Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sometimes Being the "Mom" Is Harder than Others

Our Timothy turned two yesterday.  It rained on his first birthday, and his birthday party in the local park was cancelled.  I vowed he would have a party this year, so my husband and I planned a simple dinner at our house for 5:30 p.m. - sandwiches, potato salad and baked beans - followed by cake and ice cream at 6:30.  We invited the immediate family for dinner... and additional family members and friends for the cake and ice cream portion of the party. 

 Timmy's grandpa wanted to make the cake.  He always made my niece's birthday cakes, and it was a big deal to him.  I had found a template on the NickJr. website for a "Jack" cake (from "Jack's Big Music Show - Timothy's ultimate favorite show!), and I printed it off for my brother-in-law.  He did an outstanding job on the cake.. and Timmy would point at it and say, "Jack!"

We kept Timothy all day on Wednesday while his mom and grandparents drove to a nearby city for his mother's OB/GYN check-up.  My niece is expecting another baby any day now, so she is making weekly visits to her doctor.  My husband had errands to run in town Wednesday morning, and he included a stop at Southridge on his route... to visit Mam-ma Polly and refill her bird feeder.  He found her upbeat and doing well.

Wednesday evening, Timothy fell asleep in my arms as we sat on the couch.  The phone rang, and my husband answered... it was Mam-ma... was he feeling alright?  He assured her that he was fine, and she reported that some 30 people at the retirement center were sick with a stomach bug.  So far, she was okay, but she was worried she had exposed Greg to the virus.  He told her to stay in and stay well, and she said she was trying.

I spent my spare time throughout the week getting things ready for the party and trying to keep on top of things, in case the baby came early and Timothy arrived to stay with us indefinitely.  Friday, I made final preparations for the party, while Greg worked outside, cleaning off the porches and driveways, etc.  He was supposed to go pick up Mam-ma for the party a little after 5:00 p.m.  I spoke to her in the morning and reminded her to tell the kitchen staff she would not be there for dinner - and to remember to sign out before she left.  She said she would ... and of course, she was thrilled that Greg was coming to get her.

Around 3:30 p.m., Mam-ma called and said she was not coming.  She said she had eaten a piece of cake for lunch that did not agree with her and she didn't feel well enough to come.  I told her if she was not feeling well, that was wise - we would miss her - but she had to take care of herself.

A little before 4:30 p.m., I called Mam-ma back and suggested she tell her nurse that she was not feeling well.  She said, "I already did."  I asked what the nurse had said, and she replied, "She told me not to take Immodium until I have diarrhea."  I asked if she felt like that was going to happen, and she said she did.  Then she said, "I have not felt well all day.  I'm cold, and I have a headache... and I actually feel sicker now than I did."  The next thing I heard  was her turning away from the phone and spitting into a trash can.  Then I heard her vomiting.  She returned to the phone and said, "I just got sick."  She vomited again.  I told her to punch the button and call for a nurse.  She began to cry.  I felt so badly for her.  I told her again, "Punch your button and call for a nurse."  She said she would, and I told her I was going to hang up so she could lie down.

I waited about 20 minutes - thinking I should give the nurse time to actually see about Mam-ma, even though her office is just a few feet from Mam-ma's door - and I called the nurse.  She told me Mam-ma was sick, and I told her, "Yes, I know - I was on the phone with her when she threw up."  The nurse said that there was an "epidemic" of this "bug" at the retirement center, and she had phoned Mam-ma's doctor to order some nausea medication and something for diarrhea, because "most everyone gets that after the nausea."  The nurse - Peggy - said she was waiting on the doctor to return her call, so we hung up, and I told her I would check in later.

By 5:30, Timothy and his family were here, along with my mom and her husband, and Timothy's other great-grandmother.  We had dinner, and by 6:30, more friends had arrived.  Timothy opened his gifts, and then we served cake and ice cream.

I slipped away to call the retirement center a little after 7:00 p.m., and a CNA answered.  The nurse had left for the night, and she said she had not checked on my grandmother.  She did not know if medication had been ordered - she said nothing was mentioned at "shift change."  I was a little frustrated, but she told me that the orders were to check on my grandmother every two hours, and she assured me she would be checking in on her.  I returned to my guests.  Talk about feeling torn!  I was concerned that Mam-ma got sick quickly - and she has done this before - and I felt like every two hour to check on her was not often.  Yet it was more than she would have gotten at home... and I was so glad she had nurses and aides there to see after her and help her.  I also knew she had her "button" and could call for help at any time.

