Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We're in a "Lull"!

I hesitate to mention that we are in a "lull" because that usually invites trouble! And... some of our "lull" is because I did something to my back a couple of weeks ago, so I didn't see my grandmother last week - just spoke with her by phone. Luckily, my mom was in town and could run her errands. My grandmother called me every day for about a week to see how I was - and to relay what she needed - "I'm out of cash!" - "Did you pay my tithe?" (wasn't time yet - she forgot, she said!) She had plenty of people to see after her while I was out of commission - Mom and her husband power-washed the outside of her house one day, my cousins helped her with her garden another, and the man came to mow her yard, just to name a few. I am up and going again, so I will see her this week for "Errand Day". It was time last week to refill the daily medicine boxes, and I told Mom how to do it, and Mom said as she sat filling the little boxes, Mam-ma said, "I told Debbie I could do that myself!" Mom said it was a daunting task, as she made sure she got the right things in the right boxes. I agree, and that is why we do that for my grandmother!

There WAS one thing the last time I did errands. I picked up my grandmother for her appointments, and she was not ready for me, which was unusual. Usually she is tapping her toes at the door. I entered her house, and she walked past me and out the door. I asked, "Where are you going?" She replied, "I don't know." I reminded her she didn't have her purse or the remote for her garage door - two things she always takes with her. She came back into the house to get her things. I noticed on the kitchen table that Mam-ma's little pill cutter was out of the box. "Why is the pill cutter there?" I asked. She spun around and said, "Well, you didn't leave me any medicine for today." I looked at her and asked, "so you cut a pill to take for today?" "No," she answered. "There wasn't anything in the box for noon Thursday, so I didn't take any." I asked why she didn't look in the OTHER set of boxes for Thursday, and she said, "Well, you didn't leave me any medicine, so I figured you didn't aim for me to take any today." I asked if she had taken her morning meds - yes, they were in the box.

I remembered that the last week, when I filled her daily boxes (on a Thursday afternoon), I deliberately did not put any medicine in the Thursday morning and noon compartments of one set, so that my grandmother would not become confused (I hoped) and take a double dose, thinking she forgot earlier. BUT... she didn't understand that, so from now on, I will just lay out the evening medication for that day on her kitchen table and fill ALL of the compartments. Lesson learned on my part - and as my husband pointed out, she may have not taken the medication for my benefit - but we DID stop long enough for her to take her noon meds before we left for the beauty shop! Mom said some of a Friday set were missing when she refilled, and Mam-ma insisted it was "right," but Mom isn't sure. So, I still don't know for sure that Mam-ma takes her meds right, but she seems to be doing fairly well, so we will hope so.

My sister-in-law is having all manner of challenges with her parents. Her mom is 90 and her dad is 89. I think I related in an earlier post that severe storms caused a lot of damage to these folks' home and business back in the spring, and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law have made several trips - about 3.5 hours one way - to clean up the yard, and meet with insurance adjusters and repair people. Mother's Day weekend, my sister-in-law's mother had some sort of accident as she turned outside and started to go into the house. She fell and broke three ribs, pulled muscles in her shoulder, and was really banged up pretty good. She is convinced she had a mini-stroke.

However, some months ago, this lady dropped a plate on her foot, and my sister-in-law thinks she suffered some nerve damage, and from time to time the foot feels "heavy" and sort of "goes out" on her. There have been tests and doctor visits, and the consensus among medical personnel was that there was nerve damage to this foot that caused the fall. An MRI was talked about, but at the time, the pain and discomfort from the broken ribs was such that this lady could not lie still for an hour in the machine. She has steadily improved from the broken ribs and is getting around better now... all things considered - she has macular degeneration and only has limited peripheral vision, so her husband has to help her navigate (and he doesn't hear well, but that's another story!) - and she has even started to get out for Garden Club coffee, and things like that.

