Friday, May 29, 2009

New Day, New Adventures!

How quickly things change. This morning I went to some garage sales and then stopped in Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of things. My husband called me while I was there and said that Mam-ma's nurse had called our house, and Mam-ma had what the nurse thought was a burst blood vessel in her leg. The nurse called Mam-ma's doctor's office, but he was not in today, and the staff there said to take her to the ER. The nurse was not allowed to transport Mam-ma, so her "boss" said "Call an ambulance." Mam-ma refused transport by ambulance and told the nurse to call ME! (That was a good thing - she didn't need an ambulance!) So I paid for my things and drove to Mam-ma's.

Her leg looked terrible... a huge bruised place on the left shin that had spread all the way down to her ankle. The LPN was still there, and she said she felt sure it was nothing, but they had to rule out a deep vein thrombosis. So, long story short, I loaded Mam-ma in the car and took her to the ER. As a note to self... if we need the ER, 11:00 a.m. on a Friday morning is a good time to go! We got right in, the nurse took vitals and notes and the doctor came in immediately afterward and declared it was a hematoma and Mam-ma would be fine! I don't think we were there 30 minutes total. The doctor said he could feel a knot in it, and that either a blood vessel ruptured or she hit something and didn't realize it, or a combination of both. He said it could have been caused from a lot of walking, and we know she did a LOT OF WALKING around Wal-Mart yesterday. She said she felt a sharp pain in her leg last night while watching the National Spelling Bee, and when she took her sock off, she saw the bruise. So I'm thinking something ruptured.

Anyway, I stopped at a nearby "quick stop" that sells fried chicken my grandmother likes and got her some chicken livers, a potato wedge and some cole slaw and took her home. I suggested she put her feet up, but she said that first she had to sew the binding on that new quilt piece she bought at Wal-Mart yesterday, so she could sit and hem it. Whatever... before we went to the ER, she had to stop and move her clothes from the washer to the dryer! She says her leg does not hurt. The nurse cautioned me that if it swells over the weekend or gets worse, to come back. So I told Mam-ma to call me if it swells - and that she probably would want to skip the mini-skirt for church on Sunday!

The doctor was very nice... we had never seen him before, and he was intrigued with Mam-ma and wanted to know how she got to be 96 and in such great shape still. Did he ever get an earful! He said he suspects the spreading of this bruise is due to the daily aspirin she takes, and it's nothing to cause alarm. He asked how I was related to her, and I told him, and he said to Mam-ma, "It looks like she enjoys taking care of you," and Mam-ma said, "Hmmph! Well, she never says anything!" Now I don't know if that means I never complain or I never tell her I enjoy caring for her! I certainly didn't ask for clarification!!!

So I left her eating her lunch and talking about what she planned to do next. I went ahead and stopped at a few more sales, thankful that my grandmother was okay - and that I didn't end up stuck at the ER most of the day. All in all, everything went very smoothly... and I'm knocking on wood and counting my blessings!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tell Me Again Why I Shop?

Today I picked up my grandmother for her beauty shop appointment, and she had a grocery list for me: milk, buttermilk, 2 dozen eggs, bacon, 2 cans of tuna, frozen pie crusts, and a big bag of bite-sized Three Musketeers bars. She had telephoned two nights ago to tell me she wanted me to buy another pre-quilted panel for her to bind to make a baby quilt for a cousin who is expecting later this summer.

So we got in the car, and she said, "When I get back, me and Ruby are going to Wal-Mart and just 'jaggin' around.'" I have absolutely no idea what that means, exactly. She added, "That is... if Ruby feels like it... she's been fogged out lately." Again, I'm not clear on the meaning of these terms! So I suggested that she get her own baby blanket panel, since I often do not please her with such selections. (I didn't put it exactly that way to her, but I told her she knew better what she wanted than I.) She agreed, and I marked it off of MY list.

We got a few blocks further, and she said, "... and I need new drapes in my bedroom." I suggested she look for some at Wal-Mart and use some of her stimulus money for them. She went on to explain that the curtains had been in the house for over 20 years, and ever since Ruby redecorated her bedroom last summer, she had thought that her drapes looked terrible. Again, I suggested she buy new ones.

