Monday, January 25, 2010

Learning to Read the Signs

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission. ~Eleanor Roosevelt~

I post this comment, because there are people who believe that I am uncaring or unfeeling toward my grandmother... that I don't do enough for her, or that I do not treat her well.  They base these assumptions on casual observations and claims of such from my grandmother.  I assure you, there is no basis for any of this.

See, I know my grandmother.  I have observed her behavior and her reactions for over 52 years now, and I am a pretty good judge of how she is really doing.  Last week, a dear friend of hers passed away.  This man was known to everyone as "Sis."  Don't ask why - I have no clue.  His brother - "Deb" - was my grandmother's constant companion for seven years after my grandfather passed.  Deb became a second grandfather to us, and we loved him dearly until the day he died in May 2000, of bladder cancer.  My grandmother was very fond of Deb's brother, Sis, and they visited often by phone, and sometimes in person.  So, when he died, my grandmother was naturally upset.  One of Deb's sons came for the visitation and took Mam-ma.  She saw lots of people, and when I went to her house a couple of days later, that was what she talked about.

During this same time, Mam-ma's blood pressure began to spike.  It worried a nurse's aide enough to call a nurse from Home Health.  The nurse supposedly told Mam-ma if she had pain in her neck and shoulder, to call an ambulance.  That was early in the week.  Friday when we went to the beauty shop, Mam-ma seemed fine, except she kept telling me she "just hadn't felt good for a couple of days."  Now, I recognized the tone and demeanor as a manipulative ploy.  If I would ask what was wrong, the flood gates of symptoms and ailments would open.  But I could see from her actions and the list of things she had been doing around the house that she was basically fine.

In addition to the loss of her friend, my mom and her husband left Friday for six weeks in Arizona. Mam-ma almost always has a medical crisis before Mom can get up the mountain and out of our little valley town.  So I was not surprised when we came home from the high school basketball games Friday night, and there was a phone message from my grandmother... "It's Mam-ma."  It was also 9:30 p.m., and I did not call her back, figuring she was in bed.  After all, she knows how to call my cell phone if she really needs me, and she had not done so.

Saturday morning, my husband, mother-in-law, and I set out to attend an auction.  On the way, I phoned Mam-ma and told her I'd seen her phone message.  Yes, she had called... "What am I going to do about this blood pressure?"  I asked if it was high, and she said yes, it was something like 189/85.  I asked if she had taken her morning medicine.  Yes, she had.  I suggested she take it easy and give the medicine time to work and we would see how she progressed through the day.  I told her we were on the way to an auction, and very quickly, she said (sarcastically), "Well, y'all go on and don't worry about me."  I reminded her I had a cell phone, and to call if she needed anything.  I did not hear from her again that day.

Sunday afternoon around 3:30, the phone rang - Mam-ma.  "What are we gonna do about my blood pressure?"  I asked if it was still high, and she read me some BP readings... 162/82 and similar readings.  I told her it sounded like it was coming down.  "Well something has got to be done!" she said.  I asked if she thought she was having a stroke.  She didn't know.  We bantered back and forth, and I told her our only option was the ER, and when she goes there, they always get her in a mess... screw up her medicine or worse.  Finally, I asked, "Are you wanting to go to the ER?"  She said no, but something had to be done.  I reminded her that a trip to the ER might likely result in a trip to the nursing home.  She said, "Well, I called Shirley (an LPN friend of the family), and she said I could take half a Lasix."  I did a quick search on the Internet of all of Mam-ma's medications and told her I didn't think she should take that until I found someone medical to consult.

So I called Shirley, and she said, "I did NOT tell her to take a Lasix.  In fact, I told her NOT to take ANYTHING until she talked with her doctor on Monday."  Shirley said Mam-ma heard what she wanted and would probably do what she pleased... and one pill would not kill her.  But Shirley asked, did I think this was about Sis.  I agreed that this had crossed my mind, and Shirley said, "I've been expecting a call from your grandmother ever since he died... she was so crazy about him."  We agreed the BP rise was from that and the absence of my mom. Shirley also said my grandmother's voice was strong on the phone and she didn't sound like she felt that bad... just "pouty."

