Monday, December 26, 2011

Be thankful there are people who don't like you...

Today, the day after a weekend of time spent with family and loving friends, I am left thankful that there are people who do not like me. In fact, the more they dis-like me the better.   The reason is simple: these people are so lacking in moral fiber and have such little thought for the feelings of others, that, if they did like me, I would wonder just what kind of low-life jerk I had become.

My cousin called this morning upset over mail he received from the attorney for his evil step mother.   Getting it brought back decades of hurtful memories caused in large part by her selfish behavior.  From the time he was 10, any interaction with her and most interaction with his father left him disappointed, feeling abandoned and cast aside.  The evil witch died months ago and her attorney and son, the Executor of her estate, mailed her will just in time for it to arrive on Christmas Eve.  Given the history of this woman, it is a fitting action for someone who was so maliciously and deliberately mean throughout her life. It seems that the evil things she did were lessons well learned by at least one of her children - the other wanted nothing to do with her..  I can understand why.

The "inheritance" she left to my cousin was the small sum of $1.  I am certain she did it so that there could be no way to contest the estate of her husband, father to my cousins, thus leaving everything to her sons.  It's not like there is a lot of cash property to be had and my cousins would not want it anyway because it means hashing up to much pain and disappointment.  But, to leave them with $1 and then send a letter at this time of year is just mean-spirited.   My cousins have had nothing to do with her for nearly 15 years, why is it necessary to send anything now?

Years ago in the 60's, this woman decided that she would marry my uncle - never mind that he was already married with one grown daughter and 2 sons at home.  She pursued him in a town small enough that most people knew everyone else's business and he was happy to have the additional female attention. Neither of them cared that the eldest son was ridiculed by friends on the main street of town because his father was seen out with another woman. Neither of them cared that his youngest sat and sat and sat waiting the driveway of the other woman's house while my uncle visited her and her sons inside.  There were too many times to count that my uncle made a promise to my cousins only to take it back because his girl friend and then wife made other plans.   Most times, she was there to hear the plans and readily agreed yet when the time came, my uncle would cancel at the last minute in deference to her.  She knew my cousins would be hurt and disappointed yet she made other plans anyway.  After seeing her do this over and over, one can only conclude that she knew EXACTLY what she was doing.  We are left to wonder why - there was no threat to her or her relationship with my uncle.  His first wife was to tired and busy working to put up a fight.  My uncle's siblings were too darned polite to cause a rift between them so why go out of her way to hurt his kids?

Through it all my cousins tried to put their hurt aside and treat their father with respect and kindness. When he died, none of them got a call until after he passed even though he was hospitalized for days.  They were denied the gift of simply saying good bye.  None of them wanted anything to memorialize him except for small sentimental things - a fishing pole perhaps - yet she responded with mean cursing, name calling and restraining orders.  She was always good at playing the victim yet she was the ultimate culprit in hurt and meanness.  I've known people who called her, "that poor Pat, the single mother with the sick son."  There was nothing poor about her.  She wanted someone to take care of her and did it at the terrible expense of 4 others.   I can't let my uncle off the hook - he is just as culpable but I do not  believe he was as capable of such malicious planning as she.  His are sins of insecurity and thoughtlessness.  He didn't realize how much he was loved and needed by his family.  His 2nd wife KNEW how much the first family loved and needed him. Taking him away from them made her feel powerful and happy.  God forbid someone like that come into my life - or anyone else's for that matter.

It makes me sad to write something like this at a time of the year when we should be appreciative of family but it also sets me free.  I am thankful that my family and friendships are genuine and sincere! 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More advice on old feet - dealing with "foot funk"

The older we get the more likely we are to develop "foot funk" - it's my generic term for athlete's foot, toe fungus and generally dry scaly appearance.   With my Mom's feet, there are dry patches on her heels and calouses and then there are overly moist hard-to-keep dry areas between her toes.  I also notice that the area between her does almost looked "spongy" at times - the skin was white on top with small holes.  When I spread her toes it would stretch and tear, revealing dark pink skin underneath.  The top layers of skin would very easily peel or rub off and the skin below could split and become painful.  When I first began watching her feet, this happened a lot but over a few weeks time - with diligent attention and a some new practices - we healed up the worst spots and all she suffered was some itching now and then - a huge improvement over the keep cracks and odors.

Poor circulation means that Mom wants socks and shoes on all the time but that means the area between her toes don't get "aired out" and remain moist.   When Mom was home I soaked her feet in a mix of water and white vinegar (4 to 1 dilution), water and listerine (2 to 1 dilution) and tried an occasional massage with tea tree oil after cleaning and drying her feet well. Be warned, I used the tea tree oil ONLY after the cracks on her skin were healed.  DO NOT USE TEA TREE OIL ON OPEN WOUNDS!    The water and white vinegar once a week seemed to work best.   She had a couple of spots between her two most outer toes that were stubborn and it took a long time to see improvement in the skin. For these I used anti-fungal cream for a couple of months.  When I was not there, she was able to put the cream between her toes herself everyday.  This helped it to heal so that a mild vinegar soak was able to keep the fungus at bay.    I didn't want to soak her feet until these areas where improved because I thought the vinegar might burn or sting raw open spots between those toes.

I don't think you can ever get rid of this stuff once it's there;  it's a matter of keeping it under control.   I've read that there are dietary changes that also help - it's basically reducing sugar intake. Sugar is fungus' favorite food so if you eat a lot of it or if you're diabetic and your body can't process sugar, you might have more problems with athlete's foot - and fungus in other spots like jock itch or vagina yeast infections....but - our focus here is FEET so please read on......

Here are some of the things that worked for my mom's feet:  Remember that we had to be diligent about this, it became part of her regular daily routine:
Socks:  always use cotton, wool or some of the new materials that wick moisture AWAY from the skin. change socks daily and wash socks alone in small loads. Use hot water and put at least one cup of white vinegar, 2 cups is probably best,  in the wash water to help kill fungus.  I got the "wicking" socks at REI in the hiking section.  If it was especially cold, I'd put those on first then a 2nd pair of wool socks.
Shoes: if possible, let them go without shoes, this permits air to circulate around the feet.   Often shoes for our elders are made of vinyl or other man-made products that don't permit air circulation.  My mom used to complain of her feet feeling cold and wet when she wore cheap sneakers - they were, she had poor circulation but her feel still sweated and it stayed there in her poly-canvas shoes.  EEE..UUUuuuuu
Powder:  We used a spray athlete's foot powder, medicated foot powder, corn starch and baking soda combined - they all helped if used regularly - meaning EVERYDAY.  The generic store brands of spray powder and anti-fungal cream from Target were just as effective as the more spendy brands.  I recommend avoiding powers with talc; talc seemed to make the deepest problems worse.  Be sure to wipe it off with dry tissues at least once a day and re-apply.