I bought the groceries, and Mam-ma got her hair done. When we got home, she promptly called Ruby and told her, "I'm back and ready!" Ruby said it would take 30 minutes or so. I sat down to dispense my grandmother's medicine. Then we looked at the bedroom drapery and discussed what she needed... AND... she added that she also needed a new window shade for another bedroom window. I told her again... "you're going to Wal-Mart - get that, too!"

So I left and returned to Wal-Mart to buy our groceries. I was pushing the cart down an aisle, and I looked up to see my grandmother pass at the end, pushing a cart of her own! Those ladies almost beat me there! I go to Wal-Mart once a week, generally. They go nearly every day. So I have to ask again, WHY am I buying groceries for her? Actually, Ruby has asked the same question. My grandmother's "excuse" is that she can't carry heavy things, like a box of detergent or a bag of sugar. Ruby's reply... "I don't know why that matters. When we shop together, I always carry her groceries for her." Did I mention that Ruby is NINETY?

I'm hoping that Mam-ma got the quilt panel and the drapery. It might be asking to much to think she also got a window shade! As I was leaving, she walked me to the door. She spied a baby rabbit out in her yard, munching on some grass at the edge of her flower bed, and before I could blink, she shot down three steps and across her garage and out toward that bunny, shooing him away. She was muttering, "If I just had a rock..." Nobody messes with Mam-ma's flowers - not even a hungry baby bunny! She said they have eaten her green bean plants in the garden... I told her that's because they can't open the cans like she can! I don't think she liked that.

Oh, well... maybe she bought green beans at Wal-Mart today, too.

BTW... I asked about the new neighbor... Mam-ma said, "Well, I haven't seen her much - I went over there the other morning, and she was still in her pajamas. I guess I won't go visit her that early again." I laughed and said, "Yes, some of us don't get up very early in the morning," to which she added, "Well that's the truth!" I can only imagine how early she dropped in. Poor neighbor lady!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Up With That?

When I arrived at my grandmother's last week, her driveway was full... 2 cars taking both spaces. I couldn't imagine who was visiting her at her "beauty shop time." One of the cars had Oklahoma license tags. As I pulled up behind the cars, a lady came running from across the street, waving her arms. "We're moving in next door," she said. "Your grandmother said we could park here." I looked up and saw the moving van next door and men unloading furniture into the little house. I pulled in behind the cars so that my grandmother could navigate the driveway with her walker and get into the car.

The lady seemed very nice, and she explained that it was actually her sister who was moving in - she was just there to help. She told me how sweet my grandmother was and how they already loved her. I thanked her and went inside. Mam-ma was almost ready, and she gathered her purse and we walked out to the car. On the way to the beauty shop, she talked non-stop about these two women and how nice they were, and she added that she fed them lunch. "You fed them today?" I asked. "Yes," she said. "I figured it was the least I could do for them. I had leftovers, and I made a pan of cornbread. They said it was real good." I laughed and told her they would be back to eat with her again. She said they were amazed at what she had prepared... and "I told them some of it I cooked a few days ago, but you are welcome to eat it." She added... "And guess what, they are both Baptists!" as if they were both royalty. (My grandmother's Baptist roots run deeply!)

Mam-ma could not tell me where the woman came from - she didn't even remember her name. I told her what it was, and she said, "I believe that's right." She said the sister had mentioned how she hoped her sister, a widow for the past year, would become involved in church, and my grandmother told her, "You don't worry... I'll work on that!" Mam-ma had no idea why this woman had moved here, whether she worked, or any of the particulars. All she knew was she "seemed real nice." My husband was concerned, as was I, that she had just invited complete strangers into her home for a meal. Maybe I'm overly skeptical, but I know how vulnerable our seniors are to scams and schemes. Who moves into a neighborhood and has lunch at the neighbor's on moving day? But then, I reminded myself of my grandmother's "I won't take no for an answer perseverance" and decided she probably gave them no option for refusal. So I prayed that this would be okay, and subsequently, my grandmother has told my mother that this woman has a son living here who is a well-known local businessman. I am hoping that is correct and will find out for myself.

But this does beg the question - how do we keep our seniors safe without taking away all of their independence and/or offending them? It is a very slippery slope... and I'm not sure I have the answer, other than to keep close tabs on my grandmother behind the scenes. (If she thinks I'm checking up on her, she will have a fit and it will be ugly between us.)

