February 29, 2012

One Month Later

It was one month ago today that Erik entered his new home for the first time.  That day was stressful and we were uncertain about the coming weeks.  I'm happy to say that today I went into Erik's room and found this sweet welcome:

Erik is adjusting well, thank the Lord.   Most days he's content and able to interact in his quiet way.   He's making friends and is participating in activities.  We're so grateful.

Thankfully, there have been more good days than bad.  A "good visit" is when we enjoy our time together playing games, teasing each other and he separates well from me when I have to leave.   A "hard visit" is when he's confused, tired, and clearly upset when I have to leave.  Those partings are painful but, as I said, they have been in the minority.  There have been other challenges but they've been minor so far.

Today Erik was wearing my favorite shirt, the green beads from last week's Mardi Gras party and he was wearing the black warm up pants.  I've been hoping he would begin to put those on because they don't require a belt and have an elastic waist -- so much easier for him to manage.  I said often, "Erik you just look so handsome today!!"  While we were visiting we were happy to see our Dad come into the room with goodies for Erik's fridge.  The 3 of us had a good visit and even went to exercise time together.

Looking back over the past month I've felt so much gratitude for simple lessons God and Erik are teaching me.
1. Uncomplicated times together are good.   Some of Erik's and my best visits are when we sit and sing or play with a balloon together.  At times Erik has seemed to me to be in the process of becoming like a little child again.  He was a very happy toddler, my mom says, so I'm hoping his cheerfulness will keep going into his older years.
2.  Less is best.  Keeping Erik's room clutter-free removes decisions he has to make; he experiences less mental stress.
3.   Love always works.  The older women in his home are becoming grandmothers to him and Erik is loving it.  I love it.  My love for Erik has grown and grown.  And God's presence watches over Erik when I'm not able to be with him.
4.  Good food always blesses.   Erik came over and ate spaghetti and meatballs a few weeks ago and you would have thought it was the best ever.  Food + Erik = happy guy
5.  Erik is still a big ham and a polite gentleman.    He continues to enjoy being nice to ladies:  walking them to the door, holding their door, shaking hands, meeting people.   It's so sweet.  Well, last week we were hanging out in his room, singing to Kenny Rogers.   He put on his blue Cowboy hat.  Later we walked to the lobby where many of those sweet grandmothers were sitting.   Erik walked right up to them, stood there smiling, held out his hands to his side (like the Fonz) as if to say, "Hey, take a look at me!  Aren't I cool?"  Well, they showered him with love because he was just SO cute!!
Erik singing Kenny Rogers, with feeling

February 19, 2012

Thank God for Music

Last night we had Erik over for dinner and we listened to several songs he loved as a boy.  One of them was John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."  I was thrilled to see how much Erik loved singing it.  He must have listened to it countless times when he was young but that was a long time ago.   Music has always been a huge comfort to Erik and lately it's one we turn to over and over when we're with him.

I tried to video him singing along but it didn't turn out too well.  I'm still learning how to use my new iPhone and I'm sad that I only managed to record the tail end of the song.  This video isn't clear but I wanted to put it on anyway because his clapping and grins are just too cute.   


February 12, 2012

Is Erik talking more?

I walked in to Erik's assisted living facility today right in the middle of the Sunday church service.  Erik was seated on a couch between 2 ladies who love to "mother" everyone.   He was in great hands, singing and participating.  I pulled up a chair nearby and Erik was so cute, looking over at me and waving in his little, cute way. 

Afterward, in his room, we put away his laundry and just spent time together.   He seemed in good spirits.  He did the usual things, pointed to things in his room he wanted me to notice.  He tried to tease me and succeeded royally. Anytime I can get Erik to burst out laughing I rejoice. He laughed much. At my expense. 

Then he went and got this Dallas Cowboy hat and came over and put it on my head.

So I went and got another Cowboy hat and put it on him and - to my delight - immediately he said, "Howdy Ma'am!"   

Ahhhh, how wonderful to see some of his personality come out in verbal form! 

We were looking at all his medals.  He tried and tried to speak and finally came out with, "I ran track".   I was so excited and pointed out the medal he won at the Special Olympics and put it around his neck.   He's probably wearing it right now at dinner, showing it off to everyone.  I hope so.

February 6, 2012

New Home, New Friends

This past week has been full.   Erik is moved and settled.  If I had to describe Erik's first week at Elmcroft I'd have to say it went better than we could have predicted.   All this is so new, not only to him but to us too.  Hanging around the staff and residents has been a learning experience and I'm glad to say it's a positive one so far.  Erik is really getting good care.  His hygiene is improving and he's learning his way around.  We're blessed that Erik's dementia doesn't cause him to be angry.  For the most part he accepts the help he's given and the direction he's pointed.

The past few days I've been constantly blessed by comments about Erik from the senior residents:
"He's such a good boy!" - from a woman who used to be a teacher and sort of thinks Erik is one of her pupils.  This woman is the friendliest person I know.  She greets everyone who comes in the door like she's been waiting for you and now that you're there, her whole face erupts with smiles and she's as happy as can be.   Then she forgets that you're in the building and the next time she sees you the process repeats.

