Thursday, December 27, 2012

Getting Your Face on a Smucker's Jar...

When it appeared fairly certain that my grandmother would live to see her 100th birthday, I did a GOOGLE search for Willard Scott and found his website and the requisite forms to complete for submitting Mam-ma Polly's name for consideration as one of the centenarians featured on Willard's segment during NBC's "The TODAY Show."  Sponsored by Smucker's, the celebrants' photos are superimposed on a Smucker's jelly jar label, and Scott tells a little something about the honoree. The information on the website stated that the forms had to be submitted at least six weeks prior to the actual birthday.  Since Mam-ma's birthday was November 5th, I sent the forms in early September.

The information also stated that either we would receive a phone call to let us know that our centenarian would be featured... or the honoree would receive a card in the mail.  Neither happened.  Shortly before Christmas, I cleaned off my desk... and I threw away all paper work related to this endeavor.  I decided I must have failed to complete the forms correctly or something. 

December 22nd, our telephone rang, and Caller ID said the number was "PRIVATE".  Since this is what shows when the Hospice nurses call, I feared the worst... but I answered.  The caller was a gentleman from Willard Scott's office.  He apologized for the delay, explaining that they were behind on airing the segments, but my grandmother was scheduled to be featured on Monday, December 24th, between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.  He asked about our time zone, and I told him we were on Central Time.  He explained that the segment would air on the East Coast between 8:00 and 9:00 - and repeat for us the following hour.  He said, "Set your DVR for 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m."  I set mine for 7:00 - 11:00!!

So I let EVERYONE know!  I made sure all televisions at the facility would be turned on and set to the appropriate channel.  My mom let the church administrators know, and they made a BIG SPLASH about it Sunday morning at Mam-ma's church.  I think everyone in our community of about 7,000 people sat glued to their TVs Monday morning... along with family members and friends from coast to coast.  And Willard Scott was not on.  They did segments on all sorts of things, from ugly Christmas sweaters to revealing the sex of a baby expected by an Olympic volleyball champion... but no Willard Scott.

So we regrouped and set the DVRs for Christmas Day.  This time, Scott was on... and a long segment aired, featuring several centenarians... but no Mam-ma Polly!  Would she ever be featured?  That afternoon, the phone rang again, and the same man apologized and said they were still very behind, and he thought that Mam-ma's segment would air on December 26th.  I told him how disappointed we were, and he kept saying, "We have no control over what they do... the segments are pre-recorded, and we don't know when they will air."  So we regrouped once again.

Wednesday morning, a friend posted on Facebook that she was spending the holidays in New York City, and she had just seen Mam-ma Polly on Willard Scott's segment!  So I started letting people know that we WOULD see the feature.  Sure enough, somewhere around 8:30 a .m., Central Time, Willard Scott's birthday feature aired... and there was Mam-ma on a Smucker's label!  Soooooooooo... in case you missed it... here is my Mam-ma Polly... now forever known throughout America for her peanut brittle!  I hope you enjoy it!  (Watch all the way... she's almost the last one featured!)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

They's a Lot Worse Things Than Dyin'...

All of my adult life, I've heard my Mam-ma Polly say this... "They's a lot worse things than dyin'..."  Now, it's her turn.  I had made plans to accomplish two things today... get the laundry done, and visit Mam-ma.  I started laundry, worked at my desk, then did a workout, showered and dressed.  Somewhere around 2:30 p.m., I headed for the Assisted Living Facility.  My mother had visited Mam-ma yesterday and thought she was pretty good... so well, in fact, that she planned to take Timothy and Zola to see her tomorrow.

Today was totally different.  The Hospice aide - and a dear friend of our family - was there bathing Mam-ma.  And the oxygen machine was running... hose strung across the room and into the bathroom.  Shelly (the aide) hollered to me, "She's really wheezing!" I told her she has been wheezing for a couple of weeks.  But Shelly said, "I could hear it when I got here." And I could hear it.  Shelly said, "I am wondering if I should have showered her... she's not doing good."  Mam-ma was shaking... and she had an ashy color.

Shelly got Mam-ma dressed in some sweats and insisted she get into bed.  Mam-ma started to protest... and even had Shelly put her in the wheelchair... but then she thought better of it and agreed she should be in bed.  Shelly stayed while I checked with the facility nurse.  When the Hospice nurse had visited around 1:30 p.m., Mam-ma's pulse ox was 80.  Normal for most of us is somewhere around 95 to 100.  They start to worry at 89-90.  So this was a low reading, hence the oxygen.

Mam-ma was clearly in distress.  She and I had a long talk, as she tried and tried to tell me something, but could get out no more than an "Oh, I want... or "Oh, I'm going..."  I asked her... "are you ready to go home?"  She raised up in bed, looked me squarely in the eye, and adamantly said, "YES!"  I told her it was okay to go... that we were all okay.  Then I began to tell her how my mom had said just this morning that some of her friends had announced to their children that they were no longer to prepare a big Christmas dinner... and that "honor" would have to transfer to the children.  At least one of those children said, "Fine!  We'll eat out!"

I reminded my grandmother of my cousin Carla, who died suddenly about a year and a half ago of a brain aneurysm at age 46.  Her parents went to a franchise restaurant one year for Thanksgiving, and she had a FIT!  I told Mom, I could see Carla's eyes rolling at the very thought that we would not have a home-cooked Christmas dinner.  Then our conversation turned to Christmas dinners... and who all would be sitting at our family's table in Heaven vs. the table here.  I told Mam-ma, "There will be a whole lot more of us there than here... and you should be with them."  She began to cry.  I soothed her and said, "Now, we're not going to cry about this... this is a glorious, wonderful thing, and you deserve to be with... (and I named everyone from her sisters and best friend to my grandfather, dad, brother, cousins and aunts and uncles who have shared our table's bounty - and our lives). 

Mam-ma settled fairly quickly... at least she stopped crying.  My sister and my niece arrived to check on her... and then my mom came.  As each person came, Mam-ma tried desperately to tell them things, clasping their hands, grabbing for their shirt sleeve, or cupping their face in her hand.  The only words I understood beyond the "I wants" and the "I'm going tos" was "Greg" - my husband's name.  Mam-ma has been very worried about my husband and me ever since we moved my niece and her three children home a couple of months ago.  I smiled and said, "Greg is fine.  We are both fine... and we're going to be okay.  You don't worry about us... we are both okay."

A few minutes later, the door opened, and my sweet husband came through.  He walked over and kissed Mam-ma, and she gripped his hand.  He was just what she needed.  The Hospice nurse told me to ask the facility nurse for an anti-anxiety pill for Mam-ma.  One hour later, she was still agitated... the pill had not worked.  The Hospice nurse had arrived to see for herself what was happening, and she ordered a pain pill for Mam-ma.  The facility nurse gave Mam-ma the pain pill, and about a half hour later, she was calm and resting better.

