Remember, Mom

My mother is sick.  She is very sick, and it has consumed me.  She has always been a strong woman — emotionally and physically.   But this illness is taking its toll.   She will turn 84 years old this summer, and she is worried her health will affect her golf game!  Yes, that kind of strong.  She may fully recover and be able to play golf this summer — that is our goal, however, seeing her frail and weak makes me sad.   This is new territory for both of us.  I don’t want to be morbid, but it has been hard to watch her try_to_rememberface her mortality.   I see something in her eyes that has not been there before.  And it grieves me.

The physical illness is acute right now, and is wrecking havoc on her body.  My sibs and I are concerned about her heart and her lungs.  But something else is going on, something friends and even doctors haven’t noticed yet.  She can’t remember.

Mom has always loved to talk.  She commands a room.  And she frequently forgets what she has said to whom, and so repeats herself.  She may tell me something 5 times — or forget to tell me at all.   That is Mom; who she has always been.  But this is different.  She covers well, but I am with her often enough now, I know the truth.  I know the details of her life, the sequence of events.  She is confused.  She can’t remember.  And its scaring me.

I was raised in a family with 4 girls (and a boy), and I have four daughters of my own.  I know first-hand that mother-daughter relationships can be tricky.  My mom and I have always been on good terms.  No major upsets.  We have done fine.  But we have lacked some common ground and some depth to our relationship.  I have yearned for something more, and I have always kind of blamed her for the lack.  But something has happened lately.  Through doctor appointments, trips to the pharmacy, “pill box” dates, and frequent luncheons, Mom and I are together — a lot.  We’ve finally ventured beyond the weather and Fox News.  We’ve had some important talks.  We’ve talked about life:  her childhood, my Dad and us kids.  We’ve even talked about death.  I didn’t want to put extra worry on her (she has lost so much lately), but one conversation gently circled around her memory or lack thereof.  I prodded softly, wanting her to open up and share what she thought was happening.

My Gramma forgot too.  Not the alzheimer-kind of forget, but the “D” kind.  We aren’t really saying it yet.  Like if we don’t say the “D” word, it won’t happen.  We are just talking about remembering and forgetting for now.  There have been advances since Gramma walked this road.  And Mom is already 10 years older than her mother was when her memory failed.  I asked Mom permission to talk to the doctor about it at her next visit.  I said, ‘He can’t help if he doesn’t know’.

We’ve since had the appointment.  Yes.  There it is.  Now we know.  I already feel the loss.

We are just beginning our journey with this new diagnosis.   The meds haven’t kicked in yet.  She is still confused, but I feel hope that Mom can be helped … that we can ward off this disease for as long as possible.

Our roles are kind of reversed now.  I am watching over her.  I’m checking in and calling.  I am the caregiver.  I feel an urgency to know her.  To learn all I can.  I want to stop the clock.  This is how I have always felt about my children, but now…

There is a new depth to our relationship.   Has it been me all along?

Lord, I don’t know what the days ahead hold for my Mom.  But I know you have it under control.  Psalm 139: 16 says, “You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”   May we trust you fully each and every day.

 

Advertisements

The Pill Box

I need to head to Mom’s today.  Her pill box needs attention.  We had a little bump in the road last week.  The doctors have changed her meds several times over the last month.  I’ve taken away all pills that she no longer needs.  I don’t want her to take any by accident.

Her pill regiment had been the same for years, but last month, after she got really sick, the doctor stopped two of those meds.  He put her on a different regiment.   It was confusing — even to me.  As we sat there, figuring out the dosages and dropping them into her new pill box, I knew she wouldn’t “get it”.  So I took one of each of the two pills that were stopped and actually taped them onto her hospital discharge papers.  ‘See, Mom, these two pills — you are no longer taking them.  I am going to write that here underneath them’.  DOCTOR STOPPED THESE TWO MEDS — I TOOK THEM WITH ME and I signed my name.

The next morning, she called, ‘did you take some of my pills?  I can’t find them.  They are not here’.

