Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mama Update

WARNING: This post isn't particularly pretty, it's just is what it is, and what it has been for the last 4 months or so. It has a happy ending, though so feel free to skip ahead to the last page if you're squeamish and just want to see how things turn out.

Part of the reason for my blogging lag in the last few months is that I've been spending a lot of time and energy with Mom. The last 2 to 3 months have been particularly trying. With money already becoming an issue, a trip to the dentist revealed that thousands of dollars worth of work needs to be done. I have, on her kitchen counter, a regular toothbrush, an electric toothbrush, and usually 5 or 6 prepasted, disposable brushes, layed out in a row for her to choose from during the day when I'm not there. Epic Fail.

Next up: An MRSA of epic proportions; a boil...on top of 10 other boils, that came on in 4 days and required a lancing and 40 days of antibiotics, because after 10 days of them, that nasty thing looked us in the eye and laughed. So, Forty. Excruciating pain on her part, with holes the size of pencil erasers on her chest, and for me, lots of rubber gloves and bandage changing, and trying every topical painkiller I could think of for her; me and the pharmacist, we are now like *this.*

Oh, it gets better. My Aunt visited for 2 weeks, and was a Godsend, organizing and cleaning Mom's house properly—not the one- or two-hour-a-day system that I try to zoom through. In the end (no pun intended) there was a toilet paper snafu after she left. The extra TP was in the hall closet, where it should be. When the roll ran out, I never noticed. And when the roll ran out, well, Mom just ran out. There was none, and in a few days, in Mom's World, toilet paper just ceased to exist. Fast-forward to the world's worst adult diaper rash/painful infection, and a prescription for something that caused her to lose control of all bodily functions, embarrassing her so much that she swore "I'm never going to poop again." And she by-God meant it. I'll just have you e-mail me to find out what happens if you swear off pooping. Let's just say, it doesn't get any easier or any less painful or messy for Mom.

For me, this meant emergency phone calls at 3:15 in the morning, running to her house and standing over her as she sat on the potty, explaining to her that she has to poop, everyone poops, and listing the names of everyone we know that also poops, while she sobbed with resistance. Yes, I named you too, you poop and Mom needed to know that. That was followed by a shower, clean pajamas, stripping the bed and putting on new sheets. It took 3 of us—me, my Aunt (on the phone), and Mom's weekly caregiver to explain to Mom, over and over, how to go about it, how to use the T.P, and how to flush the toilet. We literally had to re-potty-train her, and that it was doable is more of a relief than you can imagine.

Through all of this, she always, always tells me "thank you." "Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for all you do for me. I don't know what I'd do without you." A day doesn't go by that she doesn't say that to me. I tell her "I don't know what I'd do without you either." 

Collectively, then, all of this meant one more thing for me: I can no longer take good enough care of my mother, by myself. My time and knowledge limitations are now causing her pain and illness and money. I freakin' need some help...and the good news is that I got it.

We were assessed for some senior assistance, and within the next 2 weeks, Mom will have a 4-hour-a-day caregiver, 5 days a week. A housekeeper. A cook. A chauffeur. A hygienist. A nurse.

This is amazing, amazing relief for us. For now, it means that Mom can continue to stay in her own home, where she's comfortable, for a bit longer. It means that putting off a $4000-$6000 assisted living/nursing home situation. Seriously, assisted living without Alzheimer's starts at $3400.00 a month, at one establishment in Urbana.

In the meantime, everything that's been ailing my mother is completely healed, and she is a new woman. She has a tendency to fixate, and when she's ill or uncomfortable, it's extremely difficult for everyone. She will tell you this hurts, and cry, the next minute saying she'll be ok. Then, as if her mind is an Etch-a-Sketch, being shaken clean, she will inform you this hurts, then she'll cry, and then be laughing again in the next sentence. We are not talking about 15 minutes, or 1 hour of this behavior, we are talking about 6 straight weeks of it, alleviated only by larger distractions: lunch out, taking walks, or watching M*A*S*H.

*For those of you that skipped the poop stories, I think it's safe to pick back up about here:

But when she's well, when she's completely well, she is nothing but lovely and happy. She is sing-songy on the telephone, and proud of herself for remembering how to call me. She even calls just to see if she remembers how to use the phone. When I tell her that she just called me, she celebrates, "ohhh, gooodddyyy!!!" She's proud of herself for getting the little girls' room routine down, and she's thrilled to call and tell me that she's reading again, a book about Angels that she just loves. She is freakin' adorable, and chipper, and funny.

