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!

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