Saturday, February 27, 2010

I'm afraid I may be next

Nursing home's rooms are sorta like college dorm rooms. The space for each of them is enough to fit a twin size hospital type bed and a small dresser. They seperate the areas with a rolling privacy curtain and that's it. There's a bathroom in each room. Mom is lucky to have a good room mate. She is a tiny lady with a sweet, happy spirit named Connie. They would be great friends if they could have conversations. Having a room mate you can talk to sounds like a great thing but in reality, it's not. Connie has lost her hearing, she is one of those people that has lost so much of her hearing that hearing aids do not work. She reads and watches her TV on mute. Mom had a nice room mate that could hear before named Ruth and they did have conversations but in such a small room, their TV volume started to compete with each other. Mom would turn hers up, she would turn hers up, one of them would complain and feelings got hurt. The social worker tried to work things out. She called me and Ruth's son in and we discussed a "perfect" solution to the problem. We would each get our Mom a pair of battery head sets, then everything would be fine. I went out immediately and bought the wireless headset with big easy volume buttons on the side. "Problem solved!" I told Mom. Ruth's son and I tirelessly showed our mom's how to operate the headsets. "There's only one dial for up and down, adjust it and then put it on your head." My mom has had a stroke so she had to do this with her one good side hand. Trying putting on a head set with one good side hand and adjusting dials on the side was a clumsy activity for her. One side of the earphone, slipping down over her eyes, her arthritic bony fingers trying to find the volume knobs. "You can do it Mom, you will get used to it!" We kept trying though for a couple of weeks. "So have you gotten used to the headsets yet Mom?" she would look at me in dismay, "No, not yet." Like lots of other things involving caring for Mom, it seems like a great idea but it's not. Ruth never figured it out either. The real solution was to move Mom and Ruth to other rooms, which they did and there will be another posting about that crazy stressful move later. At present, Mom's "hard of hearing" room mate Connie is a lot like Mom and other elderly ladies with her strict routine. Everyday at the same time, she does the same things. For instance, she goes to dinner at 5, wheels to the nurses station to be given her medicine, wheels herself into the room, opening up her little drawers with her little gloved hands, she picks out her gown for the evening and her clothes for tomorrow. Sitting them out folded in a specific order in the same chair. Yes, she wears little gloves all the time. They look little cloth garden gloves and she has them in a variety of colors to match her clothes. Why? I don't know why? She seems perfectly sane. There's another lady we call "Hollywood" Everyone calls her that because she wears a scarf tied under her chin and a big pair of sunglasses. She looks like a 50's movie star going out for a drive in her convertable but she is inside. She sports the scarf and sunglasses everyday even though she never goes outside. Why? I don't know why? She seems perfectly sane otherwise.
Yesterday, I was walking down the hall and Connie motioned me over for our everyday one way conversation in which she talks and I smile and nod my head. "Everyone's going crazy around here! Just all of a sudden, they start wandering the halls, not knowing where there rooms are and not knowing who they are! It makes me afraid I may be next!" Smiling, I looked right into her tiny frightened eyes and firmly said "No you wont be next, that's not going to happen to you!"Acts 20:33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have served for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in everything, by laboring like this, that we [5] need to support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. "
Sometimes the only support you can offer an elderly person is to reassure them that everything's going to be all right!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some people have it, others don't.

James 1:27 "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. " What about the "widowers"?