We decided to grab some dinner, and then I would return to the facility.  We were probably gone 45 minutes, and when I got back, aides were changing my grandmother and putting her bedclothes on her.  She was coughing more, and one aide took her vital signs.  The pulse ox was normal, thanks to the oxygen, but she now has a low-grade fever.  The Hospice nurse suspects she has some bronchial "something" going on.  BUT... as soon as Mam-ma was dressed for bed and settled, she drifted off to sleep immediately.  The aide on duty offered to come back after she finished her rounds and sit with Mam-ma until she was sound asleep, if necessary.  I sat with Mam-ma for about an hour, and my mom returned for a few minutes, as well.  Mam-ma never roused. Her brow has been furrowed in a frown all day... a sign that she is not comfortable... but she slept nonetheless.

So I asked the aide to be sure that Mam-ma continued to sleep.  Give her another anti-anxiety pill if she wakes, and don't encourage her to eat.  She refused supper... I'm hoping she will refuse breakfast. She had trouble swallowing water for her pain pill, and I do not want her to choke. I reminded the nurse and aides NOT to insist that she eat... to offer food, and let her decide.  The Hospice nurse, who is also a dear friend, keeps telling me, "You're doing great!  You're saying the right things.  You did well in talking to her.  Let her know it's okay to go."  So we are doing all these things.

This is not easy, by any means.  Mam-ma is right... "they's a lot worse things than dyin'..." and watching her like this is one of them.  While we were eating dinner, I told Greg, "I don't know why dying has to be so hard."  He reminded me that even though Mam-ma is ready to go... she is incredibly tough!  This could take a while.

Tomorrow, the Hospice nurse will consult her doctor and see if anything further can be ordered at this point to keep Mam-ma comfortable.  I'm hopeful.  Tuesday, December 18, will mark 80 years since my grandmother and grandfather married. My Pap-pa has been gone since August of 1984.   I would love nothing more than for the two of them to celebrate this anniversary together... in heaven.  I know I don't get to tell God how to run things... but I do believe He hears requests.  I'm just hoping He honors this one.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Making a List... and Checking it Twice...

This week, I had to sign a paper at the Assisted Living Facility saying we do not want any more antibiotics to be given to my grandmother.  When I went to the administrator's office to sign the paper, I noticed that there was also an option (with a check box) for not taking the resident to the hospital Emergency Room for treatment.  That box was unchecked. I  asked, "Don't we need to check that box, too?"  The administrator asked, "You mean you don't want her taken to the ER?"  "No!" I replied adamantly.  "Hospice has assured me they will keep her comfortable in her apartment, and she does not want to go back to the hospital... for anything! 

The administrator nodded and said, "Then yes... you need to check the box."  Now honestly, I assumed this was already understood... and covered by the fact that my grandmother is under the care of Hospice. I was wrong!  So while I would have been able to refuse an ambulance (if I were called in time), one very might have been called if necessary.  For instance, the day my grandmother had the "coughing spell," the administrator said she almost strangled.  Had she lost consciousness, I am sure they would have called 911.  When she broke her hip last spring, the EMTs had already loaded her into the ambulance by the time my husband and I arrived... and we live five minutes from the ALF!

I am sharing this information to tell you that you cannot assume ANYTHING!  Ask questions... be sure you know what is documented... and that all agencies involved are coordinating efforts.

In a different vein, I've had some "fun" with other agencies recently that I'd like to share.  I had it on my list to call the insurance provider for my grandmother's Medicare Part D and verify that all of her medications are covered by this company.  Believe it or not, after having to change companies some seven times in six years (including one year when Medicare just arbitrarily changed us to a company that we did not select - and one that did not cover Mam-ma's medications), we have been with HealthSpring for 2 years now... and we will be with them again for the coming year.  The website showed that all medications were covered again.  But I like to hear it from the company to be sure.

So I called HealthSpring to verify this, and the rep told me that "I'm sorry, but I cannot discuss this with you, because I do not see your authorization."  I explained that I was my grandmother's Power of Attorney... I've been calling this company for three years now and talking about her case, and a copy of the Power of Attorney is on file with them.  She insisted it was not... I insisted it was, because I've always gotten this information.  The lady told me several times that she could not discuss anything with me.  I tried to explain that says that all of my grandmother's medications are still covered by their company.  I was merely trying to verify this with HealthSpring.  Finally, the rep said, "Did you say she has been our customer for two years?"  I told her yes, this was correct.  She continued... "Then all of her coverage will roll over to this next year."  "All of her medications will still be covered?"  "Yes, they will roll over."  I thanked her and said, "That's all I needed to know."

Now for the record, this is not necessarily always true.  Just because a company covered your meds last year doesn't mean they will this coming year.  This is why we moved from company to company so many times.  Some of the medications my grandmother took along the way were quite expensive, and companies loved to drop them from the formulary as quickly as possible.  So when I would get the formularies for the coming year, those expensive drugs would no longer be covered.  I still don't know what happened to the record of my Power of Attorney... but at this point, I have what I need, and I'm not going to pursue it any further.

Last week, I tried to pay my grandmother's pharmacy bill online, and I put in the wrong password on the account and got locked out. Usually, I call an 800# for the main bank (in another city), give them the info, and they unlock the account. This day, I got a girl with attitude who told me that she could see I was listed on the checking account, but the online account was in my grandmother's name (DUH) and only SHE could talk to her. I said, "Look, she's 100, she's on Hospice, she cannot talk, and she is dying. I'm trying to pay her bills." The girl got pretty curt, and I asked to speak to someone else and she said there was no one else to speak to. So I had to set up a whole new login/password account in MY name... and I lost all of my auto bill pays. The girl kept saying, "Let me try to explain this to you in a way that you can understand."  Really?  By the time I hung up, I was in tears, and the girl said, "Have I explained this in a way that it makes sense?" I told her no... but not much of anything makes sense right now!

So THEN I realized that I had a $700+ payment going out the next day to the ALF. I got worried that if I set up billpay again, as this girl had said I should do... it might pay twice and make an overdraft. So I called back. Guess what?! I got a DIFFERENT girl, who was much nicer...but by then I had set up a login and password for myself on the account. She said, "I can't tell you anything, but if you ask the right questions, I can answer them." So we did determine that YES... that payment was still scheduled to be made, and had I put it in again, we'd be in the hole and have to pay an overdraft of about $30! So much for Customer Service!!  