Last week, after she was feeling short of breath for several days, we realized that she had set one prescription bottle up high in the  medicine cabinet, thinking she wasn’t suppose to be taking those pills.   I hadn’t filled the box that last time.  Things had settled down a bit.  She had been on the same pills for a couple weeks.    She told me she could do it — by doing it before the boxes got completely empty.  She would just follow suit.  Well, that didn’t work.  Lesson learned.

It’s hard to tell right now how much of this is forgetfulness or just not listening or the “confusion” .  I just know that I have to do the pill box.  It is important.  She is taking meds for three different “ailments”, two of them are life-threatening.

And I pray to God every day that the pills themselves cause no harm.

God, help me help her.  Amen

How About A New “doo”?

One of the challenging things with Mom right now is determining what ailment is causing what symptoms.  Her eyes are watering, her head feels “full”.  Is this the congestive heart failure?  Is it a side-effect of some med?  Or is it allergies?  She has always suffered from allergies, but the last couple of years have been a bit more severe.  She moved into an apartment just about that time.  We are wondering if she is allergic to something in her home.  Oh my, what a mess that will be…. another move?  Can her memory deal with all her belongings being in yet a another new closet, new cupboard?  Oh Dear God….

She wanted to take me out to lunch on Monday.  We ate at a local eatery, then made our weekly visit to the pharmacy.  Afterwards, I hated to take her home so soon.  The weather here has been bitter this winter, forcing her to stay inside most days.   We live in a small community — not much to do on a very cold winter day, but I suggested we stop by a hair salon.  “How about a new doo, Mom?”  It had been months — years maybe — since a stylist cut her hair.  Mom is kind of a “do it yourself” woman.   The plumbing below her 20140210_151529kitchen sink can attest to that!  Anyways, after a couple of stops, we found a salon that could take her immediately.   The young, heavily tatooed, fuchia-hair-colored beautician was the perfect fit for mom.  She was kind and gentle and very patient.  I took a few pictures, but I only feel comfortable, at this point, posting one.  Some day I may add the rest.  Look at that head — hardly a gray hair!  She has never colored it.  I think I have more gray hair than she does.  It was a fun, normal thing to do.  I love my Mom.

I have not noticed any major memory lapses this week.    However, I do think the pharmacy has decided it is their mission to test her.  I have asked them to text and call me now.  Let me deal with all that confusion.   Seriously, there is just a lot of communication with so many drugs involved.   I made that decision when they ran short of a couple of her meds and wanted to only fill half the bottles.  Good grief.

We’ve had a communication problem with the new cardiologist.  Some very important drug dosage info was left off the paperwork — and oh my — their paperwork is their gospel.  I can’t seem to get the nurse “hotline” to understand what actually transpired.  These are the kinds of things that drive me crazy.  But lessons are being learned.  I will never walk out of a doctor’s office again without the paperwork being accurate.

During one of our conversations this week, Mom mentioned my brother’s upcoming trip.

She remembered.

Not only did she remember he was leaving, but she remembered when he was going.  I said, ‘do you remember where he is going?’  Yes, she did….

That, my dear friend, is progress.  I am hopeful.

Lord, hope keeps us going.  Thank you for the little things that bring hope.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

You Look Familiar

Ok, so among all this turmoil, there has to be some humor.   I don’t want to make fun of or dishonor my Mom in any way, but this is kinda cute….   just part of the journey.

Two weeks ago, we were at the pharmacy yet again, waiting for prescriptions to be filled.   This was our second trip that week.  The place was busy… people standing and sitting everywhere, waiting for their meds.

I was in line; my Mom was sitting across the aisle from me, chatting with another elderly lady.  This lady was a stranger, so they were just talking about the weather and the busyness of the store.  Mom decided she needed a few other items so she got up and went to retrieve them.  A few minutes later she was back and sat down again.  She looked at this elderly woman, and said, ‘you look familiar; you were here the other night when I was waiting too’.   Seriously, I almost laughed out loud.   Oh Mom…. I didn’t say it, but no, Mom, she looks familiar because you were just talking to her 5 minutes ago.

But the icing on the cake was when the other elderly woman said, “I was?  hmm, I don’t remember being here the other night’.    Oh, God love ’em.

Lord, If I don’t find some humor on this path, I just might get swallowed up by my grief.  But I ask that you  help us to find joy and laughter together.    I don’t want laughter at her expense.  Bring joy into Mom’s life.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.  Proverbs 17:22

What Are Those Pills For?

