Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wheelchairs and Dementia Oh My!

Mom keeps my life interesting!  J  Yesterday evening I received a call from the home.  The nurse, Mary, said that she found Mom sitting on the floor in the doorway to her apartment.  Actually, she saw legs on the floor and immediately thought, “That’s not good!”  Mom was sitting on the floor with her legs out in front of her.  She didn’t remember falling but you have to wonder how she got there.  As I’ve said before, it’s a good thing Mom bounces when she falls…

My husband and I visited today and found that hospice delivered a wheelchair and a commode.  Mom was sleeping in the living room rocking chair she sees as her own.
Although I know what hospice does, I wasn’t sure how the transition to hospice worked within the ALF.  While I left my husband with Mom, I took a walk out to see the nurse to ask.  Mary was on duty again and very helpful.  Initially, she explained, Mom would be encouraged to use the wheelchair.  They really would like her in it with her feet up but they don’t want to upset her.
I thought it might help if I encouraged Mom and Mary said it would be very helpful.  Thank goodness my husband was there!  He put the leg supports on for me and adjusted them for Mom once I got her in the chair.
With Mom on her new mobile throne, we spent the next hour taking her for a ride around the facility.  She liked it and especially her chauffer.  Steve’s a good driver!  J
Steve chauffeured her in 2010 and she enjoyed it again today.
During our walk, we stopped by to see Mary so I could ensure we had the wheelchair leg supports set properly.  While there, Mom’s caregiver this afternoon, Megan, told me that they had been trying to encourage Mom to use the chair but she would refuse and start walking.  They followed her with the wheelchair and she would finally sit down in it when she couldn’t walk any more.  She would then tell Megan, “Oh that feels so good!”  Unfortunately, she would soon forget, stand up and try to walk away from it.  It speaks to their concern for her but it’s really comical to envision them following Mom with the chair hoping she will sit!
I spent some time explaining to Mom that it was her new chair and that we really wanted her to keep her feet up.  She was so cute.  She looked at me and said, “I’ll have to learn that.”  That’s the problem with dementia and Alzheimer’s.  At a moment in time, they can say yes, but just a moment later it has left their mind.  They literally live in the moment.
I know how much Mom needs to use the wheelchair.  She has fallen twice in the last few days because her feet literally cannot hold her up.  She is dragging one leg so badly that the sole of her fairly new slipper already has a hole in it.  I have had to lift her from her chair, her bed, the toilet.  I can get her to her feet and she can stand but her steps are difficult, more difficult than ever.
As we were leaving, Mom had forgotten and was trying to figure out how to stand up.  I explained again that it was her new chair and why she needed it and Megan took over to keep her occupied.  I checked in after dinner and Mary said that Mom was still in the chair and doing fine.  I know there will be ups and downs but I pray God will watch over her as she “learns” this new habit.

Friday, September 20, 2013

You think you’re ready, but you’re not…

When I was 19 and nine months pregnant with my first child, my father-in-law (father of my first husband) died suddenly on the operating table at the age of 51.  No one was ready for that!  It was a very painful ordeal for everyone, even me although I had only known him for about a year.  My mother-in-law still had five children at home.  No one was ready…

