Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole with Mom

Would you believe I haven’t even had my computer on for 3-4 days?  Here’s what’s been going on…  A couple weeks ago I got a call from the Assisted Living Facility where Mom is living.  She had taken to wandering into other people’s rooms. This was not good.  The rooms were in the Independent Living side of the facility and those folks were none too happy to have some stranger looking in on their bedroom!  Something had to be done.

imageFor the first 3 years it was great that the place was so big because she likes to walk, and walk, and walk.  And, she was free to walk outside as well – the property was beautiful and there was a sidewalk all the way around the building.  When the weather was not good for walking outside, she had lots of hallways to wander inside.  Her apartment was on the 4th floor at the end of a long hallway.  She loved the view from her balcony overlooking a quiet tree-filled section of the property, facing the sunset.  And she liked the tranquility at the end of the hall.

But, for about the past 6 months she keeps saying she doesn’t know where her room is, and she continues to walk aimlessly.  We’ve been worried that, at some point, she might wander off the property and, with a busy street close by – that could be dangerous. 

I didn’t want to admit it, but her Alzheimer’s had progressed to the point where she could no longer function where she was.  God!  I HATE this disease!  My beautiful mother, who was a CPA for most of her working life, then ran a computer training center with me for 14 years (she was the Excel expert,) then retired and traveled the world scuba diving and hiking, could now be found curled up on a hallway bench, asleep, in an assisted living facility.

Luckily I got the call when we were still in Florida and planning one last visit to our Fort Lauderdale home base.  As soon as we got here, I hit the ground running and met with staff at her current facility.  They made it clear that something had to be done, they couldn’t have her walking into other peoples’ rooms!  They suggested a private aide to be with Mom every day … I acted on that option for a couple of days, researching aides and calling friends who I thought may be able to help.  But, what were they to do?  Follow her around all day and just see that she didn’t open any doors that weren’t hers?  It became clear to me that this facility was just too big for her anymore.  And, the smaller facility (on the same property) was too confining.  If I moved her there, she would still be allowed to go outside, and she would probably wander back to the original facility – so I would still need to hire an aide for at least every afternoon.  I wanted to find a facility that was “just right.”

I have a lot of friends who also take care of parents with dementia and I surveyed everyone.  Dee M told me about a place in Pompano (quite close) that is one floor and the rooms are built around a courtyard.  Sounds great!  I visited and met with staff and discussed all the details, I hung out and watched the other residents at lunch and other activities, I looked at the rooms, and I was impressed with everything I saw and heard.  I also visited other facilities but I kept coming back to “Grand Court.”  They said that I could use their ‘respite’ program to come stay there for a couple days before making the commitment to move her.  Great!  So I went and gathered Mom, told her to grab her pillow and a change of clothes, we were going for a “Sleep Away” for the weekend!


I really want to know everything, so I stayed for 2 nights, sleeping in the bed with her.  I didn’t get much sleep, but I’m confident I understand how the place works.  I know what lights come on at night, how noisy it is, how the air conditioning works, how they administer her medications, and how they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I picked a room that was just around the corner from the main lobby, and had a glass sliding door out to the courtyard.  I was thrilled the first time Mom left the room by herself and came back without help just a few minutes later.  Actually, she did that several times.  It seemed like she was testing herself!  She was excited that she had a room and knew where it was!

I never told her that she was moving, but we just started making this room be home.  After my 2-day test period, I left for the day and my friend Dee T. visited her.  They walked around the courtyard, then had lunch, and visited the craft room.  Dee sent me a text, “Marilyn says, ‘I’m so glad I decided to move to this place.’”  Tears of Joy!  That was it, the decision was made.  Here’s a picture of Mom walking in her new courtyard:


I needed, and used, the help and support of Jim and several other friends this week.  I’ve been leaning hard on my friends.  Sorry guys, if I talked your ears off about every minute detail of my Mom’s life.  Thanks so much for listening, and helping with the move.  For others of you out there dealing with this insidious disease, please read the book, Creating Moments of Joy.  It’s probably the 7th or 8th Alzheimer’s book I’ve read, but it’s the first one to get inside their confused brains, deliver some real understanding, and offer concrete ideas for improving their quality of life.  I’m now reading “While I still Can” written by a current Alzheimer’s patient with early onset of the disease.  The author, Rick Phelps, also set up a Facebook Group that is very helpful. It is called Memory People.

