Thursday, February 24, 2011

We Have a Date!

It's official! Move-in Day at the Assisted Living Facility (ALF) is Monday!  We are beyond excited... although when I phoned my grandmother and asked, "How would you like to move to Southridge on Monday or Tuesday?" she replied, "Well, it don't matter..."  Oh, yes, it does.  In the words of my witty cousin Natalie, "Oh, yes!  Your 'good clothes' are labeled, and we're moving!"

We got official confirmation from the appropriate offices at Medicaid - in writing - so all systems are "GO" for a move-in on Monday.  My husband and I will start bright and early that morning, and with help from my sister, we hope to have Mam-ma settled in her new apartment by dinner time.

Mam-ma asked me... "Who's gonna help GREG move me?"  I told her, "I am!"  She replied, "YOU are!  Hmmpphh!  Well... y'all just beat all I've ever seen!"  Mam-ma doesn't think I am able to do anything "physical" or "manly".  I assured her that Greg and I have moved numerous times, and "we've got this down to a science!"  She just laughed.  She will not believe it... probably even after we have her settled.

So we are resting and relaxing as much as possible and preparing for a busy week... but one that will have tons of benefits, I'm sure.  Pray for all of us... especially Mam-ma as she makes this monumental move... and I'll keep you posted.

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Meanwhile, the mother of one of my dearest friends has been hospitalized with bleeding ulcers.  At 85, this woman has a number of health issues, and my friend is concerned about her present living conditions.  She said, "I don't even know where to begin to get help." 

I told my friend that admission to an Assisted Living Facility (which would be ideal) could take several months.  Meanwhile, her mother needs help now.  I recommended Home Health services, some sort of "life alert" device, and Meals on Wheels.  I gave her the contact numbers for these agencies.  I also recommended that she begin to get her mother's papers and finances in order.  She was astounded at the list of papers I suggested she assemble, and she made notes accordingly.  I pointed out that she will need these for any applications she makes... and, should something happen to her, these papers would need to be centrally located anyway for the person charged with her mother's care.

Here is the list of things I suggested she have handy:
  • her mother's living will - attached to the refrigerator door where EMTs and other official personnel can readily see it
  • a complete list of medications and information for her mother, known allergies, past surgeries and major illnesses, insurance contacts and membership numbers, contact information for next of kin, and notice of living wills, DNR orders, etc.
  • a copy of her Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)
  • a copy of her mother's birth certificate
  • proof of life insurance, pre-paid funeral plans, and other policies/pre-paid items
  • a list of all physicians who care for the patient - and their role, i.e. primary care, cardiology, internal medicine, ortho, and more.
  • special notices, like "George has a pacemaker" - "Mary wears upper and lower dentures" - "Joan is blind in one eye" - "Pete can't hear without his hearing aids".  I pointed out to my friend that she needed to note her mother's bleeding ulcer, so emergency personnel would not misunderstand excessive bleeding... and her vascular dementia and numerous medications, which could cause slurred speech that might be mistaken for a stroke at first glance.
It would also be good to have a list of all checking/savings accounts - and account numbers, recurring bills - both those paid directly and those auto-drafted, and other recurring payments.  If Grandpa always makes an annual donation to his cemetery board, you need to know when this is done - and how much he pays.

My friend was astounded at all of the paper work that is required for even seemingly simple tasks and applications.  It can be daunting... particularly the first time.  I told her that "this is not my first rodeo," so I guess I have somewhat acclimated to the paper trail demands.  For me, the key is to try to maintain some semblance of organization.  Knowing where the documents are located and how to access needed information quickly is more than half the battle. 

I'm not surprised that my experience with my grandmother is already coming in handy to help others.  In fact, I had hoped that in some way, I would be able to utilize all of this "knowledge" to help others.  I just didn't know it would begin so soon!

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If you have experiences you would like to share that you feel can help others, please contact me.  This needs to be an interactive blog in order to be more effective.  I look forward to sharing your stories, your burdens, and your joys here.  Please come along for the journey!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Could Move-in Day Be In Sight?

