Sunday, July 25, 2010

So Much for Planning Ahead

I really didn't know what to expect Friday on my weekly trek with Mam-ma.  I ran some errands before getting to her house about 1:15 p.m. She had placed a towel in the floor on her carpet where the dining area meets the carpet, and I asked about it. First mistake. Well, it was because she had cleaned the carpet, and she wanted it to dry. So she had spilled something on the carpet? "NO! I just got stuff on it from the floor." "Oh, so you mopped the kitchen and splashed out?" "NO! I did this area and the one in the other kitchen doorway." Apparently my ESP was not working Friday. Finally, I surmised that she had decided the carpet leading into her kitchen and dining areas was dirty, and she had somehow spot cleaned it!  (When we returned from the beauty shop, I removed the towel - a huge tripping hazard that could have produced a fall.)

Then I sat down to dispense her medicine for another two weeks, and I looked at her grocery list, and on the bottom she had written "Lorazepam." I had just come from the pharmacy getting medicine for my husband and me - I got HER meds the previous Friday. I asked, "Are you completely out of this?" "Well, purty much!" she replied.  I counted - she had ten doses. I said, "You don't take one every day, do you?" Oh yes, she takes one every night - and sometimes in between. So she didn't think 10 would do her for another week.

I called the pharmacy and ordered a refill... her last. She had not had this refilled since April, so that tells you how often she takes a half tablet - clearly not every night! But she is never going to grasp the concept of planning ahead... it's all I can do to get her to buy milk when she still has part of a half gallon! And I bought her EIGHT bags of Cotton Pickin' Cornbread Friday, because they hardly ever have it any more at Wal-Mart and don't carry it at the other grocery store in town. A friend of mine was checking out behind me and said, "Your grandmother must eat a LOT of cornbread." I told her, "You have NO idea!"

As I hung up the phone from calling the pharmacy to order the Lorazepam, Mam-ma pressed on her lower abdomen and said, "I think I'm getting a .... oh, a ..... oh... um... well... a kidney stone. Sometimes it really hurts there... it comes and goes." Well, if it comes and goes, that's probably not a kidney stone. I just ignored her. As my sister pointed out later ... she tells me this on a FRIDAY afternoon?!

As I filled her meds, there were SEVERAL compartments that were still full... like all for a Friday and Saturday, and some for a Thursday night. I questioned her... did she not take her medicine today? Yes, she did... that was for Friday. "Today is Friday." "Well, I don't know." But she assured me she had taken her meds that day... and even at noon. So I have no clue why there was three days worth of medicine there, but I told her, "You know, when you miss your medicine, that might be why you feel bad and can't explain it." She didn't respond. All of those compartments should have been empty except for the one for Friday night's medicine.

We stopped and got her Ativan (Lorazepam), and on the way to the beauty shop, she asked, "Are y'all gonna join that place and swim?" I told her we have not joined our city's new community center, and we haven't decided whether we will. She said, "Well Ruby went out there, and she says it's real nice. She's gonna do some things out there. She told me 'Polly, you ort to have Debbie take you out there and get you a membership, and you could go with me.'"

I suggested she let Ruby try a few times and see if she liked it and was going to continue going before we got a membership, but I added, "...but we can get you one.  They aren't that expensive." She retorted immediately, "Why it won't cost me a thing!" I asked her how she figured that, and she said, "Well, if you have Blue Cross, it doesn't cost you anything." Now my mother-in-law told us that if you have Blue Cross/Blue Shield medical insurance, you can participate in the "Silver Sneakers" classes at no cost... or so she heard. But I said to Mam-ma... "But you don't have Blue Cross." "I most certainly DO!" she retorted! "Mam-ma," I told her... "you have Medicare and Medicaid. Your prescription drug coverage this year is Blue Cross. That is NOT medical insurance." "Well I know it IS!" she shot back. I told her *I* would look into it for her. I do not want her calling out there and playing the "poor little widder woman" card.  Hopefully she has not done so already!

I plan to check into the memberships at our community center ... there is a lovely walking track, and that would be a safe, comfortable place for Mam-ma and Ruby to walk year-round.  I think it will cost her $10 a month, and she can well afford that.  I plan to investigate the memberships this week and will probably get her one that starts August 1st.  So hopefully I can take a 3-month membership (the minimum) to Mam-ma next Friday that will be effective the following Monday.

I have not heard another word about the "kidney stone," and it was not mentioned when we returned from the beauty shop.  I'm assuming she has moved on to some other ailment or distraction by now.  If she gets upset, she has plenty of Lorazepam now!

