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The New Reality

January, 2009

The doctor at Hillcrest upped her anti-depressant and added an anti-psychotic medication for the "agitation". It makes a huge difference. She's actually rather pleasant to be around now [sometimes]. Although it didn't change the filter, or lack thereof, situation.

Case in point:
We have to go back to the orthopedic doctor that Kay and I took her to last month. After an hour, we get in for our 5 minutes with the actual doctor.
Making conversation he asks Mom, "Wasn't there another daughter here with you last time?"
To which she replies, "The pretty one?"
My fairly decent self esteem is sure getting the shit kicked out of it.

She seems to be adjusting to the new place fairly well, she's actually taking all her meds - because they administer them.
But Mookie isn't. He's still peeing (dammit!) and now has taken up barking whenever she leaves the room. He never, ever used to bark. Poor old dog.

While I'm on the subject of doctor visits, how annoying is it to wait an hour for an appointment - why even call it an appointment?! That implies a time keeping device somewhere.
I've done my part, I'm on time, usually early and still we wait for an hour! And then see the doctor - not the nurse, or x-ray tech, or the pre-doctor (they do that at Duke - send in a teaser pre-doctor doctor.) for maybe five minutes. A ten minute appointment takes three freaking hours, when you add in travel time. UGH! It is so annoying and disrespectful. It's not like I don't have other things to do with my time - like WORK (to pay for my overpriced insurance). The health care system is broken.


Free at Last!

Sunday, December 21, 2009

Mom is moved in and has Mookie again! Whoo hoo!

How blissful it is to sleep with only cats again, who take up a tiny little bit of room - at the foot of the bed.
They're polite and charming bedfellows (once they get past the "we must disembowel the evil foot!" stage).
Quite unlike Mookie, who takes over the whole bed and snores and farts to boot. It's amazing just how much room a 23 lb dog can utilize.

Kay's leaving today, but Brad keeps saying she won't make it, it snowed something like a foot yesterday and they're expecting seven inches today. She keeps telling him to quit being so damn negative.
Southwest online says it's all good, they're leaving on time.
Even though she's checked in, we wait in line to double check that the plane is leaving.
Agent says it's all good.
The monitor says it's all good, on time...on time...on time...until three seconds after her luggage disappears. At which point it starts flashing delayed...delayed...delayed.
We get back in line and still the ticket agent insists it's leaving Durham on time and the delay is in Chicago, so we say goodbye at security and I head home.

I don't make it past Terminal C when I realize I have a SORE and I mean like strep throat sore - throat. It was instantaneous, like a switch flipped on - not sore - SORE. Crap.

I haven't been home five minutes when Kay calls to say her flight's been canceled until Wednesday morning. So back to RDU (only 10-15 minutes away). Thankfully they were able to pull her luggage off and get it to her.

Kay is nice to have around when you're sick. Generally I don't want to be around anyone when I'm sick, but she's just the right amount of attention. And she doesn't try to see if I have a fever like Mom would. I hate that - personal bubble invasion! She made really good grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, chicken noodle soup, and kept me hydrated.

We played our Nintendo DS's and chilled. Didn't go visit Mom; she thinks Kay already left, plus I've had about all the Mom visits I can handle right now, so being sick is an excellent excuse.

Jim volunteers (okay, Daphne volunteered Jim, but whatever) to take Kay to the airport Wednesday morning at 4:30 AM for her 6:30 flight. THANK YOU!

Later that morning, I take out the garbage - then find I'm locked out.
Kay, in order to protect me from all the axe murderers in my neighbourhood, had locked the doorknob. (I only use the deadbolt on that door)
She assumed
A.) I'm smarter than I am
B.) would realize that she would lock the door.

Thankfully I had put on a housecoat and slippers just before I took the garbage out.
It could have been so much worse.

After a couple of seconds of panic and a half-hearted attempt to see the humor in the situation (which only made me cough), I remember there's a car key hidden on my car and house keys in the car.
Two laps around the car: can't find it. It's a bit brisk this Christmas Eve day and I really wasn't prepared to be outside this long, now my hands are cold and muddy. Desperate lap number three coming up.
May have to expose neighbors to my sick-smelly-greasy-haired-no-make-up-unmatched-pajama-wearing self to call someone to bring me a key if I can't find it - WAIT! there is is. Whew! Alright, there's the key collection.
Oh nooooo...none of these keys go to my house. There's one to Sandy's, Daphne's, my mom's house in FL, and the cemetery gate, also in FL. WTF.
A cunning plan is formulated: drive 1.5 miles to Sandy's, get the key she has to my house and all will be well. I pray to God I don't get pulled over.