The Assisted Living Facility told me on Wednesday that she would contact the DHS caseworker again today if she had not been contacted with a move-in date.  Could today be "the day" that we find out when we can move?  I certainly hope so!

Last night when I phoned Mam-ma about her evening meds, she told me she had worked all day on an old table cloth made by a cousin.  Mam-ma found some crochet thread in her sewing room that matched this cloth, and she thought she would crochet a lace border on it.  In order to do this, she has to punch holes in the hem of the table cloth to insert her crochet hook.  The fabric is very tightly woven, and she was having trouble punching holes.  I asked, "How big is your needle?"  Her reply... "I'm using an ice pick!"

I told her to put the pick and table cloth aside, and I will look at it when I am there next (today).  She said, "Well, I've made myself sick over this."  Then she began to cry.  "Have you heard anything from Southridge?"  I didn't want to get her hopes up, but I couldn't lie... "Yes, the nurse has filed her papers for you, and now it's back in the hands of DHS.  We are supposed to hear something from them about what is happening by Friday."  She said, "Well... I told Ruby that if something doesn't happen in the next few days, I don't think I can make it!"

I gave her a pep talk... told her we're too close to moving... don't quit on me now!  She said it was very hard... she just worries and stews and thinks about it all the time.  My mom asked me last night, "What does she have to do except eat her meals, take her medicine, go about her day and go to bed at night?"  I reminded Mom that anyone in her situation would be anxious.  You have no idea what day is your last in your own home, and you are ready, but nervous, and the anticipation and thoughts and questions from friends and family all just piles up and creates stress.  Mom said she had not thought about it that way.  There is really nothing I can do to keep my grandmother from stressing over this... and little I can do to keep her safe from things like ice picks and faulty wireless doorbell ringers!

Meanwhile, we have not seen our little nephew, Timothy, in a few weeks.  He's been sick with a bad cold, and we've been busy with my grandmother's move.  I saw him briefly at a graveside funeral service for a great-aunt last week.  I snuggled him close inside my coat on a very windy, cold morning, and he fell asleep against my chest as I bounced him while the pastor read scripture and delivered a eulogy.  We are missing him like crazy, and very brief telephone chats that include "Hi!", some jibberish, and "Bye!" are simply not enough!  Once we get this move completed, I plan to have several days with this little guy where we can play and read and dance to "Jack's Big Music Show" and have some FUN!

So I am praying that TODAY we receive a move-in date... that by Monday we are moving some furniture, hanging curtains, and such... and that sometime next week we are driving my Mam-ma Polly to her new abode and settling her in the apartment.  My husband still cautiously reminds me it could be another week or two... but I'm only looking ahead a few days... and praying hard!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

45 Days...

"Nothing happens before 45 days."  This was the comment I was given more than once on Monday by the DHS caseworker who will sign off on my grandmother's admission to the Assisted Living Facility (ALF).  She added quickly... "It won't be 45 days until 2-16."  Today is 2-16. 

I phoned the caseworker on Monday to make sure that there was nothing else we needed to do on our end to expedite this approval.  She would not give me a chance to ask my question directly, but when I told her that my grandmother has decided that she has done something to create a holdup, the woman said, "NO! That's not it... we're just behind and working as fast as we can."  There were other excuses, but the bottom line is, we are still waiting, and I am sure that there is something "magical" about 45 days.  I guess if you work faster than that timeline, people might come to expect quick service.

Meanwhile, Valentine's Day has come and gone.  I mailed my grandmother a Valentine.  On Valentine's Day, I took her homemade stew, and I refilled her medicine compartments.  She was busy doing laundry and setting out lunch for herself and her friend Ruby.  A neighbor had brought beef stew, and Mam-ma was adding some food from her Meals on Wheels lunch to it and, basically, feeding both of them with "loaves and fishes."  I told Mam-ma that I was on my way to straighten my booth at a local antique store, and I left.

