Friday, June 22, 2012

The Cat Bites Again......

Thursday, June 21st: I'm writing this after two stressful days at the hospital.  My mother's cat bit her again (the 3rd time in about 6 weeks!) on Sunday night.  On Monday night Mama was up and down through the night.....not obviously incoherent but rummaging through the closet, moving furniture, changing pajamas and becoming more animated and agitated as time passed.  She got up early the next morning (shortly after I got up) and came into the den and said she felt terrible and had a tightening in her chest.  We immediately got dressed and went to the ER.  We got there around 9AM and they hooked her up to the heart monitoring machine and began looking at the cat bite, which had spread from her wrist to her elbow overnight.   They marked it to check for continued growth and, sure enough, before we left the ER it had spread even more.  They admitted her to the hospital but, because there were no rooms available, we had to wait in the ER until 4PM before being taken to a room.

Once in a room, they began pumping her full of antibiotics.  Shortly after dinner, she feel asleep and rested well, even going back to sleep after being awakened periodically for medication and vital sign checks.  The next morning she looked more rested and had better color.  She ate a good breakfast and wanted to bathe, which I helped her do.  Though very weak and tired, she was then ready to go home.  As the day progressed, it looked less and less like that would happen but around 4PM a doctor (her doc was on vacation) came in and said she heard my mother was eager to fly the coop.  She prescribed more antibiotics to be taken at home and began the process to discharge her.  We were home by 6PM Wednesday night, though I still had to get the antibiotic prescription filled and run a few other errands.

Mama in her 4-wheel walker.
Needless to say, we were both happy to be at home and in our own bed's.  Mama went to bed as soon as we got home and had a bite to eat.  I was up later, but when I went to bed I was out like a light - until awakened at 4:05AM by the security alarm going off.  I reset it and responded to the accompanying call from the security company.  I was concerned that it had beeped - it was not the full alarm going off, just a steady beep.  I assume that after a specified time it would have been the full, hair-raising alarm.  Anyway, I was too sleepy and tired to give it much thought and headed back to bed.  Again, I was in a deep sleep until receiving a phone call at 7:30, which told me it was time to get up.

Thursday morning proceeded normally until I went in to check on Mama before going out for my walk,  She was just getting out of bed and told me about walking all around the neighborhood last night!  I told her that it was probably a dream (due to her illness, medication, etc.), but she said she remembered going out the front door and going to a big house, etc.  It was then that I realized that she really was up and walking around....and probably activated the alarm if she tried to open the front door.  As the alarm beeped, I remembered hearing her mumble something, which I thought came from her bedroom.......but it could just as easily have come from the front hall.  That little episode made me glad that I opted to have the security system installed.  It now serves several purposes!

The night before Mama went to the ER, my concern for her night wanderings grew.  I can care for her during the day...or during the night, but I can't be awake and alert both day and night.  While this type of thing is now only happening when her health is greatly compromised, I would expect it to become more of a pattern as her health becomes more fragile.  That means that it is rapidly becoming  more than I can manage.  So, once she was admitted to the hospital, I asked to speak to the social worker PRIVATELY;  but, as luck would have it, she came to my mother's room when I was at home feeding the cats and showering.  She then came back and began talking about at-home therapy or skilled nursing care, the latter of which put my mother on guard.  I really wanted to talk to the social worker privately to explain the situation and ask about resources, options, etc. ...... for my own knowledge and benefit.  While I really didn't have the opportunity for that, I do have her email and phone number and I hope to contact her soon.

Local Farmbag
Update - Friday, June 22nd:  Monday before all of this happened, we spent the afternoon with a follow-up doctor's appointment for my mother's shoulder (from a fall several weeks ago).  Since it had not improved over the two weeks of taking anti-inflammatory meds, they sent us right next door for x-rays and a scan of her head (since she said it continued to "feel bad" and she had the hemorrhage in her eye).  It was there that I checked her cat bite again and saw that it had increased in size, with the meaty part of her thumb looking like a chicken leg and thigh!  We went right back to the doctor's office, and she only looked at it, put something on it and a added a band-aid!  I even said, "No antibiotic?"  Two weeks earlier we had been there for the same thing, only to a lesser degree, and she prescribed an antibiotic.   This looked much worse and nothing was prescribed?!  Anyway, after our second visit with the doctor, we had the x-rays and scan, and then we went around the block and got her a little four wheel walker.  The amazing things was that we did all of that in two hours!!  That made my day!