When Daddy was traveling down that long Alzheimer’s road, I thought I was prepared for his passing.  Just before I turned 33, we were called to the home one night when it seemed Daddy wouldn’t make it through the night.  He did, and it was another month or so before we were called again.  I was handling it fine until he drew his last breath at the age of 71.  I so wanted my brothers to fix it!  They couldn’t, of course, and after spending the day with my siblings handling the needs of the time – preparing the obituary with the newspaper, helping Mom with the planning of the service, etc. – I went home and cried for four days straight.  I wrote the eulogy for the service and cried the entire time I was writing it.  To this day, 25 years later, I can start crying just because I hear a particular hymn or song.  I guess I really wasn’t ready.
Now we’ve been traveling down this long road with Mom.  There have been times when I thought the end was near and I even made the arrangements for her eventual passing, just so we wouldn’t have to come up with it at the last minute. 
Making those arrangements doesn’t really mean that you are ready though.  I talk a good talk about wanting her to be happy and comfortable – and I truly do!  When you come right down to it, even though she is 97 and even though she has dementia, I can bet I’ll be crying when the moment comes, wishing my big brothers could fix it!
Today was just another one of those times when I realize how I feel deep down, beyond reasonable thought.  I was with Mom today as a wonderful hospice doctor examined her.  Dr. T, a very kind and comforting woman, first found that Mom’s lymph nodes are enlarged, especially on the left side, and that is why her left foot is swelling.  Mom was perfectly compliant so the doctor continued the examination and found a mass inside Mom’s vagina.  It was large and it was bleeding.  Dr. T didn’t press further for more information because she didn’t want to distress Mom.  What she found was enough to put Mom on hospice care.
After the exam, I cleaned the blood off of Mom and got her dressed.  As I stood her up from the bed, I hugged her tight as I gave her time to get her feet under her and ready to move.  I took the time for hugs and kisses prior to the exam, to keep her calm during the exam and after.  Mom loves her hugs and kisses!  No time to think about what I was feeling deep down until later, when I was alone.
The good news in all this?  Mom was her usual, happy self!  As we were walking to her room to meet with the doctor, I was holding Mom up as she walked.  She pointed at her foot, which was obviously hurting, and said, “That’s what makes me know that I’m here.”  We both laughed, that, yes, it did!
The other good news?  In a moment of clarity, Mom looked at me while she was lying on her bed and said, “You’re mine, always have been and always will be.”  I was happy to say, “Yes, I am. I’m your baby and always will be.”


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Are her walking days coming to an end? Is it time for a wheelchair? Hospice?

The path hasn’t been without bumps since I last wrote.  I left my job – my choice – and I guess it was supposed to be because Mom and now my grandson, Hurricane, obviously need me around.

Mom’s showers took a slight downhill turn when I arrived to find her clean but her hair had not been washed.  They told me she cried when she was in the shower and didn’t want to upset her further.  I guess I didn’t understand why they didn’t start with her hair?
I quickly put her in the shower and washed her hair.  She didn’t complain a bit and it was gratifying when she let me know how good it felt when I was massaging her scalp.  I thanked her when we were done and she said thank you right back.  I was able to dress her and blow dry her hair without incident and that was probably the best incentive for her caregivers to ensure they did it well next time.  No issues with bathing since!
Mom’s bleeding continues – better sometimes, worse others – and has prompted a few calls to me.  Melissa, her new caregiver, knows that as long as Mom is happy and not in pain, we’re good.  Other aides are not so sure and insist the nurse calls me to let me know.  Like Melissa, the nurse knows my mantra, but she will call me to make the aide feel better.
The bleeding has prompted another request to have a hospice evaluation.  They want Mom examined to see if the bleeding may be vaginal and if there may be cancer present.  We don’t have cancer in the family but at 97, who knows?  Maybe?  We certainly won’t treat it if it is there.
I’ve just spoken to the doctor and she’s given me a time to meet there for the examination/evaluation.  After our discussion of Mom’s history, she doesn’t think she will need to be invasive.  She doesn’t want to cause Mom undue stress and I certainly appreciate her concern.
I let her know that my bigger concern is the most recent development.  Mom has complained about pain in her feet for years – certainly prior to our trip to Australia with her in 1994.  She has also experienced edema (water retention) in her feet and ankles over the years but if she walked enough, it would subside. 
This past weekend, the aides all noticed that she was hobbling and eventually got to the point where she needed assistance to walk to the dining room.  Between meals, she planted herself in a chair and sat there happily watching what was going on or snoozing whenever her eyelids got heavy.  All the sitting just caused the swelling in her feet and ankles to get worse.
Her hobbling, the swelling, and need for assistance prompted a call of concern from the nurse.  Would I consider an x-ray to rule out a broken bone?  Certainly!  The x-ray revealed a very old fracture of a metatarsal (a long bone in her foot that she may have broken back in the 1980s), a bad case of osteoarthritis and edema.  No new injuries but all good reasons for the pain she feels when she stands and walks.
Is it time for a wheelchair?  A walker won’t do the trick because it’s not balance that is the problem.  She said years ago that she wanted a wheelchair but at that point in time, balance was the problem.  A wheelchair wasn’t necessary then but it may be now.  Pain is the problem and if I can keep Mom happy by getting her a wheelchair, I’ll do it. 

She can enjoy pet therapy while sitting!