That evening, my sister called, and Mam-ma told her, "You are the only one who has called me today to wish me a Happy Valentine's Day."  I told my sister I had been there, and she said, "Yes... she told me you brought stew and fixed her medicine, but she said that you were too busy trying to get to the antique store to see about your stuff to sit down and visit with her."  Oh, and my mom called on Valentine's Day - and she mailed Mam-ma a Valentine - from California!  I have to admit... most days, I'm a little irritated by such comments, but I forget about them fairly quickly.  But in light of the amount of time and energy I have expended with my grandmother in the last six weeks, this remark really stung.  As many in my boat know, it truly never will be enough with her.

Mam-ma continues to be "down" with me when we talk on the phone... she is growing increasingly impatient about this move.  And when she knows it is time for me to call, I get a very whiny voice as she musters enough breath to say, "Hello?"  However, if I call unexpectedly at another time of day... I get a very strong, energetic voice... or even a "Good Morning," if she thinks the caller is my mom! 

Last night Mam-ma phoned about 9:00 and said, very strongly, "I cannot get my front door to lock."  I tried to talk her through it, but she said the door would not lock.  I suggested she lock her storm door and the extra safety latch on her main door... she had done both, but "I like for my door to be locked."  I agreed, but I told her I felt she would be fine for one night.  She said, "Well, I want Greg to come look at it tomorrow."  I told her I was not sure what my husband had planned, but someone would try to come and see about it.  I am going... she will not be happy - in her mind, I know nothing about "man stuff" and will not be able to rectify this situation. 

Monday, I also took Mam-ma another 6-pack of Cokes, and she said, "Well, what I really need is cookies!"  I told her I would bring some next time I came.  As I left, she said, "And I need bread."  I told her I was not going to the store (probably what prompted her irritation about my supposedly brief visit), and I asked if she was completely out of bread.  She was not.  I added it to her grocery list for beauty shop day.

I did go to see about the door. When I arrived, Mam-ma grinned and said, "Well... what are YOU doing out today?"  I told her, "You said your door won't lock, so I came to see about it."  "Well, that's right," she said, "It won't lock - but do you think YOU can fix it?"  "I'm certainly going to try," I told her.  The door locks fine... you just have to push on it to make it latch properly.  This did NOT go over well.  For one thing, Mam-ma did not believe I could actually fix it, and she was less than pleased to learn it was not broken! 

We also had quite a conversation about a doorbell that kept ringing.  I would get up and look to see who was at the door - no one.  Finally Mam-ma showed me a wireless contraption plugged into an electrical receptacle that made a doorbell noise every time you walked across the floor just so.  Mam-ma had tucked a folded envelope between this device and the wall to steady it in the receptacle.  I told her that this arrangement had to go... that it was a fire hazard.  She screamed at me, "No it's not!"  "Yes, it IS," I replied.  She insisted it was fine, and finally I said, "Okay, Mam-ma...whatever... just leave it then.  It's totally up to you."  A few minutes later, when the bell rang again, she said, "I guess I'll take that paper out."

After several frustrating minutes and conversations that went nowhere, I left, feeling like I had caused more trouble by even stopping by to try and see about the door.  I pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, and before going inside, I said a little prayer.  I asked myself, "What advice would you give someone in a similar situation?"  My answer was that this is not me... it's her.  I am doing the best I can, and I just have to hang on and get through this.  I felt better, and once inside, I met an old friend and had a good conversation, and my mood was immediately elevated.  Thank you, God, for continually blessing me!

Late this afternoon, the administrator at Southridge called.  She has the care plan from the Medicaid nurse.  She had already e-mailed the DHS case worker and was submitting a form requesting a move-in date.  She asked, "When would you like for Ms. Polly to move in?"  I replied, "Honey, as soon as possible!"  Then I told her that we could be ready as early as tomorrow.  She said, "Okay, I'll give the case worker a move-in date of somewhere within the next few days.  If she doesn't respond by Friday, I will call her." She said she would phone me when she knew the move-in date for certain.  I hung up, elated, but not ready to tell Mam-ma until we know a date.

