Monday, March 28, 2011

ESP and Old People

It has been four weeks today since my grandmother moved to Southridge. We've just about got everything priced for the big "moving sale" this weekend, and it looks like my mother may have a buyer for the house.  Things are progressing well, and the proverbial "elephant" is disappearing... one bite at a time.

Last week, my sister spent her two days off helping me sort and price things for the sale.  My mother and her husband came and helped during those days, also.  It's a huge task to sort, clean and tag everything, and we have a few more hours of work to do before the doors open, but I think we are about ready.  I know my sister and I were sore and tired after spending a couple of LONG days on our feet, digging through drawers, and scrubbing really dirty items from the garage and storm cellar.

In the middle of the first day, shortly after my mother arrived to help, her cell phone rang.  It was my Mam-ma.  "I've fallen out of the bed," she told Mom.  Mom asked her if she was hurt, and had she called for her nurse?  When she hung up, she said that my grandmother's first word was "Debbie?"  "No, you've reached Arline - you called my cell phone."  Mom asked, "Do you think I should drive to Southridge and see about this?"  I told her no... I wanted to wait and see if Southridge would contact me.  "Let's give this system time to work," I told her.

Very soon, my cell phone was ringing.  The R.N. on duty at Southridge assured me that Mam-ma was fine... nothing broken.  She said that Mam-ma slid out of her bed as she tried to get into it for an afternoon nap, and she hit her hip and her forehead on the night stand.  The nurse said "I have no idea how she managed that!"  She said Mam-ma would have bruises and be sore, but otherwise she was fine... and mad about her bed being too high.  She said that Mam-ma told her, "I've already called that guy who sold me the bed and told him it's too high!"  I thanked the nurse and hung up.

My second call was from Mam-ma.  "I've fallen out of my bed."  Yes, I know... the nurse called me...and she said you would be okay."  "Well, this bed is too high, and I've called Max (the furniture salesman) and told him, and he's a gettin' me a shorter one."  I could not believe what I was hearing.  "You've called Max about the bed?"  "Yes... a few weeks ago... and I just talked to him, and he said he's ordered me a new one, but it hasn't come in yet."  I said, "Mam-ma, you should not have called Max... you need to let ME handle these things."  She starts to blubber and cry... "Well, I didn't know what else to do... I told you the bed was too high."  "No... you told everyone BUT me.  You have not mentioned the bed to me since the day you moved in." 

She continued to cry... "I wish I had never moved down here."  I looked around at her house... piles of items to sort... more piles priced to sell... "I just wish I could die," she told me.  I stopped her quickly... "I will NOT listen to that!" I told her firmly.  "You've had a scare, and you need to pull yourself together and calm down.  Get into your bed and rest." "Well... if I can get in there."  "You've gotten in for three weeks now... I think you can get in a few more days... and if you can't get in without help, sit quietly in your chair."  I hung up... my blood pressure rising.  We discussed the possibility that Mam-ma sensed that we were working on the sale of her things... my maternal grandmother had a massive stroke the day before HER estate sale that resulted in my mom holding a bedside vigil over her in a Little Rock hospital.  Do old people really have ESP about these things?

To make a long story shorter, I talked with my friend, Max, at the local furniture store.  Yes, Polly had been calling for three weeks, telling him that her new mattress set was too tall... and he had ordered her a thinner box spring.  I was so embarrassed.  I apologized and told Max that this was the first that I was informed that there was a problem with the mattress set.  He assured me it was no big deal... although he and his son later admitted that the discarded box spring will have to be discounted and cannot be resold as "new."  However, they would not hear of me paying them for taking a new mattress to Southridge, changing it out and remaking the bed... even when I learned that Max's son had to wait while Mam-ma took her bath!

I tried to stress to Mam-ma that she must let ME handle such things in the future and not be calling all over town.  My sister and I stopped by to see her later that evening on our way home, and she was bruised and talking up how sore she was... but the nurse told us that she managed to get herself up, walk around the room, and call Max at the furniture store BEFORE she rang her alert buzzer for a nurse to come to her aid!  The nurse said, "I knew right away nothing was broken."

So my mother's husband spent the past weekend in a Little Rock hospital after experiencing a urinary blockage.  After spending 2 nights in the hospital, he was released on Monday and helped us sort, price and move things on Tuesday and Wednesday.  He saw his urologist on Wednesday and thought things were fine... but Wednesday night, he had another flare-up and returned to our local ER for medical assistance.  Now my grandmother says, "Well, I've had trouble with my kidneys for over a week now, and I can't pee good." 

If you have followed this blog, you know that a summer or so ago, we visited the doctor because Mam-ma "couldn't pee."  He assured her that her Lasix was doing the trick, and by early afternoon, she had gone all she needed to go for most of the rest of the day.  Nothing has changed.  Tonight on the phone she told me, "Well, one time that nurse came and I told her I couldn't pee good, and she talked to the doctor, and he told her to give me another pill."  (I have no idea what nurse - or when this occurred, but it was nothing recent.) She continued, "I don't think this nurse is giving me all of my medicine right." I assured her that when we visited her doctor in January for an evaluation for the move, he reviewed all of her medications, and HE was the one who sent the medication orders to Southridge and told them what to give - and when to give it!  And yes, she still gets two Lasix pills a day... that has not changed!

I am quite sure that Mam-ma is having these problems because Mom's husband is having trouble.  There is virtually no ailment known to man that my grandmother has not experienced.  All you have to do is say, "I have such-and-such," and she says, "Oh, I know all about that... back in so-and-so year, I had the worst case of that and I've never been so sick in all my life!"  So I am thinking that when Mom's husband improves, Mam-ma will, also... or the new ailment of the day will arise.

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Saturday, I talked to Mam-ma shortly before she headed to the dining room for dinner at 5:00 p.m.  About 5:30, I began my daily workout routine.  The phone rang.  I figured either my husband would get it or the answering machine would pick up... and since Mam-ma had already called, I didn't think it would be her.  A little while later, the phone rang again.  I was still working out and didn't answer.  Both calls showed on Caller ID to be my grandmother.  I tried to return her call, but the line was busy - and then she was gone to tea.  So it was after 8:30 when I finally reached her.

