I hope you’re having cake in heaven!

Every November 18th for as long as I can remember, I’d purchase some type of cake to celebrate my beloved Aunt Frannie’s birthday with her. Today, November 18, 2013, marks the first of her birthdays we can no longer celebrate together, as it’s been almost exactly 3 months since her death. BUT It doesn’t mean we didn’t celebrate it. I took Mom to the doctor today, almost a traditional appointment on this day with her neurologist. Our usual routine was to go to the doctor’s office in Chevy Chase, then drive the short distance to Silver Spring to have lunch and dessert, or just birthday cake with Frannie. It was almost bribery of sorts because even though Mom loves this doctor, she hates to get in the car to actually Go! I’d always remind her that there would be cake afterwards. Her response then was, “Ok, let’s go!”. 

I wondered how today would go. I was immediately sad when I woke up this morning, knowing there’d be no cake at the end of the doctor’s visit. When Mom and I got in the car, I asked her if she knew what today was. She said no. I told her that it was November 18th and asked if that day meant anything to her. She said “it’s someone’s birthday. I know it’s not mine because mine is February 18th!”. Yay Mom, that’s right!! She then said, “I think it’s Fran’s birthday!”. I wasn’t sure what to say. I was hoping she wouldn’t ask, “are we going for birthday cake now?”. Thankfully she didn’t ask that. Instead, she asked if we could sing happy birthday to Frannie. I said “yes!”. I think we sang it LOUDLY about 10 times, but that was OK with me!! It was one of the times that I was really happy with her constant repetition!! It was the best rendition of Happy Birthday Ever!!! 

We also survived the trip to the doctor without a hitch! Mom couldn’t answer any of the questions, and said her usual “I don’t know what I’m doing” constantly, but that was ok too. We had given Dr. Coerver a copy of my book on our last visit. So today she told me how much she loved it, how honored she was to be mentioned in the book AND how helpful she knew it would be for others. I was thrilled!

On the ride back from the doctor I showed Mom the book I made for her great-granddaughter Kendal’s birthday, coming up in a few weeks. She read it out loud of course and enjoyed looking at all the pictures in the book of me, Tim and Kendal. She really was into the book and I was pleasantly surprised by how the short book held her attention for almost the entire 45 minute ride home. All of a sudden, Mom proclaimed “she looks smart, like you!” When I asked who she was talking about she pointed to Kendal’s picture in the book. I explained that Kendal was going to be enrolling in Montessori school in January and how excited I was about that. I didn’t expect Mom to remember that my sister worked in Montessori for almost 10 years prior to going to Head Start, and of course she didn’t given that she no longer remembers she had another daughter. 

Mom seemed excited about Kendal and school. She said she’d make Kendal a dress for her first day of school just like she did for mine. I told her we’d love that. She said she’d pick out material soon and so as not to wait til the last minute. I smiled. “Make sure she reads all the time!”, Mom insisted. “We will”, I assured her. What I’m most excited about is that Tim and I have chosen to help with the cost Kendal’s education for as long as we can. My Mom was a stickler for education, for reading and for learning all you could, no matter the cost. She felt any sacrifice made for a great education was worth it! I feel exactly the same way! Interestingly, at my brother-in-law Butch’s funeral this past Saturday, many of the folks who spoke about him shared how much Butch stressed the importance of a good education, and how they proceeded to get their education because of Butch’s encouragement. I was impressed, and it was certainly a fact about Butch that I didn’t know. 

I am positive that I wouldn’t be the person I am today, nor where I am career-wise, had it not been for my education made possible by the sacrifice of my Mom, and (in my high school years) my grandparents. I know that whatever help we can provide for Kendal’s education will be more than worth it. It’s one of the best ways I know to honor my Mom, and Frannie, my second biggest cheerleader! 

So on this November 18th I say, Rest in Peace Butch, Happy Birthday Frannie and Thanks for everything Mom, Love you! 

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“Can they hear me now?”

