Thursday, May 22, 2008

More "Sandwich" People Speak

Carol writes, "Why is it that 'I'm fine' is such an automatic response? I watch my mom and I see the changes. The increase in weakness, the change in her color, the cough and finally comes the difficulty breathing. It's been coming on for the last week. She tells me this morning that it was so hard to breathe during the night. So we're off to the hospital and she's admitted. Chronic heart failure is once again the culprit. Why do we find it so difficult to admit that we feel like crap? Is it our German background that makes my family so stubborn? Should I have forced her to get checked out days ago? She's too heavy to throw over my shoulder.

My dad died 6 hrs before his 80th birthday. My mom turns 82 on Sunday. No matter how much we do, it seems like (for me at least) that we should be doing more. Do you think anyone would notice if I ran away? Thanks for listening.

Here was my reply: Carol... I am sorry that your mother is not well. However, don't be so hard on yourself - or her. Truly, at this age, it's like the little child whose fever spikes... one minute they ARE fine, and the next, they are in full blown CHF or something else. My grandmother attended a birthday party one Saturday afternoon and was "fine". She was "fine" at 7:30 p.m. when she telephoned my sister and cousin. At 9:30 p.m., she was seriously ill with vomiting and diarrhea that landed her in the hospital for 5 days and the nursing home for 2 weeks of rehab... and she is just NOW becoming her "old self." When she was admitted to the hospital that night, her lab work showed she had a UTI, pneumonia, and strep throat, in addition to the virulent diarrhea and vomiting. She had symptoms of NONE of this 3 hours earlier.So yes, some of it is upbringing. Some of it is stubbornness, and some of it is just plain ole aging. At any rate, it isn't any fun, and I'm so sorry this has happened. I wish you well and hope your mother will soon feel better - and you as well!

On another front, my husband's brother John and his wife Elaine traveled almost 4 hours on Mother's Day weekend to visit her parents. As an only child, Elaine is quickly becoming responsible for many things that her parents can no longer address on their own. Her mother recently celebrated her 90th birthday, and I think her dad is getting close to 90 himself. Recent storms and tornadoes caused damage to their yard and the roof of their house (creating leaks in spots), so it fell to Elaine - and John - to see that the repairs were made.

While working in the yard the Friday before Mother's Day, Elaine's mother started inside the house, and something happened and she fell. She broke two ribs and hurt her shoulder - and x-rays this week revealed that she has also broken two bones in the top of her foot just behind her toes. The doctor has bandaged the foot and told her to stay off of it as much as possible - and to use a rolling walker when she DOES go anywhere. This woman also has macular degeneration and can barely see, so she is really disabled. Because she takes the blood thinner Coumadin, the only pain medication prescribed has been some extra strength Tylenol, and she is in a lot of pain.

My sister-in-law is frustrated, of course. She is a leader in a community-wide Bible study group in her city, and she devotes much of her week to work on her lessons, caring for those in her group (and others) and taking care of her family and friends. The Bible study group doesn't meet in the summer, and they just broke for summer break. She told me, "I had so many projects and plans to accomplish this summer, and now it looks like I will spend much of it with my parents." I feel her pain, don't you?! She knows she is not alone, but when this situation first hits you, you feel a little like you have had the breath knocked out of you - and more than a little overwhelmed. I know she will get her "sea legs" and be fine. But if you are just having your world turned upside down by a parent who has become suddenly ill or infirm in some way, know that you are not alone - and that we are here to support you and encourage you as much as possible.

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