"Did you call again earlier?" I asked innocently.  "Yes," she said... and she began to cry and blubber.  "I wanted to apologize to you."  "For what?" I asked.  "For calling about that mattress.  I don't want you to be mad at me, but I didn't know what else to do.  That mattress was too tall."  I assured her I was not mad... it was over and done... the new mattress was in place, and she needed to move on... I had!  She continued to sniffle.  I reminded her to let me handle these things from now on, but to forget about the mattress and just enjoy it.

The next day I learned that when I did not answer my phone, Mam-ma called my sister and cried to her... she could not reach me, and she wanted to apologize.  My sister talked very frankly to her (my sister can say things to Mam-ma that I could never get by with saying!) and told her to stop her crying and move on... that nobody was upset, and it was over and done!  The crying spells are becoming more frequent and irrational... and we can see that my grandmother is declining mentally and emotionally.

On a funny note... before my grandmother moved to Southridge, I noticed one day that she had two fairly new hand-held mixers in her kitchen.  I used my maternal grandmother's hand-held Sunbeam until the motor literally began to smoke and the cord shorted out... and then I bought a cheap mixer at Wal-Mart.  Mam-ma's looked much nicer, and she told me, "Take whichever one you want."  I selected a six-speed GE model. 

Saturday, I made banana bread, and I used the "new" mixer.  It worked great, but halfway through the mixing process, I smelled something burning - and it seemed to come from the motor.  I also noticed something rattling in the mixer.  So once the bread was in the oven, I got my screwdriver and dismantled the mixer.  First I had to soak and scrape crystallized sugar from the exterior near the small slit-like vent openings.  Once I got the mixer apart, several "rocks" of crystallized sugar fell out, and I chiseled a chunk of crystallized sugar the size of a large marble from the interior.  AND... no lie... there were TWO peanut halves that fell out of the mixer!  I have no clue how in the world those peanuts got inside that mixer with only those teeny vent slits... but I had to laugh.  Only my grandmother's mixer would contain peanuts and sugar!  I cleaned the mixer and reassembled it, and it runs like new... minus the peanut/sugar rattlers!
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I know I said that I would start to utilize this space to offer helpful suggestions and tips for coping with the challenges of being a part of the Sandwich Generation, and I do want to honor this promise.  So my suggestion for today is to investigate long-term care insurance. This can be quite costly... but if the day comes that you or your loved one needs it, you will be so happy to know you made provisions.  Assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and even in-home care can be so costly.  There are dozens of options for long-term care coverage, but there are plans that even will cover in-home assistance... everything from medical aid to housekeeping, cooking, transportation, and general care.

Start by talking to your insurance agent and find out if his/her company offers options.  Then query a couple of other agents about their options and compare them side-by-side.  You can also do a Google search for long-term care insurance and compare plans, read reviews by consumers, and basically do your homework before plunking down hard-earned cash for the coverage you desire.

I've know far too many people who get to a time when extra help is needed, and they either find themselves totally unprepared and unable to afford the services, or they can't liquidate their assets fast enough to pay for the help that is needed.  Don't get caught in this quandary!  Start investigating long-term care insurance now... hopefully well before you will ever need it!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"In a Few Weeks, You Couldn't Drag Her Back Home..."

"In a few weeks, you couldn't drag her back home!"  This was the phrase my 87-year-old cousin uttered to me yesterday when I stopped to visit with him and told him how my grandmother was settling in at the assisted living facility (ALF).  I think he's right.  It's been almost two weeks, and I've seen a marked adjustment in my grandmother's attitude already.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not been all smoothe sailing... at least not from my vantage point.  She has blown up at both me and my husband, who - as my cousin put it - we thought walked on water!  She spun on a dime last week in front of my mom and her husband, wagged her little finger at me and expressed at the top of her lungs her disgust with me over the size of a hand towel!  But in all, she is adjusting more every day.

Yesterday, we revisited "the closet" and removed several items that I didn't want to take in the first place - but she insisted.  Now she realizes she doesn't need them, won't wear them... and doesn't even like them.  Some don't even fit!

Her chief complaints seem to be... 1) There is too much good food... I'm gaining a lot of weight; and 2) There is too much to do down here!  She very well may be gaining a few pounds, but we've told her Wal-Mart sells bigger pants!  And she is getting good food - three times a day every day, as well as regulated medication as prescribed - every dose!  That has to make a difference!

Tea time happens every night.   I took her two boxes of Sleepytime Herbal Tea tonight, along with another couple of boxes of Chewy Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies for Tea Time.  Yesterday, she won a Nestle's Crunch candy bar - a big one... playing BINGO!  Yes, she still plays BINGO, despite her declaration the first day that she would "never play again!"  She has made new friends, rekindled old friendships, and won the hearts of the staff already.  She has the maintenance guy wrapped around her little finger.  She told him yesterday, "I just love you!"  His reply... "I love you more!"

I'm sure there will be bumps in the road and days when things are simply awful there.  But for the most part, it's getting better.  I still have to clean out the house and have a sale, so that my mom can put the house on the market.  But that will happen soon.  I'm ready to get this all done.  My husband and I went out of town to shop last week, and as we sat in a restaurant having a nice lunch, I told him, "It is such a relief to know that Mam-ma is safe and sound, cared for and having fun doing what she is supposed to do.  I can relax and enjoy my lunch and the day - and I'm having a wonderful time."  I look forward to even more of this... and more quality days for my grandmother, as well.  I really can see light at the end of this tunnel!

Timothy visited us all day on Thursday.  How we have missed him the last couple of months.  We read, played with toys, watched "Jack's Big Music Show," went for strolls on a warm spring day and played outside.  It was a very good day... and at the end, Timothy found the full moon rising in the sky - the one we read about in his story books - and he pointed and showed everyone, "MOON!"  A very good day indeed.

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On another front, my 87-year-old cousin (I guess he's about my 3rd cousin), is really starting to decline.  He lives in a condominium on the same campus as my grandmother.  His wife died several years ago, and he has a companion now... a nice lady named Mary.  Last week, Mary fell as they left the local dance hall, and she broke her leg.  So she has had surgery to insert a rod in her leg, and she is in a hospital in a city 30 miles away.

