Saturday, March 21, 2009

All I Wanted Was Two Tennis Balls

I have to admit that my grandmother and I have ridden along at a "coast" for awhile, so I guess I was due for a "fender bender" last Thursday. I arrived early to work on dispensing her medications into the little daily pill boxes. I took my grandmother a bag filled with 10 "cuties" - mandarin oranges, or clementines, as some people call them. I said, "I brought you and Ruby (her friend) some oranges." She said, "Well, Earl already brought me two... I don't know what I will do with all of these oranges!" I suggested she split them with Ruby - that they were very small - and she told me again - at least four times in all, "Well, Earl already brought me two of those!"

I was cutting pills in half while my grandmother sat on the couch and read a magazine. Suddenly I felt her standing over me. "I need Ativan... I haven't had any in about three weeks." Knowing that she had quite a few pills in that bottle the previous week, I searched for it in her box. The bottle was there, and I poured out about 15 pills into my hand. "Mam-ma," I said... "here's your Ativan... do you think you will need more than this in the next week?" "Well, no," she said in disbelief. "I didn't know I had any... I thought I was out. This is fine... I"ll just take these to the bathroom - that's where I use them in the night." So she took her bottle to the bathroom and apparently put some of the pills in a bottle there.

I continued dispensing the medications, and when I reached for her Fuorosomide (Lasix), the bottle had about 15 pills. I knew I had just gotten all of her medications refilled the previous week or so, including the Fuorosomide. But I could not find it anywhere. I asked my grandmother about it - she did not know where it was. There was enough medicine to fill the compartments for the week, and I made a note to check with the pharmacy and see if perhaps we did not actually get that prescription refilled. The only other thing I could think of was that I left some empty bottles on the table for my grandmother to mark through the label and then throw away. Maybe she somehow got confused and threw away her new bottle of Lasix, too.

We went out to get in the car, and as I folded up my grandmother's walker, she said, "A man at church told me I need tennis balls on these legs. I want you to get me some." I questioned her, because just a month ago, we looked at her walker and determined the tips of the legs were not worn. I mentioned tennis balls at that point, and she adamantly informed me she did NOT want tennis balls for her walker! Now that a MAN at church had suggested them, she was all about the tennis balls!

So we got into the car, and she says, "I want you to go to that medical supply place and get me some tennis balls for this walker." I told her I could get tennis balls at Wal-Mart. I muttered to myself, "Let's see... I guess I really need just one," and she started screaming, "NO! NO! NO! You need TWO!" I told her okay, I would get two and cut them and put them on her walker's legs. She said, "They have them already cut at the medical supply place." I replied, "Okay, that's where I will go." She added, "I thought you would just take the walker there and have them put on." I answered, "Okay, that's what I'll do." She added, "They are hard to put on - or at least that's what the man said who put on the last ones (on another walker - she has three!) -- but he was a FREAK!" I asked, "Who was a freak?" She answered, "That man at the nursing home who worked in maintenance... I don't know his name."

We drove the rest of the way to the beauty shop in virtual silence. After I left my grandmother at the beauty shop, I drove to the medical supply store. I entered and told the saleswoman, "I need to get a couple of tennis balls for my grandmother's walker." The attendant shook her head no... "I don't approve of tennis balls on walkers." I suggested I get the walker out of the car and let the girl look at it. Immediately upon seeing it, she said, "Oh, she needs new tips... those are shot... I think I have some extras in the back." She returned with two new legs with brand new plastic tips. She put them on, and I asked her how much I owed her. "Oh, not a thing," she answered. She insisted, and I thanked her profusely.

Then it was on to the pharmacy, where I determined that we DID get Lasix on March 7 - two weeks earlier... I also ordered some more Ativan while I was there. I went to the store and bought my grandmother's groceries, then I went back to her house to put them away - AND to search for the missing Lasix. I did NOT find it. I did find a bottle of Ativan in the bathroom medicine cabinet... along with a nearly full bottle of some prescription I didn't recognize (probably a generic Darvoset). I will investigate that further another day. For now, I concluded that she threw away the Lasix inadvertently. I'll refill it in a couple of weeks and move forward.

I got in my car to go back to get my grandmother, and I turned the key, thinking about where I had to stop and what I still had to do. All of a sudden, I felt a presence next to my door, and I looked up into the face of my grandmother's neighbor, Earl (also a senior), on his motorized scooter. He had brought his daily newspaper to her. I did not see him slip up beside me, and I nearly jumped through the roof of my Jeep. Earl found this hilariously funny. Believe me, it was NOT funny to me. So now I must remember to watch out for Earl!

I picked up the Ativan at the pharmacy and then went back to the beauty shop to get my grandmother. When she was finished having her hair combed, she headed for the coat rack, and I said, "Here's your walker." She looked at it as if nothing had changed, and I quickly explained... "I went to the medical supply place like you wanted, and the lady there did not approve of tennis balls on the legs of a walker, so she put on two brand new legs with new tips, and she didn't charge us a thing!" My grandmother shook her head and said, "Well, all I wanted was two tennis balls!" The beautician turned the walker upside down and said, "But look, Polly, these are brand new legs with new tips... and it was FREE!" Mam-ma was still not satisfied. She just shook her head and muttered something about "Y'all just do whatever you want with me... you always do anyway." I told her "If you want me to go to Wal-Mart and spend $20 on a can of tennis balls and put a couple on your walker, I can do that!" She said, "No, that's okay... whatever!" That is her favorite line when she is not in agreement - "Whatever!"

So it was back to her house. I gave her the Ativan prescription and helped her inside. She said, "I sure thank you for the oranges. Earl already gave me two, so I don't know what I will do with all those oranges, but I appreciate it." Then she tried to pay me for helping her. She does this when she senses she has pushed my buttons! I assured her that I don't want money for caring for her. I wished her a good week and left.

I told my mom, I know my grandmother's days are numbered, and I don't want our last conversation to be an argument over tennis balls for her walker! So I am trying to just agree with her and go along when possible. Thursday, it wasn't possible to go to the store she requested and get the item she wanted. So I had to compromise and do what was best for her. So much of what we do for our elderly loved ones is a tight-rope act of trying to keep them safe and not rob them of their independence. I hope I am preserving my grandmother's independence - AND her dignity - as much as possible. My good friend Karen told me last week that she is learning that things we perceive as no big deal are HUGE to our elderly loved ones. Something as small as two tennis balls on a walker doesn't seem significant to us, but to my grandmother, that was tantamount last week. Karen and I are both working on being more compassionate and empathetic. The jury is still out. Meanwhile, I am looking for that "nice man at church" who suggested the tennis balls in the first place... he's going down!

No comments: