— Life —

A Note to My Future Caregivers

Photograph by Jennifer Denton
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The late fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy said, “Life has different stages. You must realize that in life what you want more and more is simplicity: a simple room, a perfect bed, one nice table, a few objects that you really like, and a good book. 

Givenchy’s comment has me thinking about not just what happens when we downsize after our children leave home, but when we’re forced to downsize even further if we move into an assisted living or memory care facility. 

When I moved Mother into a dementia facility, her room was the size of a hotel room. It had a standing wardrobe for her clothes and nothing else. My challenge was to choose pieces she owned and loved that would fit, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Because her belongings were in a new location, Mother didn’t recognize any of them as belonging to her. I learned this is a common response when Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients are moved. 

Mother continued to think she was living in someone else’s apartment. It broke my heart.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I quickly discovered the other residents in the facility would wander in and out of Mother’s room and take her things, so I had to remove many of them so they wouldn’t be lost forever.

NOTE TO MY FUTURE CAREGIVERS: Before we go any further, you should probably know I’m a minimalist. Since my style is already the epitome of simplicity, if you absolutely must move me to a facility, then here are some of my things I’d like to have with me:

Please hang Albert Watson’s photograph of Keith Richards on the wall across from my bed. 

Even if I have Dementia, surely I won’t forget Keith, plus I want to be the only old lady with a rock star in her room.

On either side of Keith, please put my 19th century, five-foot-tall, Russian Orthodox brass candelabras with the lion’s feet. Mother gave them to me when she reached the age where she no longer wanted anything she had to “feed or polish.” They weigh 150 pounds apiece and each hold forty-five candles, and like Keith, the other old ladies won’t be carting them away. 

Also, I want my Becky Vizard tapestry and velvet pillows. I realize they may not last a day in my room, but let’s give it a try. And those things on the floor in my office that look like junk to you? The large, twisted, fifty-pound piece of metal is the left idler arm I sheared off of the M-1 tank I drove as a journalist, and the two-foot-tall, metal 105mm shell is what’s left of the armored personnel carrier I blew up. If nothing else, they’ll make great doorstops.

And if I inherit Mother’s disturbing disposition as I age, don’t be surprised if I snap at you with some of my favorite Beth Dutton quotes from Yellowstone like, “You are the trailer park. I am the tornado,” or “I remember when you had an ass like a twelve-year-old boy. What happened?” 

My apologies in advance, but trust me: Coming out of the mouth of a 90-year-old woman, it will be hysterical.

Love, Brenda


  • Hilda Smith February 12, 2022 at 4:07 am

    I love Yellowstone. Shout away….

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 9:41 am

      Hilda, Have you seen 1883? MUST WATCH TELEVISION! The precursor to Yellowstone. I love everything about it. You’ll see where Beth Dutton gets her fearlessness and her moxy! xoxox, Brenda

  • Gloria Lynch February 12, 2022 at 5:58 am

    What a touching and heartfelt piece. At my age, it has made me think that I need to make a similar list.
    I pray that you all adjust to this new stage of life in the way you would wish.
    Thank you for reminding me that life is not stagnant.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 9:43 am

      Gloria, I love the way you phrased that: Life is not stagnant. Too often we think life just plods along as though we’re trapped in a giant spiderweb, but what we fail to see is that life is changing and changing us. Thanks so much for reading and leaving me this wonderful comment! Brenda

  • Tara Dillard February 12, 2022 at 6:11 am

    Stunning photo !! Beautiful. Replete with narrative in every pixel of color.

    Have same Givenchy quote in one of my CommonPlace books. Each word, each syllable for the soul.

    No link, years ago, article mentioned memory is often site specific. Focus was work life, and our ‘office’. Being in our office, feeds the memory, working away from the office, changes memory navigation.

    You are kind about missing items. Not merely other residents taking items. Sad experience with a friend, and missing items.

