Thursday, December 29, 2011

Problems - Title edited due to spam contents

The New System
Edit note 1/12/12:  I changed the title of this post because of the amount of spam comments it generated. If you ever have a problem of this nature, do NOT name it in the title of the blog post. Idiot spammers.

On to the blog.
If you've been reading the blog, you know that on Christmas Eve, we woke up to the furnace not working. Fortunately, it was a simple problem quickly and easily fixed by our HVAC guy. Thank you, Roy!

Well, in addition to the on-again, off-again HVAC, our plumbing problems reached "You Gotta Fix This" proportions this month. The toilets had been running slow for quite a while; every now and then you had to grab the plunger and race to plunge before the bowl ran over. A couple of weeks before Christmas it began to get really bad, and I procrastinated wanting to ride out the holidays. So, of course, by Christmas it was almost unbearable.

I finally got a reference for a local licensed plumber, and Max gave him a call. He got here this morning and began working on the plumbing. When Joe put the bathroom/laundry room in place of the spare bedroom, of course he didn't hire someone to do it. He saved money and did it himself. Okay, so he saved money for a few years. We're now spending at last count $1500 to fix what Joe messed up.

Joe didn't know diddly about venting and running pipes. The plumber has rerun all the pipes that Joe put in at wrong levels for venting. He's also fixed all the junctions that Joe put in backwards. Yes. Backwards.

Cutting the old cast iron pipe that the original plumbing ran through was more of a task than the plumber looked forward to. I feel for the guy. In addition to it being so heavy that it crashed upon cutting, it was full of sewer water. The plumber and his son had to go change clothes. Enough said.

After the plumbing inside was finally fixed, it created a problem with the pipes running to the city sewer lines. Seems the fixed indoor pipes run too much water for the pipes running to the sewer. So now we're going to have to rotor rooter them out. Oy. It never ends.

As of tonight, however, we now have toilets we can flush as long as we don't flush them 3 times in a row. Tomorrow we'll get the lines to the sewer scoped or routed out, and hopefully there will be enough time to fix the leak under the kitchen sink. Oh, and the fallout from the cast-iron pipe catastrophe was the vent for dryer. It and a stored chair from the dining room set bit the dust in the run from falling cast iron pipes and sewer water.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Great Fake Wine Experiment Update 12/28/11

Very frothy after moving.
Here are a few pics of the wine experiment. In these, you can see the bubbles and that I replaced the glove with a balloon. It's not blown up very much, unless you see it right after the jug has been moved. That shakes things up and releases quite a bit of gas. Initially I was keeping the jug in a closet in a bedroom that stays closed off. However, worrying about the temperature being too cool made me move the jug to a different room. It hasn't seemed to increase off-gassing, though.

Normal size of balloon.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Closing Doors

The newest thing for Lola is to close every door in the house that she passes. If she goes to the bathroom, she closes all three bedroom doors on the hall. It's only a bother in that one of rooms is a pass-through room, and I pass through it often. Have to open the door every time.

Yesterday, I was sitting here in the den at my computer when the door to the den slammed shut. Talk about jumping out of your skin! After I peeled myself off the ceiling and opening the door, I commented to her on closing me out. Her response? "Why, I didn't know you were in there." Sigh. Interior door with glass almost top to bottom. Me not more than 3 feet from it.

This morning the TV came blaring on at 8:30 a.m. Since Mom had for once gone to bed about 11:00 p.m., it was a perfectly acceptable time to her. Since I'd stayed up until my normal 2:00 a.m., it was an ungodly hour to be awakened to the blaring TV. She's lost the fact that I sleep on the sofa in the living room, and that it's cruel and inhuman punishment to me startling to me to be awakened by the TV.

It's sad to watch your parent wander around like a mindless child. Mother keeps getting up and going to the presents under the Christmas tree and looking at them. They're new and unknown every time she looks at them.  Max gave us both a box of candy, and we had to take them out of the living room to keep her from eating a whole box in one day. She's started wiping her silverware off and placing it in her basket instead of leaving it on her plate for me to pick up and return to the kitchen. She doesn't want it to get lost.

