Thursday, December 16, 2010

Catching Up...

I know it has been a LONG time since my last post, and I do apologize. I could use the holidays as an "excuse," but honestly, I can't explain why I have not found time to share a few things with you. Perhaps I am like many people - I just need a break.  But life has marched forward, so here goes.

We celebrated Thanksgiving at my mother's home.  We had a good meal and enjoyed being together - I think.  Timothy was the star of the show, and he entertained us well.  I would have to say that much of the day, Mam-ma was very bored.  She didn't seem all that alert... and of course, she doesn't hear well... and she refused to bring her walker into the house.  So every time she stood, we held our breath as she reached for unfamiliar furniture and surroundings to "hold onto" as she toddled from one spot to the next.  My husband said he didn't know whether he was more nervous about Timothy getting into something he shouldn't, or Mam-ma falling!  I really think Mam-ma was the bigger liability!

Mom took Mam-ma to Wal-Mart to get more fabric for yet another baby quilt - this time for Timothy's new sibling, who will arrive late next spring.  Mam-ma has begun to tell a few people she is on the list to move to the assisted living facility. I have talked with the administrator, and she says a few things have changed, and there MAY be a vacancy ... but she has not returned my call to say we are on "Go!"  And if she does, I can't guarantee that Mam-ma will agree to move.

Last week was one for the books.  Mam-ma had told me the week before that her teeth were bothering her.  She mentioned it to Mom on Sunday over lunch, and Mom said, "Make an appointment to see the dentist, and I'll take you."  On Monday, Mam-ma said the same thing, and Mom told her again to make an appointment.  Mam-ma replied, "Well, they are a little better... if they start to bother me again, I'll call the dentist."  Less than an hour later, Mam-ma phoned Mom to tell her she had an appointment - for TUESDAY!  Mom was busy on Tuesday and didn't want to bother me with this, so she told Mam-ma to reschedule.  We had been keeping Timothy for a couple of days, and Mom knew I had a full week ahead with other appointments and obligations for Mam-ma and myself.

Mam-ma wanted to get a dental appointment on Wednesday, but Mom knew that we already had an appointment at our local hospital to get Mam-ma's pacemaker checked that afternoon.  So she told her the dental visit needed to happen on Thursday.  Now here's where it gets hairy.  Mam-ma had moved her beauty shop appointment to Thursday afternoon, so that we could do the rescheduled cardiologist appointment on Friday.  So... this meant that on Thursday, Mam-ma went to the dentist in the morning, then Mom whisked her to the beauty shop in the afternoon, where I picked her up afterward and took her home.

The pacemaker check went fine... we really were not gone very long at all.  The only real problem was that we have had very cold weather for early December, with lots of wind, and Mam-ma does NOT like wind!  But we persevered, and on the way to the hospital, Mam-ma told me that Ruby had fallen that morning in her front yard.  "Was she hurt?"  Yes, Mam-ma said her arm was hurt, but her doctor was not in his office on Wednesday afternoons, so she was going to tough it out until the next day.

The bottom line... Ruby's ankle gave way as she crossed her yard, and she fell and broke her wrist.  She has now seen her family doctor, an orthopedist, and has a cast on her arm.  She was trying to retrieve a box that had blown into the yard.  I would venture to say it was well below 32 degrees that morning.  By God's grace, a neighbor happened to be out and saw Ruby fall and helped her get back up and on her feet.

So Mam-ma told me that she had been taking her daily "walks" inside her garage.  I questioned her - wouldn't it be better (and warmer) to walk inside her house?  Well, there was more room.  And I surmised... "Oh... easier to maneuver your walker in the garage?"  "No...I don't use my walker in the garage."  This did NOT make me happy, and I tried to hold it together as I explained to Mam-ma that a fall in the garage could result in her lying on cold concrete for hours before anyone discovered her... and she could freeze to death!  "Well, that's right!" she replied.  But I have no doubt it went in one ear and out the other.

Thursday, Mom took Mam-ma to the dentist, where her dentures got yet another "liner."  The dentist explained to me that Mam-ma's jaw bones are disintegrating, due to age and the pressure of years of chewing, and there is really nothing for her dentures to fit around.  So he puts in a liner that makes them fit a little more snugly - for a few weeks/months.  If the dentures are loose, they rub very painful blisters on her gums.  We've probably had better than a half dozen new liners in the last couple of years.  The dentist is WONDERFUL with Mam-ma.  Since she is a former chairside dental assistant who has made a gazillion sets of dentures, they have a lot to talk about.

Mam-ma and the dentist she worked for made their own dentures, long before the advent of our dental labs of today.  The dentist would select the teeth from his tall cabinet of tray-like drawers... canines in one, molars in another, incisors in yet another... and he and Mam-ma would "set" the teeth in the soft "gum" form.  Then Mam-ma would take the teeth home and "cook" them in a big special pot on her stove (while supper simmered on the other burners), and this would "set" the teeth in the gums, and they would harden and become dentures.  I know there's more to it, but that's basically how it happens.