"Can you tell me, does he like coffee or juice in the morning?  Because I'm up early and I can help him get what he likes"  - from a 100 year old woman who is always out and about, using her walker - no need for the wheelchair, amazing.  Her sweetness, what a gift.

"Did you know Erik won 5 games of bingo yesterday?!" - from the tall, elegant, slender woman who lives across the hall from Erik.

"He is so sweet!!"  - from the wonderful nurse on staff who greeted Erik when he walked in the door for the first time, hugged him, took his hand and led him to his new room.

"He's not a big talker, is he?"  (haha, no) - this from the nice man who lives next door to Erik with his ailing wife, serving her faithfully.
Erik's been to sing-a-longs, sitter-cise, piano recitals and other concerts.  He's participated in church services, devotionals, music therapy, and more.  If there's something fun going on the staff goes to Erik's room and gets him so he won't miss out, isn't that wonderful? Yesterday we attended the 2:00 church service with him.  Lots of old-time hymn singing.  He's always up for that.  However, Erik can't hold a candle to sweet Dottie. She just loves the Lord and loves to sing -- she just can't stay sitting down.  When she praises the Lord, she has to get up and sail around the room with her joyful, bouncing exuberance...it's adorable!
Yesterday it became pretty clear to us that Erik really no longer knows our names.  He knows our faces.  I keep telling him every time I see him, "Erik, you're my brother".  Sometimes he says quietly, "I know".  It's always good  to hear him say something, even if it's just 2 words.  Today he was trying to say something, not succeeding.  He then pointed to the promotional booklet from his old home, Aldersgate.  He's been looking at it often.  I bet if he could, he'd tell us he misses it a lot.
We're visiting Erik every day for 2 weeks and then we'll taper off our visits a bit.  When we see him he's in a cheerful mood for the most part.  There's been only a couple of times he seemed out of sorts.  I can't tell you how good it's been to my heart to drive away from his home after watching him do something he's enjoyed.  Today when I visited I could tell he's catching a cold and I'm starting to wonder if I've got it too.  Many of the residents have chest colds right now.
When looking for a new home for Erik I had to totally trust the Lord with all the details.  And, minute by minute, I'm still having to put Erik in the Lord's hands.  Worrisome thoughts about the future often try to plague my mind.  But I'm not going to let them. I know Erik's where he needs to be and I know we will see good things as a result. (we already have)  Thank you to all who've been praying for this transition time.  Your prayers have been answered well.  Glory to our God!

First day, looking at the new room.

First day, walking around the dining room with mom and our sister.  Erik has his own special spot here.

First day, finding his way around.  They serve SNACKS here!

First day, meeting people.

Erik loved "sitter-cise".  It was wonderful to see him take to it.

One day during sitter-cize they used a parachute to work their arm muscles, fun!

Last night Erik was teasing my hubby, bopping him on the head with a balloon, then laughing like crazy.

Erik and Mike looking at pictures of his old home.  I know he misses it.

This picture warms my heart.  It was taken last Friday while Erik and I hung out.  He'd had a good morning and there were lots of fun things planned for the afternoon.

I'm hoping my sister will write a post for you to read, describing Erik's move from her perspective.  So, stay tuned again.  Thank you all for caring for sweet Erik.

February 1, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Aldersgate Family

Last Friday Erik said goodbye to his family at Aldersgate Enrichment Center.  We were worried that he'd have a hard time doing that but to our delight, he handled it well.  He had been told a few days earlier that he was moving close to family and he seemed to accept it with no problem.   When we saw him for the first time he was happy, alert and "present".  So much so, we were wondering "What are we doing, moving him away from here??"   He didn't have the blank, vacant, depressed look he had over the holidays.  Many discussions ensued between my sister and me.  With difficulty, we ended up deciding that a move would probably be in his future eventually and since we had a new place for him all prepared, we proceeded with the plan.

The night before he left, Erik was getting plenty of teasing, hugs and attention.
These days were so special, I have to include many photos in this post.

We kept hearing how much people will miss him, from his Aldersgate family, his church, and the people at the bank who helped him cash his paycheck.  I'm so grateful he was surrounded by many sweet, loving people.   

We packed and loaded his things up on Friday while he spent one more day at work.  When we went to collect him he was working at his station, assembling plumbing parts for Kohler.
Erik really loves having something productive to do.

Everyone took off work a little early to give  Erik a goodbye party, with cake and singing.

Are you surprised that Erik had TWO pieces of cake and even asked for a third? (there was none left!)

Stories about Erik in the workroom started coming up, especially the time he moonwalked.  So we got a moonwalk demonstration!

One last hug from Michelle Thomas, the Executive Director.  She was there when Erik moved in 5 years ago this week.   Michelle, we will miss you a lot.
We hit the road.  Erik was doing well, smiling and singing along (with gusto) to Glen Campbell.  Always amazes me, Erik can't communicate at all but he can still sing because singing uses a different part of the brain.  He just loves it.

Then the DQ stop, and a blizzard.  

Looking back - this move, though stressful, couldn't have gone better.  The next leg of Erik's adventure was moving into Elmcroft Assisted Living last Sunday.  Stay tuned, more to come!