I get that banks have privacy laws, but the first girl said, "You gave me your name when I answered the phone, and it doesn't match the name on the account, so I know you are not Polly." In other words, if I had lied to start with, she would have unlocked the account. CRAZY!  I gave her the last 4 digits of MY Social Security number, my grandmother's, and other vital information... and she could SEE me listed as a co-signer on the account... and still, she would not help me.

In her defense, this girl was just doing her job.  And I am glad that our banking info is secure.  But it was more her attitude and her unwillingness to work with me in any way.  I told my husband that I guess that LITTLE thing was what triggered my BIG meltdown. I'm okay now... just one more lesson learned. My mother suggested that I should have hung up, called back and pretended to be Polly.  It probably would have worked!  I'm just sayin'!

These are the types of things that make life for those of us in a "Sandwich" so challenging. As if we didn't have enough to do already, we have to deal with Customer Service reps who seem to go out of their way to make life difficult.  I know that this is often a ploy just to distract and deter the elderly.  Somehow, I think that bank CS knew she had not exactly made my day...but never once did she say she was sorry or act the least bit sympathetic. If this had been my mother-in-law or another older senior, the conversation probably would have ended much more quickly. 

You would think that after all of these years, I would be better at "playing the game."  And I had to laugh as I thought of the many times that a CS rep would not talk to me and asked to talk to Polly.  I would call her on my cell phone and hold it up to the land line receiver, and this little woman would say something like "Sugar, you just ask Debbie whatever you need, and she'll tell you."  Somehow, that was acceptable and believable.  Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?!

Monday, December 3, 2012

I'll Make Do...

My sister and I shared a Thanksgiving lunch with Mam-ma Polly the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. A few days after Thanksgiving, Mam-ma told my mom, "I don't know WHEN I've seen Suzanne (my sister)."  Mom tried to remind her that Suzanne and I ate lunch with her the previous Tuesday.  She argued that Suzanne was not there.  I snapped pictures of my grandmother and my sister... here is one.

A few days later, Mam-ma fussed that I didn't come often or stay long enough... and that "I'm seeing quite a bit of Suzanne."  I reminded her that yes, Suzanne works as an aide at the ALF on weekends, so she is there Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.  That did not seem to register.

Last Tuesday, I went to visit Mam-ma.  She was in the hallway near the front door.  She said, "I'm lookin'... I'm lookin'..."  I asked who she was looking for, and she replied, "For YOU!"  I asked how she knew I was coming.  She couldn't tell me.

We returned to Mam-ma's room, and nothing was right.  She needed gloves from home.  I opened a dresser drawer and produced half a dozen pair.  I left some gloves and ear muffs on her table... was she wanting to go outside?  She shook her head, "No!"  I commented that it was realy too chilly anyway, but whenever she needed her gloves, they were there.

Mam-ma cried quite a bit, and told me, "I'm so lonesome."  She then told me, "I've tried to explain that I'm working on it... not being lonesome."  I told her being lonely is not something we overcome easily or at the snap of a finger... that I was sorry she is lonely, and I don't know what to do about it.  She replied, "You don't come often enough."  I tried to explain that I have a lot of responsibilities now... new ones with my niece and her husband and three children... my 86-year-old mother-in-law who had a mini-stroke this fall... my husband and my own household to run.  She cried and said, "I don't begrudge you these things.  I'm just lonesome."  It was a really, really bad visit.  Mam-ma spent most of the time I was with her telling me how I don't come often enough or stay long enough.  She was simply miserable.

The next evening, my mother took Timothy to see Mam-ma.  She had been asking for him and his siblings, who have been sick and unable to visit.  Mom said Mam-ma was overwhelmed... and overjoyed to see Timmy.  They didn't stay long, but Mam-ma was beaming.  Mom said, "It meant so much to her."

Friday, my husband and I collected Timmy and his 18-month-old sister, Zola, and brought them to our house for the afternoon.  We played with toys, looked at the Christmas decorations, and watched Frosty the Snowman and other videos.  Late in the afternoon when the temperatures warmed, we took them to a local park to play.  We had not been there long when my phone rang.  It was the nurse from the ALF reporting that Polly was having difficulty breathing.  She and the facility owner (who is an RN) had both listened to her chest and heard a rumble.  Hospice had been contacted, and the nurse said she thought the doctor would be consulted about an antibiotic.  Mam-ma was also retaining fluid... level 3 to 4, the nurse said.  She told me, "We'll see if the doctor wants to send her to the hospital for that."

I questioned the antibiotics for someone on Hospice and told the nurse we had agreed NOT to send Mam-ma back to the hospital.  She assured me that I did not need to come to the ALF...that she had given Mam-ma an Ativan to calm her, and everything was fine.  A few minutes later, the Hospice nurse called to tell me that the doctor had ordered a seven-day round of antibiotics, cough syrup, and a steroid shot.  Again, I questioned this, and the nurse said even if the problem was congestive heart failure (CHF) and not something bronchial, the medicine might help with her cough - and in that regard, keep her comfortable.  She also told me it would be fully understandable if I refused further medication.

So I visited on Saturday.  The nurse and I talked, and we both agreed that Mam-ma is - as she put it - "ready to go Home."  Mam-ma was coughing terribly, and wheezing audibly.  She complained that her pants were too tight, so I helped her change them.  These were also too tight.  I surmised she was retaining fluid in her mid-section.  An aide came in with a basket of freshly cleaned laundry, and I grabbed a stretchy sweatsuit.  The aide changed Mam-ma into the suit, and as I put her shoes back on her, I said, "I think I may need to buy you some more sweats."  She shook her head, "No!" and started to cry.

I questioned... what was wrong?  She cried more.  I finally asked, "Do you not think you will be here to wear the sweats?"  She stopped crying and took my hands and said, "I'll make do."  I took that as her way of saying she was done, and I nodded in agreement. I stayed a while longer and got Mam-ma settled for lunch, with the understanding that she would nap in the afternoon.  She had worn herself out changing clothes and coughing... and in fact, she coughed so hard at the dining table I thought she might trigger a heart attack.  The nurse had insisted that this is CHF... and if she does have something bronchial, she indeed does have CHF as well.

I struggled with this all weekend.  Mam-ma is like a doll that falls over, and we prop her back up with medication for a while.  She doesn't want to be here any longer.  We are not honoring her wishes.  So this morning, I spoke with our Hospice nurse/caseworker, and then I called the ALF administrator and told her that this will be my grandmother's last round of antibiotics.  She has indicated that she does not want further treatment, and I am representing her wishes... serving as her advocate and speaking for her, because she can no longer speak for herself.  I will sign a "compliance" paper that says that this is what we desire on my grandmother's behalf.

