, Janet found another position very quickly. She was originally scheduled to leave Lifesprings on Oct 17th. My heart started to beat fast as the date approached. As the weather is getting colder and our backyard visits end, I couldn’t help but think that without Janet, will Mom still be here at the end of the winter?

No replacement was found by the 17th so Janet changed her departure date to Oct 30th. She spent time training a couple of people but knew that neither of them would be suitable for Lifesprings. I was sooo happy for Janet that she’d found a job walking distance from her home with a better salary. I got a beautiful thank you card for her from me and Mom and tried to prepare myself for her last day.

And then a MIRACLE! Janet ended up turning down the other job to stay at Lifesprings. She told me she LOVED THEM TOO MUCH to just leave them with anybody! And her husband approved! I cried when she said that and even now, my feelings are all over the place!! I’m relieved and feel so Blessed that our guardian angel will still be providing phenomenal care to our loved ones! But I’m also sad that this amazing woman sacrificed her own family to stay with ours. I’m not going to take her staying at Lifesprings for granted! I plan to continue to tell her how important and valuable she is to our loved ones AND to US! I hope you are fortunate enough to know a caregiver like Janet who gives their absolute all every single day! Not everyone is built to be a caregiver and there is no question that only a few are ONE IN A MILLION LIKE JANET!