I think I am seeing some improvement in Mom remembering details and the sequence of events.  Just little things here and there.   I don’t know if the new “memory” medicine is helping or if she is just recovering from being so sick in December, and things have settled back into a routine.

We had two doctor appointments today.  The first one was with her Cardiologist.  He was pleased with her progress.  Blood pressure, oxygen levels, pulse, and heart rate all passed with flying colors.  He declared her ‘stable’.  Yay!  In fact, he doesn’t need to see her for six months.  Good news.  Really good news, and we are feeling great when we leave and head to lunch.

Mom doesn’t want to eat.  She doesn’t even want to see a menu.  She just orders the soup of the day, not even caring what the “soup of the day” is.   She forces it down — no crackers, no bread.  This has been going on for a month now.  No appetite at all.  And bouts of diarrhea.  She has been elated with her weight loss, however, I am not.  Even though, yes, she could stand to lose a few pounds, I know her loss of appetite is not a good thing.

It is also while we are eating that Mom shows signs of the disease again.  I answer several questions 2 or 3 times each.  She has already forgotten that we have another doctor appointment today.  ‘Where are we going?’  And she tells me a story that I have already heard a dozen times.

Mixed emotions.  Oh, Mom….

I keep my grandchildren 2 days a week while my daughter works.  I love knowing them intimately and taking care of their needs.   I want to remember that these two care-giving relationships are not the same. I want to help nurture and train these sweet babies.  But with Mom, while I want to help and care for her, I don’t want to patronize her and “talk down” to her.  I want to respect her.  I want to keep learning from her … everything I can.  And I want to be patient and kind.  Please don’t let me be short with her.  Help me to listen intently to every story every time.

We get settled into the little cubicle at the Internist, and we wait …. and wait and wait and wait.  Argh.  When he finally arrives, he takes his time, and is sincerely interested — and it is hard to stay irritated.

And I am right; the loss of appetite and upset GI tract mean that she cannot stay on the new medicine.  We cannot trade one problem for a set of others.  He wants to try a patch instead.  It needs to be changed daily.  I cringed at that — I wish it was a monthly or even a weekly patch.   I am pondering that as he goes on…  ‘I think she should have a bone density test, a mammogram, blood work, physical therapy, a stress test and…’.  What? Huh? Oh, yes, of course.  It takes us way too long to “check out”, and as we leave, I have a stack of papers in my hand:  prescription, blood work forms, doctor appointment reminders.  And I am a bit overwhelmed, and I am no longer feeling “great”.

One day at a time.

I settle Mom back into her apartment.  I tell her I’m going to fix her pill box and take out all those little memory pills.  I also take the prescription bottle out of the medicine cabinet.  I tuck it into my purse as fleeting thoughts of taking them myself float across my brain…  helps with memory and weight loss…  hmm….

Mom brings me back to reality and says,  ‘what are those pills for?’  And I can’t help but smile.

Lord, I feel so inadequate to take care of her.   At times, it feels overwhelming — not that she is hard to take care of or difficult in any way — but the responsibility of it scares me sometimes.  What if she falls?  What if she has a heart attack while she is here?  What if?  Lord, protect her.  Give me wisdom and insight and discernment.

A Phone Call at 2 a.m.

It’s been a crazy week.  A solemn week.  A phone call at 2 a.m.   I’m half asleep, but I think I hear the last few chimes on my cell phone.  My first thought is:  Mom!  But no, it’s not Mom, and it takes me a few seconds to change gears.  But I hear my daughter’s fiance’ saying things like, ’emergency room, sedated, intubated’.  And I physically feel his words in every pore of my body.  As I try to make sense of what he is saying, I scribble as fast I can on the pad by the phone.  He hands the phone to the ER nurse and she relates, more calmly, exactly what I’ve already been told with the addition that they are transferring her to the “bigger, better” hospital.  The weight of that sinks in.

I wake her dad, as I start throwing things into an overnight bag.  Why does she have to live 5 hours away?!  Dear God…. Dear God…. Dear God….   I pray the whole way there.