My cousin has the onset of Alzheimer's.  He was diagnosed about 3 years ago, and honestly, I could just not see that at the time.  He still seemed good to me... told great stories and jokes - and remembered the punch lines - and he just seemed clear as a bell for his age.  But Mary told me that "he can't remember what I told him an hour ago.  Long term memory is fine, but the short-term is really bad."  On top of all of this, he has had heart bypass surgery and now has an aneurysm on his belly that is "very large and very long."  He saw a surgeon recently about having stents put in to relieve the aneurysm... he is not a candidate for conventional surgery.  To date, no one has called him with a surgery date.

The doctors say if this surgery is not performed, someday soon this aneurysm will rupture, and my cousin will simply be gone in an instant.  Doesn't sound all that bad to me (or my cousin)... until you factor in that my cousin still drives.. and he has been driving himself to this nearby city to visit his companion, Mary.  My mother talked with him sternly and told him flatly that he could kill someone else if this aneurysm ruptures while he is at the wheel.  He got friends to take him back and forth to the hospital the next two days.  But he drove himself around our town - to a local restaurant for breakfast, and who knows where else.

I stopped to visit with my cousin yesterday.  He has three grown children, but none live in our community - the closest is about 4 hours away.  They have been made aware of this situation.  I asked my cousin how he got to the hospital yesterday... he said two lady friends he knows from the dance hall took him.  I know one of these ladies, and she is capable of making this drive... and she is a very sweet lady.  My cousin said they were coming back for him last night for the dance.  I asked, "What time are they coming?"  "Oh, I don't know," he answered.  It was about 6:00 p.m., and I mentioned the time, and I asked, "What are you doing for dinner?"  He replied, "I don't remember if they said anything about dinner or not."  I offered to fix him something.  He said no thanks... he ate a handful of nuts and drank a Coke.

Then he said, "I really can't remember what they said about coming back.  I'm sure they are coming after me... I just don't know when."  His answering machine was blinking, and I said, "You have eight messages."  He replied, "I don't know how to get them off."  Now, even my Mam-ma can get her messages off the answering machine!  I offered to get them, and he said this would be great!  So I got the messages... and one was a cardiologist's office - he missed his telephone pacemaker check.  There was no message from the surgeon about a date for his aneurysm surgery, but I pointed out that he could easily miss a message for that by not checking his machine.  I offered to stop by again and check the messages, and he didn't say yes... but he didn't say no.

Also on the machine was a message from Mary's daughter - "Poppa... remember to take your medicine.  This is your reminder.  Take your medicine... okay?"  I asked... "Did you take your medicine?"  "Well," he answered, "I think I did."  He was recently hospitalized for pneumonia and is probably still on antibiotics, along with medications for blood pressure and other things related to his heart.  I really don't know.  My parting words to him were, "Remember to take your medicine."  He said, "I'll try - I think I have a couple more doses left."

You know those e-mail jokes that come around about people saying and doing stupid things, and the punch line is... "They walk among us!"?  Well, there are countless people like my cousin who have no business living alone unattended... much less DRIVING... who WALK AMONG US... and honestly, the highways and city streets are incredibly dangerous because of this!  I have vowed not to get too involved in this situation, much as I love this man, because honestly, I have plenty to worry about as it is... and he does have three... count 'em - THREE grown children (at least one of whom is retired) who could handle this!

I know this is the tip of the iceberg for what goes on in this country with regard to our elderly and how they are treated... and it's honestly no better for many of our children.  We often find ourselves encountering situations that involve both old and young people who "need a keeper!"  In this case, I simply refuse to be "It!"

What about you?  Do you have situations that you can share with others in this space... and are willing to do so?  Please use the link in the left sidebar to contact me and tell your story.  I will try to begin offering suggestions/solutions/encouragement to you in your own journey... utilizing some of the information I have gleaned from my experiences and the new insights I am sure I will gain from this leg of the journey involving an assisted living facility.  My prayer is that you are getting plenty of rest, taking care of yourself, and that you realize you are never alone in this Sandwich!

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Today, I stopped by my grandmother's house to drop of the clothes she doesn't want, so I can price them next week for the upcoming sale. I started sorting through her cookbooks, and I stumbled upon a spiral notebook, in which my grandmother had recorded something of a "journal" - lots of information and stories about her life as a young girl... and as a young wife and mother.  I felt these insights truly reflected the real Polly.  She was writing down her thoughts and recollections... not making a great story for someone else.  It was enlightening, and humbling as I read about how hard she worked even as a child... how she even made my grandfather's underwear from old feed sacks because that was all they could afford.

Over and over, as my grandmother told how hard she worked, she kept saying, "But we sure had fun."  She talked of how my she and my grandfather started their marriage with almost quite literally nothing... yet they loved each other and made their own way.  She talked of giving birth to my dad while living in a 3-room shanty... and how much they loved him.  She talked of struggles along the way and hard times... but she didn't complain... at least not in this journal.  She also spoke of how much she felt the Holy Spirit... and how vital her relationship with her Lord has been to her through the years.

My mom gave my grandmother this notebook and asked her to write down some things on the pages.  In the inside cover, Mom wrote this passage from Jeremiah 29:11... "For I know the plans I have for you," said the Lord... "plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."  I think it is fitting that God has allowed my grandmother to make this recent move... to live in the "lap of luxury" compared to much of her life.  I hope that she finds these weeks/months/years to be as filled with fun and love as the times she writes of in the journal... maybe even more.  As I see it, God is still providing her with plans for a good future filled with hope... His reward for her faithful service.  We should all be so blessed!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I'm Not Playing BINGO ... There's Too Much to Do!

In the course of  seven days or so, we went from "I am so tired of looking at these four walls" to "There is simply too much to do here... I can't do it all!"  Every day, my grandmother calls with something... one day it was her lamp - "It's broke - it won't come on at all."  I asked about the little remote device my husband had fixed for her.  "No, that's not it.  I had that maintenance man come, and he put in a new light bulb - one of those energy efficient ones - and it still don't work.  He didn't know what was wrong."  I reminded her that she had a box of light bulbs in her closet... the ALF charges a few dollars per bulb if they replace one and I had told her NOT to ask for a light bulb.  "Well, I'll find him and give this one back." (She didn't - I brought it home and I'm sure it will appear on our monthly bill.) 