It's interesting to me how men react to getting older and being dependent on other people. They react quite differently than women. My beloved father passed away about a year and a half ago. We were relieved for him. He wasn't good at being dependant. I have learned from visiting nursing homes that most men just don't last long in a dependent situation. I'm sure there are many facts that would prove that but all you have to do is visit one to know that the men in nursing care are outnumbered. Women can stay alive and deal with the emotional feelings that come with elderly nursing care. At the Wesleyan Nursing home, the health care is excellent but the men don't last long. At first, they just seem frustrated. They will put up with it, all of them thinking that they will be home in a few weeks. If they don't go home in a few weeks and reality sets in that this is the place where they will live until they die, they give up. Men react to being dependent by either becoming passive and losing interest in living or they become defiant and rebel against their caretakers. Mom has developed a friendly relationship with a former dentist and male resident at the Wesleyan. She likes him because he has a beautiful set of teeth and smiles when he sees her. He was admitted a few months ago and we have seen him going from frustrated but hopeful to hopeless and defiant. "I am married and my wife says I can flirt but only with women your age" he teases. At first, he was going to his physical therapy, joking and teasing all the ladies but things have changed. He developed a hopeless attitude and stopped eating. It was very upsetting to mom when she saw him become mean one day and bite a nurse aid. He was shaking all over and wouldn't let them put the oxygen tubes in his nose. "Ouch that hurts!" the nurse aid screamed loud. Mom got teary and said, "He’s just not acting like himself today." He hasn't been acting like himself a lot lately. It has nothing to do with the health care, they have excellent care. It has to do with "attitude." When my Grandpa got put in a nursing home he would close his eyes, try not to breath and act dead for hours at a time. He hoped that he could just "will "himself dead that way. Lots of men just "will" themselves dead and it works. We finally put my father in a nursing home right next to mom. On the first day, a nurse came in and bossed him around. He said calmly to the nurse, "are you trying to boss me?" When she left, he looked over at my mom, his loving wife and best friend for 65 years and said "this situation is not going to work for me." It didn't, he lasted one day and a half and died.
Another interesting reaction I've noticed about older men is that they become romantic and more sensitive toward the end. One night, mom was awakened by an old man standing over her who had wandered into her room. He was just gazing at her quietly. "It's been so long. I have missed you so much. I love you. You are so beautiful!" he said passionately. Mom told me about it the next day, "at first I was a little startled but he looked so sincere and he was saying such nice things." She seemed disappointed that a nurse aid found him and redirected him to his room. "I just smiled and let him talk. I know he thought I was his wife." she said. What girl can resist good sweet talk! Mom didn't get a lot of sweet talk from my dad. He was a great husband and no one ever doubted that he loved her dearly but he wasn't romantic. A few months before my dad died, he went to visit mom in the nursing home and he told her that he wanted to take her to a motel and just hold her in bed. "I can't do that now." she said. It was too late for romance as far as she was concerned. I can see why she would feel that way, sitting there in her wheel chair halfway paralysed with a diaper on. If you need to tell your wife how beautiful she is, how much you love her and hold her tight. Just do it now! Don't wait until it's too late!

Monday, February 15, 2010

I don't do pooh

I have to start someplace so "I don't do pooh" seems a place to start. This blog is supposed to be about caring for my mom but really it's about what I've learned in the last few years about elderly people and the way things are toward the end of their life, for them and for those who love and care for them. " I don't do pooh!" I yelled these words while standing there holding my dad's coveralls out as far away from me as possible in the middle of his yard with a water hose, hosing them down after a "pooh" incident. My dad died last year of Luekemia. He was a wonderful father and a minister. The best father any girl could ever be blessed with. He was almost to the end of his life at the time of the pooh incident, ravaged by the cancer treatments at his age, standing there nude and as skinny as a man can get. It surprised me that he could even stand being so exposed because he had always been so very modest in his healthier days. He was not the kind of guy that walked around at home in undies or without a shirt on. I like to run around my house nude now days because while growing up, he was always telling me to "go and put some clothes on." As most preacher's daughter's, I dismiss all personality disorders or rebellous behavior on the fact that I was raised in a fish bowl. At the time of the pooh incident, I didn't live near my parents. I was just visiting and taking care of Dad for a few days We decided to go see my mother. She had been in a nursing home in the small town of Rayville Louisiana for 2 years. She suffered a stroke and needed 24 hour nursing care. Dad couldn't care for her in his condition but went to see her everyday. This particular day, dad wanted to stop and eat chicken at Popeyes on the way.This is the last time Dad ever took me out to eat. He took me out to eat every year on a date for my birthday until I got married. This was not my birthday but I knew what he was thinking. Let's face it, we both knew there just were not going to be any more birthday dates. I wish I could say this ended better but as it happened, he didn't quite make it to the bathroom in time. So that's the story, my father skinny as a rail being undressed by his squeemish daughter "Dad if you are going to be doing this, you are going to have to wear a diaper! I don't do pooh!"