Monday, September 28, 2009

What Are You Doing With the Rest of Your Day?

Last week my grandmother called on Wednesday afternoon, somewhere around 1:30, and asked in a really pitiful voice, "Can you take me to the dentist tomorrow? My teeth are killing me." I told her I wasn't sure... what time? "One o'clock," she answered. "No, Mam-ma," I replied... "I can't... I'll have the baby. Can't you go another time?" "No, that's when they can see me. They can't see me today and they don't work on Friday." She insisted there were no morning appointments open, and on such short notice, I was not surprised. I told her I was sorry, but I just couldn't take her - the baby would be coming at 12:30 for the afternoon. She said, "I thought you could just bring him with you." I told her that was not possible... first of all, I don't have a car seat, and I was not going to take a 4-month-old baby to sit in a cramped waiting room for who knows how long (sometimes we are there several hours). She did not like this answer and pointed out that my mom was going to be gone (Mom had a writer's workshop to attend that weekend). Again, I told her I was sorry, but I could not take her... and I wasn't sure if my sister might be available or not. She said, "I'll call her," and hung up.

I talked with my mom, and she said, "I know what you are going to say... Mam-ma called here around 1:00. I told her I would be gone, and you would have the baby, and she said she was going to call her friend Ruby." It's always the same thing - Mam-ma waits until her dentures are so loose that they are rubbing a terrible blister on her gums, and then it is an emergency of national proportions. I guess I am not sympathetic because I don't wear dentures, but Mom says it's really miserable pain. However, she agrees that Mam-ma waits too long to have something done... and the dentist even fusses that she should come more often for adjustments.

As luck would have it, my sister was able to take Mam-ma to the dentist. I say "lucky," because the baby ended up staying into the evening and being fussy. And, Mom's husband had also offered to take Mam-ma (and I'm sure my own husband would have taken her, had I asked.) My sister said they were in and out of the dentist's office in around 30 minutes - something I have never experienced! She also said that on the way home, Mam-ma said, "The dentist fussed because I don't come to see him about these teeth more often, and I told him, 'I would, but I don't have anybody to bring me. My friend Ruby would bring me, but she works.'" My sister couldn't believe Mam-ma said that... welcome to my world! My sister put Caladryl on Mam-ma's shingles, and she said they were all dried up except for a small patch under the breast. She thought Mam-ma looked well and was feeling well.

Friday afternoon, I took Mam-ma to get her hair done. She mentioned on the way home that she had taken an Ibuprofen before she went because, "I was hurting a little." I reminded her that shingles can hurt off and on for a long time, and I suggested that she take TWO Ibuprofen before bedtime and get a good night's rest. She replied... "Well, the thing of it is... they hurt my stomach." Now, I know this is possible. I also know that Mam-ma doesn't take her pain medication with food... AND... she has been terribly inconsistent about taking her Ibuprofen. Several medical professionals (and my mom and I) have recommended she take her Ibuprofen with some crackers or cookies or something EVERY THREE to FOUR HOURS, to keep a steady dose of pain medication in her system. Clearly she doesn't need as much as she implies, or she would be more diligent in doing this. She may be forgetful about some things, but I don't think pain medication is one of them.

Mam-ma also told me that her friend Ruby had said, "I will be so glad when you feel like going shopping with me at the grocery store again." I suggested that Mam-ma should be able to do this already, and she said, "Well, I'm just about there." Less than 30 minutes later, I asked her if she was going to church Sunday and she said, "I don't know... I went to that thing at church yesterday." I questioned her, and she said, "You know that thing at that little church - your doctor was there." I said, "Dr. XXXX?" "No... your kidney doctor." "Oh... Dr. C." "Yes, and he spoke and it was so low I couldn't hear any of it." "What did he talk about?" "Well, it was real interesting... he talked about the wars and such... I wish I could have heard it." "And where was this?" "Oh, at that church next to Alps - Grace Baptist." "Who did you go with?" "Ruby. And I tell you what... that was the prettiest singin' I ever heard. Cleta and Carolyn (two sisters she knows) and about four men... and then her husband got up and sang a couple of songs." I said, "Gospel music?" "YES!" "And you like that..." "I love it!" My sister was amazed to learn that Mam-ma had been somewhere Thursday morning... and this was on the heels of Mam-ma telling me how badly she hurt and how Ruby sure hoped she felt like going to the grocery store with her soon. For all I know, they went that day!