Greg and I met my sister and her husband at my grandmother's house one afternoon, so that they could pick up a bed and mattress set they are keeping.  The security alarm rep was able to meet me at that same time and retrieve his "life alert" equipment, so it was a good trip.  Afterward, we went by Southridge to see Mam-ma and check on the lamp.  Someone had turned it off at the lamp switch, so the remote didn't work.  That was all that was wrong.  Mam-ma didn't like the energy efficient bulb - she said it was not bright enough for her to see... so I handed Greg an incandescent bulb, and he swapped them.  Someday, she will be forced to use those others when we can no longer buy incandescents... but hopefully not for awhile.

When we arrived, Mam-ma had just laid down for a nap.  Her local newspaper and other mail came while we were there, and she said she was going to lie down and rest and read her newspaper.  I cautioned her to keep her apartment door locked, even when she was inside, so that other residents could not enter unannounced.  All of the nurses/aides have a master key - and they knock first.  Other residents just walk right on in... and I reminded Mam-ma she could be dressing - or undressed - or even asleep.  She promised to keep the door locked.

We said goodbye and left the apartment, and I stopped at the nurses' station to leave some medicine for Mam-ma.  The nurse said something about the daily aspirin, and I said, "Oh... she has aspirin in her room."  The nurse said, "That can't be there... we're giving her an aspirin daily with her meds... if she takes extra, that can thin the blood too much."  I told her I would go get the bottle in Mam-ma's apartment and take it home with me, and she said that would be great. 

So I went back to Mam-ma's apartment and knocked on the door.  "Come in!" she shouted.  "The door is locked," I said, knowing we locked it as we left.  "No, it's not!" she answered.  I opened the door and there she stood - straight and tall - and I said, "Mam-ma, we just talked about keeping your door locked!"  "I know," she replied, "but that girl came by and said come play BINGO, so I'm a goin' to play BINGO!"  In the course of 5 minutes, she had gone from very tired and ready to lie down to up and at 'em and ready to play BINGO!

Later in the evening, Mam-ma phoned me - she needed return address labels... could I make her some?  I told her I would.  "How was BINGO?" I asked.  "Well, Honey," she retorted... "I can't see that card... the numbers are blurry.  I won't be goin' again."  She went on to say that one of the other residents - a lifelong friend - told her, "Just relax and enjoy being with us and forget about that card!"  But she continued, "I'm not a goin' back!"

Friday, my sister and my niece took Timothy to visit Mam-ma... she was in the dining hall - playing BINGO!

We're slowly settling in and adjusting, I think. Mam-ma's friend Ruby has been to visit... and she supposedly told Mam-ma her room was pretty, but she didn't think my grandmother needed a  small coffee table that is in her room.  That is where Mam-ma rests her feet when she sits in her little side chairs... and where she keeps her Bible, TV remote, and other things she needs readily accessible during the day.  Ruby also asked what happened to an enormous begonia that Mam-ma had on her sunporch.  I gave it to my friend whose thumb is as green as Mam-ma's.  Mam-ma said, "Well, I had asked the girls here if they would like to have it."  I assured Mam-ma those girls have plenty to do without repotting and tending to a begonia!

What have I learned or been reminded of this week?

  • no matter how good things are, I will never know about it
  • friends and relatives are going to say "helpful" things that really don't help
  • I can't believe everything Mam-ma tells me
  • Mam-ma is where she needs to be... and she is thriving already
As spring approaches and the weather improves, I'm hoping Mam-ma's attitude will soar.  I'm already feeling my attitude lighten along with my "load," and once the house is cleaned and everything is disposed of/dispersed, I know I will be able to focus on enjoying my grandmother more and spending time on other people and things I have neglected for the last few years.  The friend who tried to convince Mam-ma to stay for BINGO went to the ALF kicking and screaming.  Two weeks later, she wouldn't leave for all the tea in China.  I'm hoping that in another week, Mam-ma is firmly settled there, too... or well on her way.

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I would love to hear from those of you who are facing similar situations.  Are you sandwiched between the care of your elderly loved ones and younger family members?  Do you have questions and/or concerns we could try to address here?  What are your coping mechanisms... what are the triggers to your stress... how can we help?  Please contact me and let me know what you would like to see addressed in this space.  I want this to be a blog that helps us all to navigate the waters of the life of someone in the Sandwich Generation - and keep our sanity in the bargain!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Bloom is Off the Rose... Settling in at the ALF

It did not take long for the bloom to leave the rose. Tuesday morning, I did things at home that I had sorely neglected and then went to town around 2:00 to run some errands. I stopped by Southridge to give some papers to the administrator, schedule the beauty shop visits for Mam-ma - and see her briefly. She had called for a night-light bulb (turns out she had tripped the GFCI - ground-fault circuit interrupter - on her electrical outlet and didn't need a thing), and then she phoned and told Greg she needed wire pliers to unscrew the caps on her 20-oz. Cokes. He relayed the message, although he thought that was a lousy idea.

I stopped at the beauty shop and got Mam-ma scheduled for a weekly shampoo/set.  Mam-ma's beautician is a woman who went to school with us. The only available day/time is Tuesday afternoons at 2:30. I told Mam-ma if she doesn't like it, we can go back to her regular hairdresser.

As I said, things were much different on Tuesday from Monday. Mam-ma said she "liked to froze to death in the night." Her heating unit was turned off when I was there at 2:00, but the room was very warm and sunny. She had scootched a chair over by the window... I inquired... she said, "I'm freezing to death... my feet are so cold they may never warm up." I turned the heater on - and up...knowing the room would be stifling. I told her I thought Bible study was beginning at 3:00 - the little ladies were all lined up ready to go into the dining hall. She informed me she can't go to Bible study. Like an idiot, I asked why not. She said, "Because it makes me nervous." I just didn't question it.