Meanwhile, I recently heard about a woman who was diagnosed several years ago with vascular dementia, which has symptoms that sometimes mimic Alzheimer's.  Her daughter noticed that there was something wrong with the back bumper of this woman's car.  When she asked her about it, the woman said, "Oh, the paint is just peeling."  Wanting to be sure, the daughter asked her husband to take a look, and he said, "She's hit something."  So when confronted, the mother said, "Well, I didn't want to tell you, but I was trying to parallel park, and I backed into a car behind me."  The daughter said, "And you found the driver and exchanged information?"  The mother replied, "Well NO!  I got out of there!"  Her daughter tried to explain that this was illegal and could be considered a "hit and run," but the woman didn't care ... she was not sticking around to risk a citation! 

It was a funny story that really wasn't funny ... but at least I was thankful Mam-ma no longer drives.  Hey ... I will take a "silver lining" anywhere I can find it these days!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thoughts on Caregiving

You never know who will be placed in your path.  Such was the case when I took my grandmother to a birthday party for her friend, who was celebrating 101 years!  A nephew, Mich Magness, had come from Oklahoma for the party, and in general conversation, he said he was a gerontologist for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health.  We began to discuss caregiving and the elderly, and he made some comments and observations about caregiving that I felt were worth sharing here.

  • Most caregivers are women.  Men will tell you they are caregivers, but when pressed and asked specific questions about what services they render, they consider financial duties, such as bill paying, writing checks and balancing the checkbook, and yes - hiring skilled caregivers to qualify them for the title of "caregiver."
  • Many women do not consider themselves a "caregiver" unless they have performed an intimate act, such as bathing the elderly person, feeding them, or helping them to the toilet.  If you are consistently driving someone to appointments and handling errands, going with them to doctor visits, helping with medications, making sure that they have adequate services and arranging for specialized care, and more, then you are very much a "caregiver."
  • Many nurses and teachers fall into roles as caregivers because others consider them "caring people" and readily assume they are the logical choice to provide caregiving.
  • Mich said that the "sandwich" portion of a "Sandwich Generation" looks more like a club sandwich than a conventional one-layered affair, because generally, the person in the middle is more likely to be a grandmother who is caring for her own parents while rearing a grandchild or grandchildren.
  • Sadly, many caregivers are so stressed out that they become ill, have weakened immune systems, and/or die before the person for whom they are caring.  He said it is not uncommon for caregivers to suffer a heart attack, develop cancer, or become ill in some fashion.  He said, "While the caregiver is having a heart attack from the stress of caregiving, the Alzheimer's patient is sitting in the corner, totally oblivous and happy as a clam."  He didn't mean to be flip... he was just offering an observation based on his experience and the statistics.
Mich noted that each state has an Area Agency on Aging... the "Triple A" of senior citizens - not to be confused with the AAA that refers to auto assistance!  The Area Agency on Aging offers not only care for senior adults...but also respite care for the caregivers.  He noted that each state does its own thing with regard to how these services are offered, administered and regulated.  Today, I did some checking and learned that in some instances (if not all of them), these respite services are "private pay."  Frankly, that's why many people are caring for their seniors in the first place... they cannot afford to do otherwise.  So I don't know that this AAA's "respite care" program is a viable option for many.  But it's good to know it exists for those who can afford it and are interested in the assistance.

After a half hour of visiting with this man, he said, "I've just met you, but as an objective observer, it seems to me that you are one of those people who feels responsible for others.  You said you have no children.  I imagine that others feel that this means you are 'free' to help, as in... 'Oh, she has no children, so she has time to help with this.'  I would further suspect that you not only feel compelled to help those in your own family, but you probably take on the needs of others outside your immediate circle."  I told him that my former pastor had told me many years ago that "No!" is a complete sentence, and I cling to that. 

However, in thinking over our conversation, I can see that I need to make some serious adjustments.  For one thing, I need to pace myself more and learn to use that word "No!" - even with myself.  Instead of trying to conquer the world, I need to conserve my energy for my husband and my own household, as well as the care of my grandmother and our nephew, Timothy.  I also realized that I have underestimated my caregiving role. With time and effort, I've pared down the days I actually am in physical contact with my grandmother to one per week.  We do her errands on Fridays - beauty shop, grocery shopping, pharmacy.  Occasionally, there will be a doctor visit on another day - or a party, such as Sunday's.  Often she calls me during the week to discuss something - or I phone her for the same. 

But because I have condensed our errands to one day per week, I had begun to see my "caregiving role" as diminished.  I would think to myself, "I really don't do that much for her."  But in retrospect, I am not considering the weekly attention to her checkbook and bill paying.  I am not thinking about the hours spent choosing a new provider for her Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.  I have discounted the time I spend filing her health care insurance papers and her statements and bills...and the time I spend on the telephone reminding her for the sixth time that yes, she can afford to have her air conditioner serviced, and explaining to her where my mother and her husband have gone and why they don't answer their phone.