I spent many hours in this dental office as a child, and I was intrigued with the trays of teeth and thought nothing of that vat of dentures cooking on the stove at my grandparents' house.  So the dentist of today is fascinated by my grandmother - and her tales of earlier times - and he treats her like a queen.  I will be forever grateful to him for his kindness and love for her.

Since I had my own appointment Thursday mid-day, Mom took Mam-ma to the beauty shop at 2:00, and I picked her up there at 3:00, groceries in tow.  She'd made me a list the day before.  Of course, after her appointment on Wednesday, and TWO appointments on Thursday, she admitted she was really tired.  And it showed.  Her speech was getting loose and slurred... the thoughts didn't come very fast, and she was moving at the speed of a snail.  I dropped her at home and told her to REST!  She said she would.

Friday morning, my husband and I were there to get her at just after 10:00 a.m. to make a 30-mile drive to visit the cardiologist.  When I called Mam-ma the night before to make sure she took her medicine, she said, "I dread that trip."  She LOVES this cardiologist and always enjoys the trip to see him, so this was my first clue that she truly is realizing at least some of her limitations.  She continued, "I wish he came to our hospital, and I could see him there."  I told her one of his associates came to our hospital, and I was sure we could switch to him.  But I was afraid to do this, because I know how much she likes this other doctor.  However, she said, "I think it may be time to do this."  I asked if she wanted me to pursue it, and she said, "No... let's see how tomorrow goes."

The drives to the cardiologist are always interesting.  Mam-ma tells us all sorts of things about her childhood... and this trip was no exception.  The stories come S-L-O-W-L-Y, but she told of her dad working as a blacksmith... and a coffin maker.  She related how he would have her and her sister, Babe, hold the fabric and lace that lined the coffin while he tacked it into place.  She told of her school days and going to live with an older sister, Minnie, and her husband Ray, for about 6 months to attend school in another community.  I made notes, but I do plan to get to her house and get some of this documented better and in a more chronological order.

Once we were in the cardiologist's exam room, I asked Mam-ma, "What do you think... do you want to see about moving to another doctor?"  She replied with a sigh... "Well, I just believe we'd better."  So I asked the doctor, who was gracious and agreed that it was time for this change.  He gently reassured Mam-ma she was doing the right thing.  I told him she was on the list to go to assisted living, and he also agreed - and reassured her - about this decision.

We had lunch at Dixie Cafe before returning Mam-ma to her house, where three cousins from Oklahoma were just arriving to spend the weekend with her.  These "girls"... as Mam-ma calls them... are so good to Mam-ma, and they come to visit several times a year.  But Mam-ma always overdoes it when they are here, and she is exhausted when they leave... although she will not admit it!

The cousins stayed all weekend, going home Sunday sometime.  Monday, I checked on Mam-ma, and she seemed fine... of course, she said, "I'm really not tired at all."  Not thirty minutes later, she called me again and said, "You or Greg needs to come get my teeth.  They just broke in two when I tried to eat my dinner."  I called my husband, who was out delivering Meals on Wheels, and he went to Mam-ma's, got her teeth, and took them to the dentist.
Monday night, Mam-ma still didn't have her teeth.  We surmised the dentist had sent them out to a dental lab for repair, as Mam-ma said they snapped into two pieces.  I asked her if she had any canned cream soups she could fix for supper.  She said, "Yeah, I've got soup, but I have to thaw it."  I said, "No, I meant a can of cream soup - like cream of tomato, cream of chicken... don't you have something like that?"  She replied, "Yeah, but the soup in the freezer is vegetable."  Vegetable soup is one of her favorite meals.  I just quietly asked, "Well, Polly... how do you plan to chew vegetable soup with no teeth?"  She started to laugh... "I don't know," she giggled.  In the end, she had cream of chicken soup, crackers, and applesauce.

The dentist repaired the teeth himself, apparently, and late the next day, they were ready.  Mom took Mam-ma to get them, and an assistant put them in for Mam-ma and sent her on her way.  Mam-ma told Mom she had had a terrible headache all day from not having her teeth, and we surmise it was from not having much to eat (and probably the effect of little food and her medications on a somewhat empty stomach).

Tuesday night, Mam-ma was much better when we spoke, although her speech was very slurred and halting...probably from being tired.  But she said she had eaten, and her headache was gone.  She added... "I tell you what, I don't think I have EVER gone three days without my teeth!"  I said, "But Mam-ma, you weren't without your teeth for three days."  "Oh, yes, I was!"  "No... Greg picked them up yesterday at noon, and you got them back this afternoon - that's scarcely more than a day."  "Well... WHATEVER!"  I laughed and told her I was sure it seemed like three days, and she said, "It sure did!"