Thursday, our first full day back at home, was busier than we anticipated - our plan was to do nothing and recover for the previous two days..  I was able to do my walk, though I did it in two parts.  It was also the first time for my "local farmbag" delivery.  I've joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and each week I'll get a bag of fresh, mostly organic produce.  I'd debated doing this for a long time and then the owners spoke to our Eating without Meat group.  They brought some of their produce and prepared a corn salad, made from uncooked corn cut straight from the cob.  It was so tender and nice.....yum!  Today we got zucchini, yellow squash, jalapeno peppers, peas in the shell, okra, cherry tomatoes, and watermelon.......and that was the small bag.  Each week there will be something different, which is kind of nice and challenging (like I need more challenges).  Anyway, after it arrived in the morning, we cooked.  Mama shelled the peas and cut up the gave us something to do together and something that she could manage.  It was a nice day.

Today, however, it all hit us!  My energy level was zero.  There were only two things I wanted to accomplish and it felt like it took all day.  My mother also hit a low ebb and was very depressed, fearful and teary all day.  When she awaken this morning, she thought someone was visiting and wanted to know where they had gone.  That disorientation scares me, though it seemed to clear quickly (or she's smart enough to hide it!).  Anyway, it was a down day all the way around......and those are so hard to get through.  I try to tell myself that it had to hit us and tomorrow (her 91st birthday) will be a better day.  Here's hoping!

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Our time in North Carolina was busy and so was the week following.  Once there, we called  my cousin Bill, who lives in Charlotte, and he and his wife Betty came by and took us out to lunch on Friday.  They are so good to keep tabs on us and it was good to catch up in person.

The family gathering was on Saturday and, again, it was good to see everyone.  On Sunday we went to church and my mother was welcomed with open arms.  The thing I was most appreciative of was that everyone (both relatives and friends) was encouraging of Mama doing what she "needed" to do, which was be with me rather than on her own.  One lady at church, when my mother did the "she's been away all of her life" routine, said she should be thankful I'm here now when she needs me. So, I feel like there was a lot of support for the adjustment she's going through and it was done in a loving, positive way......and better received coming from someone else rather than me.

She had one minor meltdown on Saturday evening.  She went through the back bedrooms and opened every drawer, taking out some of the nice pajamas she's had for years and saying with a tone of sadness, "I never wore these."  By the time she went to bed, she was in tears and I consoled her as best I could....but everything is inadequate in moments like that.

I think the difficult part of being elderly and facing the inevitable is the degree of acceptance that is required.  It seems like every day there is something impossibly difficult to accept......vanity is the first to go and then there is an ongoing list of physical failings.  One of the most recent for my mother is her sight.  When she fell in the yard it caused her remaining good eye to hemorrhage badly.  Almost instantly her vision went from 20/60 to 20/200.  She has handled it better than I would have expected, but that single factor has made everything infinitely more difficult.  She is to the point that everything she wants to do is a physical struggle.  The smallest thing requires all the energy she has....and it's so hard to see.  But, she doesn't stop and I admire the courage she musters.  It's just a difficult time for her and for me.

I've had my acceptance challenges, too......the biggest of which is that there is nothing I can do to change the trajectory of this story....we all know how it ends.  I've accepted that I can't be responsible for her happiness, nor can I change the past. I can only be me and do the best that I can.  Life is good......but it's hard!

With all of that said, we've had some nice moments since being back.  She seems more reconciled to being here and we've had some easy, comfortable moments doing ordinary things.  We vowed to come back and rest but, once here, we cooked, cleaned house, changed beds, did laundry, cleaned floors, etc.  It was like a purge!  By Wednesday we were both wrecked.

My outlet for the week was to attend my "Eating without Meat" group.  It has been months since I'd attended and in my absence it has grown so there were new people to meet and lots of delicious food to sample.  I took a sweet potato pie.  I ran across the recipe early in the week and did a "test sample", which we loved.  It turned out to be the hit of the gathering.....people even came over to our table to ask about it.....who knew so many people like sweet potato pie!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Off to NC tomorrow...

We're off to NC tomorrow....or at least we hope!  This time it's without the drama of our last attempt.  I told my mother that I would take her home but she needed to know that it was against my best judgement and against the advice of two of her doctors.  Once she got what she wanted, she became tearful and fearful.  I told her I thought all of the emotion was because she knew deep inside that she wasn't up to staying by herself.  Whenever she brought it up, I didn't argue...I just reminded her that she knew where I and her doctors stood, and that I would need to know what she wanted to do by today so we would know what to pack, how to prepare the kitties, etc.  When I asked this morning, she said she would come back with me!  It would be nice if that settled the issue and moved us one step forward, but.....