Late this morning, my mother visited again and found Mam-ma doing well.  Mom said her conversation was fairly pleasant, although Mam-ma cried about a few things.  She coughed some, but Mom did not think it was all that bad.  However, my sister attended an inservice this afternoon, and the administrator told her that I had requested that no more antibiotics be administered, and she advised... "She won't last much longer."  She went on to say that Mam-ma had a serious coughing spell this morning in the lobby, and a staff member had to dash to get a drink of water for her to get it stopped.

My sister also told me that Mam-ma has suffered from diarrhea since sometime Saturday.  We agreed that we are not ready to say "Good-bye" to Mam-ma... yet we know she is ready to go to heaven.  It's been a really rough week.  I have struggled with these decisions, knowing fully that my grandmother is tired of living.  I know that we could go to her apartment and ask her point blank, "Do you want to keep taking medicine?" and she might say "Yes"... then turn right around and say "No."  Her answers are no longer dependable... but her demeanor is.  And I am ready for her to be at peace.

My mom said that when she and Timothy visited a few nights ago, Mam-ma kept looking at him and saying, "I tell you what..."  Finally, Timothy said, "Tell me, Mam-ma!"  When Mam-ma Polly gets to heaven, she will be able to tell everyone what again... and that will be the best medicine ever for her.  Meanwhile, we'll handle whatever lies ahead... and do our best to "make do."

Friday, November 16, 2012

100 Years... and Counting & the Party That Almost Wasn't!

On November 5, 2012, my Mam-ma Polly celebrated her 100th birthday! To mark the occasion, we planned a "small," family-and-just-a-few-friends get-together on Sunday, November 4th, in the parlor at the Assisted Living Facility (ALF). When I say "small" and "family" in the same breath, I am talking upwards of 100 people! I knew that Mam-ma would be overwhelmed, and with her inability to speak more than a few words, having an "open house" for all of her church family and the community at large to come and go would be entirely too much for her. So we invited family, her Sunday school class members, the pastor and her deacon, and one or two others.

Two weeks before Mam-ma's birthday, the stomach bug hit our community with a vengeance. It coursed its way through the ALF... at least twice. As far as I know, Mam-ma only got it once, but my sister, who is a nurse's aide at the ALF, brought it home to the rest of us. Timmy got it at our house, and then my husband and I got sick. In fact, we were still so sick by Halloween that we had to forego inviting trick-or-treaters to our house. So all we have is photos of our little ones in their costumes, provided by my mom and niece. We had enjoyed watching Timmy play in the lion costume I made for him several days earlier... but we didn't get to put treats in his bucket on the actual holiday.

Thinking everything was over, we ordered the birthday cake on Thursday before the party was to be held on Sunday.  On Friday, I visited Mam-ma at the ALF... and the nurses halted me in the parking lot to warn me that "the bug is back!"  They were frantically disinfecting door knobs, hand rails, salt and pepper shakers in the dining room... anything they could think of that residents touched in the course of a day.  We debated what to do about the party.  Mam-ma was gaining momentum... working herself up to a top-level excitement for her big day.  We decided we could not disappoint her.  We had to notify everyone of the circumstances, put out big bottles of hand sanitizer, and try to keep people confined to the parlor near the front entrance of the ALF.

By Sunday, my niece and almost all of Timmy's family was sick again with the bug. My mother was sick with an upper respiratory bug that was also circulating. A few family members and friends opted not to join us and risk catching something. In total, some 45 people braved everything to wish my Mam-ma Polly a Happy 100th Birthday. And Mam-ma outdid herself. My sister and I arrived early and dressed her in one of her nicest suits. She donned her rhinestone earrings, and we applied her face powder and lipstick. We fluffed her gorgeous white hair, and she provided the trademark smile... and she looked like a million bucks - and nowhere near her 100 years of age.

For two hours, friends and family circulated, ate cake and drank coffee, lemonade and soft drinks, and I snapped photographs while greeting the guests. Mam-ma received over 75 birthday cards, both during the party and before and afterward. I have read every single word of each one to her, and she has loved them.

Mam-ma Polly and her best friend, Ruby.

My husband, Greg, Mam-ma Polly, and me.

Mam-ma Polly and her Sunday school friends.

Mam-ma Polly and her deacon, Hal Caid.

Mam-ma Polly with one of our cousins, Carston O'Dwyer.
More cousins... Haley, Grayson, and Jack O'Dwyer with
their dad, Kevin, and Mam-ma Polly.
The day after the party, Mam-ma received flowers, balloons, and more.  The ALF went "all out" to make her feel special.  I anticipated a huge letdown afterward, but so far, she has not done too badly.  I know that she was one tired little lady for several days, and maybe she is still recovering.  Meanwhile, the "bug" seems to have moved on, and all is routine again.  I am splitting my time between caring for my niece and her family and three little ones, and seeing after Mam-ma's needs.  Neither is easy, at times... and I've learned that keeping a three-year-old, 18-month-old, and three-month-old by myself for a few hours makes this great-aunt very tired!

I don't know what lies ahead for Mam-ma.  My sister and I will join her on Tuesday for the ALF Thanksgiving luncheon.  One of her table mates passed away last month... and another is declining rapidly.  And this worries her.  I assured her that the LORD will take care of her ailing friend... and her.  After all, isn't this what she has always told me?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Barking Dog Never Shuts Up!

I have been so busy lately getting my niece and her family settled that I have not visited Mam-ma Polly often.  But I did spend some time with her one afternoon this week, and she was in her speech therapy session when I arrived.  I sat and watched as the therapist held up objects in a box and asked Mam-ma what they were... a ball, a sock, a comb.  She asked, "What do we use this for?" and Mam-ma would tell her... haltingly, in one-word answers.  This was so familiar to me... an activity I have done countless times as a kindergarten teacher... and more recently with Timothy as he learned to talk.  I was struck instantly by the parallel between two vast age groups who both utilize the same task to exercise speech.

The therapist then read a few common adages to Mam-ma - hoping to elicit the punch line.  "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him ....."  "Blood is thicker than ..."  and others.  Then she read one I had never heard... "A barking dog never..."  The last word is supposed to be "bites," but without missing a step, Mam-ma interjected... "shuts up!"  In other words... "A barking dog never shuts up!"  We all laughed heartily, and the therapist said she was going to add this as an acceptable answer in the future!

Then Mam-ma was given a printed sheet of phrases to read aloud... "I'm hungry"... "I need to go to the bathroom"..."Where have you been?"... "I'm glad to see you" and others.  She read them aloud quite well for someone who can barely speak.  It seems that the disconnect is more in remembering what to say and how to say it than the words themselves.  So the therapist will make a little notebook for her of common phrases that she can point to as she communicates with family members, friends, and the facility staff.  This should help tremendously in her ability to express her thoughts and feelings.  Photos of people who visit her frequently - accompanied by their names - will also be put into this notebook.  I hope this helps.  Time will tell.
Meanwhile, I have started the ball rolling to have a little cake and coffee party for Mam-ma the day before her 100th birthday. I've invited family and just a few of her closest friends - and we are at nearly 100 people!  It will be overwhelming for her, but we're rolling with it.  There are still two weeks to go, so anything could happen.  I won't order a cake until the last minute.  Cards are already beginning to come in the mail, and I have promised to read all of them to Mam-ma.