DIABETIC readers:  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE - don't just take my advice here, see a doctor about your feet and how to best take care of your feet.    If cracks in your skin do not seem to heal, you might need more than over-the-counter medication. 

For my original ideas on care of old feet, see this blog post from 2009
2009 article Old feet have special needs

How do i take care of diabetic feet? How do i clean up grandmas feet? how do i trim grandpas toe nails.  Old feet have special needs.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I found another Christmas surprise for mom - a "bangle" wrist watch

Purely by accident, I found the perfect gift for my mom - a "bangle" wristwatch.   This is not just a simple bangle.  The watch band is made of two metal pieces that attach to the watch with hinges so they open up wide which will allow mom to put the watch over her wrists with ease. 

I'm so excited to find this for her.  She's gone through several watches and it's always hard to find one with a face that's medium sized yet has big numbers so she can easily see it.   I really think she'll be pleased.    Here are some photos that show the watch; the watch with the hinges in the normal position and the hinges spread apart a little. 

If anyone needs such a watch for a male, there are some very basic designs that would be suitable for a man - plain black watch bands, plain white faces and plain black numbers.   I found this one at Kohls - and it was ON SALE!!

Medium sized watch face with large numbers at all hours not just 3, 6, 9 & 12.

The watch when hinges are "closed" or not extended.

This demonstrates how the hinges open, this is only about 2/3 of the possible width. This permits Mom to open it herself and put it over her wrist. It sort of makes it a flexible size too since her wrist can swell to 2-3 times normal size due to arthritis.

What should I get grandma for Christmas.   What's the best gift for grandma for Christmas. what should i get grandma for her birthday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

More ideas for Grandma at Christmas..

This year I don't face the challenge to get Mom a Christmas gift.  She's getting 3 things that will make her life more comfty: 
  • a pencil box full of rectractible pens
  • several packets of eye glass wipes
  • a new fleece jacket with a hood. 
She loves to do cross-word puzzles and pens always seem to disappear - I know the aides take them since she can't possibly use up ink that fast.  I got several packets of pens and used a silver sharpie to write her name on them.  I found an "easy open" pencil box in the school department at a local large retailer and voila - gift #1 down.  I won't give her all the pens now; I'll stash them at home and mail her a few at a time.

The eye glass wipes are a must.  It seems her glasses are always dirty. The aides just don't have time to help residents wash their glasses.  So now she can do it herself.

The fleece jacket will go over big.  mom's got a couple of them already but they are looking ratting and old. She needs a "dressier" version.   I buy hooded ones for her because of her dowager's hump.   The fabric for the hood wraps up and around her neck to help keep her warm.

Some other ideas for gifts:
A "counter top" wreath hanger to hold photo frames.   This is basically a pole rising above a stand with a hook at the top.   Mom can't hang anything on the walls in her nursing home so I got a couple of these.  One sits on the night stand next to her bed and holds a photo frame.  The other sits next to the sink and holds seasonal decorations.

A cabinet hook (think kitchen towels)  to hang a photo frame, decorations or a jacket or sweater.  I found this in the kitchen department.  It's supposed to hook over a kitchen cabinet door and hold a dish towel but it's just the right size to go on the cabinet door or drawer front in mom's room too.  I got one for her birthday and hung a photo frame from it.  Be sure to find the lightest frame possible since you don't want to ruin the hinges on any cabinet doors.

Slippers - especially easy on and easy off slippers.   I got Mom some with velcro closure.  It's necessary now since she lacks the dexterity to tie shoes. 

Gift certificates to the nearest salon for shampoo and set.  I pay for a "resident trust" at mom's nursing home but some families can't afford to do this.   It would be nice if someone gave other residents a $40-50 gift certificate to the in-house salon.  This would get them 4-5 haircuts - it goes a long way toward helping them feel better.

Individually wrapped candy bars.  Do this ONLY if your elder can have sugar. While these aren't as good as a whole box of chocolates, it means that the candy will keep a long long time.  If they're in a nursing home or assisted living, it also gives them something to share with the staff or other residents.

Here's another idea for TIME but comes with something to do:  Get a couple boxes of Christmas cards and stamps then spend a couple of hours dictating messages to friends and family for your elder.   Let them sign the cards and then drop them in the mail.  It will help your elder feel like they can still do something meaningful for others.  And, if they get cards in return, let them know that others appreciate them and remember them.

Help them give something to others: capture your elders favorite recipes and prepare a small book of their recipes for others. If you can, write some stories about their relatives who taught them to cook; to do a craft like quilting or who most inspired them.  Have the elder sign all the copies before you distribute them.  One thing that means a lot to me is a few recipes that my grandmother actually wrote in her own hand.  It might also be nice to have grandma or grandpa write their recipes and scan them in then print them.

Subscription to magazines with large print or some that are good reading:  Readers Digest; or something that will stimulate their brains like Popular Mechanics, literary magazines or National Geographic.  I recommend avoiding things like Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, or others that are about food, fashion or home decorating - really, it's so inappropriate for someone their age, especially if they no longer live at home.

A clipboard with a compartment for documents.   My mom uses this as a light weight lap desk.  It's also a good place to hide pends from the aides!   I attached a strap of ribbon so it's easier to pick up. I drilled two holes in the end opposite the clip, then cut a 7 inch ribbon and poked then ends into the holes.  I tied knots at the ends of the ribbon so that they are inside the document compartment. 

If your elder is still at home: give them coupons to eat out at a local restaurant. Better yet, make a couple of appointments to take them to lunch and then FOLLOW THROUGH!!!!  This is especially important in Jan, Feb and March when it's cold and dark and they might not get much company.

A telephone with volume control on the handset and large numbers.  This is especially helpful for those with hearing aides.  Hearing aids and telephones don't always work well together.   If they want to remove their hearing aide, the volume control will permit them to hear well without it.

What can I get grandma for Christmas.  What can I get for grandpa for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Isolation is over but I find other problems at the nursing home

I finally got in a good visit with Mom.  I traveled 7 hours to her home town and got to see her daily for three days. On my first visit, after I hugged her like crazy, I took a good long look around.  I looked at the bedding, her clothes, her shoes, her drawers in the night stand - everything, anything...  What I found was disturbing and encouraging.  All of her clothes and shoes where there, her bedding was clean. ... however.... in the bottom drawer of her nightstand I found a bed pan.   This is the normal storage for bedpans in Mom's nursing home; they use them, rinse and wash them and store each in a thick plastic bag.  This one was not in a bag and was smeared with something brown.... it's a bed pan, that can only mean one thing.... EEEEEeeeUUUU uuuuu!!!!

So, I asked floor nurse - not the aid - to come to look at "something disturbing".
Me: pointing to the open drawer: "Is that a bed pan?"
Nurse: glancing down, hands on hips: "Yes, it is. We always keep them in the bottom drawer."
Me: pointing to the  bed pan and the smear, "What do you suppose that brown substance might be?"
Nurse: suddenly paying close attention,  "Oh! that's not acceptable!"
Me:  bending over and pointing, "And, those, are those the same bandages you use on Mom's stasis ulcers?"
Nurse: "I'll have someone clean it up right away."