It turns out that Mam-ma went to the church service on WEDNESDAY morning... not Thursday. And... Mom said that a lunch was served. So in retrospect, Mam-ma barely got home from her church service and lunch before she was calling Mom and me in desperate need of a trip to the dentist! I have no doubt that she was the life of the party at the church function... a totally different picture than was painted for us a few minutes later.

At 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, our phone rang! My husband answered first, and when I got on the line, Mam-ma was already asking him, could she take "one of them red pills." I asked what was wrong and she said..."Would it be okay if I take one of them red pills? I haven't slept a pat all night." (She was sounded horrible, of course.) She added, "This under here is just a hurtin' me so bad." (I think she is talking about the little patch still under her breast... and I have no doubt that it hurts.) I asked her, did she plan to only take a half a tablet? She said, "Well, when I talked to him at the drug store the other day, he said it would be alright to take one." I don't know who him is... or when she talked to him, but I told her, "But you told me you have never taken more than a half a tablet at a time."

Then I asked if she took an Ativan Friday night before bedtime, and she said yes. I asked... "Did you take a half or a whole one?" She said, "Yes." I asked, "Which one, Mam-ma - did you take a half or a whole?" She said she took a half. So I told her "Then, yes, you can take a half a Darvocet - but ONLY a half a tablet, and you need to eat something with it - and then you get back into bed and see if you can sleep." Honestly, I have no clue whether she was really that bad - how much she had actually slept - or how much of her tone was for my benefit... but it sounded like she had worked herself into quite a lather, and I knew she would probably take the Darvocet either way, so I told her to go ahead.

I waited until about 10:00 a.m. to call, hoping Mam-ma had gone back to bed and was sleeping. She had not. She said she had company - church friends who visit nearly every day - so we didn't talk long. She was talking about taking the other half of the Darvocet and getting back into bed. I don't know what she did... I didn't call again. Her voice was strong, and she didn't sound like she was in pain... or even fatigued. Most likely she slept more through Friday night than she thought - or admitted.

I am trying to learn from all of this. My maternal grandmother was notorious for middle-of-the-night "emergency" phone calls to my mom for a myriad of concocted problems... sometimes demanding to be taken to the ER... so this phone call wasn't that big of a deal in the scheme of things. But I wonder, is it the first of many to come? I don't think my grandmother had a clue what time it was - and if she did, she didn't care. She had clearly worked herself into a state, and I know this can be hard on her heart and/or cause her to have a stroke.

I know that there are those who (with help and stories from Mam-ma) think that I am uncaring and unwilling to help her. And neither could be further from the truth. They don't see the happy, determined woman who goes to a community church service one hour and calls in a panic the next declaring she is "hurting so bad something has to be done." They don't know that the little woman who tells them she hasn't slept a wink and hurts so bad she is walking the floor probably did 2 loads of laundry, baked a pie, walked around the block, and made a batch of peanut brittle -- all before 9:00 a.m.! The little woman they see hobble across the floor on a walker is the same one who picks up limbs in her yard, sweeps her carport, and fertilizes her flowers (all against our better judgment - and mostly behind our backs!).

I recently went to the funeral visitation for an 80-year-old lady who suffered a heart attack, aneurysm, or something instantaneous as her husband helped her stand beside her bed to make a middle-of-the-night bathroom run. While the lady had been physically incapacitated and confined to a wheelchair and her bed most of the time, she was still mentally alert and well. Her husband, on the other hand, is fairly well physically but can't remember to take his medications and is failing mentally. Together, they sort of made a "whole person" - and this is often the case. I looked at the frail, teary-eyed widower and thought, "you are probably a good 15 years younger than my Mam-ma!"

I know age is relative, but I see so many people who are far younger than Mam-ma doing so much more poorly... and I marvel at how well she is. I wish she saw it! And then there is her friend Ruby - almost 91 and still working for another elderly lady two days per week, mowing her own yard, and driving herself and others to countless meetings, events, and the local grocery/discount stores... and I know she has health concerns, but I do not hear her complaining. Could it be that she complains to her children/grandchildren and paints a rosey picture to HER friends? I don't think so... but I can't say that for certain.