At the same time, my husband and I have embarked on a new endeavor... moving my niece, her husband and three children back to Arkansas.  We purchased a house for them to rent, and we drove to the Dallas area earlier in the month with a U-Haul trailer and gathered them and all of their belongings.  We have been busy getting them settled, searching for jobs for both of them - and daycare for the children - and handling all of the little day-to-day business matters, like taxes, insurance, utilities, address changes, and more.  For two people who never had children, this is totally uncharted territory!  But God placed this on our hearts, and we are trusting Him to work out any "kinks"!  We are so happy to have our "kids" home... and to be able to see the little ones - Timothy (age 3), Zola (17 months) and Nathan (11 weeks) any time we wish! Life is full!

Caring for all three of the little ones at once is daunting... and I am happy to report that there are no pets included in this adventure!  The noise and activity level of three small children is enough... and as my grandmother aptly put it, "a barking dog never shuts up!"  More than ever before, I am learning that every day is different... and that God is faithful to meet our needs.  I hope that you feel His presence in your neck of the woods, as well.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Sandwich Just Got Bigger!

A lot has happened since my last posts.  Three weeks ago, my husband and I offered to help my niece, her husband, and their three children (ages 3, 16.5 months, and 10 weeks) relocate to our home town.  Living in the Dallas area, this young couple discovered that they needed the support of family members to adequately meet the needs of their recently expanded family.  So in two hectic weeks, we managed to secure housing, furniture and appliances, and make all necessary plans to move the family home.

Last weekend, we rented a U-haul trailer and headed for Texas.  We loaded the trailer early one morning and returned... my niece, her husband and the two youngest babies in one car... us and Timothy in the other.  My mother and sister have filled in the gaps with Mam-ma Polly, along with several friends who have also visited her.  We all have apparently survived... at least so far!

As things unfold and I regain my wits (and get some sleep), I will write more about our experience and how we are all managing.  Friday, I looked in my back seat at the three - yes THREE - car seats and their accompanying passengers, and I thought, "What on earth have we gotten ourselves into?!"  But everyone survived the day unscathed, and I love my niece and her babies more than anything in the world, so we shall tackle this sandwich and forge ahead!  Stay tuned!!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How Are YOU Impacted by Eldercare?

A study released in June 2012 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that... "In 2011, 16 percent of the U.S. civilian noninstitutional population age 15 and over were eldercare providers... This and other information about eldercare providers and the time they spent providing care were collected for the first time in the 2011 American Time Use Survey (ATUS). This release also includes the average amount of time per day in 2011 that individuals spent in various activities, such as working, household activities, childcare, and leisure and sports activities."  Click here to read the full report... or go to for a great synopsis by AARP contributor Sally Abrahms.

I find these statistics provided by Ms. Abrahms to be particularly interesting...
  • 56% of the 39.8 million eldercare providers were women.
  • 23% of providers also had one or more kids at home under age 18.
  • One out of six people in the U.S., or 16% of the civilian noninstitutional population ages 15+, spent time helping elders, and
  • More than 60% of care for an older person came from someone age 45+; one-sixth by a person age 65+.
Please read the full article and see where YOU fit into this picture.  Eldercare is gaining recognition in this country... as it should!  As Ms. Abrahms points out, this will hopefully lead to increased support and lessened burdens for those who find themselves involved in eldercare.  I also am encouraged to see that many of the tasks we caregivers perform for the elderly are finally being recognized as "eldercare," such as providing housekeeping, meals and transportation, shopping, managing daily finances, and offering companionship.  For many years, "caregiving" has been considered by many to include more personal care... help with bathing and matters of personal hygiene, medical care, and physical therapy and assistance.

We had lunch yesterday with some friends we had not seen in a long time, and one of them asked, "What do you do these days?"  I laughed and told her, "We spend a lot of time taking care of others."  If you consider the time we actually spend in the physical presence of our elderly loved ones, it doesn't seem like they keep us all that busy.  But when I stop to consider the hours spent balancing checkbooks and paying bills, or shopping for personal items the ALF doesn't provide for my grandmother (like wet wipes and denture cleanser), it adds up.  I think about the morning I spent sorting clothing to find suitable warm outfits for fall and winter... and the hours I spent mending broken zippers and buttons that had fallen off of garments.  I look at the hours my husband spends mowing, trimming, weeding and fertilizing his mother's yard... or repairing broken appliances, replacing light bulbs, helping her decipher a bill or some financial decision... and even showing her pictures of her great-grandchildren on Facebook.  All of a sudden, there is little question about where the time goes!

While time-consuming and vital to daily living, the more "routine" activities that many of us take for granted, such as meal prep, balancing the checkbook and paying bills, and driving Grandma to the doctor or beauty shop, were not considered to fall under the umbrella of services offered by a bona fide "caregiver."  This is changing, thankfully.  Someone commented to the AARP article, saying he hoped that the government would do more than merely recognize that eldercare is real and vital.  This will take time.  The first step IS recognition - and awareness... and that's what I am trying to do, in part, on this blog.  By giving a voice to eldercare and the Sandwich Generation, we say, "Hey!  We're here, and this is how we are coping."  We can offer each other moral support and helpful suggestions, and we can be available for the next wave of caregivers who will surely join us.

As our population ages, this topic becomes even more important for all of us to consider.  How are you impacted by eldercare... and how might you be affected in the future? 

Friday, September 21, 2012

I Promise I Will See You Again!

The heat and drought of summer finally seem to be ending... and with the first couple of "cool snaps," I realized that Mam-ma's little house dresses were not going to be sufficiently warm for these autumn/winter days. So I decided to sort through all of her clothing that I brought home and see what I could find that would look nice, be warm, and stand up to an afternoon nap in bed. I found enough knits and velour and "sweats" to create outfits for eight days, and I hung the matching pants/tops/jackets together and toted them to the ALF, where I placed them in the closet alongside the house dresses and sweaters. I instructed the aides to use their best judgment, but on cooler days, please dress Mam-ma in pants. I also took warm pajamas for night-time.

Mam-ma has seemed okay, physically, but she has gotten steadily worse with her ability to get any words out. I sat with her on the porch one beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, and she was clearly restless. She normally loves the porch and being outside, but not this day. I finally gave up after about 30 minutes or more and took her back inside, and an aide put her to bed for a nap.

