Thursday, May 19, 2016

May-Hem Continued

After I brought Mom home from the hospital, she was lucky enough to qualify for in-home nursing care twice a week for the first two weeks and then once a week for another month which was a godsend for me.  Mom wasn't crazy about the idea of having the visiting nurses, but it gave me peace of mind and another set of professional eyes to monitor her health in those precarious early days.

For the first four nights, I stayed overnight at Mom's house, sleeping on the couch in the living room.  I'm rather tall and the couch is much shorter than I am, plus my pseudo-hemorrhoids were in the midst of a full flare-up, so I wasn't getting a lot of rest.  Mom, being 95, is always cold, so she keeps her thermostat at a balmy seventy degrees at night which seems much hotter to Menopausal Me.  I sleep  with a bedroom window open a crack even in below-zero weather; I love me a cold bedroom.  Every time I'd hear the oil furnace kick in, I'd inwardly groan.  Oh, not again...good grief, it's finally livable in here.  

I also still use a CPAP machine.  The first night Mom woke up around 3AM.  I was awoken by her nudging me and asking repeatedly, "Are you alive?  Karen, are you alive?"

When I rolled over to face her, she was scared silly by the sight of my CPAP mask and literally jumped.  Figures, I was there to reassure myself she would be alright overnight and the sight of me almost gave her a heart attack.

I removed my head gear and assured her, yes, I was alive, it's ok, go back to bed.  My presence seemed to bother her at night, it was a departure from the norm.  However, I didn't feel right about going home to sleep in my own bed since I wasn't sure I'd made the right decision bringing her back home.

The visiting nurses brought with them a weight scale, blood pressure machine and literature for us to read.  Every day the telemedicine machine would alert Mom with the prerecorded message, "Good Morning!  It is now time to take your vitals.  Please step on the scale.  Please step off the scale and put on your blood pressure cuff.  Please place the oxygen sensor on the ring finger of your opposite hand.  Please remove the blood pressure cuff and oxygen sensor."

Mom disliked the loud voice on the machine, she startles easily and it never failed to make her jump when it started 'talking', even if I gave her a warning it was about to go off.  

If her blood pressure was too high, I would receive a call from the nurses and they would ask questions about Mom's demeanor and what I was seeing.  The first few weeks we were home from the hospital, Mom's blood pressure wasn't stabilizing.  We'd been to see her general practitioner twice, but he didn't have any new ideas.  One day the visiting nurse telephone service asked me if I'd thought about taking Mom to a cardiologist and set up an appointment for us to see one that same week.

Mom didn't want to go to the 'heart doctor', but after I talked about it long enough, she finally gave in.  I had been warned in advance that the cardiologist didn't have a warm and fuzzy bedside manner, but to my surprise, he was quite personable. He changed several of Mom's medications, and so far, the changes seem to be correct.  Her symptoms have been managed quite well, of course we keep our fingers crossed. 

But I have to dispense the drugs, no ands, ifs. or buts about it.  I can't trust Mom with the task.

 "Why can't I take my own pills?" she asks me.

"Because you admit you won't take them," I say.

"I don't need them.  I think the doctor prescribed all this stuff and it's making my stomach hurt."

"Well, he took a quite a few of your medications away; you take less now than you had been taking.  A lot of people much younger than you are taking far more medication than you are.  It's not so bad," I said.

We'd realized too late that Mom was being sneaky last fall when one day Carl went up to dispense her meds and caught her 'palming them'; dumping them in the chair beside her and pretending to swallow them.  I'm not sure how many times she managed to get out of taking them entirely, but I'm sure it had a lot to do with why she eventually had the very serious bout of congestive heart failure in February.

So now I'm the Warden.  Every morning we go through the same routine, I walk up to Mom's house, get her glass of water out of the refrigerator and put her pills in her palm.  She stares at them, counts them, "One, two, three, four, FIVE pills?  Why do I have to take so many?  Who's bright idea is this?" and she glares at me, waiting for an answer.

It's a well-worn script.  

Right on cue I say, "I'm sorry, Mom, but you have to take them to stay healthy and out of the hospital.  You remember how you couldn't breathe?"

Mom frowns at me and then at the pills and finally does manage to swallow them all. 

"I don't know why I have to take all those pills, I'm up half the night."