The last guest left around 8:00.  Timmy was delighted with his party and all of the attention.  When everyone had gone and we were somewhat settled, I tried to call Mam-ma to check on her. No answer.  I tried three times, thinking maybe she was in the bathroom or just could not reach the phone in time.  But still no answer.  By this time, it was nearly 9:00 p.m.  I called the aide again and asked her to check on Mam-ma.  She did... and when she returned to the phone, she said, "She was asleep and didn't hear the phone."  Mam-ma called me shortly thereafter and she said she was still very sick but had not thrown up again.  I asked if she had had anything to drink.  She said she had not.  I told her to ask the aides to fix her a Coke.  She said she would, but I had told her to do this earlier in the evening, and she said she forgot.

Luckily, the aide called me again, and I explained that Mam-ma dehydrates quickly.  She said, "Oh, we are keeping ice water in the rooms of all the residents who have this."  I told her Mam-ma won't drink ICE water on a day when she feels well... but she will drink an icy Coke.  The aide said she would fix one for her.  I explained how Mam-ma dehydrated in a matter of hours a few years ago and ended up in the hospital for a week and the nursing home for three months.  "It's very important that she keep drinking fluids," I added.  The aide was very nice and said she understood.

I hung up feeling like the situation was in control... and thankful that Timothy had not stayed overnight, in case things got worse and I was called to come to the retirement center - or the ER... neither of which happened.  (Thank you, LORD!)

This morning, I phoned Mam-ma, and she sounded terrible still.  But she had eaten oatmeal and "sipped at" a cup of coffee, of all things. She said those were the only things she could think of that sounded like they would be soothing to her stomach.  I spoke with her a few hours later, and she was still in bed, but no more vomiting.  She said the nurse was ordering a bowl of soup for her for lunch.

I talked to the nurse, and she said that meds were indeed ordered - and received.  She also was withholding Mam-ma's regular meds until she saw that she could keep down food.  As she put it, "No sense giving them to her and having them come right back up."  I told the nurse that I felt like I should come and check on Mam-ma - but I was hesitant.  She quickly said, "NO!  Do not come down here!  This stuff is mean, and you do not want to be exposed to it."  She added that several staff members had gotten it, along with most of the residents.  She assured me that they were taking good care of my grandmother... and I am trusting that they are. 

I told Mam-ma that I am thankful that she has a nice comfortable bed and room... that nurses are just a button press away... and that she has meals and medication delivered to her bedside.  All she has to get up for is to go to the bathroom.  Peggy, the nurse, said that this "bug" lasts about 4 days.  Mam-ma will be weak as water by then; however, the fact she kept down oatmeal this morning is a good sign.  Maybe after more than 2 months of eating well and regular medication, she is stronger and will fight this off more quickly than she would have at home.

I also told Mam-ma that I am glad she is able to talk to me on the phone, so I can at least gauge how she is doing in that manner.  And she did sound stronger when I talked to her around noon.  Hopefully she will mend quickly and none of the rest of us will succumb.  With a baby on the way and a toddler to care for, we don't have time to be out of commission for four days!

I was initially frustrated last night over the responses I was given by the aides on duty.  But I think that part of this was due to the fact I was trying to juggle hosting duties at a party at the same time... and establishing the routine and relationship for the first time in one of these situations with the retirement center.  Once we had talked and I had explained my concerns, the aides were quite helpful and kind... and I do feel they were doing a decent job of meeting Mam-ma's needs.  It's a learning curve for all of us.

So hopefully this crisis will be short-lived, and we can all return to normal - whatever that is!  Meanwhile, I'm trying to rest for Timothy's return - which will be Wednesday, if not sooner... and could be a longer stay this time!  And when Mam-ma and the other residents are "bug-free," I'll return to check her out in person.  I'm sure she will be more than ready to see us by then!

Being the "Mom" to my grandmother and my great-nephew always brings rewards... and often has its challenges.  But sometimes, juggling the care of both of them and meeting their needs is harder than others... and this was one of those times.  I'm learning that I'm stronger than I thought... and that God has sent legions of angels to watch over all of us.  And for that, I am incredibly grateful and blessed!


Heather Mundell said...

Wow, Debbie - what a crashing together of sandwich generation issues for you on the same day! Hope your Mam-ma is feeling better by now. Any word on the new arrival?

Debbie Robus said...

Heather, my grandmother is much better... thanks! The baby is due to arrive via C-section on May 31st. I have not forgotten our interview - very soon! Thanks again!