Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday redux

Today I made an intentional choice to go to Mom's and be in a good mood. Nothing much was different with her, but my intention helped me make it through the usual routine without getting too upset.

Sunday redux

Today I made an intentional choice to go to Mom's and be in a good mood. Nothing much was different with her, but my intention helped me make it through the usual routine in a much better mood.

Mom had made some really good macaroni and cheese. She said she hadn't made it in a really long time and wasn't sure if it was any good. She also mentioned that she had fallen asleep while it was baking and it might have cooked too long. My ears went up immediately at may not be safe for Mom to use the oven any more. I finished off the meal by cooking her favorite ham slice in butter and brown sugar and fresh corn on the cob. She was really hungry and ate everything on her plate.

Pamela and took a drive out to Black Diamond and Enumclaw yesterday. We both just needed to get out of the city. Pamela slept off and on in the car...but we managed to stop at two really good farm stands. I bought Mom fudge, some salt water taffy, split peas. Pamela bought some corn and Walla Walla sweet onions that she put in the bag for Mom. We didn't have dessert after dinner because Mom ate a big piece of fudge BEFORE the meal. We laughed over that.

I took Mom to Northgate to give her a little time away from her apartment. I exchanged the bras that I bought her Friday night for another color. We headed for the grocery store and did our usual round of most of the aisles. Mom had made a list but she had no idea what she had put on it. I read it and reminded her at every turn what we were looking for. She drove the cart to the car and then I put everything in the car after getting her seated. She is increasingly unsure of her ability to walk without me holding on to her.

Next stop, Rite Aid to get her nightime pants. This has been going on since before Dad died. She gets up at least three times a night to go to the bathroom, but wears the pants too. I have never really asked her is she is incontinent, but I assume that she is and I just leave it alone. I think this may also be why she washes the sheets so much.

I looked at Mom with such compassion today. She is so tired, with bags and circles under her eyes. She has continued to loss weight. She misses my Dad and she misses the life they had together. I know Mom could drive Dad to distraction, but I also know that they loved each other in a way that was totally private between them.

To give Mom something to look forward to, I told her today that we are taking her to the Puyallup Fair next Sunday. My office mate at work gave me the wheelchair that she used with her Mom who has since passed away. That will save us from having to rent a chair like we did last year. Mom is looking forward to seeing all the produce, flowers, animals and the lovely food. Corn on the cob, fudge, hamburgers with piles of sauteed Walla Walla sweet onions...

Onto the week... tomorrow is Labor Day ...September 1st. Fall is right around the corner.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A visit to the doctor

Thursday morning I took Mom to her eye specialist so he could exam her right eye. That is the eye that was affected by shingles in April 2007. She had forgotten to bring her regular eyeglasses, so the vision test was a bit iffy. Despite that, she did fairly well and they went ahead with dilating her eyes. Dr. Carroll examined her after the technician had done all the other tests and entered the data into her record. She did well...and won't have to return for another year.

She got his ok to discontinue the Neurotin...or as Mom's calls them...her "orange pills". She stopped taking them a couple of weeks ago. Originally this medication was intended to help alleviate the pain from the shingles. Mom feels that the pills actually give her a headache now. She feels good about having to take one less pill..and has started talking about discontinuing all her medication. I think her fear of death with override her issues with taking medication....but time will tell. She made a great impression on the technician and the doctor. She is a spunky, feisty woman who wants to remain in control of her life for as long as she can manage it. My job is to help her maintain her life and keep her safe. Sometimes, that is easy and sometimes it isn't.

After her appointment we went to breakfast and did some grocery shopping. My brother Mark called when we were finishing up and said he would meet us as Mom's place in a few minutes. Mom was so glad and surprised to see him...he had said he wouldn't be around for the entire week. The strange thing that I observed is that Mom called Mark by our Dad's name and as she went towards him, he freaked out and moved out of her path completely. It is clear that he doesn't want any physical contact with her. He looks like a heavier version of my of course my Mom is drawn to him. It would be nice if he could try and be a little affectionate...but he doesn't have that ability to be close to Mom. I left them to have some lunch together and took off for work.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Sunday

Today was the usual Sunday routine...go to church and then head to Mom's for dinner. I knew going out there that I was exhausted....emotionally spent with her neediness and depression over my Dad's death. I just pointed the car north and drove out there hoping to make the best of it.

Dinner was good. I brought some fresh golden beets from our garden. Mom had prepared a beef roast. I baked a potato and made us salads. Dinner when pretty well...but I noticed that Mom didn't finish her meal. It is difficult for her to chew beef.