...and she did.  The nurse threw the bedpan in the trash and soon housekeeping came to clean the drawer with a bleach solution.  I am left wondering how long a dirty bed pan had been in the drawer and if the nurse putting on Mom's bandages would have used them or thrown them away.  Someone put a dirty bed pan in the drawer- it could have been the night before or days before.  Someone might have been using a dirty bed pan for days. Someone changes mom's bandages daily and should have seen it and done something. It's always "someone else" whenever I find this type of stuff at the nursing home.  

Every visit I find something terribly disturbing.  It does not leave me confident that Mom's getting good care.  This nursing home is ranked fairly well compared to others across the state, I can only imagine how crappy - no pun intended - that must be. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Exile" continues this time due to shingles.

Friday, Oct 14.  I rushed 7 hours from my home to Mom's so I could attend a doctor visit with her. The prior weekend, the nursing home sent her to the ER for a "rash" on her forehead. The ER sent her home with antibiotic ointment.  Two days later it was a larger rash, swelling and a bruise.  Today she looked like someone kicked her in the left eye.  Her eye was swollen nearly shut and oozing goop.   She has what looks like scabby scrapes on her forehead and into her hair line.

As soon as I saw her get off the bus, I bent and gently hugged her without coming into contact with her swollen face.  I lifted her hair to note a couple of "rashy" spots on her scalp.  After seeing the doctor, he called in a colleague and they decided that Mom has shingles.  Then he turns to me and says, "I hope you've had chicken pox because this is highly contagious..."  oh sh___!!!  I don't remember having it but did have measles 3 times, we're hoping that  one of those was chicken pox and that I have immunity.

Poor mom has only been out of isolation a week and now she'll go back in.   And, I can't go see her until I get the results of a blood test to determine if I'm immune or not.   She was looking forward to my visit and I planned to take her cousin there for a visit with pie and coffee - that's all on hold now.   As for me, I need to stay optimistic and pray the virus away because chicken pox in adults can get bad.  

I think the ER missed the shingles diagnosis because it doesn't normally show up on the face and scalp.  Mom's had it in the past on her back around her waist.  The doctor said they look for "geometry" or lines where the pox appear - it has definite boundaries.   In this case, the pox are quite concentrated on the upper left side of her head.  Picture this; the "bottom" boundary is an imaginary a line from under her nose horizontally toward her ear and around the back of her head.  The other "line" goes from her left nostril up straight over her forehead and over the top to the nape of her neck.   It was just all swollen and painful looking.  She's on a pain patch to help with her arthritis so the infection doesn't hurt as bad as it might otherwise.   So - now we're both in a sort of isolation - she must stay in her room and I have to stay away from others and her - for now anyway.  Damn.

Shingles on the face,  shingles around the eye, shingles on the head, scabby rash red swelling swollen eye face

Saturday, October 1, 2011

MRSA puts mom "in exile" and it demonstrates holes in the rules

Confined to a wheelchair now, my mom has begun to get stasis ulcers on her lower legs. These are oozing gross wounds that open up on her chins.  Apparently these are ulcers are common for people who have limited motion in their lower extremities (legs and feet).  My niece, the 25-year career nurse - tells me its caused by poor circulation of blood and lymph fluids.  The skin tissue in the legs doesn't get nutrients from blood flow so it begins to breakdown.   Mom insists it only hurts when they apply salve but the tissue around these sores is often so swollen, red and angry looking that I can't imagine it doesn't hurt.  Since June, I've been concerned about a large on her left calf that would not heal.  Over the past 4 months it's improved then become worse and improved again several times.  In early September a nurse called to tell me it tested positive for MRSA and Mom would be put into "isolation" to prevent infecting anyone else.

I was very upset because she had the wound for so long and they hadn't tested it for any virus or bacteria. I asked if there was more they could do - different medication, vitamins, better diet...I got no answers.  They watched the wound closely for changes that indicate MRSA and finally in early September they "swabbed" the wound and ran tests. The nurse told me they look for discharges of pus and blood and a particular odor that indicates staph might be infecting a wound; once they see it, they test for staph infection. 

After the positive MRSA test, they had to put mom into isolation - no room mate, visitors must wear gowns and gloves, a bed side commode but that as long as the wound was covered, she could go to meals in the dining room.   I felt good that she'd have someone to visit with now and then. I also asked if she could have a larger TV until her isolation was over.  I got no answers even after leaving several messages. 

When I was able to visit 2 weeks later, I learned that Mom had NOT been to meals and that she'd been stuck in her room, alone most of the time.   "...being in exile, like Napoleon", she said. I was so angry.  If I'd know she was NOT going to meals, I'd have sent flowers every few days.  I'd have written letters - something, ANYTHING to help lift her spirits.  I tried to talk with the nurse on duty and she gave me a different story - that Mom HAD been to meals, that visitors didn't need gowns or gloves to protect them from infection.. Two hours later aides brought meals to mom in her room but before entering they put on paper gowns and gloves!..  I asked about the inconsistency but could not get a straight answer from the aides or nurses.  Now I have to call and complain because of these inconsistencies.  It makes me so frustrated!  How hard is it to train people to know what to do?  Infections like MRSA, colds, stomach bugs - are pervasive once they get a hold in nursing homes so all of their staff need to treat the patients the SAME way.  Families and visitors need to follow consistent - and best practice - methods to prevent spreading or getting illnesses.  I want to know that the staff does the RIGHT things to keep things from spreading - to my own mom, to themselves, visitors or other patients. 

I hate that Mom had to be "isolated". All of her clothing, towels, bedding and dining plates and utensils had to be bagged in special red biohazard bags before leaving her room.  The nurse tells me that they tried to "enrich" her activities with extra visits from their staff but it's not the same as family or friends.  Given the inconsistent messages from their own nurses and other crap that goes on, I doubt they do much "enrichment".   My family was quite freaked out and didn't want to visit; they feared mom was exhaling the virus and that they'd become infected.  I went anyway because I read enough about MRSA to understand that it was most likely caught quickly and thus a local infection - meaning it was only in the tissue on her leg and not spread throughout her system.  I also spoke with the nurse before my visit and learned that the sores on her legs were nearly completely healed.  I didn't intend to touch her wounds, bandages or the like so I knew that chances of being infected were very, very small.  Visiting my Mom after she'd been isolated for two weeks out weighed my concerns about getting any virus. 

This is the definition of MRSA from wikipedia:
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans. It may also be called multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (ORSA).

More on stasis or venous ulcers at wikipedia:

How could my mom get MRSA?  Mom has MRSA, can i get it? Dad has MRSA can I get it.  What should nursing homes do about MRSA?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Momma Mia made me cry over my own Mom.