Jim helped me pick out a nice all-in-one touchscreen computer to put in Mom’s room.  No, she won’t be able to use it – she can’t even use a TV anymore – but, it’s a great way to let other people play her travel videos for her, play music CDs or use Pandora (the Frank Sinatra channel is great) and I plan to use Google+ Hangouts or maybe Skype to video call with Mom over the summer.  It’s running Windows 8.1 and Jim set it up so it comes right on to the tiled Start screen and he set up just 4 tiles: Videos, Pictures, Music, and Call Chris.  I copied several of her videos onto the computer’s hard drive.  So, all an aide needs to is turn it on, tap Videos and choose one: Borneo, China, Red Sea, Turkey, Australia, Jordan and Petra, Vanuatu, etc. All these are Mom’s videos of her travels, you can see some of them on her website, Marilyns Planet.  Lots of underwater video, but lots of regular land travel video also.  She watches them without recognizing anything, but she sees herself, and hears her voice, and that keeps her pretty interested.  I love it.  I wonder what she would have thought, back when she was shooting the video, if she knew those films would be the only remnant of her memory.

Monday, March 31, 2014

RVillage and Geeks on Tour

RVillage is the new social network specifically for RVers.  We hope to use it both for fun and for business as we travel.  The best way to teach is face to face and one on one, but we don’t get much opportunity to do that in our lifestyle.  With RVillage, we plan to let people know where we’re going to be ahead of time and if they’re going to be nearby we can arrange small classes or one-on-one tutoring.

So, we’re practicing with RVillage.  When we pulled into Thousand Trails Orlando, we used RVillage to ‘check in.’  We saw that there were 9 other RVillagers also checked in here and we scheduled a get-together and invited them all.  Three people took us up on it and we had a great time getting to know each other and discussing tech stuff like Internet connections with smartphones and FoxFi as well as using Google+ for uploading and sharing your pictures.  Here’s Kris and Bill – who we already knew from Seeing the USA, and Nancy who we had not met before.

If you’re an RVer, we encourage you to join RVillage (it’s free) and then join the group Geeks On Tour.  You’ll be able to look at a map at any time to see where we are – and all the other members of the group.  Whenever you check into an RV park, it is such an easy matter to see who else is there, then you can look at their profiles and see if you share any interests and may want to get together.  You can send individual messages to people you’d like to get together with, or schedule a group get together and see who all shows up!  This makes the RVing lifestyle even more fun … if that’s possible!

Here’s a map of the current location of all RVillagers who have joined the Geeks on Tour group.  Notice that there is a place for a forum and get togethers.  Also notice how clicking on one placemark opens up the details of that placemark and shows you who it is.


You can bet that, as we travel, we will pay attention to this map and find out who is nearby, consider staying in the same park as them, and scheduling get-togethers.

Geeks on Tour Members warm our hearts!

Meanwhile, back at Thousand Trails, we saw a message in our RVillage account from Bill and Kris inviting us for dinner.  How cool is that?  Bill Osborne has been a premium member of our Geeks on Tour learning website for several years.  He is our poster boy for what you can do when you learn from Geeks on Tour.  Notice the quote by Bill that we used in our print ad in the Gypsy Journal.  


We gladly accepted their dinner invitation, had a wonderful meal, and got our puppy fix playing with their dog Winston.  But, best of all he filled our hearts by telling us of all the ways he is enjoying the RVing lifestyle because of things he learned from Geeks on Tour!  We taught him how to Blog, and he now spends a lot of time recording their travels and getting creative with his writing, photos, and videos.  This hobby has become a large part of his RVing experience.  But, don’t take my word for it – read his own words in his blog!  Seeing The USA: Geeks on Tour. 

I didn’t take any pictures that evening, so I’ll borrow one from his blog post:

Kris is pretty good on the computer too, she tells us she learned how to use Streets and Trips by following our videos.  But she prefers knitting and crocheting as her hobbies on the road.  I was admiring her knitted wine glass covers so she gave me a set!  Cool! I love ‘em.


Bill and Kris will be joining a couple other RVers and making a trip to Alaska.  You can be sure we will follow their journey on their blog:  And, we can easily see exactly where they are by viewing their map on RVillage.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Orlando and Disney

One of our goals in staying at the Thousand Trails Orlando park was to get some more use out of our Disney pass that we bought in the fall. We heard that the Flower and Garden Festival was on so I figured there would be some good photo ops.



This next picture was taken with Jim’s new Galaxy Note3 phone.  What a cool feature!  Picture in Picture.  It uses both the front and the rear cameras on the phone at the same time!

After visiting a few attractions at Epcot and getting our fill of delicious food at the International food stands around the World Showcase, we decided to take advantage of the park-hopping feature of our passes and head over to Animal Kingdom for the rest of the day.  We really enjoy the Safari ride there.


I had my camera on the action setting for these shots and snapped 3 or 4 of each animal.  Later, in looking at all the pictures that had been auto-backed up to my Google+ account, I saw that the “Auto-Awesome” feature had taken some of those animal sequences and turned them into animated .gifs!  How funny.