So I called my grandmother back. When she answered, her voice was strong and solid.  Once she heard my voice, hers changed to a very faint whine.  This happens often, and she used to do the same thing to my dad.  It was all I could do not to laugh out loud.  I told her NOT to take anything extra - that Shirley said "No!" and that when her aide came Monday morning, if she felt the BP was high, she would call the nurse, and we could go from there.  She asked, "Well what am I gonna do about this headache?"  For the record, my grandmother has had "the headache" all of my life.  The last week or so, our weather has been totally unseasonable and erratic, and most of the people I know have had a headache at some point from the continual changes in air pressure, etc.  So I tried to explain this to Mam-ma... she still thought it was her blood pressure.  I just let it drop.

By 10:00 a.m. today, I had not heard anything from my grandmother, so I called.  She sounded extremely strong and well.  I asked what her aide had said, and she said, "Nothing.  She was in such a hurry, she didn't say anything."  I asked, "Did she take your blood pressure?"  Yes... it was 148/70.  Now that is a very good reading for my grandmother... and of course, she sounded disappointed.  I told her it sounded like she was on the mend, and she said, "Well, I guess."    We talked a few minutes and hung up, and later in the morning she called me to verify a phone number... she was already on to the next project.  It seems the "crisis" has passed for the moment... and hopefully we will have a smooth week.

Back to the quote.  There are those who would think I am horrible for not rushing my grandmother to the ER with such high blood pressure.  At one point yesterday, she yelled at me, "Well if I die tonight or in the morning, it don't make any difference!"  I've heard those sorts of threats before... and to some that would sound cruel, but I know her!  The last time we took her to the ER for high blood pressure was a couple of Easter Sundays ago, and we sat in the ER for probably 6 hours - some of that without the monitor even connected because they took her for an X-ray and forgot to reconnect her upon returning.  They finally gave her a blood pressure medication that her cardiologist said she is NEVER to have again, and after not eating or having any of her regular meds all day, she bottomed out, nearly passed out, and threw up!  We were several weeks getting her totally regulated after that little episode, so I am less than eager to go dashing to the ER when my instincts and assessments tell me we are not in a crisis... and certainly not an emergency situation.

But I have seen the looks from others.  I've heard the "I hope you know your grandmother is really sick!" (as if I was not checking on her and had no clue) comments, and I've felt the daggers from those who believe Mam-ma when she tells them, "Debbie is too busy to fool with me."  And Eleanor Roosevelt is right... only I can let those things make me feel inferior or inadequate... or guilty!  I have made a conscious decision not to "go there."  I'm pedaling as fast as I can, and I'm doing my best to keep my grandmother safe and well cared for... and to love her as much and as often as possible!

Meanwhile, our nephew Timmy is coming to spend a few nights with us... his regular two, plus an extra because his grandpaw is sick. So we are going from one end of the spectrum to the other - from high blood pressure to teething and crawling!  Life is certainly anything but dull and boring... and most days, this "sandwich" is pretty darn good!


Mark said...

What a challenge for you.

The sad part, too, is that people generally believe whoever is right there talking to them, or whoever said something last. If anyone were to read this post, or some of your others, they might develop an understanding, a bigger picture, of the relationship. Or ask you instead of looking at you with daggers.

All of that is way too much work for the average person, so to survive you take on that excellent motto from Eleanor Roosevelt.

All I really meant to say when I started was, "Hang in there, teach!"

Karen said...

Your grandmother sounds a lot like my mother in law--she has called us and said she needs for us to come take care of her when she knows we are getting ready to leave town. And when we get there, she won't let us do anything to help--she just doesn't want us to leave.