The next time I visited was probably the following Wednesday. My dad's first cousin had died in Texas, and the family was returning his body to Arkansas for burial. I told Mam-ma that he had passed away... and that he had been in a nursing home for a long time following a stroke, so this was not unexpected. She took it well, I thought.

Friday, I took the warm clothes. As I arrived, Mam-ma was being wheeled to speech therapy. I told the therapist I had work to do in the apartment, and that I would come down and get Mam-ma later. The therapist said, "Give us about an hour." Not long after she and Mam-ma left, some cousins arrived to visit. They had driven in from Texas for the visitation and funeral for the cousin who passed away. I kept them in the apartment for about 30 minutes, and then we went to the therapy room. The therapist told me Mam-ma was very tired ... that she had been falling asleep in the therapy session.

We went back to the apartment, and I positioned Mam-ma to talk with the cousins. I had told them to talk TO her... and she would respond with nods and such... and to talk to each other. After I got Mam-ma settled, I resumed my cleaning and sorting. You could have heard crickets. Nobody said anything. It was awful... and Mam-ma closed her eyes and either went to sleep - or she pretended to be sleeping. The cousins left, and I had an aide put Mam-ma to bed for a nap.

Later, I learned that yet another set of cousins had visited Friday morning (Mam-ma said they had not come). This cousin told me that she and her husband knelt in the floor in front of my grandmother and talked to her about old times... when they went with her and my grandfather and my dad to Indiana to work in the factories... funny things my grandfather used to say. She said Mam-ma smiled a lot - and even laughed a few times. THIS is how you talk to someone who cannot speak! And these cousins visited again on Tuesday before they left to return to their home in Texas. I was so grateful for their visits.

My mom visited Mam-ma a few times in the last 2 weeks, and so did my sister and I, and each time, we felt that her speech was certainly no better - and maybe worse... and that she was frustrated. The Hospice nurse told me that when she visited, Mam-ma cried and cried. Then on Tuesday, my mother-in-law had an "episode" that the doctors feel may have been a TIA. At age 86, with a strong family history of strokes, the ER doc admitted her to the hospital for observation and more tests. I am not sure the floor nurses were glad to see me again, but we were back, and they dealt with it!

So with all that had gone on this week, I had not visited Mam-ma all week... until today. I arrived at her apartment around 1:00 p.m. She was just leaving the dining room with her good friend, Bessie. I asked if she wanted to stay in her wheelchair, get in her recliner, or go to bed. She couldn't tell me. Finally I discerned she wanted in her recliner, and I told her to press her call button for an aide. She did, and she added, "I've got to go to the bathroom." The aide helped her with the bathroom and transferring into her recliner.

I sat on the bed, across from my grandmother's recliner. I tried to think of things to tell her... about a funeral visitation I had just attended for my high school Sunday school teacher... about the delicious muffins I made from a Pinterest recipe. I asked her if the cousins from Texas visited again (I knew they did)... and we talked about how nice it was to see them. Then she pointed her finger at me and tried to speak. She would open her mouth, point her finger, then close her mouth tightly as if she were disgusted, and put her hand down again. This scenario repeated over and again for about 30 minutes. I sat... and sat... and tried to guess. Once she got out "I tell you what..."

Finally, she got out something about "pressuring me..." and "pressuring you..." and I asked, "Someone is pressuring you?" Yes. "Pressuring you for what?" She couldn't tell me. I asked WHO is pressuring you... she couldn't tell me, but there was lots of pointing and trying. I guessed... the cousins? the aides? family members? Hospice? None of those. She was finally able to get out... "don't want to move." I surmised that she had it in her mind that she was going to have to move from the ALF. So I asked questions along this line, and she nodded "yes" - this was the problem.

I reassured her as best I could that I am in charge... and I'm not signing anything for her to move... that if she lives a day or 10 years, she can stay in her apartment. She seemed to be satisfied with my response. We talked about how much the aides love her, and she said something really funny... "Well, don't take this the wrong way... but these girls like me." In other words, "I'm special, and I know it!" That was a huge sentence for her... and very funny.

One day this week I talked with our nephew Timothy, and he begged to come to our house. "Aunt Debbie... I need to come to your house," he would say. "I don't want to stay in Texas." I assured him over and again that very soon, we will see each other again. But I don't know how "soon" this will be... and to a three-year-old, a week is an eternity. It must be the same for 100-year-olds, too, because as I hugged Mam-ma and kissed her "good-bye" today, she started to cry. "I... can't... hardly... stand... it..." she sobbed. I sat back down and looked at her... "You can't hardly stand what?" "I... can't... hardly... stand... it when you leave," she replied.

Now I realize that my grandmother still likes to press my buttons... and she doesn't do this to anyone else who visits... but in that moment, I was right back reassuring Timothy that we will see each other again soon. "I'll be back soon," I explained to her. "I've been gone a lot this week, and I'm so behind at home. I have a lot I need to do there." Again, I was explaining things to her much like I explained to Timmy that he has "work" to do to help his mom with his little sister and brother. Oh, the parallels continue to amaze me!

Granted, the sentences my grandmother uttered today were HUGE in the scheme of things of late... and I'm not sure if speech therapy gets the credit, or if it was a fluke.  I know that there is still incredible frustration there... and few words.  I am studying the Book of James, and one of the passages in recent days dealt with patience... and God's timing.  Today, my lesson was on the power - and importance - of humble, faithful prayer.  I am constantly reminded that I am not truly in control... and that's a good thing.  Meanwhile, I am trusting God's promises... including the one that I will see loved ones again... both on this earth, and in heaven.  And so I pray... and wait... and hope.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One Ringy-Dingy...

When I visited Mam-ma Polly yesterday, I found her cordless phone in the floor behind her night stand.  Honestly, she has not spoken to anyone by phone in months, and it would be virtually impossible for her to do so now.  I have left the phone in her room more for her peace of mind... an assurance that not everything has changed.  But in reality, everything has changed, and the fact that her phone was on the floor behind her night stand told me that Mam-ma doesn't even notice.  Removing the phone will actually give her more space on the night stand for things that do matter now, like her drink cup.

So this morning, I called AT&T and disconnected my grandmother's phone service.  The number that has belonged to my grandparents all of my 55 years, and probably longer, no longer belongs to them.  I have to admit, it was a bittersweet moment.