She insisted on buying it so my brother would have something to make sandwiches with when he stops by. Of course we bought the roast on Thursday morning and he informed her on Friday that he was going to be working on his house for the next week. He also told her not to call him there. Great..just I am beginning to understand why she is upset. Despite the fact that she says he is mostly in a bad mood when he comes over and yells at her....she is upset that she won't see or talk to him for a week.

After dinner I cleaned up the kitchen and then took Mom to the pharmacy to get her drugs. She quizzed the pharmacist about her pneumonia vaccination. This happened last Thursday when we were in for her three month checkup. It turned out to be an ordeal because she didn't want it, wouldn't listen to the Doctor's reasons for giving it to her, demanded information about the cost despite the fact that Medicare will pay for it...on and on. I tried to reason with her but she told me point blank that I did not make her medical decisions. She finally gave in, but only after putting me, the Doctor, and the nurse through quite a bit of grief.

When I got her home, she and I went around about her constantly issuing directives....while I am cooking she tells me to do this or that in such a way that I just want to scream. I finally told her she needed to trust that I knew how to cook a meal and that it upset me that she was constantly ordering me about. This made her cry of course. I feel that she is vulnerable ...but I also feel that she is manipulative...and sometimes I just reach the end of my rope.

I called her later and apologized...explaining that I was just tired. She was ok with that and I rang off by telling her that I would call her when I got off work tomorrow. We are going out to dinner Tuesday night.

After I left, I called Pamela to debrief and then went over to a friend's and drank tea and had a few cookies. The life of a caregiver is exhausting. There are so many issues that come up....physical, emotional, cognitive....Mom is definitely more fragile and unsteady when she walks. She is still capable of packing a formidable emotional punch...and she can still be difficult to the point of absolute distraction.

Just breathe....Bonita. Tomorrow is another day....a new day....start again...repeat...Breathe...tomorrow is another day...a new day...start again.

Sunday Sunday

Today was the usual routine. Get up early, spend some time on the computer, eat breakfast and go to church. After church I drove out to Mom's apartment to have dinner with her. I knew when I was driving out there that I was feeling tired ...tired of the routine, tired of the responsibility, tired of dealing with all the quirky and difficult moments with Mom.

She has been on a roll since we went to the doctor last Thursday. Dr. Deans suggested that Mom get a pneumonia shot. She patiently explained to Mom that elderly people get really sick but don't always die from pneumonia. More likely, if she got sick she would end up in a nursing home. The words "nursing home" set Mom off into a difficult exchange about the cost of the shot, whether or not Medicaid would pay for, she wouldn't get it, etc. I tried reasoning with her and she told me point blank that I don't make her medical decisions. She looked at all the paperwork and finally got enough information to satisfy her...reluctantly agreeing to get the vaccination.

Since then, she has informed me that she hates her doctor and the doctor's nurse...that the nurse hurt her when she gave her the shot...and that she is never going back there. In the meantime, she has been very emotional about my Dad being gone. She told me today that she had forgotten how to do things like cook, because Dad had taken that chore over years ago. Truth be told, Dad took over many chores years ago...because he liked to keep busy, and because Mom had aritritis in her hands. Now she is left, emotionally and physically alone without the person who created a safe life for her.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

This is a picture of Mom with her "Pocket Talker". It amplifies sound so that she can hear people speak, or hear the TV. Dad bought for it her in the fall of 2006.

Our phone call this morning was about the asking her the same questions: how she is doing, what she had for breakfast, how she is feeling. Mom has decided to stop taking the pain medication she was given after she got shingles. She has determined that she gets a headache a half hour after she takes the pills. She also contends that the pills are making her brain soft...which of course is not true. She also feels that her skull is getting spongy. I told her that she would need to discuss all of this with her doctor. That started a conversation we have had at least three times in the last 12 hours....I need to call and make her an appointment with her doctor.

The behavior that I have the hardest time dealing with is the theatrical high wavering voice. I asked her about it last week...thinking that perhaps she doesn't hear herself because of her hearing loss. She had no idea that her voice was high....but the doctor says it is all voluntary. It grates on me like nails on a chalkboard....because I do think she knows exactly how she sounds..and that she is just being a manipulative drama queen. She will not change...but I have to keep dealing with it and writing about it helps me get it out in the air.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This is a picture of my Dad's ashes and the photos of him that I look at almost every day.

Today was a hard day for Mom. When I got there to cook her dinner she told me she had been crying all day....missing Dad. I started showing her the flowers and the vegetables from our garden to get her focused on something positive. I also showed her the chocolate cream pie that I had brought for dessert. Since she was hungry, she was happy to sit at the table and eat the cucumber slices and radishes that I put out for her.