It's worse than caring for a toddler. At least a toddler grows up and gets smarter. Your well-spoken, intelligent parent just gets, sigh, dumber. I have to admit that I really don't like this death taking years and years to happen stuff. Sometimes it doesn't bother me as much as other times. Right now I'm really very tired of it. Ah well, life is what it is, and there's no getting around it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lola's Getting Along

and doing pretty well. Most days lately she's been getting herself up at a decent time, sometimes even very early. Saturday morning I awoke to the TV blasting away at 9:30 a.m. BTW, it will take a pretty amazing movie to make me ever turn the Classic Movie Channel on again. The timing had Max laughing as I had told him there was a new law passed in Arlington against letting Jola Gayle sleep to 10:00 a.m. Now, since I rarely ever go to bed before 2:00 a.m., I don't think sleeping 8 hours until 10:00 a.m. to be beyond the pale. This puts me sooo off-schedule with the rest of the population around here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Great Fake Wine Experiment

The Great Fake Wine Experiment has begun. Stay tuned for future updates on the results.

Lemme 'splain here. I call it "Fake" for a few reasons. Foremost is that it uses not real grapes but frozen grape juice concentrate. Almost foremost is that it's incredibly simple and doesn't putz about with things like actually knowing what you're doing and having a goal of a particular type of wine. Another is that it doesn't use wine specific equipment like, say, a glass container and a real airlock.

For some reason, about 30 years ago, my normally teetotaler dad decided he wanted to make wine. The basement is still full of wine he bottled no telling how long ago. Some of his wine actually didn't have a bad taste, and some of it was only good for pouring down the drain. Through the years, he got concerned about his body's sugar levels and started making drier wines. Those are the ones that make me shudder. Then, again, I'm not a big wine aficionado.

Max's Visit 12/18/11

Max was in this weekend, which was wonderful. We watched TV and visited Friday night. Saturday we went shopping, came home, put stuff up and did "chores." Sunday morning he left in the early morning, so it was a short visit.

While he was here, Max ran cable into the kitchen so I can watch the little TV in there. The kitchen is in the far back of the house, very isolated. Usually I listen to books while I'm working in there. Variety is nice,too. I'm not tied to the telly, but there are shows I'd like to follow that aren't on Mom's Classic Movie Channel. I'm also a product of my generation in wanting audio input almost constantly. Since it's just Mom and me here most of the time, and she doesn't move or talk much, it's gotta be electronic input.

Max also hooked up a new telephone set so we actually have more than one working phone in the house now. Yay! The parents' old phone didn't have voice messaging on it, and the new ones do. I don't know whether that will be a blessing or a curse.

We got some new mini blinds for the kitchen and Joe's old bedroom. Hopefully they'll help keep out some of the cold air this winter and lower the electric bill. There has also been a big privacy issue in Joe's bedroom. For someone essentially very private,  in the last decade Joe had lost his concern about dressing in a room with open windows. The curtains Mom put on both the windows are extremely difficult to open and close - there's a desk in front of one and a bed in front of the other. Over the years, the ties she'd used have aged, frazzled and come apart on use.

Since I've been told there's a known Peeping Tom in the neighborhood - Eek! - having the windows covered will make me feel a lot better. I sure don't look forward, though, to climbing the desk and straddling the bed to get these things put up.

I got a couple of loads of washing done. Hohum, mundane, I know. On the front of cleaning the basement, though, I washed the curtains Joe had hung over his wine rack. You can see the very orange curtains in the pic on the left. OMG, I bet they hadn't been washed in 20 years. Max took them down for me as that was the corner where he was working to run the TV cable.