Meanwhile, my niece did take her new baby to meet his great-great-grandmother, and she was thrilled with him. My sister went along for the visit. She said my grandmother was confused while they were there. My sister has been going to college for the last 2 years and working part-time at Wal-Mart. In March, Wal-Mart let her go, and she has yet to find a job since completing her degree. A couple of weeks ago, my grandmother phoned her one day and said, "I guess you are getting ready to go to school." My sister said no, school was over. So my grandmother says, "Well, aren't you going to work at Wal-Mart this afternoon?" "No," my sister said... "remember, Wal-Mart let me go back in March." Mam-ma said she did not know that. Two or three days later, my grandmother was talking to me, and she said, "Is your sister working today?" I told her no, my sister did not work right now. "Well, I thought she worked at Wal-Mart," she said. I reminded her that my sister lost that job in March. Mam-ma said, "Oh she did? I didn't know that! Well, maybe I did." I'm thinking "yes, you were told 2 days ago!"

So when my sister and niece visited with the new baby, they noticed a new coffee table in my grandmother's living room. It is much smaller than the one she had before, and it's been there a few weeks. When I had asked her about it, she said the other one was too big and cumbersome to walk around, and she had this one "in her closet." Now, I had never seen it before, so I don't know what closet it was in, but I didn't argue. But when my sister Suzanne visited, she asked, "Where did you get that coffee table." Mam-ma replied, "Mike and Suzanne gave it to me." My sister said, "No, I'm Suzanne, and I've never seen that table in my life!" She said that Mam-ma continued to refer to "Mike and Suzanne" as if Suzanne was not in the room. It was rather bizarre and really upset my sister, but she ultimately just changed the subject.

I don't know what this means. Most days my grandmother is very well. She will NOT stay out of her yard or her garden - moving limbs that fall in thunderstorms, pruning bushes with her friend Ruby (who is a spry 90!!!), and weeding/fertilizing/tending her garden and flowers. She had me hang a chain between 2 trees so she could hang her hummingbird feeder. I am pretty sure she and her peers sat at the Baptist Church last Saturday and played dominoes while monitoring the restrooms during a nearby 3-on-3 basketball tournament, as they have done for about a decade. She did not go to church Sunday, but it was pouring rain.

It could be that my grandmother is having more TIAs (mini-strokes). It could be dementia, or it could be just an off day. But we do see that she is slipping. Yet at times, she seems to be fairly clear. About 2 weeks ago, she phoned me one night... "Did you read today's paper?" I had skimmed it. "You need to read this article about my stimulus check... I think I'm gonna have to give it back." My grandmother recently got a $250 stimulus check that was directly deposited into her checking account. I read the article, which explained that this money was supposed to go directly to seniors and be tax-free. However, there are two groups who may have issues with this: those 65 or older who still work and pay taxes and will have to report this money as income when they file their 2009 taxes; and those in nursing homes, where any money received (less the miniscule monthly allotment for personal items) goes directly to the nursing home for their care. The question here is how to get the money to the senior without the nursing home getting it? In essence, unless something is done in Congress, those who pay taxes will have to pay back a portion of their stimulus money in the form of taxes next year. And those on Medicare/Medicaid in nursing homes will not get the money. Neither of these affects my grandmother.

I called and explained this to Mam-ma, and she said, "Well, we'll see." I told her not to worry - that she did not make enough, even counting her stimulus check, to be required to file an income tax return. They would not be asking for her money back. She said, "Well, at least not for now." I also told her that the nursing home issue did not affect her because she is not in a nursing home. She said, "Well, not today!" I told her, "If you go to the nursing home TOMORROW, it still will not affect you. And besides, that money will be gone, because I am going to withdraw it!" "Okay," she said, "well see what happens." I don't think I ever did convince her that a government agent is not going to knock on her door some day and say, "Mrs. Chandler, I need your $250 stimulus money." She reads much more of the daily paper than I do, and sometimes I'm not sure that's good!

What to do? I think the only thing we can do is monitor her and make sure she is safe. I have a lot of trusted "agents on the ground" who are in and out on a weekly, if not daily basis at her house. I know they will tell me if anything seems amiss. And I am checking, my sister and mom are calling, and we are all doing a lot of praying! It so takes a village, but at the same time, this is a cake walk compared to when she is in the nursing home or hospital, so I am not complaining. If I could have one wish, it would be that she is able to live out her days in her own home and someday wake up on the other side of the River Jordan. I know I don't get to make that choice, but I drop hints every chance I get! May God have mercy on us all!