A speech therapist is working on papers to qualify my grandmother for her assistance... to see if there is anything that can be done to help Mam-ma get out at least a few coherent sentences.  It's worth a shot.  We believe she knows what she wants to say, and LORD knows she certainly tries to talk... but the words just will not come.  Her frustration is clearly evident... and often she simply cries.  Through gritted teeth, she told the Hospice nurse yesterday, ""

I don't know what will happen in the next few weeks/months.  I've reserved a room at the ALF for a 100th birthday party for Mam-ma on November 4th (her birthday is actually the 5th, but that's a Monday).  This morning, I sent the requisite application form and photo to Willard Scott, in hopes he will recognize Mam-ma on the TODAY show on her birthday.  While these things have to be done well in advance, I know there is every chance that the birthday celebration will never happen... and that is fine with all of us, because I know that an even bigger and better celebration will be taking place... in Heaven.

For now, I will remove the phone and remind any who might still try to call my grandmother that she can no longer communicate with them in this fashion.  I hope whoever gets this number next enjoys using it as much as she did... and has even half as long a run with it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The More Things Change...

... the more they stay the same!  This thought "came home to roost" with me recently.  After 251 days, we finally got to see our little nephew Timothy again.  His grandparents went to Texas to visit after Timmy's new baby brother, Nathan, arrived.  They brought Timmy home to visit for a couple of weeks, before we return him to Texas.  We were thrilled to see our little guy - and amazed at how he has grown and what all he can do now.

At the same time, I was struck by the similarities between him and my grandmother.  The only difference is the scale.  Timmy is now potty trained.  He uses a little "Thomas the Train" adaptor seat that perches atop the regular toilet seat - much like the "potty chair" apparatus that sits over Mam-ma's toilet and provides her with a higher perch and arm rails.  Timothy still has trouble understanding a few things - and often there is no reasoning with him... just as it is with Mam-ma.

You can tell Timothy to stop doing something, and in his little 3-year-old mind, it doesn't compute.  You can tell Mam-ma to stop hollering or rattling her bed rails, and she just looks at you with a glazed look, then starts to holler and rattle.  Timmy spits out foods he doesn't like... so does Mam-ma.  Timmy frequently asks "Why?"  Mam-ma does, too... as in, "I don't know WHY I can't walk."

We took Timothy to see Mam-ma... I think it confused her, although she seemed happy to see him.  All she could say was, "I tell you what!" and once she said, "He's so cute."  Finally, Timmy raised his hands as if he were confused and said, "TELL ME what, Mam-ma!" She didn't get it.  I suggested that Greg take Timmy to see the fish tank in the dining room, and he did.  Thankfully he was with me... it would have been a real challenge to manage Timmy and Mam-ma by myself!

In the seventeen days that Timothy visited, I saw even more similarities, as Mam-ma expressed herself in 3-year-old fashion. More than once, when she was upset about something, she began to heave her shoulders and "cry" and sob... with nary a tear... a behavior I had seen from Timothy several times.  I wanted to say, "Use your words," as I do with him... but it didn't seem appropriate.  So instead, I would tell her, "That is not helping.  You need to tell me what is wrong." 

Honestly, I don't feel I have been nearly as patient with my grandmother in recent weeks as I should... and maybe that was due in part to the stress of caring for her AND my nephew.  I think moreso, it's the culmination of weeks and months and years of continual stress and "wrinkles" and challenges.  We are all just a tad weary - and none of us more than my grandmother.

I didn't take Timothy back to visit Mam-ma Polly while he was here.  She never asked about him again, and he did not indicate he wanted to return.  They saw each other, we snapped a photo or two, and we can say we've "been there, done that."  If she wakes up someday and says she wishes she could see him, we can remind her that he did visit.

We have returned Timmy to his family in Texas.  Saying "Good-bye" again was heartbreaking for all of us.  I am hoping and praying that it won't be another 250+ days before we see them again.  Meanwhile, I am regrouping, resting a sore knee that wasn't  up to the rigors of a 32-lb. three-year-old who liked to be cuddled and carried.  I am already focusing on the newest development with my grandmother... a speech therapist who has indicated interest in working on the expressive aphasia. If she is willing to do the paperwork to see if Mam-ma qualifies, I am willing to consider this.

So life continues... with all of its similarities - AND changes...and so do we!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I Can Still See "Them Eyes!"

He's here... our newest great-nephew, Nathan Daniel, arrived Friday morning.  All 6 pounds 13 ounces of his 18-inch body are perfect!  He will be a wonderful little brother for Timothy and Zola... and all three children will surely be a challenge for their young mother!  I can't wait to meet him and have some snuggle time - hopefully by the end of this month!

Friday afternoon, I visited Mam-ma Polly at the ALF.  I had not been to see her since the previous Sunday, although I knew that my mom had been there mid-week for a visit, and all reports were that she was doing remarkably well.  Mam-ma was sound asleep when I arrived, so I tip-toed around a while... and honestly, I considered not even waking her.  But I had brought her a picture of Nathan that I printed out all nice and big, and it HAD been a while since my last visit.  So I did a few things in her room until she woke up.  She was THRILLED with the picture and said, "Sit me up."  I did, and then she wanted to GET up and sit in her wheelchair.  The aides, Debbie and Kay, came and helped her, and they oohed and ahhed at the picture.  Dr. Smith was there making rounds, and Mam-ma said he had seen her that morning... and had very little to say.

Dr. Smith passed Mam-ma's apartment doorway and saw us, and he ventured in and told me everything was good, and he didn't change a thing.  He thinks "we are doing very well" and "hanging on..."  He commented about the picture, and I thought everything was great... until I got up to leave. 

I hugged Mam-ma and started to leave her apartment, and she grabbed my arm and began to frown. Then she heaved a big sigh and started to breathe heavily, and she said, "Well, I forgot to tell you..." and she couldn't get it out, and I waited and waited... and finally she said, "Well, them big eyes..."  I said, "Yeah?"  She said, "Oh... them eyes... they just haunt me."  I asked, "Whose eyes?"  She said, "That man!  I woke up and all I could see was them big eyes."  I asked, "You woke up and saw a man's eyes?"  "Yes!"  "When did this happen?"  "A few nights ago."  "Who was it?"  She tried and tried to think of the man's name, but she couldn't.  I asked was it someone she knew?  Yes.  Was it her deacon?  NO!  Was it someone who lived at Southridge?  Yes. 

By this time she was crying - and she even had a few tears in her eyes.  She said, "I was so scared."  I told her, "If that ever happens again, press your button.  Is that what you did the other night?"  She said, "No!"  I asked her what she did, and she said, "Well... I screamed!"  She said an aide came in and sat with her "a right smart while" (one of her favorite sayings).

I assured her that it was okay... and that I would ask around - that no one had mentioned it to me.  I told her "Good-bye," and went to find the aides.  They were unaware of this incident.  The nurse was also unaware.  The administrator had not heard about this and said none of her male residents roam or go into other people's rooms... that they are all "with it" more than that.  We both agreed it could be something Mam-ma cooked up because I was leaving - everything had been fine up to that point.