    A horror show, discovering how different ‘staff’ handled the mundane of feeding bed-bound residents. Worst, whiz in, loudly say it’s DINNER, place spoon with food up to lips, resident not fully awake yet, staff repeats, spoon to mouth, Eat your dinner, resident still groggy, staff dances out of room quickly, resident officially did not want dinner in their report.

    Obviously, it was MY MOTHER. Went to kitchen, got mom’s favorite, and fed her myself. Hi-end facility, $8,000/mos, dementia wing. Mom one of the lucky ones, she soon went Home. Dad’s respite in heaven, OVER !!!

    Mom’s favorite lamps, bedside tables, art, chest of drawers were placed in her room.

    I want to be like the ladies in my Church. Well into their 80’s and still MOWING THEIR GRASS !!! Cooking their own meals, and sharing that hospitality often. Perfectly as the Bible recommends to widows; the hospitality if they’re provisioned.

    And your photo, you look at peace, happy.

    Looking forward to your book.

    Garden & Be Well, Tara

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 9:52 am

      Tara, Your comments are always so packed with profound meaning, and this one’s no different. My mother was in a high-end facility as well. $8,000 a month. I couldn’t be a caregiver in that kind of facility and while I bow to their strength, I can see where some would become hardened to the plight of their helpless residents. They may even be responsible for some of the items that go missing. Your mother was fortunate. She wasn’t there long. My mother was there for six years, and she was one of their most difficult residents. Yes, I want to be like the ladies at your church. Mowing my grass well into my 80’s. You and I are made of tuff stuff, Tara, so I think that’s likely. Be well, my friend. xoxox, Brenda

  • Barbara Bergin February 12, 2022 at 6:49 am

    I’ll soon be doing a blog on the medical benefits of downsizing. Just sold my home of 35 years, huge estate sale, got rid of almost everything and moving to a home half the size. Moved my 90-year-old parents to a 2 bedroom house just down the street! They’re in great shape, mentally and physically. This is their fourth downsizing. Their next one will be that one bedroom suite…but not yet!

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 9:57 am

      Barbara!!! So happy to see you here! When we last left off, you were getting ready to sell your home and downsize. I know you’re glad that’s behind you. I downsized out of four storage units. One was Mother’s. From time to time I cringe when I think about a few of the pieces I let go, but they still live on in my memory. It’s amazing both of your parents are in such great shape at that age and doing well. You come from strong stock. xoxox, Brenda

  • Pat Clifford February 12, 2022 at 7:47 am

    I loved this post ! I am a huge fan of Beth Dutton…there for a while my favorite word was the F — bomb and it flew like crazy. I will remember to take with me, should I have to move to assisted living, only extremely large or heavy objects, thanks !

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 10:00 am

      Hi Pat, Another Beth Dutton fan!!! I love you already! Have you seen 1883? It’s clear where Beth gets her take-no-prisoners approach to life. Yes, Beth can be a bad influence on what comes out of our mouths although when she says the F bomb, it’s forgivable. The F bomb is part of what holds her DNA together, don’t you think? Come see me, again! xoxo, Brenda

  • Carol Larochelle February 12, 2022 at 9:49 am

    I’m a new follower of your blog. This really hit home with me about the “feeding” of your mother. My Dad was in a “nice” facility, not demented at all at 94, just not able to take care of himself any longer. I saw quite a few things wrong while he was there and sorry to say, think this treatment is everywhere. There are the good and the bad at most of elder care homes. I’m only hoping I never have to go to any of these places.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 10:06 am

      Welcome Carol! I’m happy you’ve left me a comment. Whether we want to admit it or not, I think you’re right about the mistreatment of our elders. It’s easy to pick on someone who has no defenses. Before I put Mother in a dementia facility, I researched home care. In some cases, the theft, neglect and abuse is even worse because there’s often no one else around to witness or walk-in on what’s happening. Please come see me again, Carol. Blessings! Brenda