A few minutes later, Mam-ma phoned - "We're having company!" she announced.  It seems that cousins from Oklahoma are passing through on Friday and plan to take my grandmother out to dinner.  She said, "So I've made their bed!"  (This is the bed we are taking to Southridge for her. I had entertained the thought of moving it and getting things in place ahead of her physical move.)  "Are you sure they are spending the night?" I asked.  "Well, I've made their bed!"  she answered.  "Yes, but are you sure they are spending the night, or did you do that in anticipation?"  "Well... anticipation, I guess... but they are staying all weekend."  "Really?  All weekend?"  "Well... maybe they are going home Saturday... I really don't know."  Neither do I... and if we get THE CALL to move, they may have her house to themselves! 

We may just have a little light at the end of this tunnel.  Time will tell... and I'm still praying!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Waiting Game...

We are still playing "The Waiting Game," and quite frankly, I think we're all a bit sick of it.  The Medicaid nurse did make it to my grandmother's house to evaluate her on Tuesday, February 9th.  She approved her for admission to the Assisted Living Facility, based on her age, the fact that she mixes up her medications, the three visits she has already had to a nursing home for rehab following falls and the flu, and a few other things, such as the fact that we hire a housekeeper to assist with duties that Home Health staff cannot perform.

This was a huge milestone... and it was no small feat to accomplish - from getting the orders for the nurse to visit to actually meeting her criteria.  Nobody can believe my grandmother is 98 years old by just spending an hour with her.  She walks well, speaks clearly and makes sense, and she even heard clearly this particular day.

So we now wait on DHS to approve this move, based on the nurse's recommendations.  Mam-ma grows more anxious by the day.  Yesterday, she decided maybe she walked too well when the evaluating nurse asked her to walk across the floor.  "I should have had you bring me my walker," she said.  Instead, she got up from her couch and walked to her dining area and retrieved the walker herself, pushing it back toward the nurse.  I assured her that this had no bearing on why we are still waiting.  It's something new every day.

The day after the nurse visited, we had a mega snowstorm... some 9+ inches of snow that is still melting.  So very few people made it in to work on Thursday - or even Friday.  I don't know if the DHS case workers were in the office or not.  That probably cost us some time in getting this move scheduled.

Saturday night, Mam-ma assured me that she was not going to church on Sunday morning.  We agreed that,while her streets were fairly dry, the parking lots might have "black ice" and slick spots.  She said, "I know Geneva (a friend who is nearly Mam-ma's age) will want me to ride with her, but I'm not going."  Sunday morning, my mom called me... "I cannot get your Mam-ma on the phone.  She probably went ahead and went to church, but I thought you should know."  I looked at the clock... 11:20 a.m.  Church would be over around 11:30. 

We had not gone to church, but I hurriedly dressed and began calling in earnest around 11:40, when I thought Mam-ma might be home - if she went to church.  At 11:45, still no answer.  As I started out the door at 11:59, I tried one last time... she answered.  "So, you did go to church?" I asked.  "Yes.. Geneva just insisted I go, and my streets were dry, so I thought I just as well."  I reminded her that the streets were not what worried me - it was the parking lot.  "Well, it was dry!" she retorted.  "Doesn't matter..." I told her, "you're there and back in one piece, so that's what matters.  But you've had people from here to California looking for you!"  (My mom is in California with her husband, tending to his brother, who is on Hospice.)

I told Mam-ma that since she had said she was not going to church, it had worried me a little, even though I figured that was where she went.  We hung up, and about an hour later, she phoned me... "I'm sorry I worried y'all, but Geneva just insisted I go to church with her, and she wouldn't let up, and I didn't know what else to do."  I assured her it was over and done, and everything was okay.  I am not certain that Geneva was so insistent as much as Polly just really wanted to GO... but nonetheless, she was now home safely.