However, this made me realize that Mam-ma, who is prone to exaggeration, really convinced herself that she had been without her teeth for three days... and that tells me how confused she is becoming.  And there's more... she has taken almost a week to tell both my mother and me that her Home Health nurses have been talking to her about a new program called "Personal Care."

Mam-ma called me Monday night to tell me that a nurse had visited her and "evaluated" her for "Personal Care," a Medicaid program that provides additional in-home care for those who need it, particularly the elderly.  Supposedly, this aide will come three days a week and do laundry, housekeeping, and other things for Mam-ma.  She said, "I'll be the laziest thing in town - I won't have anything I have to do."  She also said, "You'll probably get a call... that nurse said she was going back to the office and get the ball rolling to get this for me."  She told my mother, "I didn't sign up for anything - I wanted to talk to Debbie first."  So I have not gotten a call and really don't know what is going on with this.

However, I asked Mam-ma... "Did you tell them you are on a waiting list for the assisted living facility?"  She said she did, and the nurse said, "That's okay... if you go, we'll stop it."  Not wanting to tell Mam-ma I've made an inquiry again at the assisted living facility and expect a call soon from the administrator, I asked, "You know, the assisted living facility could call us any day and say a room is available.  So, if they call and have a room ready for you, don't you want to at least go look at it?"  Mam-ma changed the subject somewhat and said, "Well, that aide said, 'Don't you want to stay at home as long as you can?' and I said 'Yes, I DO!'"  So I am having my doubts that Mam-ma will be agreeable to even looking at a room at the assisted living facility... much less agree to move there.

I've done a little Internet research, and while this program looks good, I am not sure it will provide the level of care my grandmother may need and/or desire.  For one thing, these aides cannot handle any medications... the assisted living facility provides nursing care and will monitor all of Mam-ma's meds. The aides can also not provide any transportation, and that's a biggie with Mam-ma - having someone to drive her places now that Ruby is not able to chauffeur her to the store and such.  And... while this is three days a week, Mam-ma needs PEOPLE around her EVERY day.  As we approach winter and she becomes more housebound by the weather, she will become even more restless and lonely.  At the assisted living facility, she would be surrounded by people all of the time.

Still... this is totally my grandmother's decision at this point.  She is mobile.  She went to her Sunday School brunch at a local restaurant this week.  She continues to "show her spunk" at every turn, and for the most part, we've managed to make the adjustments that are keeping her relatively safe in her own home.

I say "for the most part," because... last week, Mom called one afternoon to see if Mam-ma had taken her noon medications, and Ruby answered the phone.  Mom said, "I just called to see if Polly took her medicine."  Ruby responded that she probably did not, "because we're making peanut brittle."  Mom said, "I didn't know what to say to that, so I pretty much just hung up!"  When I went the next day to get Mam-ma for her appointment, there was absolutely NO trace of peanut brittle, save an empty corn syrup bottle tucked in a corner on her counter.  But I could smell the cooked sugar of candy making... I know that aroma all too well!  The candy was never mentioned.

On Thursday, when I picked Mam-ma up at the beauty shop, we were leaving and her hairdresser stopped at her station and said, "Oh, what's this?  I wonder who left this candy?" It was a zip-loc bag filled with peanut brittle.  Mam-ma grinned like a proud school child and said, "I did!"  The hairdresser asked, "Who made it?"  Mam-ma grinned again, "Well, I did!" she said.  Behind her, I mouthed, "She's not supposed to make peanut brittle," and the hairdresser nodded in agreement, pulling me aside a few seconds later and saying, "She told me a couple of months ago that y'all won't let her make peanut brittle any more."  We both just sort of rolled our eyes!

I did not acknowledge any of this to Mam-ma.  We got into the car and started home, and she said, "Ruby said, 'Oh, I'm so glad we got that peanut brittle made before I broke my arm.'"  Again, I did not bite.  This irritated Mam-ma to no end, and she got short and curt with me afterward.  I changed the subject to something else, and I knew she was not happy - she wanted me to fuss at her and cause an argument.  I don't know how I held my tongue, but I did.  To her credit, she did not leave a bag of the candy for me to bring to my husband, or I might not have been so patient.

Clearly, as long as Mam-ma lives at home, she is going to test the waters... from making candy to walking in her garage without a walker to things I don't even want to imagine.  I pray each day that God keeps her safe... and that He gives me the strength to deal with whatever may happen next.  Meanwhile, I just chalk these incidents up as "fodder for the blog!"

On a side note, my mom has just written a new book about the history of the entertainment industry in Branson, Missouri.  Since so many people like to visit Branson, I thought there might be readers here who would find this information of interest.  My mom has now written five books... you can learn more about her work at her website...

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