  • Mala February 12, 2022 at 10:38 am

    This is a good thing to contemplate as it causes us to think about what few tangible items matter most to us. I’ll take my dog and my eyebrow pencil. I don’t go anywhere without first drawing in my eyebrows.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 2:40 pm

      LOL! Love this, Mala! My must have is eyeliner although without an eyebrow pencil I look like an android. Dog? Is there a care facility where we can have a dog? Sign me up! xoxox, Brenda

  • Colleen February 12, 2022 at 10:53 am

    Hi Brenda – The photo of you is most alluring. Your line about Keith Richards is laughable. I think it’s important that we focus on a healthy lifestyle. Even dementia and Alzheimer’s can be preventable. What’s good for our hearts is good for our heads. There’s so much information available to us about preventing diseases.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 2:43 pm

      Hi Colleen, Thank you!! I think I do everything to prevent heart disease… diet, exercise, no alcohol or tobacco… I pray I don’t get dementia, but so far, I’ve inherited most of what Mother had except unlike her, I have lots of self-esteem, stand in my own power, and I’m not bitchy! xoxox, Brenda

  • Linda L Floyd February 12, 2022 at 11:14 am

    Another thought provoking blog! But, EGAD…I am not a minimalist! What to do? Everything has a story behind it, a treasure found on a trip, a gift from my dear husband or family members, friends, clients. Sometimes denial is not a bad thing, and at this point in my life, I am denying that I won’t remember these cherished items! But fear has a way of seeping in as my father had Alzheimers. And yes, things went missing from his “hotel room” or we found them in his freezer, covered in his chocolate smeared fingerprints. He never forgot how much he loved chocolate! I knew I could make him smile with a bag of M & M candies. Thank God for little blessings.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 2:48 pm

      Hi Linda!!! Yes, thank God for little blessings! Where would we be without them? All of my things have stories as well. I’ve just purchased fewer of them. For the most part, they have to be something that if I don’t buy, I know I’ll regret forever, like the antique, beaded, suede American Indian jacket I passed on in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 25 years ago. I couldn’t afford it, but I’d give anything to have a do over. xoxox, Brenda

  • Rose February 12, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Hi there
    The first morning at the care facility my dad (early 80s) said – I have a bed – a closet – a dresser and a window (he was sharing room with 3 others – did not want a private room) what more do I need? The care there was fabulous. My 92 yr old friend who had dementia and was in a care home and wanted to know why all these other people were in “her” house.
    I love how you want to accessorize your room.
    We don’t know how we will age so must enjoy life NOW.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 2:50 pm

      BINGO, Rose! We don’t know how we’ll age, or if we’ll be here tomorrow, so let’s seize the moment and make the most of it! The tagline for 1010ParkPlace is #MakeLifeCount to which I sometimes add #WhatAreYouWaitingFor on social media. xoxox, Brenda

  • LA CONTESSA February 12, 2022 at 11:50 am

    BEEN THERE WITH MY MOTHER SHE DIDNOT HAVE DEMENTIA…………….I THINK THAT MIGHT BE WORSE THAN WhAT YOU WenT THROUGH with yours!What I learned from that experience is the fact I want to stay at home with MY STUFF AND MY ANIMALS and we can bring in the HELP when needed 24 hours a day…………I have done the MATH! IT IS SO MUCH CHEAPER and I AM HAPPY TO BE ALONE WITH ANIMALS!

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 2:54 pm

      Elizabeth, Yes!! I want to stay home with my dog and my things, but we’re not always in control of that decision, are we? Plus if you research home health care/home help for senior citizens and read the comments, those can often be worse for the elderly because there’s no one to make sure they’re not being robbed blind or mistreated. Love both of your sons, but can you send the one with the shorter hair? He’s adorable! I think the one with the long hair and beard is as well, but tell him I’ll have to shave off his beard when he gets here! xoxox, Brenda