Another thirty minutes went by, and Mam-ma called again... "Do you think it would be okay if I went out for a walk?"  I told her to stay on the main street in front of her house, and she should be fine.  "Don't go on any side streets... those are shady and may still have ice on them.  We still have ice on our back deck."  Okay... she assured me she would not get off her main street.  When I talked to her later in the evening, she told me she had walked over to her neighbor's, and "... you know what?  There was still ice on the street!"  I questioned... had she stayed on the main street?  Well... yes and no.  She had walked across the main street to visit a neighbor, then she came back to her house and took a walk down a side street.  "And it was icy?" I questioned.  "No, no, no!" she replied. "It wasn't icy... it was just wet."  Now, she had already told me the street was icy, but she glossed over that.

My mother e-mailed me later and said she had spoken to Mam-ma briefly,  but she was so put out with her over going to church after she told me she wouldn't that Mom got frustrated and didn't talk long.  Mom said, "She's going to go to Southridge alright - but it may be to the nursing facility instead of the assisted living!"  I told Mom that my husband and I have concluded that we have done all we can do to keep Mam-ma safe... if she hurts herself now before the big move, it's on her.

This morning, I stopped by Mam-ma's to take her some chicken stew I had made... something she really enjoys.  She told me last night she was eating bread, sorghum molasses and butter for supper.  She has chicken pot pies in her freezer, but she didn't want those.  Anyway, when I arrived this morning, her Meals on Wheels delivery had arrived, and the milk, dessert and fruit were on her table... but no meal.  I saw a big container of what appeared to be chili or vegetable soup on her counter.  "You not having your meal today?" I asked as I slid the stew into her refrigerator.  "No..." she answered.  But the meal wasn't in her fridge.  Finally she said something about... "I just set that in the microwave."  I opened her microwave, and there was the hot meal... chicken spaghetti, green peas, and mixed vegetables. 

I told Mam-ma, "You can't leave this in your microwave... it will spoil!"  This explained another time when I happened to open her microwave, and she had left a meal in there overnight.  Somehow she doesn't get the connection that food cannot sit out like that and still be safe to eat!  SCARY!!!  I put the tray in her refrigerator and told her, "When you get ready to eat this, get it out and microwave it!"  She said she would.

So we are taking it one day at a time, and praying that the approval for a move comes soon.  With a week of temperatures in the high 60's, this would be an ideal time for moving.  But we will just have to see what happens.  Prayers for a quick move-in time would be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This Move Can't Happen Soon Enough...

If I told you I wasn't counting the days and hours until we can make this move, I'd be lying.  Last night, I phoned my grandmother to make sure she took her night-time medicine - Coreg for blood pressure, Synthroid for her thyroid, and Nexium to control acid reflux.  She assured me that yes, she had taken everything.  She was adamant.  We chatted about her day, and less than 10 minutes later, she asked, "Why didn't you put any medicine in my box?" 

I asked her what she meant, and she said, "My box was empty... you didn't put in any medicine for tonight."  "Yes, I did, Mam-ma - you just told me a few minutes ago that you already took it."  "NO I DIDN'T!" she argued.  We bantered back and forth several times, and she insisted that she had NOT taken any evening medicine.  "There wasn't anything in that box, and I didn't know what to do," she said.  I told her she always takes medicine... and if there isn't anything in the box, it must have fallen out.  I told her to go ahead and take Friday's medicine, and I would fix the compartments when I came over to her house again. 

I considered telling her to skip the medicine, and when I hung up, my husband said, "You do realize she has probably just taken two doses of her night-time medications, don't you?!"  I told him that was possible, but she was arguing with me that she had NOT taken any medication.

Less than an hour later, Mam-ma phoned me... "What will happen if I take two doses of that medicine at night?"  I asked, "Why?  Do you think that's what you did?"  "Yeah, I think I took that dose in the box before I ate my supper and just forgot."  My husband interjected, "Tell her to drink another glass of buttermilk."  She said she would.  I assured her I thought it would all be okay, and she said she would drink the buttermilk.

Today, with a forecast of snow, I stopped at the store and got fresh milk and buttermilk, bread and cookies for Mam-ma.  When I got to her house, she was dragging like she was on her last leg.  She said, "I feel terrible - all over."  I fixed all of her medicine and got it back in order.  I also showed her a quilt that my mother-in-law had made that we thought might work as a comforter on her bed at the ALF.  I asked, "What do you think?" as I spread it out across her bed.  "Y'all just do whatever you want," she replied curtly.  "I feel so bad, I don't care."  I left the quilt on the bed and suggested she look at it over the next few days and give it some thought.