Slowly, slowly, we're working on trying to get the basement cleaned up. Oh, and I bought some face masks to wear down while I'm cleaning up. It's taken me all week to recover from the 4 hours I cleaned down there at the beginning of the week. Don't want a repeat of that.

Celery Salt

Last night while unloading the celery from the dehydrator, it seemed like a good time to do a little experiment making celery salt. When I was refreshing my memory on dehydrating the celery, I had seen several comments on making celery salt from the dried celery. I wanted to see how it would turn out.

To make celery salt this way, you combine ground celery with salt. Doh, eh? My grinder takes 3 tablespoons of "spice" as a maximum to grind well. That ended up being about 1 tray from the dehydrator. I ground that to a fine powder and added 1/2 teaspoon salt.

In the top photo, you can see how much celery was on one dehydrator tray. The little pile of celery on the left is three tablespoons. You can see my grinder with three tablespoonsful in it.

The end result was far different from store-bought celery salt. First, the color was much lighter.  Second, it was a finer grind. Third, I controlled the salt content; thus, it was far less salty. Fourth, it didn't have as much celery flavor.

In the bottom photo, the spoon on the right is a commercial celery salt. The spoon on the left and the bowl contain my ground dried celery

I was unhappy with losing the robust celery flavor and wonder if using some celery seed with it would impart more celery flavor. I actually liked the lighter color. I'm unsure about the more powdery texture and will have to wait until I use it to decide if that matters.

If anyone with experience in doing this would like to jump in with their opinions, please feel free to comment below.  If you're viewing this on the home page, you can comment by clicking on the word "comment" where it shows how many there are. If you click on the title of the blog post, you will go to a page with only this post, and there is a link to click on to "Post a Comment."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Things You Never Know

Once you get to be about 35 or older you begin to realize that your parents were actually, gasp, young themselves at one time. That's if your parents have turned into rather straight-laced grown-ups who seemed to never want to allow you to do anything when you were a teenager. You begin to realize this, but it's a vague concept. Not one you spend a lot of time contemplating.

Until you find something like this old jacket.

It's likely pretty safe to assume this was something done by Dad or a buddy when he was in the Navy during WWII. Makes me wonder where on earth he wore it, if he actually did.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lola's Incontinence

On Sunday Lola had a really bad case of incontinence. When I awoke, it was to the TV turned up to full volume on the Classic Movie Channel. I guess she thought I'd slept long enough. Anyway, Mom was dressed, which was mind-boggling. So I said, "Good Morning." She didn't reply. So I said, "My, you're wearing clothes." She didn't reply. So I said, "You look pretty." She said, "Thank you."

I got up and went about the morning - making coffee, breakfast, and eventually getting dressed. The coffee and breakfast went as normal. The getting dressed produced some surprises. I found Lola's pajamas in a heap on a tray she has in her bedroom. They were soaking wet. So was her bed and bedding.

Ah, so. She had actually put on clothes purely because she had peed in her pajamas in the bed and didn't want to be wet anymore. Okay. So Mom had an accident. I'd put her in "Depends," or the generic equivalent of adult diapers, some time ago when drips and a dirty bottom had become a problem. Actual incontinence had not been the problem on an on-going basis. Gulp. "Maybe it's going to be," I thought.

There weren't anymore adult incontinence "panties" in the house, but I wasn't very concerned. It wasn't a huge problem. How wrong we can be. By the end of the afternoon, Lola had wet three pairs of pants, and I was scrambling to get to the store to get "Depends."

It had become a habit to remind her to go to the bathroom a few times during the day because it was apparent she was having trouble controlling things. Normally, keeping up on this kept accidents from happening. About every three hours or so, I'd  remind her to go. That would take care of things. On Sunday, it was a total fail.

I've watched her all day on Monday for this, and it hasn't happened. Unless the Depends are full and she's just not admitting it. You hate to feel your mom up for a full diaper. So at this point, I don't know whether Sunday's incontinence was a harbinger or a fluke. It will take keeping an eye on things to monitor kidney function.