  • Cynthia Brown February 12, 2022 at 12:48 pm

    Laughed out loud at the upcoming 90 yr old quotes. My language has always been pretty salty, so I doubt that will change . Served as a Eucharistic minister at a couple of assisted living homes here in north Dallas before the pandemic and, unfortunately, it intensified my dislike of them. It was always so wonderfully apparent when you walked into a room which ones were the blessed recipients of ongoing family or friend care and love. On the flip side, which ones were really alone and their only care came from the overworked and often stressed out staff. Just really impacted me.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 2:58 pm

      Cynthia, I agree with everything, including the language! I would visit Mother multiple times a week, usually at lunch because she was on her best behavior in public, which wasn’t always great. The residents who didn’t have family were more withdrawn and depressed and didn’t want to eat. It was heartbreaking! I know of adopted one of the women who sat at Mother’s table at lunch, because she always had a smile and wanted to talk to me, and I’d let her try on my coats and jackets which made her happy. God bless you for doing that good work. xoxox, Brenda

  • Linda February 12, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Boy, would I love to be in the same place with you and our Annie girls! I’m too chubby to wear your clothes tho! Onward! ❤️

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 3:00 pm

      Hi Linda!!! But here’s the good news! Most of us lose weight as we age; we don’t eat like we should, so you won’t have any problems fitting into my clothes and our Annie girls will have such fun!… But let’s not put that out into the universe for another 20 years. Okay? xoxox, Brenda

  • bonnie February 12, 2022 at 7:03 pm

    love this. just tell me where you are moved…i want to be in the next room (i see that others have the same idea…maybe we should just take over the facility!!!!! here’s to many years of laughing at the prospect.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 9:56 pm

      Bonnie, You’re funny! Yes, we can make it a girlfriend compound, but here’s hoping it’s a couple of decades away! xoxox, Brenda

  • Donna R February 12, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    I love following you. There’s never a dull moment! Who wouldn’t want Keith Richard with them until the very end. And as for Beth Dutton – she’s a woman after my own heart.
    I recently downsized to an apartment. It’s freeing – mind, body and soul. I’m now in the beginning of having a smaller home built that’ll be minimalist and in the sun after years of rain in the PNW. I see life as a moving target as we age. You never know what it has in store for you next. For me, some where between leaving the rain and moving to the sun I see Rome and Puglia calling.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 12, 2022 at 10:02 pm

      Donna, Yes, yes! You like Beth Dutton! There were several other Beth quotes I wanted to use, but I though they might be offensive, so I passed. Remember when Beth came to her sister-in-law’s rescue in the boutique? Almost everything that came out of her mouth in that episode was a keeper. That’s where the “ass like a twelve-year-old boy” came from. Couldn’t resist. I love your phrase of “life’s a moving target as we age.” That makes me stop and think. Keep me posted on your new home. That’s exciting. I was going to do the same thing, but it didn’t work out. Looking back, it was for the better. Rome and Puglia? Want a traveling companion? xoxox, Brenda

  • Donna R February 12, 2022 at 11:53 pm

    If you’d like, email me and I’ll update you on progress and I’m always open to new traveling companions!

  • Barbara February 13, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    Brenda, Are you related to Beth Dutton because you have that same fearlessness and moxie. I wish I had the never to speak up for myself. My life would be very different. Please give us a course in how to do that. Xo, Barb

    • 1010ParkPlace February 14, 2022 at 10:05 am

      LOL! Barb, I sometimes feel like Beth Dutton is my spirit animal. She’s an extreme version of even my extreme self, but we’re not in the same category. That said, I think my history has shown that I’m fearless, which in my younger years was naivety, but as I got older, it was a survival mechanism. Moxie comes from being fed up with years of biting my tongue and swallowing what I really wanted to say. Now, perhaps I’m too outspoken, but as I write in my memoir, “I will never go willingly for someone ever again.” xoxox, Brenda

  • Katherine February 13, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing your mother’s Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease is so cruel. It’s so frightening and so scary for the person that has it, but also for
    the care givers. Your mother sounds like a very special lady.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 14, 2022 at 10:10 am