The better hospital has her stable when I arrive.  No mother ever wants to see her child like this — tubes and wires everywhere.   So much equipment in the room.  A machine is breathing for her.  Her eyelids, face and neck are very swollen.   I run my fingers through her hair (she always loved that) stroking her and telling her, ‘you’re okay;  it’s going to be okay; I love you’.  At one point, later in the day, as I am holding her hand and whispering to her, she squeezes back. Thank you Lord Jesus.  Thank you.

Anaphylaxis.  I was barely familiar with the word.  A few more minutes and we would have lost her.  Severe, life threatening, allergic reaction.  To what?  We’re still not completely sure.   And that’s the scary part.  Dear God…

While at the hospital, over the last few days, I have touched base with Mom every day on the phone.  She is doing fine.  She sounds good.  I know my sister has been there to visit.  I’m not worried about her.

When I arrive home, the adrenaline has left my body (I’m great in a crisis), and I crash on the couch for a complete day.  I’m worried and sad and scared and…

On Monday, after checking in with Mom, I go shopping.  Enough said.  I just can’t be in this house doing normal things.  I have been thanking God constantly, but now I just need a distraction.

On Tuesday, I’m scheduled to pick my 8 year old granddaughter up from school.  I am “in charge” of her while her Mom and baby brother go to Riley Children’s Hospital for a somewhat minor consultation.  While waiting for the school children to be released, I call Mom.  It takes her quite awhile to answer the phone.  She says, ‘bathroom emergency’.  Evidently this has been going on for a few days.  “I’m not taking my meds anymore.  They are making me sick.  I can’t live this way.”   Sigh.   As I convince her that she must take her pills; she has no choice, I also allow her to remove the “memory” patch.  Throw it away.  Don’t put on another one.  Let’s wait a few days, and see if that helps.  She accepts this and says she’ll take her pills.  We talk for a few more minutes, and I am confident she understands.  Pills must be taken. 

I call the doctor’s office just to let them know what’s going on.  Since our last appointment, we have gone for blood work and had the scheduled mammogram.  I cancelled the stress test — the Cardiologist, after all, gave her a “stable” status and isn’t seeing her again for six months.  Let’s not fix what’s not broken right now.   We are awaiting more blood work, bone density, and physical therapy.  I think that’s all.

I need to check my notes.  Having a daughter get sick has muddled my brain.   My whole life was held in balance there for a few days.  I haven’t even processed what “take the memory patch off” entails….  I can’t think about it right now.

One day at a time.  One crisis at a time.

Mom, daughter, granddaughter…  I hug the 8 year old a little tighter; a little longer.

Lord, thank you.  I am so grateful….so very grateful.

The Days Need To Be Sweet

The whole saga about the memory patch seems like ancient history so much has happened this week.  I still don’t know if Mom took the patch off or not…. one phone call, yes; the next phone call, no.  It doesn’t even matter anymore.

Mom’s in the hospital — again.  Third time in as many months.  The nurses know her by name as her bed is wheeled into place.  She gained 20 pounds this week; all water.  I have called her every day, but I didn’t make it over there.  How can things change so quickly?  She gave no indication that she was retaining water.  The Cardiologist had just given her a stable report.  But here we go again….   Her heart won’t go out of AFIB….    And she is so confused; hard to hold a coherent conversation with her.  She is still trying to cover, and if I didn’t know the truth, she would be somewhat believable.  And that’s the hitch.  She isn’t doing well physically, and she is very confused — but tries to cover.  I don’t think she’ll be going back home alone.  I should have been better prepared.  We knew it would come to this, but it’s come much faster than we anticipated.

If she is sick, she’ll be willing to come here, but once she is a little better, she will be wanting to go home.   I don’t blame her.   It stinks.  Everyone wants to live in their own home.  So sad.

I need to get some books — I need to get educated on this.   I need to get prayed up!

God, please give us all the grace we need in the days ahead.   Help my siblings and I make these days loving and nurturing and sweet.  May my Mom feel loved and cherished.   We’re going to need your help.  And even as I write this, I feel a peace about it.  I know you will give all the grace we need to walk this road.  You have been faithful in the past … I can trust the days ahead to you.  And that is comforting.