We ended the day with the roller coaster ride called Everest Expedition.  I’m not much of a roller coaster fan, but this one is fun.

More pictures on our March photo album.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Forced Break - No Internet

We thought we'd hang around the rally fairgrounds for at least one day as we recuperated and wound down from a very busy week, but it was not to be.  The electricity was turned off around 10am - a sure sign that we were being asked to leave!
We turned on the generator so we could take care of the necessary things, but slowly got ready to hit the road and head back south.  Our next 'gig' is at a computer club in Sarasota, Florida.  It is apparently still winter and Florida is the place we want to be!
So, we headed south, not knowing where we would get to the first night.  I studied the Allstays App for a spot somewhere around the Gainesville area and Ginnie Springs jumped out at me.  Jim and I have been scuba diving in those gin-clear springs and knew it to be a very special forested campground as well.  We've never been able to stay with the RV before because they don't allow pets.  We've been sadly pet-less for about a year now ... there are a few advantages.
Now this is what most people have in mind when they say "campground."

Such a pretty place, and the birds have the most beautiful voices!  Jim got right to work setting up a homey camp, with a table cloth on the picnic table, the awnings out and the grill ready to receive dinner fixin's.  I sat down at the computer and was very disappointed.  Our Verizon phones which normally provide Internet to our computers would bounce back and forth between one bar of 3 or 4G and a 1X signal, or simply NO signal at all.  I tried our iPad with it's AT&T service and found the same lack of connection.  I got out our Wilson "Sleek" 3G booster and it didn't help either.  We walked up to the office where there was supposed to be Wi-Fi and had not much more luck there.
OMG ... what do we do??

It is a beautiful place for a bike ride!  Lots of people were swimming and scuba diving in the springs, but we thought it was still a bit nippy for that.  I finished one book (Coast to Coast with a Cat and a Ghost) and started another (Going Home with a Cat and a Ghost) that I had already downloaded to my phone's Kindle App.  I did the download while we were on the road, just in case we were going somewhere with no Internet.  I really like reading on my Droid phone - it's so easy to hold in one hand, it lights up to read in bed and I can even turn the page using just one hand.

It was actually quite a delightful, peaceful 2-night stay.  But, after 2 nights, we really MUST have Internet!  So, it's off to Orlando and the Thousand Trails park there.  Good Internet, great hot tub, near Disney World where we have season passes, and best of all it's FREE.  Well, "Free" isn't quite the right word ... pre-paid maybe describes it better.  We have a membership in Thousand Trails and we pay roughly $500/year maintenance - then when we pull into a park to stay for a while, we don't pay any more.  It's home!

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

FMCA Rally, Perry Georgia

It started out rainy and cold ... I mean really cold.  I think I saw the temperature show below 40 one morning! Watch an Aerial Video of the fairgrounds where about 3,000 RVs were parked for this rally.

The first morning we had to be up and at our table at 7am!  That's when registration started for all rally sessions that required pre-registration and a fee.  We had 2 sessions: Hands on iPhone/iPad class, and Hands-on Android phone/tablet class.

Then, we had to gather our wits and be prepared to present 3 seminars back to back for the rest of the day.  Here's the schedule of our offerings at the rally.

The next morning we woke up to even colder and rainier weather, if that's possible.  Our first seminar was after lunch, so all three of us: Jim, Devon and me, hung out at our table for the morning.  We had lots of people who had attended our sessions the day before, come by to sign up for membership, or ask us questions.  Then we went off to teach Movie Maker.  That went really well.  I think the people that attended that one will go back to their computers and create true works of art!
Then we had the first of the hands-on sessions.  iPhone and iPad Tips for Travelers.  We had about 16 people in that one and we paired them up and made them buddy up and do things like take pictures of each other and email them.  Then take a video and watch it.  We taught them how to turn their phones into hotspots and share the Internet connection with their computers and tablets.  And, last but not least, we taught them how to use Google Maps (or Apple maps) - the most indespensible smartphone app for Travelers.

We were SOO busy we barely got to catch our breath, let alone visit with all sorts of friends that are here to attend the rally.  We did have dinner with our good friends Phil and Tracey of TechnoRV the night before everything started.  And, we got in a little get-together made possible by the new social network for RVers called 
Other than that, it was all work, work, work.  We were so glad to have Devon here with us - while we were presenting seminars, he could be at the table for people who wanted to sign up for membership.  All totaled, we welcomed 78 new or renewing members to Geeks on Tour!  I did snap a few pictures, and here they are in a collage - prepared in Picasa, of course!

Now to rest for a few days ... then we'll head back south where it's warm!  We'll be spending most of April in Florida.

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