Cleaning Up

<Rant On>
If you have reached your 70's, please start going through your stuff and getting rid of it.

If you have reached your 80's, for crying out loud, get rid of STUFF.

If you truly have some valuable things - coin collections, Ming vases, Van Gogh paintings - by all means, keep them and will them to someone.

If you have anything from the Bradford Exchange, get rid of it; it's a scam. My parents have at least 15 "collector" plates they probably paid $30 for each, which now can't be sold on ebay for over $10.00 each. That's if anyone in the family "wants" to try to sell them, pack, pay shipping and collect on them.

If you collect nails, hoses, flower pots and things you haven't touched in 10 years, throw them the hell away.

Your children DO NOT want to have to weed through a house full of things you might need one day.

</Rant Kind of Off>

Can anyone guess what I've been doing this evening? Um, I've been trying to  clean out the basement of my parents' house. Here, let me show you what an episode of "Hoarders" looks like.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Shelling Pecans

Uncle Charles gave us a wonderful gift a couple of days ago - two sacks of pecans. I hadn't planned on shelling pecans, but, hoo boy, who's going to turn down pecans! He said his son, Kevin, had 6 trees, which turned me neon green with envy. Here I'd been pondering planting a pecan tree out back. Now I'm trying to figure how to beam one of Kevin's trees from his place to this one.

Unk said Daddy had a pecan sheller around here, and I had a dim memory of seeing one. So I went on a hunting trip around the house. I finally found it high on a shelf in the garage. Eek! Could I get that thing down without cracking my skull? It finally was down, and my skull was unscathed. It was covered in a quarter-inch of garage dust and inside were Dad's old Braun razor, sideburn trimmers and a set of clippers. Sigh. Anyone know why all the hair-care tools ended up in the pecan sheller? I sure don't. Max was tickled, though, to learn the Braun razor still worked.

As usual with all things done by Joe, this pecan sheller is mounted in one of the best, over-engineered bases one can imagine. I nearly laughed myself silly telling Max about it. I laughed so much because it brought home the reason for one big trouble Max and I had at the beginning of our marriage. Max is more of the kind to slap it together, not worry if things fit, not give a rat's ass if it look wells, and only make sure it minimally does the job. And I was raised by Joe Lindsey.

It took quite an attitude adjustment and review of my world perspective for me to get over it. It took about 10 years for Max to be willing to try to do anything around the house again. Deep at heart, I'm still more like Joe, but have hopefully come to better cope with things not having to be perfect.

I'd never used a pecan sheller before. Now I don't think could live without one. Using the old fashioned tools had made shelling pecans so much of a pain that I had given up on ever buying them in the shell. After two days I have this big bowl brimming full of pecans. Amazingly, they're mostly whole halves and not teeny little pieces. I'm in heaven.

Thank you, Uncle Charles and Kevin.

mmm, wonder how many trees you'd have to plant to make Pecan Butter?

Dehydrating Celery

Since celery was at such a good price during Thanksgiving, I took the opportunity to stock up on it for my dried foods storage. There are as many different ways to dehydrate celery on the internet as there are to cook chili.

While doing this batch, I saw quite a few websites that talked about grinding the celery and mixing with salt to make celery salt. That's something I'd like to try in the future. I need to get a new grinder for spices before I can, though.

Edited 12/18/11 to add permalink to celery salt post:

After trying a few different methods, this is the one I've settled on as liking the best. It gives the best color, although it takes a longer amount of time.

  1. Wash celery well.
  2. Cut off leaves and wide root ends
  3. Slice celery into 1/4" slices (crosswise)*
  4. Put slices into bowl of cold water if processing a lot.**
  5. Just before loading dehydrator, soak celery in 6 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda for 5 minutes.***
  6. Drain and load dehydrator trays.
  7. Dry at 110°F  until celery breaks easily, 16-18 hours. 

*This is the size with which I like to cook. I've seen directions for 1" slices and have considered doing that for putting under roasting meats; however, I've not done it so far.