I try to learn from these experiences. So what are my lessons from this weekend?

  1. I am trying to do all I can to be self-sufficient... and to stay that way as I age. I am striving to remind myself often how strong I am... and to keep busy and focused on others more than myself. I firmly believe that a big key to helping yourself is to get busy helping others. And I see this confirmed in my grandmother... when she is busy attending a church service, cooking for someone, visiting with company, helping Ruby with a project, making baby quilts for her great-grandson and countless nieces and nephews, or even talking on the phone with her friends, she tends to forget herself - if only for a few minutes.
  2. My grandmother's laundry list of ailments and complaints is miniscule compared to the needs and ailments of many much younger than she. She continues to do remarkably well - and I have no doubt it is in large part due to her feistiness!
  3. It doesn't matter what others think... they are not in my shoes, don't know my situation, and they don't get the whole story from my grandmother. I reminded myself of this at Sunday lunch, when the daughter-in-law of Mam-ma's friend asked, "Have you talked to your grandmother today?"
  4. This is a process...and the best I can hope for is to meet needs, put out fires, and keep putting one foot in front of the other and doing what is necessary to keep my grandmother safe and able to live alone in her own home.

As our population on the whole ages, I wonder what lies ahead... for us AND those who care for us! And I wonder what this week will bring! I probably need to read some posts at on the Caregiving forum... the daily challenges others face always humble me. Or maybe I'll go make some burp pads for our great-niece who will arrive in November. Doing for others... yeah... I think that's the ticket!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What is Wrong With People?!

Okay, so that's a rhetorical question, in case you haven't guessed. I told a dear friend of mine, "This is why I need Timmy!" Another friend referred to the baby as my "balance."

Tuesday, I got Timmy down for a nap, and my phone rang - Mam-ma Polly. She sounded AWFUL and said, "The nurse just left to go get me some pain medicine... this Ibuprofen is not doing enough." I asked what nurse... and she said Home Health. I asked WHAT medicine, and she said, "Darvocet." I then reminded her that about a month ago, Dr. B said "No more Darvocet," and I removed it from her house - so who prescribed this? She didn't know... but the nurse was headed to the pharmacy. So I called the drugstore, and the clerk asked the pharmacist, and he said, "That prescription has been sitting here for 5 days."

Meanwhile, the nurse arrived at the pharmacy (the clerk said "I think she's standing here at the counter.") and I explained that my grandmother wasn't supposed to have Darvocet, and this was all news to me, and I needed to talk to Dr. B. So the pharmacy people told the nurse there was nothing to pick up, and if there was something later, I would get it. The pharmacy clerk also told me that Calamine lotion had been ordered. I told her I had a bottle of Caladryl in my purse already to take to Mam-ma, and she said, "Well, you certainly don't need the Calamine, then... I'll tell the nurse there is nothing to pick up."

So... I called the clinic, and I talked to the receptionist, who happens to be the doctor's wife. That was before 2:30 p.m. She looked at Mam-ma's chart and said, "Last Thursday, the Home Health nurse called and reported you had had Polly to the ER on Wednesday and she was disoriented and vomiting. She is not disoriented today, but she is in pain. The doctor personally called in a prescription for Darvocet."

Nobody ever let me know about it - and nobody picked it up. I also told the doctor's wife that Polly was INDEED disoriented on Thursday, which is why my sister spent the night with her. So I don't know what story Mam-ma gave the nurse or how she acted. The doctor's wife acted very sympathetic and understood Mam-ma could not take Darvocet with Ativan, and she said she would talk to the doctor herself and call me back. No one ever called back, so at 5:00, I called the clinic again and was put through to a nurse. She said, "Well, we told the doctor you called, and I guess we assumed you were just wanting us to know you weren't going to pick up the Darvocet." I told her no... that the doctor's wife had said she would talk to him and call me back. The nurse started in about how Darvocet was the ONLY thing that would cut the pain of shingles, and "I can tell you, if she has shingles, she is in pain."