BUT... when I got back down the hallway, Mam-ma was out at nurse's office, and she was trying to tell Peggy, the nurse, this story.  Kay came along, and sweetly she said, "Oh, you know, lots of the little ladies see men in their rooms.  One lady has a man who comes all the way from Mississippi."  We again assured Mam-ma that no one was coming her room - that the aides and Peggy would keep their eyes open... it would be fine.  She was NOT convinced. 

I  once again said "Good-bye" and left.  I got out in the parking lot and remembered that Mom had told me the other day that the aides thought Mam-ma was confused... and the week-day nurse had ordered a urinalysis, just in case.  So I went back and told Peggy about the UA and the aides thinking Mam-ma was really confused, and maybe that was it... maybe this happened when she took her nap. 

We were talking in the doorway, and I heard Mam-ma's very clear and strong voice from down the hallway... "Debbie!"  I turned around, and she was right at her apartment doorway, and she raised her hand and pointed her finger and said, "Plank*!  His name is Plank!"  Peggy and Debbie said, "Oh... Mr. Plank!  We know him... he wouldn't go in her room."  Mam-ma insisted that he did. 
Then Debbie remembered that when she put Mam-ma down for her nap, she said, "Ms. Polly, you need to get some sleep," and Mam-ma said, "I don't know if I can... I keep seein' them eyes."  Debbie didn't know what she was talking about.  Peggy tried to explain to Mam-ma that dreams could be vivid... she had waked from a dream and thought it was real more than once.  Mam-ma was adamant - and agitated - that this was NOT a dream... Mr. Plank was in her room leaning over her bed - and now it was "night before last." 

So I assured her again that nobody was coming in her room - the aides and Peggy would be watching.  I finally went in her room and coaxed her back inside to drink a Coke.  I put a straw in a can  of Coke and handed it to her and said, "Drink this and look at the picture of the baby, and that will perk you up."  She took a big swig and said, "Well, now I have to go to the bathroom."  I made sure her call button was punched, and I told her "Good-bye" yet again... and left.

So I just don't know... Peggy was insistent that Mr. Plank would never do this... but how would Mam-ma know this man's name?  And yet, I know she was not confused earlier... and why would this happen just as I left?  It's all so convoluted...and disturbing.  I had to think about her so adamantly accusing one of her favorite aides a few weeks ago of bruising her arms. Is this a new "thing" with Mam-ma now... to imagine that people are doing things?  I am so sorry I woke her!

I called my sister and warned her... and I told her I wonder if I need to pursue this more... or if I should let it ride for now.  She said to let it ride... so that's what I will do.  I just felt she needed to know what had transpired before she went in for her night shift as an aide at the ALF.  Hopefully it's over with and Mam-ma will not mention it.  Time will tell.  I really thought Mam-ma was doing so well when I first arrived... but maybe not.  Suzanne did not even seem to know who Mr. Plank is.  It did throw me when I found out he really exists... but as my husband and Peggy both suggested, she probably had a nightmare... and he was in it!

My mother tried to console me by telling me that my maternal grandmother imagined things... she insisted that the nursing home staff where she resided were dressing rats and seating them in the dining room for meals. She was sure of it - she had seen them!  But what threw me the most was how quickly my grandmother spun from being really well and mentally clear to being totally upset and confused.  I seriously wonder if she was having a TIA... and we will never know for sure.  My mom encouraged me to put it out of my mind.  I am trying.

Hopefully it is all forgotten and Mam-ma will not mention it again.  Time will tell. I have seriously dreaded my last few visits.  It seems to always be something... ranging from mildly irritating to downright bizarre.  One thing is for sure... I can't say the visits are ever dull and uneventful... and that is not necessarily a good thing. I am hoping for a calm and peaceful week.  I will print out a couple more pictures of Nathan for Mam-ma to enjoy.  Maybe that will get her mind on something more pleasant - at least for a little while.

*Name has been changed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

All She Needs is a Tin Cup!

I've done some serious "textile therapy" in the last week, so I have only visited my grandmother a couple of times.  My mom has visited a few times, too - and my sister still works 3 weekend nights - so it's not like Mam-ma has not had visits from her family.  When my mom visits, she often reports that Mam-ma "had trouble holding her eyes open," so Mom ends up pulling up a chair and just sitting at her bedside for a while.  I find it interesting that I can go the very next day - or even the same day - and Mam-ma has no trouble staying awake.  I'm wondering if this "pretending to nap or be sleepy" is for Mom's benefit.  Mom thought that Mam-ma was mad at the world the last time she visited, and this was why she closed her eyes and literally shut everyone out!  We'll probably never know for sure.

I found things pretty well on Sunday when I visited.  I took more sewing to show Mam-ma, though she never even raised up in bed.  She looked it all over - twice - and declared, in a rather long sentence for her... "I said to myself, 'She's a havin' the time of her life with this sewing.'"  I heard this several times over the course of ten or 15 minutes.  My husband and I were attending the funeral visitation for a dear friend that evening, so I didn't stay long.  But I thought all was well... until I talked with my sister on Tuesday.

It seems that Mam-ma continues to holler, though she has not done so while I am there in about two weeks.  But at night and much of the daytime, if she is in her bed or recliner, she is hollering for any and every aide who passes her door.  And my sister said when she is on duty, she will hear "Suzaaaaaaaaaaannnnne!"  Worse still, when the aides to not respond as quickly as Mam-ma thinks they should... she has begun to rattle her bed rails!  I told Suzanne that maybe we should get her a tin cup, like you see the prisoners scrape across the bars of a jail cell in the movies.  She replied, "Don't you dare!"  I would never do this, and it's not funny... but I can just see my grandmother.

So on one hand, we feel like maybe she cannot help the fact that she hollers.  But when you know enough to call the aides by name and rattle your bed rails... it's hard to believe you are clueless.

I am assured that there are others who do this sort of thing... and worse.  But they are not my grandmother.  And they don't have a loved one working there.  It's a dilemma... but my sister insists that she wants Mam-ma kept in this facility - that she is managing just fine.  So we remind Ma-mma often that she must not holler... that it doesn't make the aides come any faster or more frequently to check on her.  And I'm waiting for the day the administrator calls to tell me her bedrails have been removed.

My grandmother has come so far in the last two months... farther than I ever dreamed she would when we left the hospital in early May.  Still, she is declining, in many ways.  I am prepared for the possibility that she might continue to improve enough that she no longer qualifies for Hospice care at this time.  But I feel like the far more likely scenario will be that she falls...develops an infection of some sort... or overheats sitting outside on the porch.  Every day is different.  Meanwhile, we all agree that we should keep objects that can be clanged against the bedrails at a hefty distance.  If Mam-ma figures out how to make noise with one of those, we're sunk!