When I take the key back over a few days later, her boyfriend Donald says "I didn't recognize you without your pajamas." It was pretty funny, but laughing makes me cough for 20 minutes and pee my pants from coughing. (that actually lasts about 4-5 weeks)

Kay makes it home with no delays Christmas Eve. I was hoping she wouldn't get sick, but she ends up with bronchitis.

Merry freaking Christmas.


Bah Humbug!

December 10, 2008

Kay is back from Oregon to help me move Mom to assisted living. We have seven days to decide on a place, go through her stuff (again!), buy new furniture, put together said new furniture, move, and get rid of the old stuff. Add to that quite a bit of rainy weather, an old dog, and visiting Mom once a day and voila! good times.

I'm not a big fan of December. I hate Christmas and all it's fake cheery BS. I will spare you the soapbox on this, but suffice it to say, I'm glad when it's over for the year. My sister on the other hand, is a huge fan of Christmas, not the religious part, but the decorating, parties, presents part. Which is honest...oh wait I said no soapbox. Sorry.
So I do my best to Christmas up the guest room with a couple of things sent to me by Susan G. (her and Jesus share the same [alleged] "birthday", so they're close :-).
Kay in turn gives me a sheep that poops jelly beans - BAA Humbug! I love it.

The doctor said decisions are difficult to negotiate for someone with vascular dementia (or any kind). So the less there are the better - exactly the opposite of what we thought was best for her. She didn't participate at Emerald Pond because it was too overwhelming, it was safer to stay in her room. They need a schedule and less choice. Think small children; sometimes two choices is one too many.

So, using that as a guide, we decide on Wynwood, the assisted living facility close to my house. She can have Mookie; it's a smaller room, but she's on the ground floor, right across from the courtyard and just down the hall from her dining room. Instead of one big overwhelming dining room, they have several small ones on each floor, with four tables for four in each. Much less intimidating. There's a small living room space on each floor as well. And even I have to confess, it's decorated really well and it smells great. Very welcoming. The sales manager is great, sweet and helpful.

The day before Mom is released from Hillcrest, we have to take her to the orthopedic doctor over at Duke to check her compression fracture. This turns out to be a HUGE time suck on our moving time. Hours out of the last day we have to put together four pieces of furniture and we still have some piddly small stuff to move over. Ben and Allison helped a lot (Ben has a pick up), but now it's just us.
After the ten minute long part of actually being with the doctor, we're making her next appointment and Mom says she's going to go sit down. She was out of sight maybe a minute; when we walk out to the waiting area (which you can see from the appointment making area) - she's not in there! Holy crap, we've lost our mother in Duke Hospital! She's using a walker for Pete's sake - how fast can she go?! (Apparently fast enough.) We dash around and recruit others to dash around for several minutes, then poof - there she is wandering out from some office - eating candy and looking very pleased with herself. Oh. my. gosh.
We take her to lunch where Mom and I get in a wrestling match over a sugar packet. Funny now. Not so much then. My ever patient sister (Saint Kay) is horrified I'm making a big deal over Mom putting sugar in her iced tea. Well okay, it was a little controlling on my part. I'm thinking of it as payback.

Then, after dropping Mom off at Hillcrest, on the way to pick up another load of things from Emerald Pond we get a phone call from Wynwood to tell us the final pricing for Mom's rent. It's even more than I expected and I can't even speak, just start crying and hand the phone to Kay. Kay and I then proceed to have a melt down, our only one actually, which is amazing considering we're both stressed beyond belief. So we have a little cool down period where I sit in the car and set up Mom's cable service and she sits in the lobby of Emerald Pond. Meanwhile, Kay's boyfriend Brad back in Oregon is dealing with a spell of gout, a very sick horse (who ends up having to be put down), and the worst snowfall in ten years.


Another Move

Friday, December 5, 2008
Mom is getting discharged from Hillcrest on December 10. Dr. Williams says it would be best for her not to go back to Emerald Pond, so I have five days (really three business days) to find an assisted living place and move Mom in. He has emailed a many paged document with all the assisted living places in Orange and Durham counties which was a huge help.

I visit one place in northern Durham that depresses me in spite of it being very clean and having a friendly staff. It's $4000 a month for what's basically a private hospital room. It's also far from my house and she can't have the dog there. I have appointments with two other facilities, both nice, but one is a bit farther away and she'll have to deal with an elevator again. Not that she can't, but in the dog walking event, it will be helpful to be on the ground floor. The pros to this place is that she can have a larger room (= keeping more stuff) and it's a bit less expensive than the other place that's in the running.