This blog is supposed to be about my mom but often it ends up being about my feelings - I suppose that's natural since I'm writing from my personal point of view and there is so much anxiety and guilt associated with sick and aging parents that it would not be right to exclude that from my various topics.   I've not added any posts since Mom's latest health scare because I've had little to share that's positive.  I've not wanted to whine, moan or complain.  This morning though, I was overwhelmed by such a deep sense of sadness that I must write about it.

For several years now I've wished so badly that I had the money to buy a big house, hire a staff of 4 to help with Mom and then just live, doing all the things that I enjoy and finding some way to make her a part of it - making jam, gardening, sewing - just those day to day things.  My mom is still curious - she wants to watch CNN and PBS, the history channel or animal planet but the set up in her room at the nursing home doesn't permit it.  I want to have her at home where she can have HER favorite chair, HER large screen TV, HER 4 walls around her - but she needs so much assistance, I just can't do it all.   I know she's not as happy as she could be; she longs for company from her family but my brothers never see her.  The saving grace is a neighbor who's tried to see her at least once a week and a cousin who's gone by now and then over the summer.   

My sobbing melt down came as I was reading news and watching Momma Mia on TV.  Meryl Streep was singing about loosing her daughter to adulthood.  The lyrics have her remembering sitting at the kitchen table with her little girl, spending simple times just eating or doing the day to day things.   It just hit me so hard to think of my mom enjoying those times with me, then watching me get my first car and taking off, leaving her in the house alone.  I remember leaving for college; she and my dad weren't getting along and I was in such a hurry to escape it.  I didn't think about her and that she might feel abandoned with no ability to drive herself (she had a stroke during my delivery which left her partially blind and with epilepsy), no job, no money of her own - she must have felt awful but that didn't occur to me.  I was happy to get the hell out of there, to be free to have fun.  I left and didn't look back to see her sad face.   To be fair to myself - I did visit often and called her every Sunday but it's not the same.

Now she's in the same boat - she's stuck there and I end up driving away. At least I always come back!  She has people around her but it's a string of different people and she can't do the things she enjoys. All she wants is to sit in her comfy chair with a remote to a TV she can easily see.   That's not too much to ask and I can't make it happen.   She's never asked for much of anyone yet she's done a lot for others just by creating a home where we could all feel welcome and supported.     I hate that I can't do that for her. Even taking her to her little house isn't possible - it needs so much repair and would require total remodeling to accommodate her wheelchair.  

As for me, I also miss my mom but the "mom" I miss doesn't show herself often due to pain, hearing loss and naps.  She has a good sense of humor; she's smart and witty.  She's done so many things and remembers how to do most of it - she's a wealth of information!!  She's also wise - which I miss, she always has good advice for me, though now I don't ask much because I don't want her to worry.  There's just so much I want to know about her, about my dad, my grandparents- I want so much for her to look forward to a good meal, to taste freshly picked berries, ice cream when she wants it not when it's on the menu; to sleeping in and eating when she wants not on someone else's schedule... to sit hear her roses and enjoy their color and scent in the warm sunshine..  this is how growing old should be not in some institution where she's a "client" not a person.  

Ah well, my crying won't help her and now I've got a head ache... all I can do is try to get there to love her and make her feel as loved as possible.   If anyone out there reads this - do me a favor - go love on your family.  Young or old, listen to their stories and ask them about the most important things in their life.   Talk WITH them and Listen; share things WITH them and you'll feel better about everything!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Got an inheritance? Don't do THIS...

A friend revealed to me that her mother, age 62, is in dire financial shape two years after the death of her successful husband.   I'm shocked, I never thought it would happen.   The problem is that Mom didn't have a plan to manage her money and the kids didn't want to hurt her feelings and butt in when they realized she was depressed and spending too much.   The reality is hard to understand - Mom went through $600,000 in a little over two years.   More than a half a million dollars in 24 months.   It's a shame because, if managed well, Mom could have lived comfortably for the rest of her life.  Now Mom's renting an apartment and selling off her antiques.  Her large home is for sale.  She's living on a meager social security payment - her husband died before he began to collect social security so she's collecting earlier than she might if he'd lived.  It's nice that the funds are available but the payments would be more if she'd waited to collect later in life.

Here's WHAT to do if you get an inheritance:  I write this for people over 55-60 - those who are faced with living on a limited income.  The idea is to create stable living conditions, minimizing costs overall so that living on a limited income is manageable and doesn't cause hardship.
Seek advice from a banker or financial professional. There are plenty of funds where you can put money that will generate interest or receive dividends even if the annual payoff is low.  It might not be as much as riskier investments but it's steady and you won't risk the principle or bulk of your money.  Think if it as a source of long-term annual income:  Let it sit in a special fund and at the end of a year 1 , you could have 20-30-40,000 to spend during year 2 while your nest egg sits and grows money for year 3.  (I've discussed this scenario with representatives from Edward Jones Financial, but any reputable financial firm should be able to help.)
Seek to make the money LAST - don't go on spending sprees. Don't do a bunch of cosmetic work on your home to make it look prettier. 
Seek emotional counsel if you have the urge to buy and buy and buy - this is a sign of depression.  I believe we get a little spike in endorphines when we spend money - this feels good so we do it a lot when we're depressed.   This is RISKY - try to resist the urge to shop; if possible avoid the mall, don't watch shopping channels and don't splurge.
Consider setting up a trust or annuity for yourself - this will ensure that someone doles the money to you over time.
Invest in things that will make your life more stable:  Pay off credit cards then CUT THEM UP. Pay off your house and make repairs that will ensure it's in good shape for the long term. Note that I said REPAIRS not improvements  - only make improvements if it make it safer or will increase the selling price.
Buy or pay off a quality car that will last you a good long time - consider a brand that will require minimal repairs and will last miles and miles.  Be sure it's a size that you'll be SAFE driving - think automatic transmission, 4 door-sedan not oversized SUV with 4-on the floor!

What NOT to do:
Don't go on vacation after vacation without consulting a financial adviser. Understand if you can AFFORD a lot of travel.  Spend it on travel ONLY after you've made arrangements for the long term.
DO NOT LOAN money to kids, grand kids or friends. Often people have every intention of paying money back but when all you have is one big chuck of money, it's value is in the potential it has to earn more. Don't whittle it away a few thousand dollar loans at a time; before you know it, the funds are gone and collecting those loans is probably impossible.
Don't make a lot of cosmetic changes to your home - unless you'll sell soon and you are SURE it will pay off big!  Example:  if your living room is painted dark brown, it might be wise to paint the walls a neutral color before showing it for sale - the brown color will make the room look smaller and won't suit everyone's tastes.
 Don't buy a lot of flashy gifts.  you don't have to buy off family or friends, they should WANT your long term financial security not a bunch of "stuff". 

What should I do with dads life insurance? what should I do with my  inheritance?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Great site for special needs clothes!