**How much you process depends on the size of the celery, your stamina and dehydrator. It took 3 bunches of medium celery to fill 6 trays for my Nesco dehydrator.

***Do this in batches if you don't have a huge bowl.

Lola Sleeping and Conversing

On Wednesday, about 10:30 p.m., I nudged Lola to go to the bathroom. She can't seem to get it together to go before she's nearly or does go before she gets to the bathroom. She's begun to associate going to the bathroom with the last thing she does before going to bed.

Tonight, I kept an eye on her chair, which she never returned to. Sometimes that means she's having trouble with a bowel movement. Shudder, I really don't like those times. Tonight it meant she'd simply gone to bed. After 15 minutes, I finally went to make sure she was okay, and found her in bed. Sigh. So I went and got her nightly medicines and gave them to her. Normally she takes these about 11 p.m. and goes to bed at 1 a.m.


Sometimes one of the hardest things about caring for Mom has been the loss of her ability to have a conversation. When people come to visit, she can converse with them somewhat, especially if they stick to days gone by. Usually when I walk through her room, I try to find something to say, believing that keeping her engaged and keeping isolation at bay are good things. This is indirect conversation, and she simply can't do that anymore.

The problems with it are multiple. First, everything I say I have to repeat. It simply never sinks in the first time around. Unless her ears have quit working in the last two months, she's not deaf. Talk simply doesn't get processed by her brain well. Second, she doesn't know anything anymore. So quick quips and questions are exercises in frustration for both of us.

Examples of this today include not remembering foods or how to do things. This morning I asked her if she liked the cream I put on her oatmeal yesterday. She didn't remember anything about it. She can't remember if she likes Tuna Salad for lunch. This afternoon I jokingly asked her if she wanted to help me shell pecans. She said she didn't know how.

She never instigates conversation anymore. I usually have to prod her to respond to good morning, how are you doing, and things like that. Gets kinda lonely, and I'm thinking about serious talking to myself.

Today she is doing as well as usual for her. She's sitting in her chair watching old movies, bundled up in the soft, warm robe her sister Jeanne gave her. She never asks for anything - a drink or food or anything.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lola and Her Chair

There's one chair in the living room that Mom has turned into her little nest. You can't get rid of any of the tables or trays with which she's surrounded the chair. She asks for them back. She stacks her photos on them, along with all sorts of stuff she's forgotten about and/or can't use anymore. She keeps a tray on her left side that is her table. She has a foot stool in front of it that seems to be more of a tripping hazard than a place she props her feet. She only does that if I get onto her because her ankles have become swollen.

She's become fairly bad at eating without making a mess. Cereal, which she loves, particularly gives her problems. She's gotten bad at getting things on her fork, and a lot winds up on the floor.

I've gotten a hand towel out for her to put on her lap because so much falls off the fork on the way to her mouth. Lately, though, she's taken to throwing the towel in the trash can on her right side. You never think that you have to begin going through the trash once your parents become feeble to make sure they don't throw away something needed or valuable.

Speaking of valuable, last week Max found one of Dad's good hearing aids, that I thought he must have thrown away, in the garage on the counter top in the midst of the junk. At least Daddy didn't throw it away. He just, for some unknown reason, took it out while in the garage and laid it down. In the middle of 500 hundred nails, bolts, screwdrivers, bird feeders, light bulbs and pounds of dust. Wonder where I'll eventually find the other one.

In the last week, Mom has begun to cough and get a little choked. One of the gals in the nursing home was talking about that being something that happens to the elderly. They begin to have trouble swallowing. Guess that's beginning to happen to Mom now. Otherwise, she's doing well. She got up on her own at 11:00 this morning.