I have not accounted for the time I spend planning my route to encompass all of the errands and making sure I am finished in time to pick her up at the beauty shop when her appointment ends.  I have not factored in the hours I spend arranging for Mam-ma to have a birthday party or figuring out how she is going to get Christmas gift cards for everyone or making arrangements to ensure that I have all of her medical information in my wallet - and those of my mom and my sister.  I didn't include the time I spend updating an emergency phone list, so that I don't forget to call a long lost cousin the next time Mam-ma has to make a trip to the ER.

My point is that "caregiving" - much like parenting - comes with a set of subconscious nuances and stressors and "to-do" lists... and they have a collective effect on the caregiver/parent.  It really explains a lot!  When I'm driving down the street and drive right past a place I had planned to stop and Mam-ma says to me, "I thought you were going to stop there," I wonder... "What is wrong with me?!"  Now I know!  Well, okay... I partly know!  But I think we "caregivers" are too hard on ourselves, sometimes... and frankly, I'm going to try to change a few things.

I'm going to be a little easier on myself, and not expect to accomplish as much in a single day.  I'm going to realize that I'm doing the best I can to keep all the balls in the air, and some days, a frozen pizza for dinner is just fine.  I learned last week that Timothy will survive if I don't vacuum the floor right before he arrives... and sitting on the couch reading Ten Little Ladybugs for the umpteenth time is far more important than making a daily post on this blog!  And napping is highly under-rated!

So to all of you caregivers, I say, "Give yourself a break... and a pat on the back.  You're doing more than you realize... and it's probably taking a toll.  Take a deep breath, spend a half hour enjoying a good cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and simply 'let it be.'  Be kind to yourself and don't apologize for time and activities spent just on you!"  After all... if you wear down and become the "caregiving statistic" who becomes incapacitated, what happens to your charges then?  I consider yesterday my "wake-up call" -- is this yours?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A 101st Birthday Party...

The 101st birthday party for my grandmother's friend, Lois Taylor, went well.  Mam-ma looked better than she has in months... she was dressed and ready when I arrived, wearing white slacks, a purple t-shirt with a purple/blue printed crinkled fabric shirt jacket.  She had on beautiful irridescent rhinestone earrings, makeup and lipstick, and LOTS of cologne!  Nobody could believe she will be 98 in November!

Ms. Lois looked great, too, and the two ladies had quite a time sitting together and sharing lunch and conversation.  Ms. Lois wears hearing aids in both ears, but she and Mam-ma seemed to converse fairly easily.  Mam-ma saw old friends... and made some new ones.  The way children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews dote on this lovely woman is truly amazing... and everyone was so warm and loving toward her.  She is truly a remarkable woman... and very much the matriarch of the family.  I think the youngest guest I saw was three, and the oldest after Mam-ma was 90... quite a range!

I didn't know most of the guests, but a nephew of the honoree struck up a conversation, and I learned that he is a gerontologist for the state of Oklahoma.  We had a great visit, and I gained some tips and discovered a few things about myself and my caregiving situation that I had never considered. He gave me his card, and I'm sure I'll be in touch at some point.  I hope to share some of his thoughts and suggestions on this blog.

Mam-ma behaved fairly well - she did declare to one grandson that "I don't think I've seen you since you got so fat!" For the record... he was not fat - not even close!  He didn't seem to notice, thank goodness... or maybe he was being polite.

On the way home, I told Mam-ma that Lois's nephew was interesting, and she said, "Well, I noticed you two hit it off, and I told Lois...'He's met his match.  If he can out-talk her, he's really done something!'"  It's a good thing I'm used to my grandmother, or I would probably have driven off the road!  I just never know what she will say.  I told my sister, I know I can talk a lot, but I wanted to say, "Pot, meet Kettle!"  Then my sister reminded me that Mam-ma had told her recently that, "I just don't talk much any more."  I told my sister that Mam-ma's jaws never stopped flapping the whole time we were at the party!

Before we left, the grandson Mam-ma had insulted told her that when she turns 100, he plans to throw a party for her at their resort, which is lovely.  Mam-ma assured him she would remind him in a couple of years... and I have no doubt she will do just that!  This is a loving, warm, very friendly family... they just don't know what they have gotten themselves into! 

This is Mam-ma Polly with Ms. Lois' brother, Grimm Magness, who is 90.  He was a schoolmate of my paternal grandfather when they were boys.  Mam-ma really had fun seeing him again.