So I went to town and changed Mam-ma's address at the post office and did my errands - and I got a few more things at her house. When I returned, she was in the dining hall, sitting with a nice little lady who is her fourth table mate. Mam-ma has been paired with two ladies from our community we have known all our lives - Evelyn, who was in a coffee klatch with my maternal grandmother; and Ruth - my 3rd grade teacher.

I got Mam-ma's key and unlocked her room to put away the things I brought, and here she came. She had a fit - I'd brought the wrong pliers. I told her that was all I could find in her kitchen drawer, and she screamed at me that it was not. I told her, "Mam-ma, those were the only pliers I saw." I also told her that this was not the way to open her Cokes, and she said it was the only way. I told her no... she should be asking her aides to do this. Well, she didn't know they would do that. I told her yes they would... and they would get her a cup of ice, too. She had ice water on her night stand - she said an aide brought it to her. So she said, "Just give them pliers to Greg."

I left, and while I was cooking supper, I called my sister about meeting to clean out Mam-ma's refrigerator. She and her husband were visiting Mam-ma. She said Mam-ma had told her that Evelyn spent the afternoon with her, and she didn't get a nap. Mam-ma told me she only laid down, but she never mentioned Evelyn to me. Suzanne called me when she got home, and she said Mam-ma's chief complaint to her was that the bed is too high - that she didn't need the box springs... just a mattress. I told Suzanne, I think we have our cousin Ricky to thank for that one. He stopped by as I was putting Mam-ma to bed on Monday night, and he went on and on about how he surely hoped she didn't fall out of that high bed! (It's not that high!)

Suzanne wanted to get her a little stool for climbing in and out of bed. I said NO WAY! It's really not too high, and I don't want Mam-ma fumbling with a stool. Suzanne said she told Mam-ma to call for an aide to help her up and to the bathroom at night, and Mam-ma said she didn't know the aides would do that. Suzanne assured her they would, and she said, "Well, I'll just call them then."

I told Suzanne that Evelyn was not in Mam-ma's room at 2:00 - in fact, Mam-ma found me at the beauty shop - she was out looking for another friend, Viola. But at any rate, we can't believe all Mam-ma is telling, because I know for a fact some of it is not true. And her room might have become cool that first night, if her heat was really off then, but she was snug as a bug in that bed. And Greg showed her Monday in detail how to run the heat/air. Yesterday, she said, "Well, I didn't know how..." So this is just a process, and I told Suzanne...we have to work through it.

I told Mam-ma I was not coming by on Thursday - that we were going to the state basketball tournament, hosted at our local high school gym. I didn't really plan to go back to Southridge again for a few days. She needs to acclimate, and I had things I wanted and needed to do - like the ball tournament.

Monday, Mam-ma casually tossed out that "you need to check my crochet yarn... there is $20 stuck inside. I don't know how it got there." Well, yesterday, I looked in her crochet yarn, and yes, one ball had a $20. The other ball had three $10 bills! So I checked ALL of the yarn for money. And we are going to check everything that has a lid or closes - Bibles, books... everything... for stashed money! She said, "I don't know how come me to put that in there." I'm just glad she thought to tell me!

My mom sent me a Facebook message to inform me that Mam-ma told HER that she had called her former housekeeper to come and get some of the clothes in the closet. She told Mom... "I think they just cleaned out all the closets!" [and took ALL of her clothes to Southridge]. I don't know why Mam-ma felt she had to involve her housekeeper. I had just inventoried her closet on Monday, and we only took the items she wanted. We did not take all of her clothes - we only took the ones on which she insisted - a closet full! I think I counted 35 blouses, 16 pair of pants, better than a dozen "suits" and about a dozen coats/jackets.  That doesn't include sweaters, underwear, socks, pajamas, and bathrobes.  I don't know if she ever really called the housekeeper... apparently Mom talked her out of it.

Greg went by the ALF at noon on Thursday, and he said everything seemed fine. She and her friends were busily eating a delicious plate of bar-b-qued pork and all the trimmings. He said the dining hall smelled like a bakery.

I didn't go to Southridge on Wednesday - my sister and I cleaned out Mam-ma's refrigerator and kitchen cabinets.  I didn't go on Thursday, either - we spoke by phone, but I didn't physically go to see Mam-ma.  Greg made a "pass-thru," and we went to the gym for ballgames instead.

Friday morning, Mam-ma called at 9:00 - she said her TV remote needed batteries and she couldn't turn off her TV in the night so she got up and unplugged it. We don't think so - the outlet is behind her dresser. We think she got her remote on the wrong button, but we took some AAA batteries, just in case. The "stinger" was still in the "out" position! I told her I was quite sure she had a package of AAA batteries - and several other sizes. She became quite irritated and said, "No I don't... I've tore this place up looking, and I don't have any." So we took some.

Greg picked up the remote and looked at it. One of the batteries was in upside down. He fixed that, punched it, and the TV came on. Mam-ma argued with him that it did not work. He assured her it did. She gave him a mild dose of what she normally gives me... that very firm, curt, "No it don't!" He tried to explain she probably punched the wrong button... "No I didn't!" she said in her most agitated voice. He also told her that the battery was in upside down, so that's why it wouldn't work. She said, "Honey, it wouldn't work before I took the batteries out!" That's when he told her she punched the wrong button. She argued that she did not! So he said, "Okay... let's just put new batteries in it to be sure they are not the culprit." She replied, "Well, I started to say, let's change them batteries."

I opened her desk for something, and there was a whole package of AAA batteries. I showed them to her, and she shrugged and said, "Well, I'm sorry I called y'all. I didn't know I had them." I told her it was okay - we had AAA batteries at home (which we had brought), so it was no problem.

Greg had taken Mam-ma a little wireless device that allows her to turn her lamp on and off from bed with a tiny remote switch. She doesn't have to get up to turn on her lamp - and she can turn it off from bed after she gets in. He showed her how it works. I said, "Now practice that a few times to make sure you can do it." She promptly turned, faced the TV, and punched the device. I said, "Look at the lamp." She nodded... yes. I said again, "No, look at the lamp and see if it went on and off... this is not for the TV." "I know," she said, nodding, and still looking at the TV and punching the device. "Mam-ma - turn around and look at the lamp - this is to turn on and off the lamp, not the TV." Finally, she did, and I don't know if she will understand how to use it or not. It's very simple, and we put it on a little "rope" for her so she won't lose it, hopefully... on the floor or somewhere in her nightstand.