Find clothes is so hard for mom now that she's weakened due to arthritis.   I just came across this site when I searched for clothes for a "dowagers hump"...  Though some of the things are spendy, I think there are some good options here - especially for easy-on slippers.   I will also look at the clothes in depth to see if I can modify any of mom's existing cloths for easier dressing (think off and on) or just to look better in general.

The name of the online store is Silverts, found here:

Clothing for the elderly, clothing for dowagers hump, clothes for dowagers  hump, shoes for old feet, shoes for arthretic arthritic feet, shoes for hammer toes

Grandpa came through - sort of...

Update on my last post of March 30 - my friend grandfather WAS as sharp as we expected.   "G" went to his bank to advise them of this death and look for outstanding checks. She learned she was his one and only beneficiary on several accounts.  She has also been in touch with insurance carriers who advise her that she is the beneficiary of those accounts as well - it's enough to put her two youngest kids through college and start a nice retirement nest egg for herself.    

The two things Grandpa did not take care of - the title to his trailer home and brand new Lincoln  - will require that she go through probate in the state where he lived and died.   The attorney tells her that it will, by law, go to her father but she's okay with that.   She was so appreciative for the savings and insurance that she will not argue over these assets.   In the end, she almost feels sorry for her father because of what he missed not knowing his dad.  She's taking the high road and I'm proud of her.  I'm sure her Grandpa is too.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A friends kids miss out if she can't find grandpa's will

This weekend I've spent all my time with a  friend whos' grandfather just passed away.  She tried hard to quickly travel across the country to be with him in my town before he passed away.  Unfortunately, she was 3 hours too late.  She's never dealt with the business side of a death.  There are all sorts of things one must do - find wills, life insurance policies, savings or checking accounts, conduce probate, bills and funeral expenses.   It's detailed and things must be done legally..

My friend, we'll call her  "G",  was close to her grandfather and held his Power of Attorney for medical care.  For years he told her that he wanted her to have all of his savings and that it should be used to put her two youngest kids through college.   G never asked about wills, or amounts, or locations because she didn't want to be rude. She respected and loved Grandpa and didn't keep in touch with him because of this potential inheritance.   Her grandfather was really sharp until the end and had a good head for business; she assumed he'd taken care of it all.... 

So today, only 8 hours after Grandpa passed,  I helped her search his home for important papers and we found one document - a bank statement from January 2011.   Her son searched his computer for anything that might give a clue to his income and debts -  life insurance, check register, bills, car titles, deeds,   - anything that might help her understand Grandpa's financial status.   Nothing.  Just one bank statement with checking and savings and a small charge card balance.   Damn.......I thought about all the legalities necessary..... "Double Damn."  Then  an "oh shit!!" moment......

We sat down for a break and it dawned on me - if Grandpa did nothing, even though he told G what he wanted to happen,......  if Grandpa put nothing in writing.  If Grandpa didn't NOTARIZE anything, then, ...  "oh shit!!" ... everything would go to his son.  EVERYTHING.  Everything would go to a drug addicted, low-life that had not seen his father for more than 20 years.   Everything would go to a guy who did nothing but cause his parents deep hurt and take advantage of them.   I didn't want to say it out loud but I could not let G begin to conduct this business without that knowledge.  

I called some friends and got a reference for an attorney.  She called the bank to understand what they needed to set up an checking account for Grandpa's estate.  She can't do anything with out two things:  1. Death Certificates and 2. being named by the county as the Personal Representative for his estate.    Damn... 

The bottom line is that Grandpa died without a will and this WILL cause a huge mess. .  Unless he was astute enough to name her as beneficiary on his accounts and his life insurance then the law of the state prevails.     So now, she'll become his "personal representative" and start the probate process.   

The lesson for anyone else is clear:  write shit down!!!  Notarize it!  Have it recorded at the county clerk/assessor!!!  Make a will!  Fill out the beneficiary forms for life insurance, savings, checking, retirement accounts.  Don't wait, it could cost your loved ones and your wishes might not be honored.
Does grand pa grandma need a will?  Grandpa died without a will.  Why should i do a will.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

completing a POSTfor Mom - the hard part about having Power of Attorney

During Mom's  hospitalization, I had to fulfill the uncomfortable part of being Mom's Power of Attorney.  I filled out a form called a P.O.S.T - Physicians order for scope of treatment.  It is intended to provide medical directives if a patient becomes incapacitated.   Normally completed by a patient and their doctor, I filled it out as Mom's Power of Attorney.  It is not something I ever wanted to do for Mom but it was clearly necessary at the time.   The POST replaces the DNR, the do not resuscitate order and living will.   With the form, Mom's doctor will work to ensure she's comfortable but no extraordinary measures will be used to prolong her life.   She's told us over and over that she wants no "tubes and wires" so this will ensure that no medical provider - not the nursing home, the hospital or the ER  - will go to extraordinary measures to keep her alive.  The form is easy enough, I checked off a few boxes and made some notes after talking with her doctor. 

This is the hardest part of being a Power of Attorney.  It is not something I want to do for Mom but it is something I agreed to do when I became her PoA.  She trusted me to carry out her wishes and look out for her best interest.  I believe that if a medical professional spoke to my Mom now, she would tell them to do "everything they can".  However, given her increasing forgetfulness and the combination of narcotic pain killers she's taking, I am not certain she could understand exactly what  "doing everything" means.   I based my instructions on the POST based on conversations I had with her a few years ago and on her current condition. 

This is the sad part about being her PoA. I signed papers giving instructions to her doctor about the end of her life.   It means that the end could happen at any time, for any reason that might be minor for someone younger and healthier. It really hits home how grave her condition is.

What is a POST? What is a physicians order for scope of treatment.?  What is a DNR?

Suggestions from "youngsters" are just so annoying...

Over the past couple of weeks people have tried to be kind but it in the end, I come away completely annoyed and want to smack more than a few faces...   I should be more grateful of their attempts to be supportive but people are just so, well, stupid.  ..And, they don't listen.   Friends, coworkers and even my own family, ask about Mom and what happened to her..  They nod, looking me in the face, as I speak, they seem to understand. Then  they say something like, 'Well, can YOU move to take care of her? Why don't you move her here,  closer to you..."  .I want to scream, ' SHUT UP DUMB ASS!!  Don't you think I've considered it? That I've investigated all the possibilities?  Don't you think I would if I could get some financial help? Do you know how hard it is to find a doctor willing to accept a new patient who's this old and on Medicare?"

Then there are those who think they know about medical care - they recommend ibuprofen, Ben-gay icy packs or hot bathes.  Hot bathes? Ibuprofen?  Come on, it's all I can do to keep from doing a huge eye roll.  Mom is so very far beyond some simple fix like Icy-hot.  Her sacrum is broken!  That's in her lower back!  It's connected to everything! Any movement is excruciating!!