I picked her up for lunch today, and gave her hair a quick rinse to tame the bedhead. When she was drying her hair, she exclaimed, "I'm all wet!"

I reminded her, "That's because I just washed your hair because you looked like a chicken."

"Oooo, I love chicken!" she said, which set me to guffawing, and saying "you're a funny lady."

She said "Yeah, I know, listen to this: Eeenie, meenie, miney moe/catch a tiger by the toe/if he hollers, make him pay/Fifty dollars every day!" And then she collapsed into such a fit of giggles that she actually snorted. God, I think I might have too. This sudden memory of the childhood poem/game just came to her today, and she repeated it to our friend Diane at lunch, snorting all over again. I just shrugged as Diane laughed, and said "this is new."

She's a good sport; she's appreciative of her place; she's thrilled to be feeling good, and learning and coping so well right now. I pray this isn't a calm before a storm, and I am enjoying every second of her in this state of mind. She is more who she is, and I love it.

If you want a quick view of my sweet Mom, here's a video I made a couple of weeks ago, to send to my Aunt Karla. She's happy here, but as I watch it, I take note that she's been much more coherent and confident with her speech today, even, than she was when this was taken. It wasn't until the end of the video that I realized she thought I was talking to her with a telephone, and not a camera.

The penny walk is her favorite thing to do; hide handfuls of pennies in your pocket, walk just ahead of her, and drop them for her to find. Not only does she get excited at finding the change, but it gets her revved up for some exercise, some walking, and lots of bending. Just what the doctor ordered!

And, for grins, this one, where I ask her to say "Red Leather, Yellow Leather," more of a tongue twister than you'd think.

Aw, that's my Mommy, and I love her. Wish us luck in our future endeavors with new caregivers. I am praying there is no adventure to blog about in this area of our life. I am praying for smooth transitions, and loving caregivers, and for progress and happiness in my Mother's life.

Amen, yo.


  1. God bless you guys. Beautiful videos. I pray for a cure for this mysterious and awful disease.

  2. marinemom6:47 AM

    Your mother is a real sweetheart. Enjoy these times with her. So glad you have finally gotten help. I did not realize it had gotten that bad. I hope you learned a lesson. From now on when you just can't do anymore, stand up and holler "help". Hang in there girl. You are strong, you can do it!!

  3. Glad you've finally gotten help. Good luck. Like marinemom said: you have to learn to ask for help.

  4. Thanks, ya'll!

    I've been paying for extra help for quite some time; when it was more than we can handle together, asking for help was Noooo problem for me. I know when I'm whipped, I'm standing on the roof waving a white flag!

  5. Anonymous8:30 AM

    Your posts always bring a tear to my eye. My grandma is in the early stages of the disease and I've already seen the toll it has taken on my mom. I'm glad to know there are times of brightness even when things get worse.

  6. You are amazing. And that comes from someone who has dealt with this stuff as well. You are just damn special. Much love to you.....

  7. I feel your pain. I dealt with open wounds on my mother's legs for 8 weeks, but we finally got them healed too. Hubby and I are currently dealing with 3 elderly parents right now, but at least their thinking is still good. All stubborn, but thankfully no Alzheimers.

  8. Anonymous6:51 PM

    Once again, I have tears in my eyes. Glad you have some help, maybe it will give you some much needed relief.
    You are a rock of rocks girl and you should be very proud of yourself.
    Hang in there, they all tell me things will get better. Once in awhile, I think I might just believe them.

  9. Anonymous2:14 PM

    You are very lucky to be able to "let" your mom live at home. And she is very lucky to have a daughter to look in on her. I suppose you already know kind of what to look for in a Alz. facility. My mom's first place didn't offer any kind of outings, but we needed to find a place for her in 4 days. The next place she went to offered outings to the mall, park, daycares etc. Btw those are close to the going rates in Milwaukee.

  10. I second the Yo and raise you an omg! You are one good daughter. Mom knows exactly what she's talking about on that one. I've been sending people over to LovinLaMamaLoca. I think it helps them knowing they're not alone.

  11. Anonymous4:27 PM

    "The Penny Walk" made me cry. That is one of the tenderist things... ever.


Back talk! Comment here!