December Trivia

Bed Trivia: My parents' house is a lovely three-bedroom ranch with a full, unfinished basement. Howsomever, a couple of decades ago, my dad converted my bedroom, or the spare bedroom as it were, into a combination laundry room and full bath. I've written about it before here. It's a large space that's wonderful, not the most efficient floor plan, nor blessed with closet space due to the basement stairs ruining that idea, but still large. You can dress in it without tripping over a bed or other furniture. You can actually set the ironing board up in there, and you can shake out and fold sheets without whacking a wall.

The biggest problem with the room, though, is that it effectively deleted a spare bedroom in the house. With all the people that used to come visit them and stay overnight - me and my family, Mom's sister, Mom's niece, and just friends from out of town - Joe got rid of the spare bedroom. God forbid he spent a little money and just added either another bedroom or bathroom. No, let's make sure no one ever comes and visits again, unless they're willing to sleep in the unfinished basement.

Well, since the basement has leaked for years, and Dad didn't consider that important enough to fix, it's damp and full of mold. It's probably why I've been sneezing like crazy since I've been here. The leak caused the carpet they put under the bed down there to become something you wouldn't walk on barefoot for fear of your health. Not to mention that after Dad became crazy he let a cat have kittens down there, and said kittens used that carpet as their personal bathroom. Shudder.

The point of my windy complaint? This picture is of my bed.  Joe's been out of the house long enough I could use his bedroom, but, OMG, the mattress on his bed is, as I said, like a slab of concrete. One of these days I'm going to have to rent a truck and actually go buy a mattress. I hate doing that. I always choose wrong. Sometimes I think I'd rather just buy the bed that slept great from a good hotel.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

WalMarts, Christmas Decorations and Changing Clothes

Joshua finally got on google talk, and we had a great chat this evening. It's nice to have him a second away. My husband, Max, was at a company Christmas party, which I missed, pout. Josh's wife was at a fraternity Christmas party, which he missed. So we yammered at each other for a while.

This afternoon I took a WallyWorld trip and went to the WalMart in Fulton, KY/TN. I'm not clear enough to know which state it's actually in. We needed a few things, and I made an executive decision and decided I needed a small TV in the kitchen.

To my friends who don't watch TV :-P sorry. The kitchen is isolated, and I'm sick of my own mind. I've listened to every book I own so many times I'm becoming able to quote them as much as kids Josh's age can quote "Big Trouble in Little China." Word by word instant replay.

WalMarts in little towns (Fulton, pop. 6, 855) are different from WalMarts in Oak Ridge or Memphis I've discovered.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December is Here

It's hard to believe: December is here already. We've even had an early-for-us snowfall. A couple of evenings ago, Max said it was snowing in Memphis and that 1-3" were predicted. Since it was just drizzling here, I quite shook it off. Lo and behold, I woke up the next morning to a winter wonderland, well, almost. Today, 2 days later, there are still patches of the stuff left in shady spaces, but the temp is already up to 42.

Yesterday I had on one of Dad's sweaters, and while putting Mom to bed she noticed it. She asked if it was one of his. Then she asked me where he was. I had to tell her again he was dead. She didn't cry this time, just asked about his funeral. I told her we had a graveside service and that he is in their plot at the Arlington Cemetery. That seemed to satisfy her.

I can't remember what day it was, but a little bit ago, when I walked into the kitchen one morning, nearly every cabinet in there was open. Mom was looking for something I suppose. Later, I asked her what she was looking for, and she had no clue what I was talking about. She had no memory of being in the kitchen. She'd picked things up and placed them on the counter, moved things, and generally made the counter a mess.

Max and I have been discussing what to do now. For so long we believed we'd end up losing the house to Medicaid to care for Joe. With that looming, it seemed best to move Lola to Memphis with us and sell the house while we could. Since Joe didn't have to apply for Medicaid, and it's unlikely Lola will need to (please, please), we've come to the decision to stay here as long as we can.

Now that Joe isn't here to throw a fit, I can clean out the 40 years worth of crap in the basement. We can move some of my "crap" in there allowing Max to downsize in Memphis. He can get a studio or 1-bedroom apartment there and cut some of our expenses. He'll stay there until he can find a job in this area. If he can't, he'll still stay there during the week. That's the general plan for now, anyway.

