Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Bumpy Ride off the Bed

Summertime keeps finding me in trouble: a bike wreck, carrageenan poisoning, a badly stubbed toe, and mineral deficiency. Now it seems to be my mom's turn.

Saturday, I took her to the emergency room because she was having so much pain in her lower back. Since she's disabled, they called a paramedic to help her on to the stretcher, and she remarked how much she liked big, strong men like him. Hey, she's eighty-four, not ninety-four. Since she'd just had several x-rays of her back a few days before that showed nothing was broken, the doctor gave her some pain medication and sent her home.

The pain medication made her woozy. This morning, she lost her balance and fell into her wheelchair while getting out of bed. Dad wouldn't call 911 (he has dementia, and even in better days, he wasn't one to overwhelm you with help). Luckily, mom called 911 herself.

Having called for help some 30 times in the past three months, my parents are personae non gratae with the fire department. The captain himself called me and my brother to say they couldn't keep doing this.

This message and another from my sister-in-law were waiting for me when I got to work. I arranged for someone else to take over for me and went to my parents' house. Their case manager called and said she'd look for a Medicaid-pending nursing care facility for my father if I could get some verification that the application was in the system. After 35 minutes on hold, an employee with the State of Colorado agreed to expedite the paperwork to go through in 72 hours.

The nurse from the emergency center called and I asked her if they could change Mom's pain medication. She became dizzy taking cyclobenzoate, but felt good on valium the last time she was there. She had the same reaction I did when I had valium: she was in pain, but she didn't care. The nurse got the prescription changed.

After my brother and sister-in-law arrived, we discussed what to do in the meantime. I asked if their son would like to live with Mom and Dad. My nephew's roommate had Tourette's Syndrome and diabetes that sounded like it was wildly out of control. He threw all his own mail on the floor and put fresh eggs in with the old ones so that you broke an egg, you never knew if you'd get ingredients for an omelette or a stink bomb. While Dad has some dementia and Mom gets confused sometimes, they're not lunatics. My nephew also had to get around on the bus in a far-flung suburb; at my parents' house, he could use their car. So he and his dog moved into my parents' house today--something I've wanted to happen for a long time. He's strong enough to physically help my parents and he can be there most of the time. My sister-in-law and I moved boxes and boxes of clutter out of my old room, I charged the battery on the car, showed my nephew how to air up the tires and loaned him my jumper cables just in case the battery doesn't hold the charge.

My parents' caregiver will come over evenings to help put my father to bed since my nephew works afternoons and evenings.

Mom is in a lot of pain--she has a swollen black eye and bruises on her torso. She wanted to stay at the hospital. It's painful for her to chew anything and she probably can't cook for awhile. I got her some broccoli cheese soup, chicken salad and Atkins dinners and Atkins bars (which the store kept next to the tampons). It wasn't easy finding pre-made, low-carb food.

My father should go to a nursing home even though he doesn't want to since my mother can't take care of him and the fire department can't keep picking him up every few days. Anyone who thinks that putting someone in a nursing home is cruel and people should be cared for at home can come on over and help with this mess: helping him dress, bathe, use the bathroom, stop him from wandering outside and letting the dogs into the street, and keeping the door and windows closed to avoid $400 heating bills in the winter. To spend more than a few hours a day with my parents, I'd have to quit my job, sell my house and move in with them. (If I quit a good job, where do I get money for my old age?) Getting to their house from my job takes 90 minutes through rush-hour traffic. They don't live close to downtown, the Denver Tech Center or anywhere else I could get a good job--they're out in the suburban boonies without even a bus stop or a light rail station nearby. My efforts some years ago to get them to move closer to my house and job--a move that would have netted them $100,000 in cash, a far lower cost of living, a house with less maintenance, ability to get around without driving, and proximity to two hospitals and a gazillion doctors--met with a stone wall. They wanted to stay in their house, end of sentence, end of paragraph.

So I do the best I can with an employer who needs my services and parents who need my help, and I'm grateful to my brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and my parents' caregiver, neighbor and fire department for their help. I don't hear anybody in the middle of this situation or others like it insisting that people should never go to a nursing home.


horfilmania said...

Lori: I went through the same thing with Mother (thank god there was just the one parent left). My siblings and I were fortunate that one of us lived with her and we wanted her to stay in her own home for as long as possible. Luckily she didn't kill herself or anyone else before the authorities took it out of our hands and wouldn't send her home (after several hospital visits) but waited for a nursing home room. She spent two months in hospital.

I can't see why anyone would blame anyone for sending their parents to a nursing home when it was time. Don't expect the parents to know when such a time is the right one. They are the last people to admit they belong there.

Hope things go well for you from now on. It's time to let go and get your parents placed where they can be well looked after, unless you want to quit your job and do so.

Galina L. said...

I told my mom about your post and the situation with your parents because she is straggling to help her partner of last 20 years who had a stroke one year and three month ago, and his health is on a rapid decline. He refused not long ago several arrangements which would save him from some of the suffering now and would make my mom's life way easier, and she is 77 herself. The old guy lives with his son, who had been seriously slacking till now because my mom was wearing herself out. I just interrupted that cosy arrangement, and with my mom declaring she couldn't continue, they started the necessary moves, but it is a different country, and everything is very time consuming and not efficient like going to different parts of town to different offices to collect and fill forms, sitting in lines etc. The son is doing it since my mom can't because she is not a relative. She is very tired now, and visits only once a week.

People just can't believe how sick and weak they may be eventually.

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Horf. No, I can't quit my job and my mother wouldn't want me to. My father, at least, will be going--my mother has power of attorney and knows he needs to go.

There are people who think parents and grandparents should be looked after at home no matter what. I'm sure they've never had to deal with such a situation, or can't imagine someone else being unable to quit their job and move to do so.

Lori Miller said...

Galina, I'm glad the son finally took some pressure off your mother. I wish your mother and her partner well and hope they can still see each other after he moves.

Galina L. said...

Thank you, Lori. My mom arranged he will go to the place 10 minutes walk away from her home in order to see him often, but necessary formalities will take time. Probably, my position sounded like a very dishearted one, but I have only one mother who lives very far away (and who also doesn't want to move into a different environment) , and she was obviously relieved not to continue such hard job, but couldn't bring herself to quit.

Lori Miller said...

No, it sounds like it's turned out well, even if the son has to deal with a lot of red tape.

tess said...

Keeping sick older people at home WAS a great idea back in the day when a large proportion of the population was rural or semi-rural -- the whole family "worked from home"! These days, with most people in sprawling cities, no servants, and working women being the norm, it's just not feasible -- only fools will cast aspersions!

Lori Miller said...

That lifestyle has been gone for most of us for decades. (BTW, who took care of the servants' ailing relatives?)

That was some anniversary for my parents!

Lowcarb team member said...

Oh Lori what a way to spend your parents anniversary day .....what should be a day of celebration, happy memories.

We never know what the future holds and perhaps that is good. It is so important to live life to the full, enjoy special times and make and share good memories.

My mother had dementia in her last years. My father was amazing and looked after her so well with the help of family living close by.

My thoughts are with you all.

Take Care,

All the best Jan

Lori Miller said...

Yes--gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

I hope you had a happy anniversary!