That’s what I was wondering as the show called The Medical Hour began at 5pm this past Sunday on WCBM radio in Baltimore, MD. It was my first ever radio show and I was excited beyond words. My hosts on the show, Drs.Tom and Carol Ritter chatted extensively with me before buying one of my books at the Baltimore Book Festival in September. After the purchase they walked away with their book, but returned 5 minutes later and asked me if I was interested in being on their show. I tried not to act too excited as I said “I’d love to”. The interview was AWESOME (at least in my opinion). The best part was that Tim got to sit in on the interview too! It was just like I imagined it would be, complete with the “On Air” sign lit up on the wall. A couple of people even called in to the show!! That’s when I knew at least a few people were listening. I hope it was beneficial for them to hear and learn more about the epidemic also known as Alzheimer’s disease.

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On Monday, Veteran’s Day, I had yet another first experience. I attended the 27th annual Caregiving Journey Conference held in Alexandria, VA. I was a vendor, selling my book, but because of how the church conference center was set up, the vendors were in the huge room along with the two hundred plus attendees instead of in a separate exhibit hall. That meant that we could participate fully in the conference itself. It’s taken me a couple of days to process how much I learned during the all-day conference sponsored by the Northern Virginia Dementia Care Consortium. I’m saving all of the handouts so I can refer to them later and share them with others. I was pleased with my books sales, but even more pleased with the connections I made. Being in a room with more than 200 people, all caregivers of loved ones with dementia was sobering!! Certainly confirms for me that this disease is a true epidemic.

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Along with my other new experiences, I’m also feeling great about the new purple outfits for Alzheimer’s Awareness I’ve been wearing to the most recent events. I feel as if I’m making a difference with my body, mind and soul!! Even more comforting for me is that there are lots of people in this with me as well!! Woo Hoo!! Look out Alzheimer’s, there are lots of people working together intent on eliminating you from the list of horrible diseases! 

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It’s been a great week so far!! Can’t wait to see what next week has in store!! Until then, I’ll keep making memories!! Love you Mom!

“Who would want to read a book about me?”

That was the question my Mom asked me a couple of years ago when I first mentioned that I was going to write a book about her. As it turns out, a lot of people would read a book about my Mom. Since the book was published on February 1st of this year, Being My Mom’s Mom has sold almost one-thousand copies. I’m so excited I could burst!

We are ten days into National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and my pledge to do at least one thing per day to honor my Mom and bring more awareness to this disease. I’m stunned by all the things I’ve been able to accomplish thus far. I’ve posted a short video clip about my Mom on Facebook and Amazon, joined ten Alzheimer’s Awareness groups on Facebook and Pinterest, donated five books and met with five librarians in DC and three MD counties and booked a guest spot on a radio show and a book club discussion brunch for December. I’ve also worn purple, the color of the Alzheimer’s awareness, five times this month. I’m hopeful that these first ten days are only the start to what I can accomplish before this month ends. 

The highlight of the ten days thus far was my appearance at Arden Courts Memory Care Community in Silver Spring MD (see pic below). It is a wonderful community for Dementia patients, beautifully organized into four small neighborhoods. The talk I gave there this past Wednesday was awesome, and my amazing host Julie Boone-Roth purchased 25 books in advance as gifts for attendees, completing my largest sale to one group to that point. I felt so blessed and embraced by the group, all of us connected by this horrible disease. While all that was fabulous, it wasn’t even the best part of the night. The best part was truly a miracle in my mind. A woman in attendance Wednesday night who called my presentation “captivating”, hired me on the spot to be the keynote speaker for her staff’s holiday and recognition party in December. That opportunity alone is great, but she also purchased 50 signed copies of my book as one of the holiday gifts for her staff members. I was simply blown away!! 

I thought of my Mom all the way home from Silver Spring that night, because the rest of my pledge for November is to donate 50% of my book sales to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my Mom. The sale of those 50 books alone will help to ensure that the amount of my donation to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s will be a great one!! It doesn’t even matter that my Mom won’t remember any of the things I’m doing this month to honor her, I know for a fact that she would be very proud!! Love you Mom!

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A lunch hour memory!!

It’s a great moment for a family memory!!! So for today’s National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month tribute to my Mom, I use a picture that means the world to me.