      Katherine, It sounds like you may have some experience with these dreaded conditions. I know Mother was frightened, but it manifested itself as anger, which is textbook behavior. Now I can look back and see that Mother was special and brave in so many ways, but we butted heads from the moment we role reversed: When I was 13, I became the mother and she became the daughter, and the roles never went back except when I was going through breast cancer. She became the mother I’d always wanted. As soon as I was done with treatment, we went back to our longstanding roles, which was pure agony… Except for the day she died. She was lucid and loving… I would love to have had that woman as my mother. Brenda

  • Laurie Stone February 14, 2022 at 11:08 am

    So poignant, both about you and your mom. I guess aging isn’t for sissies and that becomes more apparent as we go on. You have some beautiful, fun, interesting keepsakes, Brenda. I hope they’re always there to give you comfort.

  • Laurie Stone February 14, 2022 at 11:13 am

    Brenda, What a poignant time for both you and your mom. Aging is not for sissies and that becomes more apparent with time. I agree simplicity is what we crave as we get older. I love the sound of all your keepsakes and hope they give you happiness and comfort for a long time.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 14, 2022 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you, Laurie. Here’s hoping we both find happiness and comfort as we age. Yes, aging takes guts! xoxox, Brenda

  • Carol Cassara February 14, 2022 at 11:20 am

    I can’t even tell you how much I love this, Brenda.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 14, 2022 at 1:12 pm

      Dear Carol, Thank you! XOXOXOX, Brenda

  • Katherine February 14, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    Hello Brenda,
    You are very insightful, that does not surprise me at all. It’s so nice to visit and share with a lady that is really “in tune.”
    Yes, to answer your question. My sister in-law has been struggling with vascular dementia for many years. Our sister (I do not call her sister in-law) because
    she feels like a blood sis if you know what I mean. We now have her in assisted living. To tell you hopefully in a long story short about our sister she cared for her husband that was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia for years in their home, then had to be placed in a care facility. This went on for years, he did pass away. Now she is dealing with this. It’s over the top heart breaking.
    My “Sunday Best Friend” that we call one another has dementia, suffered from a bad stroke many years ago. Lost her husband a year ago, now lives in a
    beautiful assisted living apartment. To see her like this is heartbreaking. I just love on her and send her cards in the mail.
    Thank you for sharing the relationship you had with your mother. I more than get it. I had something very similar. I loved my mother dearly, she was my
    best friend. I think when as a daughter you become the mother you never got to experience being a sandbox child. One of our clients asked me about my
    mother one day and the expression of you never got to to experience “being a sandbox child” really resonated with me. It spoke volumes to me.
    I hope my story did not overwhelm you, I try not to burdened others with sadness. As Jennifer said, this is me, “the whole person.”
    Happy Galentine’s Day to you, so wonderful you have your fur child to love and dear friends too.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 14, 2022 at 1:21 pm

      Thank you for sharing Katherine. You have a big heart and lots of compassion. Loving on your friend and sending her cards… That’s everything! Sometimes we feel so isolated, like no one knows what we’re going through or cares, but the cards you’re sending remind her that she’s loved and not forgotten. Your sister-in-law’s story is tragic! I can’t imagine going through that with her husband and now she has dementia. “Being a sandbox child… ” I’ve never heard that expression, but I get it. I think that’s one of the reasons I never had children. As a little girl, my father always expected me to be a perfect adult, and when he died, I was 13. Mother had a nervous breakdown and never recovered, and we role reversed in a big way. At 18 I married the first boy who came along. It was the only way I knew to get away from Mother. Happy Valentine’s Day to you as well. XOXOXOXOXOXO, Brenda ❤️

  • Rena February 14, 2022 at 2:26 pm

    The first memory unit mom was in was horrible. Her glasses went missing first and then her teeth! Most of her clothes. She was only there two weeks when I took her out and took her somewhere else. That made things even worse as you know any kind of change is the enemy. It broke my heart as well.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 14, 2022 at 4:18 pm