I told her I was really upset that Dr. B told us recently she was NOT to take Darvocet, and then last week he called in a prescription for it... and on top of that, nobody told me! So if she made it all weekend without the Darvocet, how bad did she really need it? The nurse repeated for the umpteenth time "All I can tell you is if she has shingles, she is in pain, and Ibuprofen won't cut it... she needs Darvocet." So finally I asked if there was anything in between Ibuprofen and Darvocet, and she said, "Motrin is not going to cut the pain." I reminded the nurse that my grandmother takes Ativan, and Darvocet and old people doesn't go well (much less with Ativan), and we couldn't risk a fall, and she said, "Okay, let me ask you this... do you live in town?" I told her yes, and that Mam-ma lives in town, but we don't live together. She said, "Well, why couldn't you go stay with her for a week or so while she takes the Darvocet?" I told her, "You just don't understand... there are extenuating circumstances, and no, I can't go stay and neither can anyone else. Besides, she doesn't want us there." The nurse said, "Well, then, couldn't you bring her to your house?" I told her again, that no, there were extenuating circumstances, like I live in a 2-story house (not to mention that I keep a 4-month-old baby that can't be exposed to shingles!). She said, "Believe me, I understand, but you have two choices - she can take the Darvocet or be in pain."

Finally I told her I would talk to Mam-ma and if we needed the Darvocet, I'd go get it. I called my mom, who had just gotten home from a trip to Branson, and we talked it over, and we agreed that Mam-ma's body is under stress from the pain, so I should go get the Darvocet. I did, and get this - her Medicare Part D wouldn't cover it, because Darvocet is not authorized by Medicare for coverage for anyone over age 64! So I paid the $13.80, and the girls in the pharmacy told me how shingles REALLY DOES hurt, but they were nervous about the Darvocet... although one of them pointed out it was Darvocet N100 and "very mild." Yeah, whatever... it's still Darvocet!

So I get to Mam-ma's with the Darvocet, and she says, "Well, I'm not takin' that!" So... tell me... why did I get it?*lol* I explained that her insurance would not authorize payment since she is 97, and she said, "I've never taken a whole one - if I get desperate, I might take a half, but I'm taking Ibuprofen every 3 hours instead of 4 and doing just fine." So what was the deal at 2:00, I wonder? I put Caladryl on her shingles and left. Her shingles have broken open and even scabbed over some, so they are moving right along.

So I went to Mom's to tell her this, and she asked me again if I thought Mam-ma could take TWO Ibuprofen at a time. I called my sister-in-law (who is a pharmacist) and asked her, and she said yes - every 4-5 hours, but not every 3. I told Mam-ma that, and she said she would do this if she needed them. I know her BP is up and this is hard on her heart to hurt, but I pointed out to the nurse that we didn't have that Darvocet all weekend because I didn't even know it was at the drugstore, and she made it just fine without it, and the nurse said, "Well, I can guarantee you, if all she had was Ibuprofen, she was hurting." In other words, we are all big heels for being so mean to Mam-ma! I don't think so!

So... Mam-ma has the Darvocets, but so far she has not taken any. My sister-in-law agreed that if Mam-ma isn't remembering to take Ibuprofen every 4 hours, she can't be hurting THAT much... not enough to need Darvocet. AND... she said there are 400, 600, and 800mg prescription strengths of Ibuprofen... so there IS something besides Darvocet! I'm still upset with Dr. B for not paying closer attention to this - and it bothers me that the Home Health nurses can go get medicine for Mam-ma without me knowing about it. Funny they can do that, but they can't take her to the clinic for a dr.'s appointment!

Wednesday, Mam-ma said she took 2 Ibuprofen the night before at bedtime and got a really good night's rest. Wednesday, she only took 1 tablet at a time, but said she would take 2 again at bedtime. However, she said her legs were wobbly - and she blamed it on the 2 Ibuprofen (more likely it was the whole Ativan tablet she took during the day on Tuesday after a half tablet the night before!). I said, "Imagine if you took the Darvocet!" She said, "Now that Darvocet doesn't bother me... and I only take a half a tablet..." But she assured me she would NOT take it.

It is so frustrating dealing with doctors. And I did not need a lecture from that nurse. I think it was a CYA thing, but nonetheless, I was not a happy camper. It just blows my mind the messes doctors can create... and I feel like Dr. B is avoiding me and giving me the runaround... and clearly he is not paying attention. But trying to change doctors at this late stage would be an ordeal, too... and I am not sure it would make any difference. I should have changed Mam-ma to my doctor years ago, and I can't remember for sure why I didn't, but I think she and Mom were not on board with it. Maybe my doctor didn't do rounds at our preferred nursing home. Such complications! Oh, well... If I am sort of on top of this and this much chaos occurs, can you imagine what happens with little old people who have no advocate? Sheesh!