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This pic is one of my all time favorites of (l to r) my Aunt Frannie, my Mom Doris and my Aunt Diane. It’s simply a fabulous illustration of Sister Love!!

My mom was the oldest, and she’ll be 85 in February, but she’s unfortunately the only sister left. Diane died of colon cancer in 2006 and Frannie died almost three months ago of gallbladder cancer.

It was Diane’s death that accelerated my Mom’s dementia decline because she couldn’t process why Diane, who was 18 years her junior, would die before her. And I had no words to explain it of course.

After Diane died, I took my mom to see Frannie monthly and each of us enjoyed the visits tremendously. Frannie was so great about repeating the same stories over and over so she could continue to be connected to her sister. I was just thrilled to have family time!! Sometimes I said nothing, but just watched the two of them giggle. As Frannie was dying, she encouraged me to continue doing a great job of caring for my Mom and of course I promised her that I would. Just like when my sister died in 2011, I didn’t share with Mom that Frannie had died. I believe Mom has the right to her own happiness in her own mind, whatever that might be for her, and I don’t see grief fitting into that.

As I look today at this picture, I see not only family love, but strength too. When I get down because of my Mom’s dementia I’ll use this picture for strength, because back then, the three Perritt sisters could accomplish anything, individually and together. Remembering the lessons that each of them taught me, I know I can accomplish anything too!

Now its me and Mom against this disease! And we’re gonna make the best of it every single day! Love you Mom!

I’ve been looking forward to this day!

When you hear the word dementia or Alzheimer’s in connection with a family member, you are instantly afraid. You wonder what will happen tomorrow, or the next day, or next year. Then there’s usually a period of denial. You think it won’ t be as bad as you’ve read or heard about. 

BUT it IS as bad as you’ve heard or read. It’s horrific actually. Many of you have loved ones who are victims of this horrible disease too. This year is my mom’s 7th since her dementia diagnosis. The first three weren’t all that bad. I kept tabs on her from 45 minutes away, I did the grocery shopping, wrote the checks and became her power of attorney. During those first few years, my volunteer work centered around my church and the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. I had begun participating in the two day marathon in 2005, the year my sister was diagnosed with MS. Doing any work connected with Alzheimer’s or dementia never once crossed my mind. 

Then my mom’s situation became pretty bad pretty quickly. I had to move her almost overnight from her apartment into a group home ten minutes from my house. I began doing more research into the disease, its causes and stories about caregivers too. But I still wasn’t compelled to do anything. I had begun keeping a log of my mom’s appointments and daily activities.

In 2011 when I began taking over more and more of my mom’s affairs, I felt more like her mother than her daughter. A few funny conversations with my mom produced the title of what is now my book on our journey so far. The book, which was published in February of 2013, has allowed me to meet and talk with so many people who have been impacted by this horrible disease. I was becoming more and more ready to do something, primarily because all the research I’ve conducted has shocked me. More than 6 million Americans are afflicted with this disease. Financially, it has ruined thousands of families. This is scary stuff!!

Then earlier this summer I learned from a meeting with the DC Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association that November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. I decided that aside from what I’ve done thus far, I would devote the entire month of November to my mom. I’ll do something different every day this month to honor her. So here we are on November 1st. I was so looking forward to this day!!

So what did I do today?  I joined the Facebook community of USAgainstAlzheimer’s Cause, which I didn’t even know existed until today. It’s a national advocacy network committed to ending Alzheimer’s by 2020. That would simply be awesome. I also joined a subset of USAgainstAlzheimer’s called the African American Network Against Alzheimer’s. It was created because African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as other groups and it is the 4th leading cause of death for older African Americans. I read ten articles on the disease, and current legislative efforts on Capitol Hill. I learned so much I didn’t know, and even forwarded a few articles to friends. 

I also committed today to give 50% of my book sales for this month to the National Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my mom. It’s been a great day, and I’m thrilled at how the month to honor my mom has begun. She would be proud.

Purple is the color of the National Alzheimer’s Association and the fight to end Alzheimer’s. So here i am in my light purple (also known as lavender) sweater thinking of the other activities I’ll do this month. Love you mom!!

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