Saturday, July 19, 2014

Adventures in Eldercare

This week has found me at a beautiful assisted living home, at the emergency room, and then at a shady-looking storage unit on the outskirts of Longmont to meet a stranger.

First, though, the week started with my doing some housecleaning at my parents' place. I cleaned out magazines, catalogs, junk mail, and other old papers--some 15 trash bags full. I found a vacuum cleaner, a printer, a tub of cassettes, family photos, old hunting and fishing licenses, a letter of condolence from my grandparents on the death of my brother Marvin, a letter from someone telling my parents to "kiss the baby" (me), and a bunch of unpaid bills. My parents' assistant and I organized and boxed up a lot of the stuff to get it ready for an estate sale. The room we worked in is beginning to look like a room. Yes--this was all in one room. It's the worst room, but there are several more to go.

Monday, a woman who runs several assisted living homes came by, interviewed Dad, and took me to a lovely place in my parents' neighborhood. It's a regular house with half a dozen residents (mostly women), clean, spacious, and easy to get around in with a large deck out back and an orchard in the back yard. Heck, I'd go live there. I'm told it's not easy to find a place for a man if he wants to bunk with someone since it's mostly women who go to nursing homes. Nevertheless, they accepted my father and I put a down payment on a room and gave them their 30-page application.

Even though I disagree with my parents about their living situation, I've respected their wishes up until now. My father doesn't want to move (he doesn't want to go to an unfamiliar place), but his living in his home puts him in danger of falling (which he's done many times) and causes a hardship for me and my mother, who have to care for him. Monday and Tuesday, I was with him for 12 hours a day since my nephew works full time and has a long commute. Wednesday morning, my nephew called at 5AM asking how to stop the bleeding from a gash in Dad's arm, which he got from his second fall of the night. I told him to apply pressure and help Dad elevate his arm over his head, thinking he'd have taken him to the emergency room if it were serious. When I got there midday, he said, "I think Grandpa should go to the doctor." He added that he overslept, hadn't done anything on the list I'd given him the night before (including giving Dad his medications), didn't clean up the mess in the bathroom, didn't do the dishes, and had to leave for work right away. He supposed he should have set his alarm.

I spent the rest of the day first at Dad's primary physician, who cleaned up his wound and gave me a list of Dad's medications. I wrestled Dad's pills away from him the night before when he said it didn't matter which pills he took--and the visiting nurse didn't fill his pill boxes and I had no idea what to put in them. The doctor recommended Dad go to a nursing home and told me to take him to the emergency room for the bump on his head.

It was a busy day at the emergency room I'd taken Mom to a few days before: a construction worker hurt his arm, a stoic young guy had, as far as I could tell, hurt his knee, a young woman came in with a neck brace and a wheelchair, another woman was having an anxiety attack, an old man lay down on the chairs, and a couple of young women with a bunch of kids were there for reasons I couldn't discern. There were several more people I didn't pay any attention to. After some hours, a doctor and an assistant came to discuss Dad's reason for being there. I later told the doctor I had plans to move Dad to assisted living, but it would take a few days. Dad's head injury and cut on his arm weren't serious, but the doctor admitted him as an inpatient for an infection Dad had been treated for at home--god bless him.

At 6PM, after a day without a proper meal, the elephant took over. The elephant is the part of your brain that just wants to be warm, dry, fed, comfortable and happy. I got the nurse at the front desk to keep an eye on Dad, walked out in front of a moving car, drove to McDonald's, and ordered two burgers that the counter clerk suggested. I ate one, asked for a coffee and a bag for the other burger, left the coffee there, went home and changed into warmer clothes because it was cold and rainy, came back, grabbed the coffee and ate the other burger. Then I went to my mother's hospital room.

I think it was that day that my mother had dialysis. Despite treatment, her kidney function went downhill from the time she was admitted. As a result, she was so confused and incoherent that the doctor asked my permission to do dialysis to prevent permanent complications from the toxins in her body. I knew dialysis was a painful thing to go through, but said yes since I thought it might help her. After two rounds, she has improved so much that she's back to her old self and the hospital is making sure she's going to be ready for discharge.

The main concern was safety--her ability to get around. Friday night last week, Mom called me because her wheelchair was stalled. A burner on the stove was on and she couldn't get to it to shut it off. I came over, got her into her other wheelchair, and saw that she couldn't get through the room with the papers, cassettes, printer, vacuum cleaner, and other treasures. That's when I started cleaning it up.

This morning, a wheelchair repairman quoted me $125 to come out and diagnose the problem. Repairs would cost parts plus $85 per hour in labor. This, for a chair that's been through several repairs and that Mom complains hurts her back. I called a number on Craigslist for a chair that looked promising: never used, fairly small, and with a foot rest that wouldn't require Mom to lift her legs over a divider to transfer to a bed or chair. Great price, too. The guy sounded like a Frenchman, couldn't tell me the address of the place to meet him, but said it was at a storage place on Whatever Road in Longmont. I couldn't find any Whatever Road in Longmont on Google maps. He named a different storage place on another street at the end of the road. I was to call him from there.

Resources being limited, I bit. I drove north to oil well country to the outskirts of Longmont, past an abandoned factory to the storage place at the end of the road past some guys parked in the street. It was them. I followed them to another storage unit on Weaver Road (way-a-ver, with my brain supplying the T). The unit was neat and clean, the chair was just as described, and the guy let me use his phone to find a credit union branch nearby, since I wouldn't need someone with a truck to haul it--it would come apart and fit in my car. Nevertheless, I had to drive all the way to north Denver to make a withdrawal and come back. Even though the guy seemed pleasant enough, I drove back thinking, "I'm taking a wad of cash by myself to meet a stranger from Craigslist at a storage unit." Even so, I wasn't really worried: the guy didn't give me the creeps, and I'm easily creeped out by people.

The legwork, housework and paperwork has been a full-time job this week, but things are falling into place: Dad will have a place to go where he'll be taken care of, Mom has a new wheelchair at a great price, and the house will be ready to sell if we keep after the cleanup. I'm still doing Atkins, and so have little desire to snack--and great thing given how much I've had to do without time to stop for little meals every few hours.


Galina L. said...

The only thing to say - OMG! It is great you are strong enough to go thorough all that.

Lori Miller said...

It's been more work, but less of a nightmare, than I anticipated for some years.

I do better with snacks and smaller meals, but not *needing* them has been a big help.

Lowcarb team member said...

....and the sad, sad, part is that you are not the only one - you are not the only family going through this.

Keep strong.

My best thoughts are with you.

All the best Jan

Lori Miller said...

Indeed, almost everyone has to go through this at some point.

tess said...

our best wishes are with you, Lori! just think of the karma points you're scoring.... ;-)

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Tess. Glad you're back!

Larcana said...

Wow Lori, I really do feel your pain. I recently did a lot of this with my Mom and Dad. He passed and she's in total denial of her living arrangements. But my sisters and I are plodding through.
Feed yourself and take care of yourself. Best wishes.

Lori Miller said...

It sounds strange to say that I'm glad they're both in the hospital, but they're getting better care and I'm getting more done. Including enjoying normal meals.