She's on narcotics for crying out loud!  Ibuprofen won't help her now. Nothing that simple will ever help her again.  They act so smug, like it should be so easy and clear cut.   It's not easy and  the solutions aren't simple.   Old people have old bodies and old bodies require special care.  No hot bathes, that means hot water and it could burn their thinning and sensitive skin.   No heat packs, that might also burn.  

This stupidity is due to ignorance; they are uninformed about old people.  They don't know what they're talking about  and they don't wait to listen for an answer or explanation.  This means that they really don't care.   They're just making small talk.  Really, I wish they'd just talk to me about something else  less emotional.   On a much larger scale, I wish people knew more about the elderly.  I wish people realized the limits old people face.  I wish they understood the issues old people face.  I didn't until I began helping elderly uncles and my parents .  I had no idea the complexities of medical coverage, drug interactions or the basics of tending to an aging body.   I wish there was some module in health class in high school that described what parents and grand parents might go through; drug interactions, narcotics and Medicare Part D.  They might have an easier time helping their own parents and would be less self-righteous when others are trying to do the same.


Wanting to take Mom home and angry at the system

Damn - I wish I could take my mom home.  I wish I could be there to see her daily.   My cousins try to be supportive and urge me to let go of the guilt.  At at the same time they admit to terrible guilt that they couldn't care for their mother at home either.   It just takes SO much - money, time, lifting, coordination.  Someone's got to be there with her all the time since she can't do anything alone.  It's a lot of extra washing, cooking, running to the doctor - it all takes time, generally time away from work.  To hire help takes  money - more money that any of us have.  We can't afford to quit working to stay home and care for her; even working we can't afford to pay for our own expenses and hire someone to help her.    It seems so wrong that the state will pay so much - over $4000 per month - to let someone else take care of Mom.  I'd do it for less if I could get the help.  I'm not greedy, I just need enough to get by, enough to hire some help when I'd have to run errands or something and then enough to get my life back on track after she passes.

Keeping life on track - that's another source of guilt.  I've got another 15-20 years of work ahead of me.  In my 30's and 40's it was derailed by my fathers illness, my marriage and moving to meet a husbands military obligation. I'm just now, at 49, beginning to rebuild - a home, savings, a career.....I COULD go take care of mom but the long term sacrifice would make it much much harder to start over.  I'd be that much older,  technology will move ahead quickly and my ability to keep up will be dulled. Mom used to say, "It's hell to get old".  She's right. She's in her own hell - a horrible state with no options and I'd be dammed if I do and dammed if I don't.  Damn.

Mom's condition, financial need and doctor's requirements leave us with no choices

Mom will move back to the nursing home on Monday and I'm sick over it.   This is the same nursing home that failed to fix the brakes on a wheel chair THEY own, the name nursing home that failed to take her increasing pain seriously and tell someone...  and there's nothing we can do about it.

There are several things that limit per options: First, she can't be at home and we can't care for her there without a major remodel and we'd need to hire someone to help with the lifting and washing, which none of us can afford.  She needs medicaid (state aid) to supplement the cost of the nursing home.  Her physician has approved only 2 nursing homes in the city where she lives and one of those won't accept medicaid.   Thus, she must go to the ONE nursing home he'll approve AND that accepts medicaid.

My brother and I aired our concerns to the staff - they nodded as though they understood but none offered explanation or ways to improve things.   My brother and his wife are so concerned that they want to create a schedule to ensure someone from the family visits daily.  They want to divide up the week between themselves, their daughter ( my niece), my 2nd brother and my nephew.  They want me and another niece to split up weekends so that we can visit on a Saturday and Sunday to give them weekends off.  I'm not opposed to this and hope they'll hold up their part of the bargain.   I'm ready to hire someone to visit her 3 times a week; no set schedule, just drop by and report back to me.  I think it's the ONLY way to ensure that Mom's well cared for.  

I don't want mom to return to her room and current room mate.  Mom says she WANTS to return to it but she doesn't realize that it's not necessarily the BEST option.  If she had a different room, she could have a larger TV and a phone that's easier for her to use.  If she had a different room, she'd have some exposure to the outside, some sunshine perhaps.  As it is now the room faces east and a tall thick hedge 3 feet from the building.   Her roommate refuses to go to another wing because in this one she gets free TV and phone.  It's also a "medical rehab" wing, where most of the residents are fine mentally but going through rehab with the intent to return home.  So she's stick again but she'll be back in a familiar place.  That's important on some level too I suppose.  It's not the BEST solution, but it's the only one we can muster for now so we must make the best of it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mom has a good day and we split up the visits

God bless my niece!  She's visits my Mom every day before she heads to work.  I can't be there during the week so I know that either of my nieces or my sister in law are the next best thing for Mom.   It helps SO much that one niece is a veteran nurse (25 years) and the other is a nurse in training.  When the weekend rolls around and I get to town, I'll take over momma-duty so my niece can have a break.  

Today my niece gave me a good report on Mom: she woke up hungry and ate 75% of her lunch.  She's asking what happened and how she can get better.  The physical therapists helped Mom to the commode and into a chair.  She was in the chair for 1.5 hours and the nurses told my niece that she was pretty uncomfortable for the last 45 minutes, laying on the call button - but they let her sit there because it's part of her therapy.   It's a good thing that I wasn't there because I'd have put her back to bed myself.  I hate that she's hurting but I'm thankful her appetite is back.  For her to stop eating and drinking enough now would surely be the end of her.

For the first time since I heard that Mom was being transported to the ER, I'm a little hopeful - hopeful but guarded.  I don't expect anything as far as she's concerned.  I will say that I'm so thankful for my family - brothers, nieces, nephews and cousins - they've all called and visited to show support.  We help each other when we need it - that alone would make my mom happy and proud.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What caused Mom's broken sacrum? - spread the blame...

Mom's flat on her back in the hospital, full of painkillers and unlikely to sit up soon - if ever again. Her prognosis is poor and my instincts tell me she will live a while but won't come back from this incident.  I've been racking my brain trying to understand the "one" thing responsible for Mom's broken sacrum and thus her excruciating pain and poor prognosis.  After days of guilt, I've come to realize that it's a combination of things  that caused this, though that doesn't make my sense of guilt go away.

The "fault"  lies with all of us who SHOULD have noticed Mom's increasing pain and thus her vulnerability and worked to PREVENT a break or fix it as a hairline fracture.    The primary cause of this break is Mom's age and physical condition.  She's 90 with has bad osteoporosis. This fact alone should make anyone more careful as they move her and more sensitive to her complaints of increased pain. For years she's refused to exercise, to take calcium or vitamin D and small estrogen supplements to maintain bone strength.  The brake could have occurred if she sat down too hard or was constipated and had to strain during a BM.   Mom asked that aides, my neice and myself rub her lower back to help her pain.  The location where she wanted us to rub was very near her sacrum.  We, in our attempts to help her, might have aggravated her break without knowing it. 

