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.