My sister-in-law (an only child) and her husband traveled to visit her parents this past weekend and handle some things with the insurance people. She e-mailed this report afterward: "My mom called to tell me she had another spell yesterday when she went with my Dad to check on the store. This time her left leg got heavy and so did her right, and her knees started to buckle. She held on and did not fall. So she had a dr. appt. today and she is now scheduled for an open air MRI on Wed of the lower back, & they are making an appt with a neurologist & want her to do PT at Health South. I don't think she needs to do PT until they find out what is wrong. She does not want me to come up there for the MRI so that is good. She is much more ok with that now. Also my Dad gets some free tests done with his 55 Plus club & his hemoglobin came back VERY low - it is 9 & should be 14, so he is going to the dr. tomorrow at 4. It just does not seem to let up." Do you relate? These dear folks still live alone in their own home, and they have no intention of doing otherwise. We all see the handwriting on the wall, but my sister-in-law and brother-in-law seem to be taking it one day at a time and just holding out as long as they can. They realize the day is quickly approaching when they will have to step in and force the issue... most likely when something major happens to one or the other that means they can no longer live at home.

I am so thankful that, for the moment, my grandmother is still able to live at home alone - and I almost added "safely" but some days I wonder about her and her gas cook stove and those trips out in the back yard to hoe her green beans in her little garden. But we do have a plan in place - we have already done the nursing home gig three separate times for rehab, and if something major happens, that will become a permanent residence, sadly. All things financial were arranged for that long, long ago, and if that fateful day comes, we will be ready. But so many are not... and the toll it takes on the children, aside from their parents' grief and frustration, is immeasurable. I know my sister-in-law and her husband will need a lot of support, and we will be there for them.

I spent an hour at the local nursing home lately giving an overdue piano concert to a friend of mine who is a resident there - she is 100 years young now, and for her birthday, I promised her a recital. She is still very clear in her thinking and relatively healthy, but at 100, she is not able to care for daily needs like meals, bathing, and general mobility - although she does drive a mean wheelchair! The hour was so rewarding... many residents came to hear the music, and then we sang hymns. I learned very quickly that, regardless of one's mental capacity, hymns are a universal common ground. People who could barely hold their heads up and put two words together sprang to life, so to speak, and began mouthing the words, or humming the tunes. If they didn't know the verses, almost all knew the choruses. And the smiles on their faces and the peacefulness in their eyes as they sang familiar songs was priceless. I will be doing that again soon!

I heard lately that at some point, you quit trying to hide how old you are and start bragging about it, and with a 96th birthday only four months away, that is my Mam-ma! While the time spent with the nursing home residents was rewarding, and it was a blessing to be able to bring them a little joy in an otherwise routine day, I also was keenly aware of how fortunate I am that my grandmother is not there. I am blessed that, even with all of her antics, she is still physically able to live alone - and more than that, she is still of fairly sound mind, save a little forgetfulness. She remembers what she told you two minutes ago and doesn't repeat the same thing over and over in rapid succession. She just completed baby blankets for two new twin nieces. She still keeps up with news and politics. ?And.. she still gardens!

1 comment:

JJ said...

Hi Debbie, I just caught up on the blog, and as usual so much of what you write in her reminds me so much of our situation with Mom. Her mind is still sharp (usually) but sometimes we think her imagination is running a bit wild. (I hate to think she is lying to us intentionally, but there may be no way around it).

At least unlike last summer she does not have to go to a doctor almost every day of the week, and I think for her that is a problem, because she thinks someone should take her somewhere each and every day of the week. Others having things going on in their own lives which require some time should have nothing to do with everyone dancing to her tune.

The part that remained the same this summer is that we noticed Mom had went downhill more physically, and has just about quit trying to help herself, thinks someone should do everything for her continuously. She has a cleaning lady that comes in once a month and does her floors and all the deep cleaning, but now and ever more increasingly she does not want to do the dusting and light housework needed on a day to day basis. One would think after three doctors told her to get out and walk to ward off the problems that come with arthritis in her hips and to move around her apartment as much as she can, she insists no doctor ever told her to exercise or move around. She only wants to sit in her recliner and watch TV.