Kay volunteers to come out [again] to help me, she's coming Dec. 10. I sure am glad she is. Someone tells me we can get a medical stay of one more week before Medicare stops paying for the room - a huge reprieve.

I want to pick the best place for Mom, not what's more convenient for me, but I'm happy Kay likes the same place I like; it's close to me, her room will be on the ground floor, small dining rooms right down the hall, across the hall - a courtyard where she can take Mookie out. The cons: only one room and it's more expensive than the larger place.

The amount of money we've spent in the last six months is staggering. Moving up to NC, paying a mortgage and upkeep on a house [that will not sell] in FL, paying off all her credit cards, Tracy, her apartment here, $100 doctor visits, medical co-pays - it is overwhelming and depressing. She's about $1000 a month short. Now we need to buy different furniture because her old stuff is too big for her new place. Even more money...

Kay and I winnow down Mom's stuff one more time. We are surgical and calculating in our winnowing. If we don't recognize anyone in the photos - out it goes. Grandchildren of friends from 30 years ago - you don't go. School pictures of fifth cousins twice removed - it's the trash for you. Photos of craft projects friends have made, the birds in their yard, pictures of their roses - bye bye now. We throw away two garbage bags (the big 30 gallon ones) of photos.
Mom has DVD's and VHS tapes of the same movie - out go the VHS tapes. Out go the slippery pajamas, all the cans of pineapple that moved up here from FL (sorry Susan! All your packing out the window), the boxes of Jell-O. The bed, dresser, and night tables (all in the massive 1970's Mediterranean style) go to a friend of Ben's. Couch, lamps, bedding and other things get donated to TROSA.

We can't move in until the 16th, so Mom stays at Hillcrest one more night, which will be on her bill (more money!). We buy a day bed to serve as couch and bed, a TV stand with drawers, and a new dresser. She keeps her coffee table (has great storage), TV and knick knacks. We spend late nights putting together furniture. The TV stand is particularly disappointing, we get it put together 3/4's of the way to find there are holes not drilled and pieces missing.


Cats and Dogs

My theory: extroverts prefer dogs, because both dogs and extroverts are pack animals. (I mean that in the nicest possible way - really. Some of my best friends are extroverts.) Introverts prefer cats (we channel Greta Garbo and her "I vant to be [let] alone.").

Call me the crazy cat lady if you want, but if forced to make a choice between either dogs or cats only for the rest of my life, cats win paws down. My best friend when I was three = a Maine Coon named Fluffy. Wished on a star or blew out candles on a birthday cake = a cat.

I've tried the dog thing several times, much to the amusement of my dear friend Linda (an anomaly to my theory, being an introverted dog lover). She's always prepared to do an intervention should I get confused about my true calling.
But I've finally discovered that I only like the romance of a dog. It's rather like wanting a boyfriend/husband. It sounds good in theory, fun even - someone to go places with, hang out, be your best friend. But the reality turns out to be much more smelly, annoying, and labor intensive than you ever reckoned.

Now, because of my mother's injury and hospitalization, into the middle of my three cat household (two of which were traumatized in my aforementioned vain attempts at dog ownership), I have to insert an almost eleven year old, partially sighted, babyfied Boston Terrier.

Lillie and Oscar are horrified by this breech in their insular feline world and retreat, hissing all the way, to counter tops for the duration.

Finn is pretty sure there is fun to had with this funky new creature. Especially when he notices Mookie gets in trouble for chasing him (he is a very smart cat).

Then it's Game ON!

The Diagnosis

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mom's been in Duke since Sunday night and now they're transferring her to a convalescent hospital for physical therapy. I have to pick three choices and turn again to my geriatric source guru, Barbara D., who recommends Hillcrest as choice #1. Hillcrest it turns out, is a locally owned convalescent hospital, the administrator is the grandson of the woman who started it in the 50's. It's an older building, but charming, clean, and fairly close by.

Everyone at Hillcrest is wonderful, from the Admissions Director, Daniel, to each of the nurses. Mom gets the best roommate, Miss Shelby, who is a hoot! (FYI, in the south, instead of calling people Mrs. [insert last name here], they add Miss to your first name. I like it, it's respectful without being formal.)
Her and Mom are the same age and both are doting dog owners. She broke her leg when she fell off a stool while changing a light bulb by herself, was healing and on crutches, then broke an arm and [the same] leg during a fire drill at a hotel. Her entire family is as sweet as they can be and make sure to include Mom in just about everything. Her grandchildren make Mom cards, and her daughter makes Mom a lovely tote basket embroidered with her initial. Mookie gets to come visit any time; he snuggles in to sleep in the bed with Mom and I can go to Whole Foods across the street.