A month ago I asked my doctor about any supplements that might help with her stomach woes and he suggested some probiotics which I've also added to her regimen along with several other vitamins.  Just what I didn't need,  five more pills.......

"Who prescribed this stuff?" Mom always asks. 

"My doctor," I say.

"Your doctor doesn't know me, why would he prescribe this stuff?"

"It's not a prescription, these are over the counter to help you feel better."

"I don't feel any better, I feel worse."

"I'm sorry, Mom."

After the first four days of staying with Mom during the night, Joel talked to David and they came up with a plan to put four cameras in Mom's house so we can monitor her from afar.  Of course to do this, we had to get Mom an internet connection which is very confusing for her.  Happily, she wasn't upset when I suggested we install the cameras; she said it was a good thing if it kept her from having to go to the nursing home.  
Joel and Carl installing cameras and a new TV, Mom watching from her recliner.

The cameras give us some peace of mind; no, they're not going to protect her from falls, but at least I can look in on her as often as I like from my smartphone.   I also have access to a playback feature so I can tell how restless she was in the night. 
Carl, reading instructions!

Joel hooking up kitchen camera.
Joel was here for a few days after work and on weekends helping with the camera installation, and Carl and I so appreciated his help.  Our friend Cody was also instrumental in helping us get the bugs worked out of the system, too.  

I know to many people this seems like high-tech spying, and yes, it is an invasion of privacy, but the peace of mind the cameras have given me is priceless.  When Mom was in the hospital, I slept very well at night because I didn't have to worry; someone else was watching Mom.  In the past, even if I checked on her right before she went to bed, I'd have no idea if she'd fallen until the next morning.  This way I can see in real time what's going on any time I want.  

I've heard so many horror stories of elderly people falling and their loved ones not finding them until the next day.  Twelve hours (or more) must seem an eternity if you're in a crisis.  I know the cameras aren't a perfect solution, and at best, they are only buying me time, but the longer Mom can stay independent, the better we all like it.  

She does have one of those famous 'buttons' you can push if you've fallen, but just like her pills, she refuses to wear the device.  It stays on her kitchen table 'where she can find it if she needs it'.  I tell her it won't work if  'she's fallen and she can't get up'.

"Why? It's right there on the table."

"Yes, but if you would fall, you'd be on the floor," I say.

"Yeah, so, what does that mean?"

"How are you going to reach the button to call for help if it's on the kitchen table?" I ask.

"I'll get it and push the button."

"What if you can't get up?"

"I'll be able to get up.  I don't plan on falling."

I admit I do dread our routine every morning.  I love visiting her, but I do not love being the 'bad guy' and insisting she take her medication.  I keep cajoling her, just take them today and we'll see how you feel tomorrow, but I know one of these days, she may completely refuse to cooperate.  

What's my Plan B?  

I have none.  

"How long do you think I'm going to live?  Do you know how old I am?  What, do you think I'll live to be 100?" she'll defiantly ask me.

"Well, I hope so," I say.  Carl has an even better answer for Mom, "You have to live to be 100 so you get a congratulatory letter from the President of the United States."  (I had to look that one up, I guess it's true?)

Speaking of Carl, he's been invaluable in all of this.  He's got the patience of a saint and always goes up to Mom's for me in the evening to give her nightly pill before bed and on weekends, too.  He goes through the same interrogation I do and he's unfailingly cheerful and answers the questions the same way every time, yes, you have to take the pill, yes, I know how old you are, yes, you may very well  live to be 100.  

I love my mother so much; I only want her to be safe and happy.  I'm not sure if I'm doing the right things; but so far, so good.  I realize how short our time together is and how blessed I am to still have her.  

I took the pictures below on Mother's Day using my smartphone; Mom hasn't caught on entirely yet that my new 'gizmo' is capable of taking pictures.  She has always hated having her picture taken and will try to hide at every opportunity.  It's a shame she's not smiling, but I'll take whatever pictures I can get for remembrance.
Mom walking around the garden Mother's Day, 2016
 Mother's Day was a hurried affair here a few weeks ago, we helped Joel fix his fence in the morning and before we left, he presented me with my Mother's Day Rock, a tradition we've had since he was a tiny boy of four or five.  The first Mother's Day rock he'd brought home for me was one he found in the woods across the road and it took all the strength he had to pull it home in his little red wagon.  From then on Joel never fails to find me a special rock each year.