This week has been a good example of how things just snowball.  When I was out on my walk last Wednesday, Mama took her kitty Smokey for a walk in the yard.  In trying to keep him rounded up, she fell.  There was no bruising or swelling, but she fell on her weak side and kept complaining about it.  So, Monday morning I made an appointment for her to be checked out by her doctor that afternoon, which resulted in an anti-inflammatory.  Then Tuesday we had to take her little kitty to the vet.....he has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (and her other kitty is old and requires regular medication).  Then, since seeing her doctor on Monday, she's been complaining that her vision has suddenly gotten worse (even worse that the 20/200 - in the last 6 months it has gone from 20/60 to 20/200 in her "good eye").  So, today I made that appointment and they were able to see us at 3:30.  It was hemorrhaging and he laser-ed it.  In the meantime, we've been doing all of the usual thing and trying to prepare to go to NC!  Never a dull moment!

In any case, since my last post and the awareness that my blood pressure was higher than my mothers, I've given myself a good talking to and am being more consciously mindful of what is happening and how I react to it.  My doctor asked me to keep track of my BP daily, but I've actually been doing it three times a day and using it kind of like biofeedback....and it's really helping to keep me focused and calm.  I've also given up evening vino and practiced deep breathing when I feel myself becoming tense.  I'm trying to be aware and realistic about what I can do and what I can't, what I can affect and what I can't.  And, I've determined to have more time with friends, guilt-free!  So, I am making some progress and generally feeling less overwhelmed.

In addition to that "personal work", I've done the following:
  • We've found a farmer's market that is close to home and easy for my mother to navigate (parking is close, not a lot of walking, etc.).  We're getting to know the vendors (local farmers) and enjoying the good, fresh produce and the chit-chat.
  • Pamela and I had an afternoon out that finally felt like a "great escape".  We went into Savannah and bought Elton John tickets (September) and found one of only two Indian restaurants in the area.  We got to the restaurant mid-afternoon so we were pretty much the only ones there.  We struck up a conversation with the waiter, who was from Venezuela, and another worker there who was from Goa, India (which I've visited and have fond memories - of Allan being the hotel Santa!).  It really was one of those random conversations that was lots of fun....and it was great to have Indian food.  It wasn't the best I've had, but it was there and available! We ended our afternoon with a browse through Macy's. 
  • We/I dug up three horrible bushes in my front yard....another project to interest my mother.  In the process, I did something to my finger.  It swelled and turned purple and looked terrible.  The interesting thing is that I have no idea what I did or when I did it.  I never even noticed it until I'd come inside, showered, rolled my mother's hair, etc.  I guess when it swelled tight enough to be uncomfortable, I finally noticed it!  I iced it and kept going.  As far as the bushes go, we've done nothing to replace them at this point.  That will be our next project when we get back from NC.
  • There was one day when I socialize with two friends.  My neighbor Denise (recent brain surgery) told me just to ring her bell and stop I did one morning as I was starting my walk.  The minute she answered the door, she seemed more energetic.....and said if I could wait for her to put on her shoes, she'd join me.  That was a perfect way for us to catch up and I enjoyed the morning.  Later that day, Pamela called to say she was going to be out  my way, could we get together for coffee or something.  So, we met up at Starbuck's for coffee and a nice chat.  AND, we didn't spent the whole time talking about our mothers.....we talked politics, too!!  It's so good to have a liberal friend nearby.
  • We also enjoyed watching the Queen's Jubilee.  It reminded me of how long it's been since I've been to the UK....and I wish I could see it (and everyone!) again.  In any case, the pomp and pageantry of the celebration were spectacular and it was great to see.  No one does it better.  I've seen the Queen, you know - years ago, when we were all much younger, they sailed into San Diego harbor on the Britannia, which is no longer is service.  My roommate Bill and I went down to see their little ship and then went to the church where the Queen and Prince Phillip were attending services.  We waited outside, along with a small group of people, to watch and cheer them as they came out of the church and departed.  At that point in our lives, we were all probably too naive to think that anyone would be celebrating a Diamond Jubilee!  My! How time flies!
  • Last night I caught up with my Living Liberally/Drinking Liberally group again.  Pamela joined us and brought a friend, who happened to be someone I knew from the synagogue, so it was like old home week.  It was also nice to touch bases with some of the regulars whom I hadn't seen in a while.
That pretty well catches you up with me.  What have you been up to?  If I haven't heard from you lately, please drop me an email and let me know what's been happening with you.

I want to leave you with a little political humor.  Some of it is "old news" thatI intended to include in previous posts.....but I kept forgetting.  So, here goes.