I cooked us a nice dinner: filet of sole, beets from our garden, corn on the cobb and we split a baked potato. She ate everything and also had a healthy piece of pie. After dinner I did the dishes ....even though Mom told me to leave them. It just takes me a few minutes to do them...and then she doesn't have to deal with a dirty kitchen the next morning. I got her to go sit on the sofa and watch the Olympics. I joined her when I was done. We sat and watched for awhile...Mom holding my hand.

When it was over I turned off the TV and that is when the tears started again. She misses my Dad so much...and wonders how much longer she is going to have to live like this. She wants to be alone, but complains of being lonely. She was crying and crying and all I could do was rub her back and try and convince her that Dad was still with her in spirit and that he was waiting for her.

I helped her get ready for bed, including taking off her underpants and helping her into her adult diapers for bed. I gave her a big hug and then left. She is really getting frailer and frailer...I don't know how much longer it is safe for her to live alone.

I left feeling completely exhausted....her grief dredges up my own grief and sorrow over my Dad's death. I wish he was still alive every day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Woodland Park Zoo

I came up with the idea to take Mom to the zoo today. They have wheelchairs you can rent for only $5. Also, they have a new exhibit of pink flamingos. I thought it would be a good way to get Mom out of the house, give her some new sites and get a little fresh air. Pamela gets a huge discount through Microsoft, so we decided this would be a good outing for all of us.

Everything worked pretty well...except for her comments about people being so big...she has always had a thing about weight. She has always had a weight problem...but she also doesn't have that filter that prevents her from saying things out loud that she is thinking. When we were at the African dog exhibit, she said loud and clear "it looks dead". The dog was laying on it's side sleeping, but it clearly was not dead. On to the next exhibit. We say zebras, giraffes, hippos, komodo dragons, and a beautiful flock of pink flamingos.

After lunch we decided to go see the butterfly exhibit. This is where one of the most tender moments I have ever watched occurred as Mom held hands with a toddler laying down in her wagon as we passed with the wheelchair. I just stood there watching this gentle moment as Mom gently held the little girl's hand and talked quietly to her. I think Mom enjoyed seeing all the little kids most of all.

After that we headed back to the car as Mom was getting a little chilled. I wrapped the blanket I had brought around her and off we went. She wanted to go to the cemetery, and to buy a blouse, but by this time both Pamela and I were tired from pushing her around the zoo in the wheelchair. We dropped her at home with the bag of jellybeans that Pamela bought for her yesterday. She was planning on watching the Olympic Games this afternoon.

All in all...a successful outing for everyone.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tuesday night dinner

I drove out to Mom's apartment for our usual Tuesday night dinner. She was sitting in her living room reading the paper when I arrived. I stood and watched her for a minute before she realized that I was there. As I started to fix the dinner she told me what she wanted. She had fixed a macaroni salad that needed the green onions I had picked up at the store. I was planning on making a BLT with the tomato and lettuce that I had picked up. Mom didn't want one...she said it is hard for her to eat bread and digest it unless it is just a piece of toast. I made her a green salad, some macaroni salad and a half ear of corn smothered in butter.

Once we were eating, she told me that my brother had come over for lunch earlier and yelled at her. She had called his house and talked to Lizzie. Mark does not want her to call his house at all. Something about waking Danny up..he is working nights at a restaurant. She was obviously upset and fearful of my brother while this was going on. I offered to talk to Mark, but she doesn't want him to stop coming to see her. It breaks my heart that she is willing to put up with this abuse just to see him a few minutes every week. It is their relationship and I have to detach from it.

Mom is having a hard week. This Friday, August 8th, would have been my parent's 61st wedding anniversary. She was pretty upset and said that my Dad was her life. So, does this mean she feels there is no life for her now? She said that she wasn't too hard to deal with as if it were a question. I told her that she had her moments just like everyone else. I hugged and kissed her and walked out the door....

Almost every time I see Mom these days, I come away emotionally exhausted. The one new agreement we have that will help a little is the abandonment of the morning check in phone call. It turns out that she worries about it...rushes to bathe and eat her breakfast in time for the 7:30am call. We renegotiated and have decided I will call after work rather than twice a day. A bit of respite...I will take what I can get.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The bed quest

Mom has it in her head that she needs a new queen sized bed. She looked at mattresses last weekend at the mall. She even laid down on several models. I keep trying to tell her that purchasing a new bed at her age is a waste of the funds she has left to live on. She has money, but I just think this is a pointless waste.

Pamela and I are going to go out to her place this afternoon and flip the top mattress. She says that her back is hurting when she lays on her bed. I think this is probably a problem with her back rather than the bed. She most likely has osteoporosis. Maybe this strategy will keep her happy for awhile.