Mam-ma had told me she wanted to eat and leave after the cake was cut at 1:30.  At 2:30, as most people were leaving, I whispered to Mam-ma that perhaps Ms. Lois was tired and too polite to leave as long as she still had guests.  Mam-ma said, "Well, I guess we ought to go, then."  The grandchildren were already talking about the 102nd birthday, and something tells me we might be returning for it next summer!

What Time Are We Going?

Before 8:45 this morning, our phone rang... it was Mam-ma...
"Debbie, what time are we going?"
"Yes... twelve o'clock.  Is that not okay?"
"No... that's okay.. I couldn't remember what time we said."
"We talked about a lot of times... but we left it on noon... "
"Okay... that's fine."
"I'll be there to get you at noon."
"Okay."  CLICK - she hung up!

It was already 82 degrees before 10:00 a.m. - another scorcher is predicted.  It may be a longggggg day!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Birthday Cards for 101-Year-Olds

Talk about a week of contrasts!  We've had Timothy this week for a couple of days.  He got his first big-boy haircut on Thursday.  He was such a trooper... didn't cry...didn't wiggle.  Living in a small town often has great advantages, and this was no exception.  My friend since childhood, Tiger, did the haircut, and he was a pro all the way.  It had even more meaning because he gave Timmy such special care and attention.

Yesterday was "beauty shop day," so Greg kept Timothy while I took Mam-ma to get her hair done and shopped for groceries.  Timmy had not taken a good morning nap, so he was a little unhappy... but he did take a short nap while I was away.  Mam-ma was napping when I arrived, but she arose and began getting ready to go to the hairdresser's while I dispensed some medicine and checked her doors to make sure they were locked.

Mam-ma had called me earlier in the week and asked if I would take her to a birthday party for her friend Lois, who will be 101 soon.  I told her I would.  On the way home from the beauty shop, I said, "We need to talk about the party... what time do you want to go?"  She said, "Well... they start serving lunch at noon, so I guess about 11:30."  I reminded her that she had mentioned going early to visit with Lois, and she said, "Yes... that's right... let's go at 10:30."  I suggested maybe 10:30 was too early... that Lois might not be there, and she said, "She lives there (with her daughter)!"  I knew that, but I offered that she might not be ready to receive guests for a noon lunch at 10:30 a.m., and Mam-ma retorted, "Well, she will!"   I asked how long we were staying, and she said, "Oh... I think an hour or so after we eat will be sufficient."  Then she added... "Of course, they may insist I stay longer!"  We may be there all afternoon!

So I told Mam-ma I would pick her up at 10:30 a.m.  I asked... "Does this mean you are skipping church?" (Her church service starts at 10:30 a.m.)  She said she was. A few blocks later, she said, "I tell you what... let's go at 10:45."  I told her that would be fine... I'd be there to pick her up and take her.  I hurriedly unpacked her groceries and headed home.  It was 95 degrees at 3:00 p.m. with a heat index about 105 degrees, and I had ice cream in the grocery sack!  I told her I would be back on Sunday, and she said she planned to rest this weekend for the party.

We were expecting my childhood friend and neighbor and her three grandchildren to visit us and have dinner, so I needed to hurry home and get things in order.  Our friends arrived about 5:30, and we made frozen pizzas and sat down to eat.  The phone was Mam-ma.  "Do you know what I forgot?  I forgot to get a birthday card for Lois."  I told her, "You have a drawer full of birthday cards, don't you?"  She replied, "Well yes, but not one that says 'Happy 101st!'"  I told her I had never seen a card that said "Happy 101st" - that I'd seen them for the 100th birthday, but I seriously doubted there even is a card for the 101st.  I suggested she pick out her prettiest card and write a sweet note in it.  She reluctantly said, "Well, I guess that's what I'll have to do."  I didn't tell her we had company - and she didn't ask. 

Today, while Timmy and I were napping, the phone rang.  I answered and quietly said "Hello?"  I heard Mam-ma say, "I bet you have the baby."  I told her yes, he was here, and she said, "Well, I'll tell you this fast... Lois is not feeling well, so we're not going as early to the party.  Let's go at 12:30.  I told her that would be fine.  A few hours later, she called and said, "Let's go at noon."  I told her noon it is.  She said, "I think they are going to cut the cake at 1:30, so let's go at noon and beat the crowd."  Now obviously she still plans to be there at 1:30, but we're going at noon - for now!  She added, "Go ahead and go to church."  Then she asked... "What time does your church end?"  I told her 10:30, and we would be fine.  So for the moment, we're going at noon!  I have no idea how this is going to go beyond that!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Money Talks...

