Creature Feature 2016 #5

First, a few fall pictures of this living planet we have here. Cool mornings while the water is still relatively warm gives rise to early morning steam fog.

But once the sun starts to get up, the fog begins to dissipates and the sunlight makes the early fall colors stand out.

From the birds-eye view (if the bird is flying really high) the sun can make for some contrasting scenes and, combined with the wind, patterns on the water far below.

Now, back to the less-than-planet-sized creatures. I saw this large bird and grabbed the camera. I thought he was an Osprey, just because of the silhouette, size, and location, but I realized I was mistaken when I saw the photos.

Yes, that was the Bald Eagle. A bit later I found the Osprey, cavorting around the eastern side of the lake.

Have I mentioned how hard it is to get a good picture of a Kingfisher in action?

Nope, no Heron pictures this time. I saw a couple around, but maybe it was a bit early in the morning for them.
As usual, you can click on the pictures to get to a full-res version. I had to change photo sites because of problems with the previous one. Older pictures are still there, but henceforth anything new will probably end up on the new site.

Creature Feature 2016 #4

So much of our universe runs in cycles.

Some cycles are very artificial, of our own making. Like the workweek/weekend cycle, or election cycles (and that’s all I’ll say on that topic).

Some of these cycles are so short that we hardly notice. Like the day/night cycle. It happens every day, and we take it for granted.

Some cycles aren’t so regular. It rains, then the sun comes out, until it rains again, etc…

The lunar cycle is a bit longer, although if you’re not out much at night you might not notice. The tail end of a full moon is visible in the morning daylight.

Some cycles are so long that we might not even notice that there is a cycle going on. Haley’s Comet comes around every 75 or so years, making it a once-in-a-lifetime event, but still it’s a cycle. Clouds of gases collapse to form a star, that burns for a while, explodes into a cloud, that collapses… A cycle that probably no one is going to see in it’s entirety.

This time of year the season cycle is very much in evidence. The lake is noticeably quieter now as the resident residents prepare for the winter, and the transient residents begin to migrate to their winter homes.

With all that going on, there’s still plenty to see out on the lake. Like this Kingfisher:

or this Killdeer caught in flight:

This time of year is when I see Egrets around the lake (another cycle). This one had just made a short hop of a flight. Almost sort of a literal “puddle jumper”.

As I was paddling up the lake, I saw a large bird coming towards me. I grabbed the camera and just held the shutter button. I wasn’t sure at the time, but the pictures confirm that this was a bird that I’ve only seen a few times over the years.

Yes, that’s a Bald Eagle.

Gotta throw in a gratuitous Great Blue Heron picture:

Creature Feature 2016 #3

It’s interesting how all the divisiveness among humans contrasts with what goes on in the rest of the world. Sure, there’s competition and predation, but it’s all based on the needs of survival, and nothing more. Nobody is going at each other’s throats or calling each other names just because of an abstract concept, like the color of their plumage.

This Great Blue Heron was just strolling through a whole flock of vultures like it was no big deal, because it wasn’t:

Granted, these two species are very different and their needs don’t really overlap. On the other hand, this Egret and Heron do very much compete, and here they are within a couple wing-beats of each other:

Obligatory Heron action shot; that’s a lot of bird to land up in a tree, but the extreme control they have makes it look easy:

And, from the clouds-as-creatures department, here’s some of those:

Creature Feature 2016 #2

I know, where have I been? I’ve had a lot going on, a lot of which could be the subject of a Caregiving Thoughts post. But, finally, I have some creature material (as usual, click on a picture to get to a higher-resolution version).

The first creature featured is a Beaver, but unfortunately, I didn’t get the camera pointed before he splashed the water and disappeared.

The Osprey were much more visible at their nest on top of the water system’s intake structure. I’m guessing these two are the parents, and they seemed quite intent on what was in the nest.

A third Osprey was hanging out on the other end of the structure, keeping an eye on me. Perhaps he’s a family member helping out?

Now, ordinarily, I wouldn’t think much of encountering a spider web, but this one was on some old tree branches sticking out of the water a good 6 or 7 meters from the nearest shore. Can spiders swim? Or maybe she just ballooned out there and set up shop. Given the insects caught in the web, I’d say, so far, so good.

Of course, the obligatory Great Blue Heron picture. I got a lot of pixels on this one….

…just before he decided to take off and go to warp.