Mam-ma told us she did not go to exercise class... but she walked outside. She said her catfish lunch was good, but "there is so much to do here, I can't do it all." I told her it was all optional except for bathing and eating! She also said, "Now I've got too many clothes in that closet." I had taken her some empty hangers. I told her we only brought the clothes she wanted to bring. "Well, I know, but it's too much - that closet is too full, and I can't wear all them clothes." I told her some day when I was there and had time - and she felt like it - she could pull out some things she didn't want, and I'd take them out of there. She said, "Well, I don't care what you do with them, but some of these clothes have got to go!" I had put two pillows atop her bed for decoration - on top of her regular bed pillows.  These were covered in pillowcases she embroidered herself, and I thought she would enjoy seeing them. Those are in her closet now. So she is making it her own, which is perfectly fine.

Both Greg and I thought Mam-ma was not really "with it" Friday - and then, she said, "You're wearin' my earscrews." Sure enough, I had on a pair of her red "earscrews" that she gave me the before she moved. Now, "Eagle Eye" saw that and noticed... but she can't figure out the remote switch for her lamp! Go figure!

When we got to the ballgame, I saw the mother of one of my high school classmates, and she said, "I saw Polly at Southridge a few days ago. I was down there to visit and saw her." Mam-ma has never mentioned it. The Associate Pastor from Mam-ma's church had lunch Friday with the First Baptist Church ladies (I assume) in a conference room. She did tell us that! We sat with the Baptist pastor (who is a lifelong friend) at the ballgame, and he said he tries to do that himself every few months, but it didn't work out on Friday... so he sent the Associate Pastor.

The pastor-friend said that after I told him last fall we had told Polly no more peanut brittle making, he went by her house to visit one day, and she and Ruby were in the kitchen - making peanut brittle. I'm sure he was in a quandary about what to do. He said they had quite the discussion about Polly's peanut brittle vs. his mother's and how his mom "pulled" hers to help it spread in the pan after cooking. He said if you closed your eyes and didn't pay attention to the thickness, his mother's and Mam-ma's tasted virtually identical. I told him that when my sister and I cleaned out the kitchen last week, we found corn syrup and peanuts in several places in the kitchen - Mam-ma's private "stash!"

Friday, we stopped by on our way to the gym to visit with Mam-ma and see about her remote control. We told her if the teams won that night they would play next weekend in Hot Springs. Greg said, "We'll just about have to go if Heber Springs is in the STATE finals!" Mam-ma never missed a beat... she said, "Well, y'all just go on... that'll be fine... you don't have to worry about me any more, so just go on!" Now first of all, we weren't asking permission, and secondly... don't have to worry about her any more? PahLEASE!!!

Saturday, it was stamps. Mam-ma called around 9:00 a.m. to tell me that she had written a letter and couldn't find her postage stamps. "They are in your desk," I told her. "No, they aren't!" she retorted. I assured her they were, that we took everything out of the top compartments and put it in a desk drawer for the ride to Southridge... then I tried my best to restore the contents to their rightful places. "I'm sure that I didn't get things back in the right spots, but it's all there." "Well, it's not," she informed me. I told her to sift through her things like dealing cards, and I was sure she would find the stamps. She assured me she would not, because they were not there. I said, "Do you remember telling me your AAA batteries were not there, and I showed them to you in your desk?" "Well... good-bye," she said! "Good-bye!" I replied. At least she didn't hang up on me.

Sunday night about nine, Mam-ma called me - did I not leave her any toilet paper? I told her Southridge furnishes TP. She said, "Well, I thought you told me that we would have to get our own." She went on to explain that James, the maintenance guy, moved her toilet paper dispenser in the bathroom on Saturday - he didn't think she could reach it on the wall. I told her that is why Southridge provides the toilet paper - they want the residents to use their dispensers. DUH! Anyway, we got that cleared up well enough, I guess.

Then she told me, "I tell you what, I just can't keep eating like this... I'm a gaining weight!" Now, she needed to gain a little weight, and I told her so... and I also told her she will work it off walking the halls. She said, "Well, if I can ever get outside..." I told her "Mam-ma... there are acres of hallways in that place... just walk inside." She said she had been, and that the food is delicious, but there is just more of it than she can eat - and it's making her fat! I assured her that she will get into the groove with exercises and walking, and that the food will help her gain strength and feel better... so EAT UP!

I thought Mam-ma was in a pretty good mood Sunday night, but today was another story. We went to Wal-Mart to buy her a flat-screen television, and while checking out, she called and said, "I need you to pick up some B-12 at the drugstore... the nurse is going to call it in." I tried to explain to her that she had two vials of B-12 at the nurse's station already... along with syringes, sterile pads, and more... and nothing needed to be ordered. She added... "Well, I need you to go to the house and get my Woolite, so I can wash my undies." I had taken the Woolite home with me when we cleaned out the cabinets. So I turned around and went back into Wal-Mart and bought more Woolite.

Greg got the TV set up, and I talked with the nurse and straightened out the confusion on the medications (hopefully). Greg showed Mam-ma how to use the new remote control, which is pretty straightforward, and she informed us she cannot get the channel where she watches "Wheel of Fortune." "I guess it's not on any more," she said. Now that happens to be a local channel, and it is indeed on each night. Greg showed her where to find it. She said, "Well, as long as these books hold out, I'll probably just read anyway."

I honestly think that she will come to enjoy the television and the nice, big, bright picture. She had told the aides one day last week that she wanted her bath early in the mornings. When the aide came today to help her bathe, she said, "Can I have it tonight after supper?" The aide graciously accommodated her. I figure that things are going a whole lot better than she wants me to know... and I can see that she is being pampered. Her room was spotless... the housekeepers had been there. The bed linens will be changed and laundry done tomorrow. The food is fantastic. She is safe, warm, and surrounded by people. She says she is learning to use the little remote switch for the lamp. I opened the desk, and there were her stamps. "I see you found your stamps," I commented. "Uh-huh!" she answered, quickly changing the subject.

