Tag Archives: eldercare

Life lag

I got home from China a little over a week ago. Since I don’t work I don’t usually fuss about jet lag. I try to go to bed and get up at about the right times and not worry if I oversleep a bit or need a nap, after all sometimes that happens anyway. It takes a week to ten days to adjust.

I’d been home a few days when we got a call at 1:00 am that they had taken my grandmother to the hospital. It took over an hour of phone calls to find out where she was, which was a bit unnerving.  When I finally located her, I spoke with the nurse attending her and since she was sleeping stayed home until the next day.

I finally drifted off sometime after 3 and didn’t get going until after 9. The first sign that things were a bit amiss was seeing the blood on her carpet when I stopped to pick up a few things for her on my way to the hospital. There had been no mention of bleeding from the nurse who called me.

When I got to the hospital she looked awful, her left hand was severely swollen and bruised, seems the EMTs had botched a blood test and attempt at inserting an IV (at a guess they had dropped the sample resulting in the blood stain I saw). Also, the left side of her face was red blotches, more blotch than skin by a lot. The nurse, when I asked, said that Grandma had said it had been going on for some time, months. I said “no”. We had spent Wednesday evening with her and it wasn’t there then.  She hadn’t seen herself in the mirror and didn’t understand what they had been asking her about.

She looked awful, but the superficial wasn’t the real problem. She had coughed herself into atrial fibrillation. If you are my week ago naive self you don’t know what that means: In a nutshell the top valves of her heart aren’t playing nice with the bottom ones.

Because of her age, 95 years, and health history including a very bad reaction to one of the drugs they usually use to treat this and kidneys that are barely managing day- to-day life, the usual approaches needed modification. So we went from the nurse I spoke with on the phone the first night saying she was just being admitted for overnight observation, to “tomorrow”, “tomorrow”, “tomorrow”, “tomorrow”, “tomorrow”. She is finally home (at her nursing home) now.

While she is in the hospital I suffer from life lag. I have to drive over and be around to find out what I can. We have to arrange a wheelchair van to bring her back and it takes both of us, so when they keep saying “tomorrow”, we keep putting off our own life (vacuuming, grocery shopping, etc) so we are ready to bring her back.

It takes a week to ten days to get over jet lag; I wonder how long it will be until I feel like I’m over life lag, or if I’ll get over it before the next crisis: her heart isn’t really back to the old normal, and the coughing that popped it out of sync last time has been coming and going for years.

Have you ever had life lag? How did you cope? I feel like I need to have a strategy moving forward, because I fear this wasn’t our last rodeo.

“My thoughts are gray and white…and cloudy”

Yesterday was sunshine and relatively warm. I got my roses pruned. We went over and had dinner with Grandma, then watched a couple of episodes of an old British sit-com she likes together. She was coughing in a way that didn’t sound good, but she’s had a cough for a while, it is a side effect of some of her medications (she swears she doesn’t have side effects and speaks of how they haven’t fixed it for her, it has gotten better and worse, but she’s had the cough for years now). They’ve been doing tests and trying various remedies for a month or so.

This morning it was cloudy and the nurse called and said Grandma has a fever and they are doing tests to see if she has the flu or a bacterial infection of some sort. Of course, if it’s the flu we’ve been exposed…as has an elderly friend of mine who we saw last night at dinner time. It feels like the clouds looming on the horizon, and overhead. Nothing one can do, just wait to see if it’s going to dump on you.

I live with ambivalence. Things aren’t black or white. Sometimes they are dark, and sometimes bright, and sometimes both at once. My personality doesn’t handle this well: I am an engineer by training. We figure out what needs to be done then find a solution. Chronic health problems that come from an aging body aren’t things that can, for the most part, be solved. Occasionally there is something that can be fixed. and often those can be hard to determine among the chronic things.

You can’t stop over a little rain; “you won’t melt” as I was told time, and time, and time again by the adults who wanted us to go outside and give them a break, including my grandmother.

Just like life in Seattle, where you will do precious little if you let a little rain get in your way, I can’t let Grandma’s myriad health problems stop me from doing things. They have become more frequent of late, it seems like I am always needing to check in with the medical professionals about this or that these days. Last summer we came back from a long planned vacation to Grandma in the hospital and a VA documentation nightmare. At one point she said ” you can’t go away again”, but I need to. Emotionally I need, desperately, to not be waiting for her to die for me to live.

Life is messy, and I know that with all the good advice in the world I would drift away from the regular discipline of study and exercise without the incentive of a practical reason to do them. I’d somehow find something else precedence. Knowing that they are needed for my general health and peace of mind is not enough.

So we have three trips planned over the next six months: to visit our son in China this spring, walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall in North Cumbria in June and our annual visit to Mount Rainier in late July.

These plans help keep me grounded and healthy. I study a little Chinese every morning (push-ups for my brain) and, in addition to walking the dogs (often “sniff” is a more accurate description than “walk”), I am doing Walk at Home workouts several times a week to stay fit enough to enjoy the walking and hiking planned.

Meager Joy

KSM-20141223-Cookies-01If you are young and have never walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” with a loved one don’t read this. Live into the simple joys of Christmas. Let your stresses be finagling a smile in the Santa photo and finding a way to teach the next generation about joy. Smile, laugh, bake and eat cookies!!

My chosen title isn’t quite right. Joy isn’t a simple thing, it isn’t always jolly, true joy is hard in some ways. Just as true love isn’t lollipops, rainbows and roses on a sunny summer day: it gets deeper and stronger dealing with the adversities life throws at you.

A few days ago the Daily Prompt was Jolly. I wanted to do a post related to that, perhaps to have the illusion that I have some jolly joy in my life. But I didn’t get around to it. A common theme this year.

How can I describe the emotional turmoil, frustration, and weariness that are dominating this season of joy for me?…yet also convey that there is joy, even if it isn’t jolly.

I am blessed with “all I really need”, as the Raffi song says: a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family. Many blessings, including that my Grandmother is not just alive and kicking, but actively enjoying many things. Even so, her health is deteriorating. Her heart and kidneys are tired and strained, keeping the balance is becoming more and more difficult for her health care providers. Today I got a call from the nurse practitioner about her kidneys, she is getting close to “stage 4” Kidney disease.

Being a “modern girl” (although “girl” hearkens back to the song from my younger days not my age) I looked it up on the internet. It means “not good”.

This late summer to late fall (technically it is fall for almost another week) has had a lot of what I call “whammies”. There have been a couple this past week. It is hard for me to wrap words around them (which is why I haven’t been posting much). Most have been related to my grandmother: her deteriorating physical capabilities caused by worsening of the underlying health conditions, magnified by the often overwhelming amount of paperwork needed to provide her with care.

I am emotionally ambiguous right now, out of sync with “Joy to the world the lord is born”; my refrain doesn’t have the rhythm and rhyme in the right places (story of my life): “Seek joy in this world. But do what you have to do. Hold on to love, but take care of yourself too.”

Xmas_Card-R1

Never-the-less, it is important to make this time good, for others,  including a scared, ornery, old lady that I love very much, and for myself. I have to smile, laugh, bake and eat cookies…because it is the season of joy, and we are together now, no matter what the future holds.

Meager and Jolly