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Another Mistake" ... and a New Blessing

The fun just never ends bought my grandmother another B-cup bra at Wal-Mart, and when I showed it to her, she frowned and said in a rather hateful voice, "Well I meant to send that other bra back with you today." I asked why - what was wrong with it and she said, "Well, you brought me back another C-cup." I told her I did not, and she argued with me, and said, "I'll just show you. I was gonna wear that the other day and I pulled it out and looked at it and thought 'well, she's made another mistake.'" We went in her bedroom, and she opened the drawer, and there was the bra - a B-cup. She said, rather disgustedly, "Well, when I looked at that, I could have sworn it said C." No apology, of course, or admission she was wrong... just that comment. I said, "Okay, now you have TWO B-cup bras, so you should be set."

She also fussed today that her hairdresser never gets her hair dry. I asked if it was still wet, and she said, "Well no, she dried it, but she always has several people going and she is in a hurry and doesn't have time for me."

I guess this would have upset me more, but we got a new grand-nephew today - the first baby for my niece and the first grandchild for my sister. They named him Timothy for my brother, Tim, who died when my niece was only 8 years old. To her, Tim was larger than life, and he would be thrilled with his namesake... as are we.

The circle of life continues... and reminds us what is really important!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays...

Since April 28th, we have had over 10 inches of rain locally - and more than 12 inches in some parts of Arkansas. My mother's basement flooded with the first rain, and she and her husband have vacuumed water - sometimes as much as 4" deep - every single day for 2 weeks. Mother says that, at 70 years of age, they are too old to face this every time heavy rains come. So they are sorting and moving things, and vacuuming water... and they plan to dig out a trench in the concrete on 3 walls of the basement and install a sump pump. Hopefully that will help.

What DO seniors do when things like this happen? We have offered to help my mom, but she and her husband insist that they can manage... but what if they were 80 instead of 70? I did help Mom sort through things for a few hours yesterday afternoon - Happy Mother's Day! - but what if she had no children? How would she manage?

Do you see where I am headed with this? There are going to be more and more situations like this cropping up in the future, as our population ages... and more and more services are going to be needed to accommodate these needs. As I see it, the big issue will be how to compensate those who provide these services... certainly this doesn't fall under the Medicare umbrella! And yet many seniors will be unable to afford to pay anywhere near what these services are worth! At the same time, those caregivers who are sandwiched between this group and their own young family will be stretched to the max already... with little to no time to attend to these issues.

Any ideas?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Age Banks?

The "bra saga" continued this week as I returned the first cotton bra I had purchased for my grandmother. I had the receipt, but when I got to the service desk, I had inadvertently saved the receipt for the "new" bra instead of the first one. Thankfully, the associates at Wal-Mart were accommodating and realized my dilemma and made the exchange anyway. When I picked up my grandmother for her hairdresser's appointment, she also had a package with 2 pair of Vanity Fair control panties that she said "were too small" and she wanted me to "take them back to Wal-Mart and get me a couple of pairs of large ones." She had no receipt. I asked where she got the panties, and she replied, "Well YOU bought them for me!" I think that was sometime last summer or fall - ?? - not sure! Anyway, I pled my case to the Wal-Mart associate, and since it was an even exchange - and thankfully there were exactly TWO pair of large panties on the rack - we were all squared away.

My mother posed the question, "with all of the energy you are expending now, who will buy MY bras when I get old?" I told her she will have to be a 21st Century woman and go braless!

Then I saw a Tweet about this report on a blog at for "Age Banks" - The gist of the post is that someone in China has developed a system whereby volunteers can spend time with a senior, and that time is recorded and placed in a "bank" to be "cashed in" with another volunteer when they are in need of their own "senior care." It sounds like an interesting concept... not only for childless people like my husband and me, but also so many seniors whose children and families are unable to provide this care, for whatever reason. The question is posed... would this work in the US? and should someone be looking into this?

Ideas like this one may be the tip of the iceberg as we begin to explore caring for an ever-aging population. I just wonder if this bank could be "retroactive" for all of us who already have a lot of time and energy invested? Maybe Mom could get those bras after all!