It's taken me several days to write about all that has happened with my Mam-ma recently.  I arrived at her house on Friday in time to dispense her medicine for the next 2 weeks.  As usual, there were some days where she had failed to take everything as dispensed.  That is getting to be a common occurrence... although some weeks it's worse than others.  This week, she had not taken her noon-time meds.  I handed them to her and she said, "It's because I didn't eat dinner (lunch in the South)."  "You didn't eat dinner?"  "No, I snacked, so I never sat down at the table."  At least we confirmed she had eaten... and she took the meds.

I mentioned to Mam-ma that I had seen her friend Ruby at the hairdresser's.  I was there to get a pedicure... some post-birthday pampering.  Mam-ma immediately said, "I sure need to have my feet seen about... they are awful."  I said, "Well, we need to get you set up for a pedicure."  She said she could not afford it, and I told her, "It costs $25.  You just got a gift card from your bank for $25... you could use it for a pedicure."  She opened the envelope from the bank and looked at the VISA card.  She did not understand why she had received it, and I explained that the bank had recently revamped their online banking, and this was a gift to customers to compensate for the inconvenience.  I had received one, and so had she. 

"This would be a great use of your money," I suggested.  She sat down at the kitchen table where I was working and looked at the contents of the envelope and then said, dejectedly, "Well, I suspect I'd better spend that on groceries."  I stopped and looked at her and said, "Mam-ma... two minutes ago, you didn't even know you had this $25.  You have plenty of money for groceries.  This is 'found money.'  If you want a pedicure, this would be a great way to pay for it... and a good use of your gift card."  She didn't say anything else about the pedicure, but she asked how to use the card. I explained that she could use it at any store... the grocery store, Fred's, Wal-Mart... just hand it to the clerk, and he/she would handle it for her.  She tucked it into her purse and said, "I'd better put this in here where I will know where it is."

I finished with the medicine, and we started gathering everything for the trip to the beauty shop.  I always check her doors to make sure they are locked, the stove to ensure all burners are off, and the coffee maker to see that it is unplugged.  She checks her purse to make sure she has enough to pay the hairdresser, we get her garage door remote opener, and we head for the garage to collect her walker and load into the car.  As we were walking out the door, she said, "When I get back, me and Ruby are going to eat a meatloaf sandwich and sliced tomatoes."  I told her that sounded good... and it did!

While Mam-ma got her hair done, I ran some errands and bought her groceries - milk, buttermilk, candy, and a loaf of bread (the cheapest loaf of white bread Wal-Mart sells).  When I picked her up at the beauty shop, a friend of hers was there, and I asked, "Was Verna getting a perm?"  "No, she was getting a pedicure."  I told Mam-ma I didn't realize her hairdresser did pedicures, and she said, "Both of them do."  I said, "Hmmm... I wonder what they charge."  "$25," came the reply.  So she had asked!  I suggested she should consider getting one some Friday.  No response.

Mam-ma had given me a Wal-Mart gift card and asked me to "find out how much money is left on this."  I told her, "By the way... there was eleven cents left on your gift card.  It's in my purse."  "Eleven cents," she commented... "well, you can just keep that!" She said it as if she had just awarded me a bonus of $1100!  WOW... thanks!  Then she asked, "Did you ever buy new kitchen stuff with your birthday money?"  I was surprised she remembered that but not some of the other events of the week.  I told her yes, I had just purchased some things - that I had not felt well enough to go to the store before then.  She was very pleased with my purchases.

We got home, and I unpacked the sack of groceries and headed for the door, telling Mam-ma that I had frozen groceries of my own that needed to be put away... it was terribly hot and things were not staying cold long.  I said, "You and Ruby enjoy your meatloaf sandwiches."  She looked rather sad and said, "Well, I don't have a thing to go with them."  I couldn't believe it.  I had just come from the store... I could have bought anything she wanted/needed... and I was not going back now!  I said, "You told me you were going to have meatloaf sandwiches and sliced tomatoes."  She said, "That's right... but I don't have anything to go with them."  I replied, "Well, I'm sure you will figure out something."  I didn't know what else to say.  I said good-bye, and as I headed out the door, she said, "Call me sometime!"  I nodded "okay" and left.

The next morning I went to an auction, and when I returned, there was a telephone message - a pitiful voice saying, "It's just Mam-ma."  I called her back... but got no answer.  I guess she was out with Ruby somewhere.  I left a message, and later she called... "I didn't really need anything... but I need a ride to a birthday party for my friend next Sunday." 

Mam-ma's friend, Lois, will be 101.  Mam-ma has gone to her birthday party for the last few years now... always a bar-b-que lunch at a local campground the woman's family owns.  Mam-ma has wanted me to go with her for years, and it's just never worked out.  For one thing, I have food allergies and must be careful what I eat.  Mam-ma does not understand this and tells me, "If you'd just eat what you want to, you'd be fine."  So she will not understand if I go and don't eat.  At any rate, I told her I know of no reason I can't take her this Sunday, but I would have to check with Greg and see if there is anything I'm forgetting.  She said, "Well, I knew you would have to do that!"  I don't know what she meant by that, and I didn't question it.