I feel some responsibility for her current state because I didn't visit for nearly two months. I live 7 hours away and didn't want to drive through snow and ice.   Had I gone there, I'd have listened to her; I'd notice her pain.  Had I asked questions, had I understood that her pain was increasing, I could have pushed for an MRI earlier.  Had I called the nurse at night instead of just calling Mom to visit, I might have known something was up.

I blame my brother because he lives in Mom's home town and got 2 calls about her being "assisted to the floor" after her wheelchair rolled out from under her as an aide sat her down. He didn't call me, he didn't call the doctor.  He just told the nursing home aides TWICE to fix the brakes. After the 2nd "assist to the floor", the nursing home used a portable x-ray to look at her hip but never looked further to her back. This is an elderly person with KNOWN osteoporosis - it's absolute neglect NOT to look at BOTH hips and her back.  I'd have insisted on an MRI then - 5  weeks ago when her pain was controlled with tylenol and rest.  Obviously the break was not as bad then and perhaps something might have been done that would cause her less pain and NOT cost her life. 

I blame the nurses and aides at the nursing home for their failure to simply pay attention.  I'm REALLY angry about this and plan to complain to the state after Mom passes away.  After learning of these "assists to the floor", I visited her. I spoke with the night nurse on 2/18 who told me that she's noted an increase in Mom's pain for 8 weeks - that's 2 MONTHS and no one did a thing.  The night nurse DID HER JOB; she wrote down her concerns so the DNS - director of nursing services - could see it and take action.  Yet, there are NO reports to her doctor, NO calls to family until something happens that might be a liability to the nursing home.   When something DID happen - the brakes on the wheelchair failed, they called the family to fix it when the chair belongs to the nursing home!  They KNOW this yet they called my brother anyway.

I blame her doctor for insisting that she be in this particular nursing home because "none of the others communicate with me as well."... Hmmm... I hope he'll reconsider THAT opinion NOW that they've caused my mom a painful death.   I blame him for a failure to act sooner, he waited two weeks to order an MRI and during that time her pain became worse. Thus the trip to the ER and the failed attempt at a, literally, heart stopping MRI.

I know I need to let this go.  I know that my regrets don't help Mom now but by talking about it, by making people aware, I hope something positive will come out of it.  My Mom is suffering and I am so sorry.  I want so badly to prevent this for someone else.  Listen to their pain and act to prevent problems as soon as you can.

Dead in the MRI and broken sacrum = long recovery IF mom can make the trip at all

In the past 5 days Mom’s died once, received 9 IVs and one epidural.   Last Friday, Mom was in so much pain that the nursing home insisted she go to the ER.  They called her doctor to meet her at the ER but he was too late to stop the ER doctor from attempting an MRI.  They did an EKG before the MRI but didn’t look at the results before giving her propofol (Diprivan) as a sedative.   Though they only gave her a small amount –about 1/5 the “usual dose” for an adult – it was enough to stop her heart.   If the ER doc had looked at the EKG, he’d have seen that she was in atrial fibrillation – her heart was beating erratically and not in regular sinus rhythm.    The technicians gave her epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and did chest compressions to successfully restart her heart in normal rhythm.  

She was transferred to the ICU and hooked up to every monitor known to man and medicine.  I arrived in town to find her confused and begging for God to deliver her from such torture.  She was on a fentanyl patch and 2ml (milliliters??) of dilaudid (hydromorphone) every 2 hours.  The nurses in the ICU were great; they came in every hour to give her 1 ml and were quite attentive to her every need.  They even tried to feed her but she would not budge – she wanted no food at all.  On Monday she was in and out of it, she recognized us all but had a hard time focusing on a thought.  

The doctor developed a whole plan to administer certain drugs on Tuesday to complete an MRI to see exactly what was happening with her back and hip.  The results were poor – cracked sacrum, severe osteoporosis and arthritis that is compressing her sciatic nerve and causing extreme pain.  Tuesday was a rough day. She was terribly confused by the drugs and didn’t want to go into the MRI machine.   Luckily, she made it through just fine but the drugs she had to take made her feel awful well into Wednesday.   Every 5 minutes she repeated that “everything is backwards”.   It was as though she developed severe dementia overnight.  She told me that she saw God sitting next to her while I had some lunch.  All afternoon I had to share my chair with God.  It was the only chair so I had to sit on the forward part of the seat so that he had room to sit down with me.  If I tried to move back she’d correct me and tell me to leave room  for God.  She realized it sounded crazy and said she was embarrassed to tell me; she could not actually see God in the room but she was certain he was there.   As the day wore on, I wondered if it was metaphorical and if she really was trying to tell ME to become more spiritual; that I should make room for God...   What ever the purpose, we laughed about it a bit and she remembered it the next day on Wednesday.  

Wednesday morning Mom was less confused but still agitated.  She was scared and wondered why she had to suffer so; why they could not fix her pain and return her to “normal”.  She was tired of laying down and wanted to sit up but it hurt too much.   In the afternoon she went for an epidural and returned changed – more alert, more at ease and less agitated.  During the epidural, my brother and I sat nearby and heard her yelling out. We nearly cried, believing she was in pain.  Soon after the yelling the doctor came out and told us that she was yelling because they had to move her into a bath and it was cooler than she wanted.  On the way out of the epidural, again, she was asking “why” – “I’ve been a good girl, all my life… why must I suffer like this…”  It was hard to hear but she looked so much better that we still felt relieved.  

The “pain” doctor had good news and bad – the epidural went well but…. The fracture in her sacrum was worse than we thought, it was in pieces and healing was unlikely.  Generally, they could glue a crack with surgery but there is no way they’d put mom out again.  Given her osteoporosis, it might just break again soon anyway.   He said she’ll have constant pain for the rest of her life;  laying flat or sitting probably won’t hurt but moving up or down will.   So – how do we tell her that?  Having to tell her is worse than learning she had the break… dammit!  My poor momma!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mom's heart stops in the MRI and now narcotics won't touch her pain

Since my last post Mom's been through a lot - the worst part is that, even with narcotics, her pain is increasing and she's often in great pain.   I went to see her on Presidents Day weekend and found her pretty uncomfortable.   I and the aides did what we could to help her and when I left town, she seemed fine.  Because the pain came and went, we thought it was her sciatic nerve; massage and change of position relieved the pain.   That changed after I left town.  By Wednesday evening, she called my brother to ask that he come take her to the ER. A call to the doctor and more pain meds helped.   By Thursday the Nursing Home called me to say that she's in such pain, that she's suffering so much that they must send her to the ER.  I agreed, of course I agreed.  Once there, the ER doctor ordered an MRI.  Mom died in the MRI tube before it could be completed.