Before we left for Joel and Abby's house that morning, I whipped up a pan of bars and filled my crockpot which performed flawlessly while we were gone.  Scalloped potatoes and ham were ready when we arrived home to pick Mom up at 1PM so she could join us for dinner.  I don't know what to buy her for gifts, so lately I've resorted to buying her a bouquet of flowers from, of all places, the grocery store.  She is always pleased by them; this year I wanted to get her carnations, but they must have been out of season.  

On a side note, David had called me the night before Mother's Day and asked what I wanted.  I told him not to worry about it, it's just another day.  Then in a moment of silliness, I texted him one sentence,
'Chocolate. Drops mic.'

He responded, "Lol, what?"

"You want me to get you chocolate?"


"Where are you? Are you home?  I have a bunch of tools out.....OH! ha ha ha, never mind, I'm dumb, I get it now."

(I'd explain the mic dropping thing, but it's late, it's a comedian tactic; dropping the mic to make a point after making a statement or joke.)

Dave said he'd bring my gift out on Mother's Day, and on the way home from Joel and Abby's, I texted him that dinner would be at 1PM.  He didn't realize I was making a meal and was on a group motorcycle ride forty miles from home.  

"I'll be there in about an hour if that's ok."

Carl went and got Mom from her house, and it was getting late, so we ate without Dave who showed up about fifteen minutes later.  It turns out he had already had dinner, but when he came in the house he stopped dead in his tracks.

"OH, NO! he exclaimed as he was removing his helmet.  "I cleaned out the saddlebags on my motorcycle after I ate and threw your Mother's Day chocolate away in a dumpster."

"Oh, darn!  Well, that's ok, I really don't need it anyway, it's the thought that counts," I said.

"No, it's not right, I'll be right back," Dave said as he crammed his helmet back on his head.

So off he went, forty miles back to Shawano to retrieve my gift from a dumpster.  

The chocolates were delicious, by the way, they were the sole occupants of the newly cleaned dumpster and besides, they'd been in a shopping bag.  

I'm truly blessed.

 I have to leave you with one tantalizing tidbit, Carl and I are going to be grandparents Very Soon!!  Joel and Abby are expecting their first baby in a few short weeks!!  

But first I have to show belated pictures of their wedding last June...stay tuned!






FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Karen ~ It was so good to read this post of yours. You are doing a great job with your Mom and you do have patience.

Congrats on the upcoming baby news.

Love, hugs and prayers for you, Carl and your dear Mom too ~ FlowerLady

Stephen Andrew said...

Karen your family is so wonderful and I just love that everyone is on board to go install a nanny cam on mom/grandma. This is just the kind of wtf solution my family would come up with and it's just great. Plus I would argue for your mother, the queen of work, that her will to go on and quality of life are very much tied to her house and keeping it running. So funny about the dumpster dive chocolate! What wonderful news that you will be a grandmother and your mom will be a GG! Congratulations to all parties. Would love to see photos from the wedding!

Karen said...

Rainey, thank you, my dear friend! I haven't had time to catch up with anyone in blog land and I feel awful about it. I do think of you every day.

Karen said...

Stephen, thank you for the vote of confidence. We're definitely flying by the seat of our pants here, but for now, it's working. I am so lucky to have my family to help, I'd be lost without them. Mom IS the Queen of Work, you're very right that this gives her something to live for. I have found so many things of beauty in the dump in the past, but I will admit this is the first time I've eaten something from a dumpster. There's a first time for everything.

Alison said...

Congratulations on the grandchild! You must be so excited. I was recently put on blood pressure medication by my doctor, and it doesn't agree with me at all. It makes me tired and headachey and nauseated, and I really am NOT looking forward to having to take it for the next 30 years. Loved your account of the Mother's Day chocolates.

africanaussie said...

You are doing everything you can for your Mom. so awesome that you are able to keep here in her own home. What a great idea to install those cameras. What a sneaky thing she is - hiding those pills :). She will be a great grandmother - awesome! Being a grandma is the best things ever!

Beth @ PlantPostings said...

Congratulations on your growing family. :) Gosh, you're going through so much with your mom. I'm sure it's very overwhelming, but you are doing your best for your mom, and she's very fortunate to have you nearby and helping her.