She also told me that the person who called to invite her said, "If you don't have a ride, we'll send someone for you - we just don't know who yet."  So it's not like she can't go to this party if I don't take her.  I asked what time she wanted to go - they will start serving lunch at noon.  She said, "Well, I'd like to go early and visit with Lois."  I don't know how they visit - Lois can not hear well at all... and Mam-ma is not far behind her.  So that should be interesting.  Here's a picture of them taken by my friend, David Baker, at last year's party.  Lois is on the left. I think that is a great-grand-daughter in the middle, and Mam-ma is on the right.

Every day is an adventure - and a challenge.  Mam-ma has yet to mention her trip to pick plums and the scare she gave everyone to me... nor did she remember anything about my birthday except to ask if I spent her gift money on what I told her I was going to buy.  I will be shocked if she lets go of that $25 for a pedicure... and I am not going to force her to do so.  If it didn't go as she hoped, I'd never hear the end of it.

I'm learning to sort of roll with the punches... and as long as she is relatively safe, I'm letting Mam-ma pretty well do as she pleases.  It's easier for both of us.  I never know what will happen next... but then, with Mam-ma, that's really nothing new!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Guess I Forgot...

Last Saturday, my mother e-mailed me to say that my grandmother had given half the family a royal scare.  To back up just a bit, as we were leaving for the beauty shop on Friday, some dear friends of my grandmother drove into the driveway.  The man is a deacon in her church and they are so good to her; however, he is very ill and taking chemotherapy, and he could hardly get up the steps and in the doorway - and he was DRIVING!  They had brought Mam-ma tomatoes that they had driven down on the river to pick.  They realized we were leaving and hurriedly left, also.

Saturday, my sister took Timothy and went visiting - first to my mom's, and then she planned to visit Mam-ma.  She phoned Mam-ma around noon and told her that she was coming by in a couple of hours for a visit.  Mam-ma's friend Ruby then called and invited my grandmother to go visiting with her at one of the nursing homes.  Mam-ma declined, and told Ruby that my sister was coming by for a visit.

So when my sister arrived at 2:00, the house was locked tightly, the garage doors were closed, and no one would answer the doors.  It concerned my sister, and she called my mom, who called Ruby.  Ruby did not know where my grand mother was, and she related to Mom that Mam-ma would not go to the nursing home with her because she knew my sister was coming for a visit.  So Ruby went over to my grandmother's, and she could not get anyone to answer the door.  Now everyone was frightened.  At some point my sister took the baby home, and my mom and her husband went over to my grandmother's, because they had a house key, and they fully expected to find her dead or injured inside.  The only odd thing was that Mam-ma almost never closes her garage door during the daytime hours if she is home.

Mom and Lee unlocked the door and went inside - and all through the house - and Mam-ma was not there.  But her oven was on and chicken pieces were cooked to a crisp - Mom declared them "inedible".  While they were looking through the house, Mam-ma returned... with her friends from Friday.  They had been somewhere to pick plums.  This couple came by and invited Mam-ma to go, and she dropped everything and rode along - totally forgetting that my sister was coming by... or that she had chicken baking in the oven.

I think Mom and Ruby both fussed at her pretty strongly.  She called my sister four times in the next 12 hours to apologize.  She also called my mom and apologized.  They all assured her they were over it.  But coming on the heels of forgetting her purse at Fred's, this is disconcerting.  And frankly, I was more upset about the oven and the chicken.  However, I had told her the day before that she did not need to ride with this dear man who is so ill and shouldn't be driving, and she said, "Oh, I won't!"  Well, you see how long that lasted!

Tuesday, when my grandmother called us to say that the grocery store had called her again about the check that was not signed, she told my husband, "I have been so upset."  He asked why, and she started telling him about the incident on Saturday.  My husband can do more with Mam-ma than most people, and he stopped her and said, "I know all about that, and you need to get over it.  Nobody else is still upset about it.  Move on.  Your grand-daughter will visit again."  She meekly said, "Okay."  She has yet to mention the incident to me.

A friend who is a social worker with geriatric patients in a hospital setting said, "You need to disable her stove!"  I told her... "Mam-ma would have a dozen deacons over there the next morning trying to fix it."  My friend replied... "Put a note on the back, 'Do not repair this stove!'"  That would never work.  As long as Mam-ma is living at home, she is going to cook.  I am really trying to "let go and let God" on this one... I know He will work this out... and better than I ever can.  I am trusting that He will do so... He just hasn't told me yet how He'll manage it!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another Mistake...