      Oh, Rena! Her glasses and her teeth! So very different from a missing pillow, but yes, change is the enemy. I first moved my mother into an assisted living facility. Up until then, she’d done a good job of hiding the degree of her dementia from me, probably because we lived in different cities. But the first day it was obvious she couldn’t function there. The elevator was right outside her door, but it didn’t register that she could just get on it and go downstairs for meals. Let’s pray this doesn’t happen to us. xoxox, Brenda

  • Alana February 14, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    Perhaps I need to leave a note to my future caregivers now, while I still have sharp memories of the last years of my mother inlaw’s life and also my late best friend’s mother, who lived alone. My late best friend’s mother, who was a concentration camp survivor and was able to remain at home with lots of help (none of her three children were local), was robbed by several of her paid caregivers. As for my mother in law, she developed serious health problems and dementia was the cherry on top. She couldn’t participate much in either of the two downsizings we had to subject her to – from the house where she raised 4 children to a 2 bedroom apartment, and then from the apartment to a nursing home. So you do well to plan ahead. I never would have thought to include my heaviest objects in what I would want to keep!

    • 1010ParkPlace February 14, 2022 at 4:32 pm

      Love seeing you here Alana! I know what you went through. Before I moved Mother, I researched paid caregivers and caregiver organizations, and none of them were safe and good alternatives. Theft, abuse, not giving them their meds or their food… The list goes on. But the caregivers in nursing homes and memory care facilities aren’t all angels either. My admiration to those who find this work their calling, but anyone who mistreats a helpless, vulnerable elderly person should be drawn and quartered. Mother always kept the Madam Alexander doll I had as a little girl on her bed, but it disappeared the first day she was there. Yes, the heavy things will remain unless someone brings in movers and a dolly. xoxox, Brenda

  • Lauren February 15, 2022 at 11:28 am

    Oh how I love this! I am thankful my mom passed before we haf get to this stage but now I have too much of her stuff. You’ve made me think what I would want with ,e. Sounds like a journal entry.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 17, 2022 at 11:23 am

      Lauren, I know what you mean about being grateful your mother passed before she was robbed of her dignity. I wished that for my mother as well, but it was not meant to be. Other than what you want when you reach that stage of life, are you thinking that your things, together with your mother’s, is too much? Pairing back and leading a simpler life allows us to welcome new things and experiences into where we are now, both physically, mentally and emotionally. Perhaps that’s another journal entry for you to contemplate. xoxox, Brenda

  • Katherine February 15, 2022 at 12:26 pm

    Hi Brenda,
    My heart feels everything you shared, and I get it and understand. I’m a card person and I would like to send a hug card in the USPS to you just because that
    is who I am in this world. My fabulous grandmother and mama both sent cards, I guess this is where I picked this up as a young child. My second marketing and sales position was with Marcel Schurman in San Francisco. Marcel Schurman became Papyrus.
    Sending you a joyful day.

    • 1010ParkPlace February 17, 2022 at 11:38 am

      Katherine, Thank you! What a lovely history you’ve inherited. A woman at my church hand makes beautiful cards and sends them to people on birthdays, condolences and for no reason at all. She call it her “card ministry.” How wonderful that you do the same thing and what a great company to have worked for. Sending you hugs and wishes for a joyful day! xoxox, Brenda

  • Katherine February 18, 2022 at 7:05 pm

    Hi Brenda,
    If you are comfortable sharing where do I send my handcrafted card to?
    The lady at your church that sends cards and calls it her “card ministry” is an angel. I’m sure she pours endless hours of love into her creations. What a wonderful gift she has. I have two friends that create wonderful cards. One a costume designer from Chicago and her designs are exceptional. I am the fortunate recipient because Sandie knows how much I appreciate her creations. Her theatrical interests and the hundreds of musical plays shine through.
    Sending smiles, and virtual hugs back to you too.

  • Leisa Hammett February 26, 2022 at 5:05 am

    oh my god. Lol. xL

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