In another encounter, while out cycling, I crossed paths with a little Mockingbird, probably not much older than a fledgling. She was small and more stubby-looking than the normally slender adults, but the wing markings left no question that this was a Mockingbird.
In an encounter of a different kind, while we don’t think of clouds as creatures, the way the move, shift, grow, and change they can seem alive. Taken from high above Laurens County:

Creature Feature 2016 #1

Finally, I had a chance to get out on the lake. It was a foggy morning.

During the winter I noticed that the osprey nest on top of the water system’s intake structure was gone, perhaps due to stormy weather. They’ve rebuilt and are back.

This beaver was swimming back and forth, seeming to keep an eye on me.

One of the ways these critters communicate is by slapping the water with their tails. Wait for it…

It makes a really loud noise when they do this. It sounds a lot like someone dropped a bowling ball (and I don’t mean candlepin bowling) in the water.

Connections, Creation

The other day I was hanging out with a friend and there was a Christian radio station playing. The music was good, but the stations tag line, something like “Music that makes you feel connected to God”, made me think. For me, it’s not so much music, but views like this (near Sugarloaf Mountain, NC, USA):

or this (mini creature feature, over Lake Hartwell, SC, USA):

that does it. This, to me, represents the direct handiwork of God, no translations, no interpretations, just the straight story of Creation.
As usual, click on the pictures for full-resolution versions.

Caregiving Thoughts #A

Transitions are special times. Dawn and dusk, when the world changes between night and day. The change of seasons, when the world changes between green and brown. The day your advanced-in-years cared-for moves out of the house, and everything changes.

Conventional wisdom is that people should stay in their homes for as long as possible, but there may come a point when, all things considered, that’s no longer the best option. When that happens, a transition is necessary.

I wrote in Caregiver Thoughts #9 about selecting a new home. Once that’s done, it comes down to execution.

Like any move, it starts with what to take and what to leave behind. Moving from a house to an assisted-living home (somehow the term “facility” just doesn’t work for me) will likely involve leaving a lot behind. If there’s not a lot of distance involved, this is a lot easier, as you can always swap things back and forth as necessary.

While the move might be accomplished in a day, the transition will take much longer. It’s a project. While you will have sorted out the major items (room, medications, schedules, etc…) pretty quickly, there will be a million little things that will only show up after the move. It’s just impossible to identify every little thing that needs to be taken along or left behind or changed. The important thing is to expect this.

Probably the biggest thing will be adapting to new routines. The cared-for will need to learn how things work at their new home: when are the meals, meds, what activities go on, how to get assistance, what’s this thing I’m supposed to eat? etc… The caregiver will need to take over things that the cared-for might have been taking care of around the house, adjust to making visits to the new home, work out how to stay in touch, provide those things that the new home doesn’t.

The caregiver’s role will change, but not really diminish. While I’m not as concerned now about being there every day to dispense meds, or having to jump out of bed in the night or rush off from work to handle some urgent issue (there are professionals there now 24×7 who can handle those immediate things), I am taking a larger role on the financial and paperwork side. Of course, I’m still my cared-for’s patient advocate, attend all medical appointments, keep up with what meds are for what, etc…

As patient advocate, it’s also important to coordinate with the home’s medical staff. Any notes I take from a doctor’s appointment need to be forwarded on along with any specific doctor’s orders. Everybody needs to have the appointment schedule, especially if the home will be providing any transportation.

I think it’s important to set expectations at the outset. It’s probably not going to be practical to visit in person for hours every day, so take a shot at what’s doable and work towards that. Having electronic communications can help to fill in any gaps there. While staying fully in “the loop”, I think it’s in everyone’s best interests to push as many routine things onto the home’s staff as practical. The staff is there 24×7, and if they can provide a favorite food, that’s one less thing that’s subject to disruption if I get diverted.

A lot of “givens” will need to be tossed overboard. Just because something was done a certain way, or in a certain sequence, when cared-for and caregiver were living together doesn’t mean that’s now the best way to handle those things. This can leave both feeing a bit lost as that structure evaporates, and before a new pattern begins to settle in. You just have to keep going, get done what needs to be done, and see how things play out. Keeping a to-do list (at least for the caregiver) can be handy, as it gathers in one place all those things that needs to be sequenced.

Right now we’re in the middle of the northern hemisphere winter, but I know we’ll be transitioning to spring soon. The only thing that doesn’t change is change.


The weather is finally turning more seasonable. New Year’s Day was just warm enough to go out and get the new boat permit stickers wet.

I’ve never been out on the lake when it’s been up this high, at least a meter above normal. I was able to take a “short cut” and turn out to the right across the dock when I left the boat ramp.

And there were some other interesting things to see out there.

I wish I had more time, because there’s a lot more lake to explore out there right now.