They revived her quickly with some chest compressions and -"some shot" as my brother tells me.  Her doctor tells us that her heart beat was erratic - not in regular sinus rhythm - and when they sedated Mom is caused her heart rate to slow so much that it stopped.  They only resuscitate her because they did not know if she or her family signed a DNR (do not resuscitate order).   That evening she was resting comfortably.. but the next morning was hell..  Mom woke up in great pain.  She yelled, she asked what they were doing to her; she called them all devils and demanded to return to the nursing home.  The pain began again and they've increased her pain medications 3 times.   The nurse tells us that the amount of medication she's getting now could slow her heart or cause long term issues with her memory or cognition.   

So, now I'll rush home and hope we'll find something to make her comfortable or that she'll find some peace.   By writing "find some peace" I guess I mean that she'll pass away.  I DO NOT WISH THAT MY MOM WILL DIE!!  But, to see her suffer is so awful.  It's as excruciating for us as it is for her.  I'd gladly take her pain for myself if I could.  She told my niece - a CNA - "no tubes, no surgeries, leave me alone". She won't tell us because she doesn't want us to worry and get all emotional but she'll tell my niece  -perhaps it's just too emotional for her too.   I realize it's only a matter of time. She's 90, something will cause her death sooner than later but I'm not ready for her to go.   I've been preparing for it for 5 years but when the reality is right here, right now, I don't want it to happen.  Perhaps her suffering is for us - making it easier for us to let her go to find peace.    I can imagine life no visits to nursing homes, life without depends or wheelchairs or dentures on the bedstand but I can't imagine life without my Mom.   I miss her already.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mom falls and I get no calls... guess what hit the fan..

Last week was pretty rough - in 2 calls, I learned that Mom's in a lot of pain; had 2 falls and no one's called to tell me what's going on.  I had to "put the bitch on" and demand that I get calls from now on.   I learned of these falls on Feb 8 when the transportation coordinator told me that Mom's doctor made an appointment for her the next day at 330pm.  "Why?" I ask.. "well, he just wants to check up on her.." is the vague reply.  Her regular check up is not until the end of February so I asked to speak with the nurse.  The nurse was also vague with details.  It was like playing 20 questions.  The nurse told me mom had an "assist to the floor" - it's basically where an aide has a hold of my mom but she still ends up on the floor.  The fact that she ended up on the floor is not the reason for the doctor visit.   The nurse finally said that she requested the doctors visit because Mom's "just not herself".   "What does that mean?"  I'm ticked now because I have to push for these details..  She tells me that Mom's had back pain, that she's not felt well enough to go to the dining room, that she's asking for pain pills in the morning before she gets up.

This is very distressing because  my mom has a high tolerance for pain.  She's not a baby, she's not a whiner; she doesn't do this for attention.  She's hurting and they've let it go on for nearly a month!  I called my sister in law to see if she or my brother could meet mom at the doctor and learned that Mom had 2 falls not 1.  The first was about Jan 10 and the second - the one the nurse told me about - was Jan 21.  Apparently the brakes on Mom's wheel chair failed and it rolled away from her as an aide was helping her to sit down - they both ended up on the floor.   It happened again two weeks later.  My brother went up to investigate and pointed out the bad brakes - they're fixed now but at what cost to my mom?   Sister in Law also told me that Mom has a bad bruise and open wound near her armpit  - no doubt a skin tear where the aide had a hold of my mom.  None of these details - requesting pain medication, refusing to go to meals, the would, the 2nd fall -were in the fax that the nursing home sent to the doctor.  I had to write a letter and fax it to him to ensure he gets the details.  I also feel it's necessary to point out to him that she's asking for pain medications - which she'd normally not do. I asked that he order an MRI or CAT scan - something to figure out if anything was broken or misaligned during these "assists to the floor".  ARGH!!

I have to visit the nursing home next week to discuss their failure to call me.  I was very pointed - nearly yelling -  when I spoke to the nurse - "CALL ME,  I HAVE MOM'S POWER OF ATTORNEY, I PAY THE BILLS.  MY LOCAL FAMILY DOES NOT COMMUNICATE WITH ME. YOU MUST CALL ME."  She wrote it on a post it and promised to put it in the file.   A lot of good that will do - post it's fall off, the glue goes bad.   She promised to tape it in place.  Right.  I'm not convinced.  I believe they'll blow it off - they'll blow ME off.   It really makes me distrust them and the kind of care they're giving to my mom.   I feel powerless to do anything - I need them to be good to my Mom.  I need them to keep her there or her doctor will insist she find another physician.  It's an awful situation and Mom suffers for all of it.  Hopefully, I can make it a little better during my visit next week.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

No calls = a lot of guilt!

I feel awful.  I have not talked with my Mom since December 26 - that's nearly a full month - and I feel terribly guilty because I've not tried harder to reach her.  I have called but when I don't get her on the phone, it's almost a relief - then I feel guilt over the sense of relief.

My mom's not terrible to talk with but talking with her for more then a few minutes is a lot of work. She can't hear the phone ring so to reach her I must call the nurses station and ask that they transfer the call then send someone down to answer the phone for her.  Once I get her on the phone, she's excited and wants to tell me all kinds of things - usually it's the same 3-4 things that she says again and again.   She tries to ask about me but she can't hear my replies so then she begins telling me how much she dislikes "this place" and she asks to return to assisted living.  She's also started saying, "I wish I could be home but...." and she trails off.   At least she realizes that she's in no shape to live  in her little house.  After about 10 minutes on the phone her voice sounds a little farther away - it's my cue that she's let the phone slip down to her cheek or neck and doesn't realize it.   She just keeps talking and I try to yell - literally SCREAM - to put the phone to her ear, that I must go, that she can't hear me... anything to try to get her attention so I can say good bye. 

She has a pattern - I have to tell her in 3's that I need to get off the phone.  Usually she's willing to let go in the first 3 attempts but lately, it's harder to get off the phone politely.   I have to say, I've got to go now, over an dover..  She hears me each time but asks just one more question.. so I hang in there and keep talking.   I don't want to be rude and I don't want her to think that I've hung up on her. 

I have all kinds of "reasons" why I can't  call - I can't call from work, the boss will get mad and I can't yell at her from my cubicle.   I can't call too late or too early from  home because my yelling will disturb the neighbors. I can't call in the morning because the staff is too busy getting everyone up and to breakfast then back again.  so, I don't call and the guilt remains.  I know it would do her a lot of good to hear from me.  It's one of the few things that she'd enjoy but, dammit, I hate yelling into the phone.  I hate hearing the same complaints all the time.  I hate that she asks for things that I can't do or can't provide.

These are all symptoms of a greater issue - I hate that my mom has to live in a nursing home.  I hate that they don't give a damn about her quality of life.  I hate that the staff is too small.  I hate that I can't move to her home town and live with her and tend to her.   The guilt over the phone calls is a component of a larger, more hurtful matter - I want to help her, I want to make her happy, I want to spend loving time with her but I can't afford it.  All I can do is spend a weekend here and there and try from afar to what I can.   It's not enough to make her happy or me guilt free but it will have to do.