Meanwhile, I did get my grandmother to the beauty shop yesterday, and she had made a grocery list... milk, buttermilk, orange juice, a big bag of Three Musketeers bars, corn meal, apples, and Cokes! I was surprised her Chips Ahoy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies were not on the list... hopefully she still has a stash! I dispensed her medicine for the next 2 weeks and noticed that it doesn't appear she has taken the doses correctly for the last week, but I'm not totally surprised by that. Anyway, she told me, "Before you leave, you can doctor my places again." So I donned a glove and applied a layer of Caladryl. And the shingles look amazingly better than even 3 days earlier. The red welts are gone, and all that is left is a little patch of scabbed places.

I asked Mam-ma if she was taking her Ibuprofen, and she said no - that she had not needed any all day! She said she was going to take some at bedtime, along with a whole Ativan. I questioned this, and she said, "Well maybe I will take a half a tablet, and if I wake up in the night and can't sleep, I'll get up and take the other half." My thought was, if you have to wake up in order to know you need another, do you really need it? Oh, well... she will do what she will do - even with us standing right over her - so I left her to her own devices. Hopefully she truly is on the mend, and things will start to look up from here. All I can do is try to keep tabs on her medication and pray that nobody does another "end-around" that results in a fall.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shingles, Part Deux!

The lull is officially over. I realized Wednesday afternoon that my grandmother didn't have enough medicine dispensed to make it to Friday when I planned to visit again and buy groceries for her. I had decided to run to the grocery store and do a couple of other errands for myself, so I made plans to go by her house and do the meds at the same time. My sister Suzanne and her husband Mike were there picking up the okra and tomatoes Mam-ma had called and offered to me earlier in the day (and I had declined). They left, and I did the medicine and was about to leave, when Mam-ma suddenly shuddered and said, "Hand me the trash can, I'm sick." Boy was she ever. She threw up so hard she literally threw out her lower denture! It's sorta funny now, but it wasn't funny then. She fished it out and cleaned it later while I cleaned up the rest of her mess. So, I called Home Health to see what I needed to do, and they said, "Call her doctor." Mam-ma's doctor doesn't work on Wednesday afternoons, so I called back and said, "You have to help me. I think it might be her Valtrex." They said, "You need to take her to the ER... she could be having a reaction. We can't diagnose anything."

So, I got Mam-ma changed into some pajamas, because she threw up all over her clothes, and I called my Mom and Suzanne (both of whom were shopping) to alert them to what was happening, and we headed to the ER. Suzanne and Mike were still in town, so they met me at the ER. Mom had said she would come when she and her husband, Lee, got done with some shopping... she never made it, because luckily, we were in and out. We saw a great ER doc who has seen Mam-ma before, and he said, "She is having and adverse reaction to Valtrex... not necessarily an allergic reaction." He also said that Valtrex can sometimes speed up the healing of shingles, but it is not a cure, and it wasn't worth it in this instance. He says that shingles is "a nursing problem" and we just have to try things like aloe vera gel, Aveeno, Caladryl, etc. - whatever works and alleviates the discomfort. He also said Mam-ma is still breaking out, and that can last 2-6 weeks, followed by months of pain.

So I took Mam-ma home, and Suzanne's husband picked her up and took her home. Mom offered to spend the night last night because she and her husband are supposed to go to Branson for several days. So she said, "Let me help while I can." I stayed until she arrived about 7:15 p.m. She said she finally got my grandmother into bed around 9:00, but she was soon back up for chocolate chip cookies (Mom said, "I didn't know this was a night-time ritual." Neither did I, but I'm not surprised... I know I buy cookies nearly every week!)

The thing is, Mam-ma was totally out of it, and we're not sure why exactly. Her BP was very high - 182/83 at the ER, and then 201/94 at home. That is probably pain. She says she has barely been able to see for 2 days now - that everything is blurry and out of focus. And when my sister called last night to check on her, she told her she had shingles and had been to the ER. Suzanne said, "Yes, Mam-ma, I know... I was there." Mam-ma said, "Oh you were?" I was sitting beside my grandmother saying, "That's Suzanne you're talking to..." but she didn't realize it, I guess. It really rattled my sister, but mostly, it just concerned her how confused Mam-ma was.