Talk about the weather…

Yes, here it is, Boxing Day, temperatures in the upper 70F’s:

…and I’m sitting around out on the lake in shorts.

This picture is also notable because it was taken in a place on the lake that wasn’t lake before. All the heavy rain and runoff has created some more “lake” to kayak on.

Caregiver Thoughts #9

At some point, particularly if your cared-for is of advanced age, changes will be required. Your cared-for may need increasing assistance that you just can’t provide and still hold on to a full-time job, or maybe you just can’t be there enough. Watch for these changes and get ahead of them. Too often people need to move to a higher degree of care/assistance when some crisis occurs, and that can lead to hasty decision making.

So, give some thought to these things now, and investigate options in your spare time (yeah, right, spare what?).

I’ve recently been evaluating assisted living facilities. Ultimately, so long as your cared-for is competent, it’s their decision and it will come down to what’s affordable and where they feel most comfortable. The latter is necessarily subjective, but is also the most important.

As caregiver, I think the most important thing you can do is to watch for red flags that might veto a particular facility. Here’s a list of things to consider or ask about:

  • Security: are doors kept locked? Are visitors identified and escorted? How do friends and family gain access? Can anyone walk in off the street?
  • Is there a disaster plan? Are arrangements in place to house residents elsewhere if there’s a power outage, HVAC failure, or fire? Does the facility have a generator and how often is it tested?
  • If you keep in touch with your cared-for via electronic means, is Internet access available? Phone lines? How’s the cell phone coverage?
  • What sort of medication management is available? Is there flexibility if your cared-for handles some or all of their own medications?
  • Is transportation to doctor’s appointments available? If so, what are the limitations (distance, days, etc…)? Is there a charge for this?
  • Are pets allowed? This could work both ways, depending on whether your cared-for has a pet they want to bring, or would rather not have small furry/scaly/feathery critters around.
  • How many residents are there, and how many is the facility licensed for?
  • How many staff are on site when? Pop quiz question: how many staffers are on site right now?
  • Can the facility provide all the care your cared-for requires? Meals are probably a given, but what about assistance with bathing and dressing?
  • What sort of activities are there to fill the resident’s days? Are there exercise facilities?
  • Look around: are there exit signs? Smoke detectors? Is the facility clean, neat, and organized? Do the residents appear to be comfortable and well cared for?
  • What’s the reputation of the facility? Is it well-regarded in the community?
  • Who owns the facility? Many may appear to be local, independent facilities, but most are owned by larger companies that own and operate a number of facilities. This, also, can work both ways: a local, independent facility will likely be more flexible, maybe even cheaper, but may not have the resources of a larger organization. OTOH, a facility part of a larger chain will likely have more “disaster” options (nearby “sister” facilities) and more financial backing, but may be more subject to the machinations of Corporate America, like management changes and rules that might not be as flexible as one might hope.
  • If you can, get a look at recent health department reports. My own state does not make this information available (I tried), but if you can get access, do so. Just keep in mind that one report doesn’t mean much. Look at reports over at least a year, looking for recurrent problems. I know from experience that the day the auditor shows up and wants to see a file restored from a backup, that’s the one time the tape will throw an error. If there’s something in a report, look to see that it was resolved.
  • What mechanisms are there for a resident to call for assistance? Are pull stations located conveniently, and is a pendant that can be worn available?
  • Is there a waiting list? If so, would space be available when you think you’ll need it?
  • If your cared-for has to leave the facility temporarily (for a hospital stay, or vacation), will their space be held for them, and what adjustments to fees are made?
  • How are emergency situations handled? What happens when someone falls?
  • Is there a process to address concerns?
  • What range of care is available? If your cared-for needs increasing levels of assistance, or nursing care, is that available at the facility in question, or would they need to move?

Again, your cared-for is the best one to decide where they’re going to be happy. You’re just looking to vet out the choices.

All the facilities I looked at provided respite care, where your cared-for could stay there for a week or so. This can be a good way to try out a facility, and may be an option if you, as care-giver, need to go on a business trip or something, or just need a break.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, don’t let your cared-for think that you’re just going to drop them off and disappear. Y’all have been working together for perhaps a very long time, and that needs to continue. If nothing else, you need to keep a sharp eye on things to make sure they’re getting the level of care they need (and you’re paying for). You’ll need to change your routines to accommodate regular visits and general staying-in-touch. Your cared-for will continue to need a “patient advocate”. There will likely be incidental things, like reading material, music, or a favorite food that’s not readily available, that you’ll need to provide. Take them out to dinner occasionally. Celebrate their special days. And, just be there for them.