We made our "good-byes" and suggested Mam-ma take a nap. Her nurse said she would give her a B-12 injection later (which usually perks her up fairly quickly), and there is no telling what all she will do this afternoon/evening - or who she will see. One thing is for sure... we'll never know the half of it... at least not the half that is good!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Come for Tea at Eight

Last night my husband and I sat down after dinner to watch some sitcoms we had recorded on DVR.  A little after 8:30, he woke me and said, "Do you need to go to bed?"  I had been dozing for the last couple of 30-minute episodes.  I was even more tired than I realized, and I had no trouble falling asleep for good... or sleeping through the night.  A little after 6:00, I had tucked Mam-ma into her new bed in her new home, and told her, "Welcome home!"  She said, "Y'all have done a wonderful thing today."  I knew she meant it.

Friday, I took Mam-ma to the beauty shop, and I returned to her house to sort and pack.  After she returned from the beauty shop, we sorted some more items - the medicine chest, some jewelry and cologne, and more.  At almost 5:30 p.m., she was exhausted, and so was I.  We declared it a good day, and I left, suggesting she get some rest. 

I decided on Saturday that I should go back and pack a few more things, feeling the more we had packed and ready to roll on Monday, the better.  When I arrived at Mam-ma's before 2:00 p.m., Ruby was entering the house, and she was all dressed up.  Another friend, Geneva, was picking them up to go to Southridge to visit friends.  "Go ahead," I told Mam-ma.  "I'm going to pack and sort things here, and you go have a good time." 

I did all I could to get things organized, labeled, packed and ready, and at 4:00, I vacuumed the carpets and walked across the street to visit a next-door neighbor who is also a dear friend.  About 4:30, I heard the familiar scraping of Mam-ma's walker being dragged across concrete.  I walked to my friend's front door, and there stood Mam-ma.  "You've locked me out!" she said.  I reminded her that she had her remote control garage door opener, and she said, "Yes, but you locked the interior door."  Indeed, I had done that out of habit.  So I unlocked the house and let her inside... and I realized right away that she was completely spent.

Apparently these little ladies had walked from one end to the other of two facilities at Southridge - the assisted living center AND the skilled care nursing facility.  Mam-ma was so tired she could not even put a sentence together.  I quickly showed her where I had put her underwear and asked a couple of questions, and then I seated her at her dining table and heated some food for her dinner.  She took her night-time medicine and said, "I think I'll go to bed."  I turned down her bed, laid out her pajamas, and sat with her while she ate.  The food helped, and she began to rally a bit and was able to speak in rational sentences.  I offered to help her put on her pj's, but she sat down on her couch and said, "I think I will rest here for awhile."

Sunday, I did not leave my house - and neither did Mam-ma.  We rested for THE BIG DAY.  But she phoned me at 9:15 a.m. - "WHERE is my underwear?"  She did not remember most of what I had told her Saturday evening.  I reminded her it was in the dresser drawer - ready to go to Southridge.  Oh, yes... now she knew.

Yesterday morning, my husband and I left home at 8:00 and headed for Mam-ma's, where we loaded her furniture into our vehicles and a utility trailer.  We then went to Southridge and unloaded the furniture, getting everything in place.  A local furniture company was to deliver a new mattress set after lunch... we had the bed frame in place and ready.  The mattress set arrived promptly after lunch.

After that, Greg went to deliver Meals on Wheels, and I returned to Mam-ma's to get her medicine dispersed into the daily compartments - see if any needed to be ordered - and to load her clothes and toiletries, etc., into my vehicle.  It will take a week or more for the pharmacy associated with the ALF to begin sending medicine for Mam-ma, so we needed to do this one last personal dispensation.  I went back to Mam-ma's new room and unloaded the clothes, toiletries, and other items.

I was scheduled for a mammogram... of all days, on this morning at 11:30.  So I drove up the hill to our hospital and checked in at the radiology lab.  Greg met me there and waited while I had the procedure.  The beauty of small towns is that we know so many people.  Fellow church members were my admissions clerk, and my radiology technician, and they whisked me in and out quickly and with little fanfare.  Greg and I grabbed a quick, delicious lunch at our hospital cafeteria (the best food in town!), and then we returned for another load of odds and ends at my grandmother's.

My sister met us at my grandmother's, and we loaded pictures, lamps, plants and other items into the cars and made another trip to Southridge.  This time, the maintenance man - James - met us and helped my husband connect and program the television.  He also hung ALL of the pictures for me - I would hold one up and point, and he would hang a nail and the picture - and he hung a little cabinet/shelf unit over the toilet in the bathroom.  James was wonderful... but then, so was all of the staff - many of whom dropped in throughout the day to say "Hello" and "Welcome!"  My sister and I made the bed and straightened the room.

By about 2:00 p.m., we were ready for Mam-ma.  Her room looked like she had lived there for years.  The bed was made... her pictures (many of which she painted herself) were hung on the walls... our family mantel clock was tick-tocking on the dresser, and her family Bible was on the coffee table.  Everything was in the drawers... pretty dishes held cosmetics on the counter in the bathroom, and her Mylanta and creams and ointMENTS were in the bathroom cabinets.  A decorative corner cabinet sat just inside the door - with seven shelves laden with family photos.  The room screamed "Mam-ma Polly!"

Greg and I drove to Mam-ma's house, and she was pretty well "locked and loaded."  She had turned out the lights, locked the doors, and she was ready to go.  She looked around... but not much... and Greg helped her to the car.  Earlier that morning, she had picked up a pocket-knife and handed it to Greg... her eyes filling with tears.  "This was Truman's," she said.  Truman was my grandfather.  "Would you like to have it?"  Greg sweetly told her, "I will hold onto it until Timmy is big enough to have it... and then I will give it to him - how's that?"  She replied, "That'd be okay."