Last Friday, I shopped for Mam-ma while she was at the beauty shop.  I was not brave enough to venture to Wal-Mart.  Let me explain... we live in a resort community that hugs a 40,0000-acre lake known for its clear water and recreational opportunities.  It beckons people far and wide to come for a visit and a swim, jet-ski and/or boat ride, and more.  And they do... in droves... especially on the July 4th weekend.  An early morning trip to Wal-Mart had done it for me.  I was not going back for a dozen eggs, some milk, and a couple of other items.  So I shopped downtown in a neighborhood grocery store.  My total bill was $14 and some change.  I grabbed the groceries, picked up my grandmother and returned her to her home and got her settled.

July 4th is my birthday, so Mam-ma had a card waiting for me, with cash inside.  She always wants to know what I plan to do with the money, although right away she says, "Now you buy whatever you want with that."  I told her I had decided to buy new kitchen utensils... spoons for cooking, a good sharp knife, and maybe a cutting board.  She said, "Well, that sounds just fine."  Knowing her love of cooking, I figured that she would be pleased.  I thanked her again for the card, said "Good-bye," and headed home.

I was barely in the door when the phone rang - Mam-ma... "Well, I thought *I* was the only one who forgot things."  I asked her what I had forgotten.  She replied... "You forgot to sign the check at the grocery store.  They called me and I told 'em you would call them."  I told her nobody said anything about signing a check... and some places, it's all done electronically and a signature isn't required, so it never occurred to me that I didn't sign the check.

I had my receipts, but I told her I would call, and I reaiterated that *I* had not made the mistake... that honor belonged to the store clerk!  I did call the store, and the person I spoke with wanted me to come in and sign the check.  I told her I was not coming back that day... but I might stop on Sunday on my way to church and sign.

As it turns out, I got some sort of nasty virus and became really sick Saturday night.  By Tuesday, I felt just well enough to dress and drive to the grocery store to sign the check.  My husband said, "By this time, they will have deposited it without a signature."  They had not, and the clerk said, "I called her, and she said you were supposed to have come in Sunday and signed this."  "You called my grandmother again?"  "Yes, this morning.  She said you do all her shopping."  I explained that yes, my grandmother will be 98 this fall, and I did not want her upset with this, and the woman said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know... I've been calling people all weekend.  You are not the only person who didn't sign their check, and many of them were for a whole lot more than your amount!"

I shook my head and left... grumbling that now, not only did Mam-ma think I screwed up initially... she would be upset that I had not taken care of this on Sunday.  Mam-ma did not remember to call me on my birthday, so she had no clue I was in bed, sick with a virus.  And just as I suspected... by the time I got back home, she had already phoned to complain about the check, and my husband had assured her I was at the store at that moment, providing the signature.

This seems like a small thing, but if you are caring for an older adult, you know that they zero in on things like this.  So months later, long after you have forgotten the incident, your loved one says, "Well, you've made another mistake!" - the comment my grandmother tossed at me one day when she thought I had bought her the wrong bra size. (see archives).  There are enough day-to-day challenges without these little added "delights."  Okay, so the grocery store clerk didn't know she was phoning a little old lady about a $14 check... but c'mon people, it was a $14 check!  Were two phone calls really necessary?  If that clerk only knew...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fodder for the Blog

Whenever something happens lately with my grandmother, I've begun shrugging and saying, "Oh well... fodder for the blog!"  So last week, a dear lady in our community passed away at the age of 102.  Charlsie Baldridge Little was an iconic figure in our community and a tremendous role model for women everywhere. 

Widowed on Pearl Harbor Day at the age of 33, Ms. Charlsie reared two young sons alone, supporting them as a school teacher who made $100 per month!  She managed to stretch that money enough to take summer vacations and introduce her sons to culture and art... such as opera performances they attended by riding a bus some 65 miles to Little Rock. 

Mrs. Little left her sons with their grandparents for a couple of summers while she attended graduate school at Peabody (part of Vanderbilt University) in Nashville, Tennessee.  For a woman to have a master's degree in the late forties/early fifties was rare, particularly in the South... but not if you were Ms. Charlsie!

After retiring in 1973, Mrs. Little formed a local county historical society. She traveled to Little Rock to the state history commission each week to gather data and research family trees.  She also authored a book for the 100th birthday celebration of our community's First Baptist Church - Upon This Rock. Her daughter-in-law, Barbara, (who was my piano teacher), declared Ms. Charlsie to be "a force to be reckoned with" - and she was that and more. 