Mom has to wear a corset type brace for her back and is using a walker, more for stability than anything else. The corset they gave her in the emergency room has never worked quite right, kept riding up her torso. The one they give her in Hillcrest seems to work better.

While she's in here I ask if a psychological evaluation can be set up for Mom. We want to know if her behavior, which has become increasing erratic, is normal for her having had strokes or if it's something else.

Earlier in the month, before she fell, Tracy called me saying Mom had cut herself. Mom told Tracy she did it on purpose, then got angry when Tracy took off the band aid and told Mom to wash it to make sure it didn't get infected. Mom put a band aid back on and then followed Tracy downstairs, very agitated, out into the lobby and was yelling at her in front of everyone.
Weird, weird, weird.

She's usually really good with Tracy and does what she says, but lately she's been telling Tracy it's none of her business when Tracy tries to get her to take her [oral] medicine. When asked, Mom says she did not say she cut herself on purpose and never told Tracy that. Obviously, I'm inclined to believe Tracy's version. I mean, she's said to me, "I'm so angry I could kill someone, maybe even you." OK then now. Time for a professional.

Doctor Williams calls me on December 4 and says that Mom has vascular dementia and that she is "no longer a candidate for living alone."

Watch That First Step!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The day started out perfectly normal. A lovely crisp fall day.
I volunteered at the animal shelter (with the cats naturally) and left my phone in my purse in the trunk as usual.
When I finish around noon, there are five messages on my phone, three from Tracy (Mom's insulin overseer) and two from the Emerald Pond managers.

Seems Mom fell around 9:30 AM. The first thing that comes to mind is that she's had another stroke.

Already I feel guilty, but don't know what about or why - how is this possible?! I take the wrong exit and have to drive halfway across Durham to correct it.

Mom's has a compression fracture in her back and is in a lot of pain even after painkillers; slips in and out of sleep. She says she was getting up to go to the bathroom and slipped off the edge of the bed. She does have on satin pj's and her bedspread is also slippery. She doesn't know what time it happened.

I'm there for about six hours, then leave to walk and feed Mookie and change out of my cat hair covered volunteer clothes. Allison has already kindly driven across town to feed my cats. When I came back, because you can only use the emergency valet once in a 24 hour period, I park in the garage on Trent St. (remember this) because this is the garage I am familiar with.

More hours of sitting, waiting, x-rays, questions, pain. It's a good fun time. Around 11 PM, two doctors come in and ask loads more questions; she knows the month, but not the year. She's only had diabetes for a little while. She always looks at me when they ask a question, like I'm supposed to give her the answer.
It's looking like they're about to release her, (OMG! NO! WHAT?! She's in so much pain still - are they kidding me? There's no way they can release her!), when her oxygen levels start to go down; they don't like that at all. A couple more x-rays and they determine she has fluid in her lungs and order her a room. Thank. You. Jesus.

I leave around midnight, ask if they have an escort service to the parking garage and am told there's a tunnel to the garage and given directions to said tunnel. I find tunnel and garage, but not my car.
I know exactly where it is: ground floor, third row down, second car on the left.

Except it's not there. Not there, or there, or there. No matter what third row I go down.
(Note to self - do NOT buy a white sedan ever again.)

I am a bit panicky now, and start to cry, but then try to bully myself into stopping. Who is crying in a garage by herself at 12:30 AM? A victim, that's who. So stop already. Can't. OK, then get out of garage.

And, by the way, in case you haven't guessed, I was in the wrong garage. I parked on Trent St. (remember?), several blocks down from Duke, not in the garage conveniently located across from Duke.

I go back into Duke and ask a lovely security guard named Michael if there's a safe ride to the garage. There is (why didn't the guy over in Emergency know about this?). He calls Safe Ride and I go outside into the brisk November night air to wait. I walk up to a van that people are getting on and am waved off with a curt "I'm not Safe Rides lady."

20 minutes later, still no safe ride. One of the doctors that was in Mom's room is leaving, goes with me back to lovely Michael, who calls again. Another 15 minutes go by. The van that waved me off before comes round again - now he takes pity on me and even though he isn't supposed to, (he's for giving doctors a ride to their vehicles), he takes me to the Trent St. lot.
There's my white sedan, ground floor, third row down, second car on the left. I have a little celebratory relief cry in the car. It's now close to 1:30 AM and I still have to get Mookie and all his stuff.