I've been going through Dad's clothes and cleaning his closet out. He had some nice clothes. All of them are so very old, though. I hate to throw them out, yet they're so old I wonder if anyone would choose them if donated to a charity. Even the majority of needy people around here want to look up-to-date rather than wear something 10 years old - dress shirts and suits. I'm so out of it I have no clue what lapel size is in style now.

Well, Lola's been on a spell this week of getting up early and staying up late, so I haven't been able to sneak the suits out of the closet anyway. If I save them, it'll mean driving to Paducah to find a place to donate them. Aunt Agnes said there was a place in Clinton to donate them, but I don't know where it is. It's not like there'll be a sign pointing to it, and I don't know Clinton. The bad thing about being here is that you have to drive miles to get to most things.

Dad has 13 shelves of paperback espionage and suspense books. I've started going through them and pulling them, too.  I've got a call into a local auction house to see if they sell them. Sheesh, throwing books away is like pulling teeth - it's something you just hate to do.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all. It's the normal grey, overcast day here in western Kentucky - just as the majority of Thanksgivings I remember have been. What is Thanksgiving, anyway, without an overcast sky!

We are doing well here. Lola is going through each day as she has for months. If she noticed anything on the day of Joe's funeral, she's not said a word about it. She's not noticed she's eating 5-6 course delicious meals courtesy of the wonderful ladies of the First Baptist Church. She's willing to stay in bed 24 hours if I let her. She seems to be more inclined to want to go to bed at night at an earlier hour than she used to.

Max and I are doing well. We're thoroughly enjoying being able to spend time together. We're watching TV together, arguing politics, solving world problems, trying to remember dishes to cook from Food TV, busting myths and simply being together.

While pouring that first cup of coffee Thursday morning, it dawned on me I had actually wanted to get up and that it was the first day in years I didn't have to worry about herding and guarding Joe or waiting for a phone call from a nursing home.

Joe is released and not unhappy now. He was miserable from the middle of September when his medical crises started until his death. He is not in misery any longer. That is something to be thankful for.

There's a ham in the oven - no turkey for us - the dressing is ready to be mixed; there's heavy cream for Auntie Jeanne's lima beans in cream and butter. The pumpkin pie is cooked. We've yet to decide on whether to add green beans, broccoli or carrots to the menu. The church brought a plate for Lola over already this morning.

Happy Turkey Day every one.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Joe's Funeral

Joe's funeral will be a graveside service Tuesday, November 22, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. CST at the Arlington Cemetery. There will be no visitation. There will be a meal at the church for family and friends after the graveside service.

Lola isn't processing that Joe isn't here anymore. She's forgotten, I think, that he has died. I'm trying to stay at home as usual and keep her schedule as normal as possible to cause her the least distress I can. Max's being here is upsetting her as she absolutely cannot remember or place him as my husband. She thinks there's a stranger in the house every time he walks by her.

She awoke at 3:00 this afternoon furious because he was vacuuming the carpet. The noise, the strange man, the change in procedure set her off, and whew, she can still raise a ruckus.

Julia and Larry brought a ham, green beans, pimento cheese and some rolls over. They were quite welcome. Lola is munching on a plateful as I write.

Josh and Maurya are coming in and will be over on Tuesday.  Jeanne is going to sit with Mama during the service. I'm hoping it's close enough to Thanksgiving we can put the blame on the holiday for the change in Lola's schedule. Dang, you hate to keep having to tell someone their spouse has died over and over again.