When I got home, I talked with my sister and learned that yesterday Mam-ma inspected a couple of small chairs in her living room that she is considering taking with her to the ALF and deemed them to be "filthy," so she exhausted herself cleaning them.  I don't know exactly what she did, and my sister really scolded her for wearing herself out like that, but clearly this factored into her condition today.

I relayed to the ALF administrator about the medicine mix-up this afternoon when she let me know that a nurse has been contacted to evaluate my grandmother.  However, it will be early next week before the nurse can work Mam-ma into her schedule.  Snow and freezing rain are forecast for this weekend and again mid-week, so I know weather could change these plans, and I am not telling Mam-ma just yet when I think a nurse might be stopping by to see her.  If all goes perfectly, we could be moving in another 14 days or so.  My husband has cautioned me that this could end up being closer to three weeks, and I know he is right.

I left medicine on my grandmother's dining table for her to take tonight, but upon consulting my sister-in-law, who is a pharmacist, I decided to ask her not to take anything else for today... give her system a chance to rest and "re-set."  If the snow doesn't come, I will take Mam-ma to the beauty shop tomorrow and check on her once again.  I'm just going to have to keep fairly close tabs on her until we can get this move accomplished... and pray she stays safe and well enough to actually go - and enjoy herself when she gets there.  If you want to add your prayers to mine, they would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Still Waiting...

It's been a week since we began sorting and labeling clothing, and we are pretty well "packed and ready" now.  We are still waiting on DHS to send a nurse to evaluate my grandmother and deem her eligible for Medicaid coverage.  We will then be given the "green light" to move to the assisted living facility, and all can proceed.

Meanwhile, we've bought a new mattress set... it will be delivered directly to the ALF for us.  Mam-ma and I have labeled her clothing, socks, underwear, etc.  We've survived yet another round of snow/ice, and we are just sitting and waiting.  Mam-ma told me on Friday, "I'm about to get down from all this waiting," and I know that she is very frustrated.  But I've done all that is humanly possible to propel this train forward, and we are quite literally at the mercy of the DHS case worker for now.

I told Mam-ma on Friday that "there's a reason we haven't moved yet.  I don't know what it is, but we have to accept that we will move when the time is right."  She agreed, although I learned yesterday that she has been calling Home Health and asking if they can help.  Apparently, her Home Health nurses have been kindly assuring her that "we'll see what we can do," and basically, they can do nothing.  They are a totally separate agency from the one who approves this move.  So I have asked my grandmother not to call Home Health about this again, and she assured me she wouldn't... again, that's all I can do.

Meanwhile, I have been reading a book sent to me by Lydia E. Harris, entitled Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting... for Grandparents at Any Stage of the Journey.  This is a 212-page soft-cover Bible study designed to help us "laugh, love, and learn as you prepare for your GRAND role."  I've only gotten through the first couple of lessons so far, but I like Harris' style... and her suggestions.  This book represents six weeks of Bible study lessons for grandparents and those about to become grandparents.  Scriptures, illustrations, personal experiences and work-book style space are incorporated into the lessons.

I can see this study working well for a group of grandparents who would like to gather for Bible study, growth, and sharing.  It would also make a great gift for a new grandparent or soon-to-be grandparent.  Harris is known to her five grandchildren as "Grandma Tea."  She writes a bimonthly column for The Country Register papers in the U.S. and Canada, called "A Cup of Tea with Lydia," and she has a readership of approximately ¾ million!

To learn more about Lydia and her book, you can visit or you can order the book online at by using the link provided in this blog.

I believe that Bible study can help us through any situation... including grandparenting and caregiving.  Were it not for time spent in Bible study and prayer, I would not have made it to this point with some semblance of sanity!  I continue to pray and believe for God's perfect timing in my grandmother's move.  I just hope He's in as big of a hurry as we are!