She was so wobbly it was like she was drunk. And yet she was having a FIT because one of us spent the night with her. I was heating soup on the stove, and she hobbled into the kitchen on her walker. I looked around just as she took a step and lost her balance, and she braced herself on the stove... literally INCHES from the open flame. She never realized it. I quickly grabbed her hand and moved it. She thought I was just offering a gesture of affection and smiled at me.

So, today... I had planned to go with Greg this morning to some meetings with our broker and insurance agent. However, our phone rang before 7:15... it was my sister. She said my niece was dizzy and had possibly passed out at home... my sister and her husband were taking her to the ER... could they bring the baby to us? Of course! So by 7:30 a.m., I had Timothy in his crib here, and I had called Home Health and asked could they send a nurse to check on Mam-ma? They said they would.

Mom e-mailed and said Mam-ma fixed her own breakfast - she insisted - and Mom hoped that was a good sign. Then Mam-ma promptly threw up what she had eaten in the kitchen sink! Mom was upset with her... seems Mam-ma took her morning meds BEFORE eating anything and insists she does this all the time. Mom has harped on her for 3 days to eat BEFORE she takes any medication. At 97, what are the odds she will change?

So the day is only a few hours old, but it's already shaping up to be a crazy one around here. My sister had said she would stay with my grandmother tonight, if needed... that may be out the window. We're just taking it one minute at a time. I knew that lull wouldn't last!

I rocked Timmy to sleep in his crib and sang "Over the Rainbow" - his Uncle Tim's favorite song. Timmy smiled and looked at me with eyes that gently drooped shut. Even after he drifted to sleep, his mouth formed a momentary wide grin. A friend commented yesterday that "little ones provide balance." God must have known I needed balance this morning... and He sent a perfect angel my way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Shingles Again!

Here we go again with shingles... this time it is my grandmother. A little over a week ago, I suddenly got sick on a Sunday. I think it was the flu, but I didn't go to the doctor for a test. Since the CDC recommends that those who think they have the flu stay home and follow standard treatments for symptoms of the flu unless you are high risk, I stayed home and in bed. Honestly, I didn't feel like doing anything else for a few days. So by the end of the week when it was time for my grandmother's beauty shop appointment, I had prevailed upon my mother to drive her there. Thankfully Mom was home and not away on a trip.

Meanwhile, there was a "big limb" on the roof of my grandmother's porch that was driving her nuts, and on Wednesday, my husband took his ladder and went to retrieve what turned out to be a very small limb. Mam-ma said, "Well, that's not as big as I thought it was!" While my husband was there, Mam-ma told him all about how sick she had been for three days with diarrhea... and then she offered him peanut brittle she had made that morning! He politely declined. He told her I was sick and in bed, and that my mom would be handling the weekly errands.

Later that day, Mam-ma called, "to see how you are feeling." When I told her I was still sick, she quickly moved on to how bad she had felt... she had just been so sick. I told her that I heard she was getting better, and she said, "Well, maybe." She complained of a pain in her side... "up kinda high under her shoulder blade, near her chest and down her shoulder a little." She told Mom the pain was "in my side."

Thursday, she called and asked if I was better. I told her yes, a little, and she immediately moved on to her ailments and how bad she had felt. Again she complained of this pain in her side. This time it had moved... down her side. It moved every time she told one of us about it. We suggested she pulled something - she insisted she didn't.

Saturday, Mam-ma called and asked, "Are you better?" I told her yes, I was slowly getting better. She said, "Well...." then after a short pause, she said, "Well...." and, knowing what she wanted, I asked, "Are you better?" She said, "Well, no I'm not." She began to tell me again about the pain in her side and all around... shoulder blade, chest, neck, shoulder. I suggested she had pulled something and didn't realize it... she insisted she had not. She said, "I tried to go to the doctor yesterday, but they couldn't see me." I asked if the doctor was in clinic on Friday, and she said, "Well I guess... they told me he was so busy I would have to come and just sit." I suggested maybe she would be better by Monday and reminded her that with so much flu, she really didn't need to sit in a clinic... that I personally knew people in town who had been told by clinic staff, "DO NOT COME to the clinic... we have too many people here with flu and you shouldn't be exposed." I suggested she rest over the weekend and maybe stay home from church, telling her I planned to stay home on Sunday.