She did not want to pay for cable tv, and has not had a television since 2000, but decided to get cable and a new television this summer. Four people offered to give her very nice televisions, but she would have no part of it and wanted to buy the one she wanted, so off we go TV shopping. She picked out the finest flat screen whoopie do television in every place we looked and then was shocked beyond imagination when someone told her the price was several hundred dollars more than she could afford. We finally went to WalMart and found a digital TV that she could afford. She had to have digital even though my brother and his wife, and my darling wife and I along with several other people told her with cable she really did not need one. It was HER TV, AND SHE WAS GOING TO HAVE A DIGITAL.

Off to the local cable company (Sudden Death errrrrr Link) to pick a package and get it connected. She wanted the 19.95 package and elderly friend in her apartment complex had, and became surly when the young lady told her the most inexpensive package they had was 29.95 and only had twenty something channels. We told her she would not be satisfied with it because there were no old movie channels with it, but she was convinced they were already overcharging her by ten dollars for the same thing Ginger (her friend) has. I gave my phone number as a contact person in case of problems and we were off to wait for the lineman to come out and hook up the cable at the pole. Mom just knew there would have to be a bunch of new wires run, even though the lady at the cable company told her the cable was already there. Mom spent a few hours trying to figure out how the lineman was going to get the cable in to where he tv was even though I took the plate off the wall and ran the cable out into the room and hooked it to the back of her TV.

One the lineman came and hooked her apt. up at the pole it was not thirty minutes from the time we left her place, she was on the phone telling me there were no OLD MOVIE CHANNELS on her tv and they had not hooked up the right cable. I told her to go up and watch tv with Ginger and we would be over tomorrow. Of course she got her feelings hurt and didn't watch tv all that night.

The next day when I told her she bought the cheapest package and reminder her I had told her she would not be happy with it, she denied ever hearing that said from anyone. After much explaining she would have to get on of the higher priced packages from the cable company, she said they were ripping her off and that Ginger had all sorts of stations for 19.95, and she was not paying them any more money so I told her she would have to live with what she had.

As I was leaving I stopped by Gingers apartment and talked with her a bit, and casually mentioned Mom was not very happy with her choice of cable packages, but did not want to pay more. Ginger immediately said that she started with the basic package about six years ago which was 19.95 but had to upgrade a few steps to get what she wanted to watch, and that even at fifty four plus a month she finally got some channels she liked. I asked if she would go to Moms, sixty feet away and tell her that. Of course she would and said she was about ready to go see how her cable was anyway. Thanks to Ginger that problem was taken care of with no more problems, and Mom still won't pay more for a better cable package, at least up to now.
We will see what happens in the next few weeks.

This cable tv thing had taken up the better part of two weeks, we were now behind in our normal (if there is such a thing with an aging parent) weeks work at the RV, and the things we had been trying to sell through the local radio program had taken a back seat to the back seat temporarily.

Now this is just the tip of the ice berg and we are starting to strongly suspect Mom is doing all she can to manipulate everyone she can around her, (as if we didn't already know it) even more than before. Sometimes I think a good spanking would help, but ya just can't do that. We have decided among ourselves (My brother, his wife, my wife and me) that we will always go do things for her singly, no couples things so she does not hold two of us captive at the same time. Now don't get me wrong, we still go as couples or all of us, to see her and to occasionally take her out to dinner. We also take her places with us when it is appropriate, but we find it is working better if there is some mystery as to why the other half of the couple did not attend when she beckons.

Sorry Deb, I have rambled on and I know you probably have been through many similar problems, but it is just good to vent about it. As much as we love our parents and other older family members, it can sometimes be such a pain trying to keep things on an even keel for them.

Thanks for the blog site Debbie, and thanks for letting us vent a bit. Now to see what tomorrow brings, hopefully something milder than some of our current summers adventures with Mom.

See ya