My mother remembers being in second grade and thinking she would take her cousin's collie dog to school with her.  She envisioned Bing lying beside her school desk, much like Lassie did in the movies.  But when she got to the front door and started inside, her principal - Ms. Charlsie - told her sternly, "Get that dog out of the school house!"  And of course, she did.  She said as a child, she was afraid of Mrs. Charlsie... and one can understand this, because Mrs. Little was so pragmatic, all-business, frank, and yes, stern!  But she was also a model of decency, propriety, and order.

I explain all of this to say that I telephoned my grandmother to see if she wanted to go with me to Ms. Charlsie's funeral.  She did not... she was going to visitation the night before with my mom, and that would suffice.  She added... "I didn't know anything about this until today."  I told her I had assumed her "network" of friends would have let her know right away.  "Well, they didn't," she retorted.  I laughed and said, "They are falling down on the job."  She answered, "Yes, you are!"  I added that I was referring to her Sunday School members, with whom she speaks almost daily.  It was lost on her.

Friday went smoothly... for the most part.  We went to the beauty shop, and I bought groceries.  She had Lysol on the list, and I bought a can of spray... she needed liquid for disinfecting the toilet.  I suggested she get some the next time she and Ruby visited Fred's.

Speaking of Fred's... when Mom took Mam-ma and Ruby to the visitation for Ms. Charlsie, they were getting in their car afterward, and Mam-ma said, "Ruby, do you know where my purse is?"  Ruby asked, "Did you leave it in my car?"  Mam-ma replied, "No, it's at Fred's."  This was Thursday evening... Mam-ma and Ruby had shopped at Fred's on Monday or Tuesday.  Apparently Mam-ma left her purse there, and the store clerks tried to use a phone number inside to contact her, but it wasn't working.  We think maybe it was my sister's old land line number.  Anyway, one of the clerks said, "I know where she lives, and I go by there on my way home.  I'll stop and tell her the purse is here."  I guess they felt that was better than taking the purse, in case Mam-ma didn't answer her door. 

So the clerk stopped and told my grandmother that her purse was at Fred's.  My mom and her husband drove by the store on their way home from the visitation and retrieved the purse.  Mom looked inside, and everything appeared to be there - including $23 in cash.  Mom chastised Mam-ma about being careful... and not carrying a lot of cash in her purse!  Everyone remarked that only in a small town such as ours could something like this happen.  In a major city, nobody would drive to a little old lady's house to let her know her purse had been left.

Mam-ma chalked it up to forgetfulness, but this was the tip of the iceberg.  On Saturday, my sister phoned my grandmother and told her she was coming for a visit.  This was around noon.  Ruby phoned afterward and asked my grandmother to go with her to the nursing home to visit friends.  Mam-ma said she could not... Suzanne was coming for a visit.  My sister stopped at my mom's house for a visit first.  She had baby Timmy with her, and they stayed a half hour or better and arrived at my grandmother's around 2:00 p.m.  The house was locked up tight, and no one would answer the doors.

Naturally, this frightened my sister.  She phoned my mom, and Mom checked with Ruby to see if perhaps Mam-ma was with her.  No, Ruby was at home alone, but this worried her.  Of course, Mom assumed the worst. So she and her husband grabbed their house key and hurried to my grandmother's.  I'm not sure if Ruby came along or not.  Anyway, Mam-ma was not dead in the floor as anticipated... she was not there.  But chicken pieces were baking in the oven... almost burned to a crisp.  Mom said they were rendered inedible.

While Mom and the crew were searching the house for my grandmother, a truck pulled up.  In it were Mam-ma and her friends from church, the Barbers.  They had been to pick plums.  Mom fussed at Mam-ma for leaving the chicken in the oven... she forgot.  She phoned my sister later and apologized for forgetting she was coming.  I don't think it has fully registered with her the gravity of forgetting in such a short period of time all that had transpired... and leaving food baking, to boot.  All she could think about was getting plums to make jelly!

At first, Mom didn't think this really bothered Mam-ma at all.  But she has now phoned my sister at least three, maybe four times to apologize... and she has phoned my mom and her husband once.  She couldn't believe she forgot.  Neither could we.  So there is a pattern developing... and it's not good.  We are all forgetful, but when cooking is involved, the stakes are greatly elevated.  I am not sure how we will deal with this, but we are probably going to have to address it at some point... particularly before "peanut brittle making season" rolls around again.

I know God takes care of these situations in ways we cannot, and I am praying He does this for us.  Ms. Charlsie lived in the nursing home for eight years.  I am not sure Mam-ma could last there 8 weeks.  She would be so miserable.  I love my grandmother dearly and don't want to lose her... but if "the day" comes when she is inside her home when we unlock the door, that will be fine by me.