On Sunday, my mother told me that Mam-ma was at church. I assumed she was better. Sunday evening, she called me and again asked, was I better. I told her yes. She said, "Well, I am suffering so. Something has got to be done." She said she was still hurting, and again, I suggested she might have pulled something, and she said no, and she added, "I think it's my colon and my bowels." I told her that IF she went to the doctor for that, he would put her through GI tests. She said, "Oh, I don't want that." I didn't think so. She kept saying, "You just don't know how I'm suffering." I told her I was sure that was true, but I didn't know what to do for her... especially on a Sunday afternoon. I suggested she try to call a nurse on Monday, even though it was Labor Day. Mom and I hoped someone might be "on call." I told her that I could not risk sitting in a clinic and being exposed to the flu... and she shouldn't be either. She did not like that, I'm sure.

Sunday evening, Mom called... "I think I know what's wrong with Mam-ma. She has just called, and she has a rash under her breast and around her back. I think it's shingles." We both agreed that was probably the culprit, and Mom told her to put some Kenalog cream she had in her medicine chest on it and call her nurse the next morning.

Labor Day - no nurses! Mam-ma was beside herself. She called me and said at least 3 times, "You just have no idea how I am suffering!" I told her I was sorry. I asked her, didn't she have shingles once before? She said, "Well, I thought it was shingles, and the doctor said it wasn't." I said, "Maybe this isn't either," and she yelled, "Are you KIDDING?!" I can tell you, this is shingles! We finished our conversation, and later I had to call her back to ask her something, and she answered the phone very strongly, as if nothing at all were wrong. As soon as she heard my voice, HER voice dropped, and she began to whine and almost cry. It's always like this.

Mom and I both told her repeatedly to call her nurses first thing Tuesday morning and see if the nurse could diagnose the shingles and call the doctor for her. Thankfully, that's what happened, and Valtrex was ordered. My mom went and got it for her. Mom said she suggested Mam-ma eat when she took the medicine. She reached in the refrigerator and got out a bowl of some kind of chicken -she said dumplings. Mom suggested that she eat a peanut butter sandwich. She said that was a good idea, and then began mumbling about she hoped she had crackers. And she reached on top of the refrigerator and sat down a box. Mom asked her if she wasn’t going to make a sandwich with bread. “Well, I could,” she said. And she did. Mom suggested that she always take the pill with half a peanut butter sandwich. Besides, that’s some extra protein for her. We will have no clue whether she follows through with that or not.

Tuesday night, Mam-ma called my mom and asked if she could take a whole Ativan - said she was hurting and the Ibuprofen was not doing the trick. Mom called me to consult, and I double-checked the medication list... yes, she could take a whole pill and go to bed.

So this morning, Mom phoned to check on Mam-ma, and the Home Health aide answered and indicated Mam-ma was not feeling well. Then I got a phone call - Mam-ma - and she sounded horrible (and also like she doesn't have her teeth in!), and she asked what I was doing today. I told her lots of things, and I asked what she needed. She said, "Well, I was wondering if you want to come get some okra and tomatoes." I told her no. She indicated she has had this food for a few days and couldn't remember who brought it to her. I told her I could get it Friday when I take her to the beauty shop. She said she would not be going to the beauty shop this week. I told her I would still come and shop for her groceries, and she said, "Okay, I will see you tomorrow." I pointed out that tomorrow is Thursday... not Friday. She said goodbye, but then I noticed it took her nearly a minute to hang up her phone. I'm thinking she may be overmedicated on Ativan - or hung over from taking that extra half tablet.

Meanwhile, we are keeping Timothy on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons while his mother attends her algebra class. He is adorable, and it's the best 2 hours of our day! He sleeps so peacefully, and when he is awake, he talks and laughs and smiles and KICKS! He is pure and unblemished and just plain fun! He is also even more dependent on us than a 97-year-old woman, which puts things in perspective. We are truly "sandwiched" these days... and it's an experience!