I fully expected a tearful scene as we left for the last time.  There were a few tears and sniffles from the back seat... but really very few.  And the reaction when we presented her with the new apartment was priceless.  She was astounded... and thrilled.  You could see it on her face.  It was HERS.  Everything was familiar.  We had used all of her things, and she felt so comfortable.  She asked a few times, "Now, where is this or that?" and we showed her, but she settled into a chair and was grinning from ear to ear.  Greg showed her how to use the thermostat, and we got a list of the television channels so he could go over those with her and find "Wheel of Fortune" and the Fox16 nightly news.

Several staff members came and went, introducing themselves and welcoming Mam-ma to the facility.  I took the medicine box to the R.N. and went over the medication schedule with her... and I almost danced back to Mam-ma's room - glad to be relieved of that responsibility!  Around 4:00, Greg and I went home, and I started calling utility companies and cancelling services.  The first call I made was to the telephone company.  The very helpful rep I was assigned told me that no technician was required (although she was completely unable to remove the $45 connection charge - and she tried several times), and that phone service would be switched from Mam-ma's house to her apartment by 10:00 a.m. today... no later than 8:00 p.m. tonight.

I called the cable company and cancelled Mam-ma's cable TV service.  She has a rebate coming for pro-rated, and unused service.  By now it was almost time for dinner, which is served at 5:00 p.m., so I decided I should go back and help Mam-ma get to the dining hall and acclimate for her first meal there.  For the record, we live about ½ mile from Southridge.  My grandmother's house was on the other end of town, probably almost five miles from our home.  So this is not inconvenient at all for back-and-forth trips.

I located James and asked him to help me plug in Mam-ma's phone, so that when the switch was made today, everything would be in place.  James did this, and I recorded a new message on the answering machine.

I helped Mam-ma to the dining room, where she sat at a table with Charley and Kathleen... two very nice people.  Charley is a retired minister from Texas, and he didn't seem too interested in visiting a lot, but we did make acquaintance.  Mam-ma's friends were seated at other tables, and the administrator had told us that some of them have agreed to move to a new table today and sit with her.  So she will have a group of friends to share conversation with over her meals now... something she has not had in years.

I had ordered soup from the menu for Mam-ma - the "daily dinner special" was fish sticks, and as luck would have it - that was her last Meals on Wheels lunch entree!  So she had a big bowl of chicken noodle soup, a cornbread muffin, buttermilk, and banana split pie with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.  And she ate heartily.  As she scraped the last bite of whipped cream from her dessert, she laughed and said, "If they feed us like this every meal, I don't know what I will do!"  I told her we'll buy her a muu-muu - this is her time to live it up!  Truly, the food appears to be wonderful - the menu was extensive and sounded delicious. I gained five pounds just reading it!

Before dinner, one of Mam-ma's long-time friends and fellow Sunday School class members Ms. Viola, came over to welcome her again to Southridge. Ms. Viola is one classy little lady - and she has lived at Southridge for eight years now.  She will be a tremendous friend to Mam-ma.  She patted Charley's arm and said, "Charley, this is my good friend.  You be nice to her."  Charley shrugged and said, "Okay."  A few minutes later, another life-long friend, Ms. Evelyn, came to her table, and she shouted across to Charley, "She is my good friend... you be nice to her!"  Charley again said he would do that.

During dinner, the R.N. came around and dispensed medications.  Mam-ma will get her meds with each meal... and someone will watch her take them.  Yippee!!!  After dinner, Ms. Viola came over to the table and told Mam-ma, "Now, I know you are tired tonight, so we won't expect you to come out and do anything.  But tomorrow night at 8:00, some of us are gathering for a cup of tea, and we want you to come."  Mam-ma said she would.

I helped Mam-ma back to her room, and she said she was exhausted.  We turned down the bed, and she put on her pajamas.  I helped her find her denture cup, face cream, and other things in the bathroom. She fussed that she wished she had her "sleeping pill" - an anti-anxiety medication she takes "as needed."  I told her all she had to do was punch her little life alert button, and a nurse would bring it.  She wasn't happy that she can't keep that in her room, but it's a controlled substance and must be locked away safely.  I said, "Let's just test this..."  She pressed her button, and an aide unlocked her door pretty quickly and came to see what was needed.  Mam-ma told her, and soon, a nurse was back with the pill.  Mam-ma fussed about liking to take one "in the night," and the nurse assured her that all she had to do was buzz, and someone would bring her another any hour of the night or day. (And they will document this, so we know when she takes them - and how often - WHEW!)

I was getting ready to leave when my cousins arrived - just to stop by and make sure all was well.  They were amazed and impressed with the room and how nice things were.  And then, Mam-ma's phone rang.  At first I thought I had imagined this... but I answered, and a friend of Mam-ma's, who she knows from the dance hall, asked how she was doing!  Thank you, Lord... my grandmother was without phone service less than 3 hours!  I told Mam-ma - "This is a miracle!"  She agreed.  I also told her, "You now have EVERYTHING you need.  If you figure out something that we've missed, I can get it from your house any time."

My cousins left, and I tucked Mam-ma in and told her, "You're home, Polly."  That is when she said, "Y'all have done a wonderful thing today.  I bet Greg is tired!"  I told her I am sure he was, but he would survive it.  I have the most amazing husband, and he never complained about a single thing all day - was there to help me at every turn - and thought of things I completely forgot in my tizzy to get this all done!  As I opened the door to leave, I told Mam-ma I would return today, and she called out, "I love you!"  "I love you, too, Mam-ma," I replied.  I locked the door and shut it, knowing she would be asleep in no time... and not only would the staff watch over her, but clearly, Someone else was taking great care, as well.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This morning, I phoned Mam-ma around 9:15.  She said she slept well... was up a few times because "My air conditioner was blowing cold air."  Now, Greg adjusted the unit, and he showed her how to adjust it, but we'll have to review that again today.  She said she had a "wonderful" breakfast - scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, juice and more.  And she was headed for exercise class at 9:30 a.m.  I told her to have a good time, and I would see her this afternoon.  Greg is going to surprise her with a bird feeder placed just outside her south-facing window (the room is very sunny!), and she will love that.

Mam-ma is doing just what I expected - jumping in with both feet and embracing this "new chapter" in her life.  I feel like I have just gotten my life back... and I get to keep my Mam-ma, too.  And that's a heckuva sweet deal.