Lola's Condition After Joe's Death

In case anyone is wondering how Lola is doing after hearing about Joe's death, she is the same as she was before and really can't comprehend it or remember it. She finally let me get her to bed at 1:15 a.m., and as I was tucking her in she asked me what I told her earlier about Joe. I told her that he had died earlier this evening. She just sighed and said she wouldn't ever get to see him again. I told her that she could go be with him in heaven anytime she's ready. She didn't cry anymore or react in any way. She just said, "Well, goodnight."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Joe Has Left Us

Martin Health Care called me about 8:00 p.m. tonight to let me know that Dad had just died. He simply quit breathing. Arrangements for his burial will be made, and I will post them here. Likely his service will be a graveside service on Tuesday with a meal at the church following. I will post date and time when it's known.

Lola was upset for a bit, but she's not obviously upset anymore. There's no telling if she'll remember this tomorrow or not. She's already told me she can't do a funeral, which is one of the reasons I've opted to have just a graveside service.

If anyone wants to email me, pls use gayleherring at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Semi Apology

This is a semi apology for not posting much of interest to anyone other than immediate family tracking the status of my parents. The journey through the end of their lives has proven more tough than I expected. I find myself swideswiped, gobsmacked, exhausted and overwhelmed by turns.

Up until a few months ago, it seemed I was coping well and maintaining interests in varied things. The last two months I have found myself not coping so well. I go into hibernation it seems whenever things become overwhelming.

Joe's recent health crises seem never ending. There's been no slow decline to end of life with him. It's been crises after crises and battle after battle that simply seem to go on with no end. Nothing with him has been critical, OMG this is awful. It's been dashes to the hospital with barely a definitive diagnosis. It's been battles to find a bed in a nursing home. It's been battles to find a nursing home that could handle him. It's been battles over his personality combined with his dementia and needing a locked, secure setting. It's been notifications of end of Medicare payments intertwined with his ups and downs of needing skilled care one day and not the next day.

Lola's decline has been just as serious though much less dramatic. She now shows almost no will to get up out of bed and has to be forced to do so. She lives in the pictures of the prime of her life and has no working knowledge of the present. She has to be prodded to pick up her fork to eat her meals, to go to the bathroom, to drink enough fluids, and to go to bed. Her life consists of getting up from bed to go to her chair in the living room, turning the TV onto the classic movie channel and going to bed when I force her to. The best that can be said at this point is at least she's not bedridden.

So it seems I've dug in my heels and am existing. Doing the necessary for the moment and not much more seems to be my limit. I look at their house and belongings and think of weeding through things and needing to pack up keepers and shudder. I look at winterizing the house and shudder. I look at the paperwork that needs sorting and shudder. I daydream of my own house surrounded by my own belongings and being with my own husband.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Update on Joe 11/15/11

Martin Health Care called me at 7:35 a.m. this morning to ask permission to send Joe to the hospital. He was unresponsive, and his oxygen levels were low. Of course, I gave permission. I have to admit I was about as smart as a log when they called this morning. Lola had stayed up till 2:00 a.m., and I had insomnia to boot, and listened to a book until about 3:00 a.m.

It was 1:30 p.m. before I could get to the hospital. I had to shower and dress, clean the kitchen so I wouldn't be embarrassed to shreds if someone had to walk in there today, and get Lola up, fed and situated before I left. Then there was travel time. By the time I arrived at the hospital, they had already released Joe back to the nursing home.

He has been having spells like this the last few weeks. One time he will be worrying the staff because he's not responding, and the next he will be "knocking on the walls." Personally, I think it's part and parcel of both the dementia and his personality.

He's not eating much at the facility, and it's worrying them. I've tried to communicate to them that it was a problem. He did it with me, and he's doing it with them. He's only lost 2 pounds since he got there, but that's 2 pounds in 4 weeks. I've told them feed him junk food, and they've replied, "it's not too hard to fry  baloney for a sandwich." Yet, I feel that's not getting passed along.

They said he was somewhat dehyrdrated. When I arrived at the facility today, his mouth was so parched. Yet, there was no tray by his bed with any liquid on it. There were 4 large insulated cups in the room, but they were all empty.

When you're not local, how can you guarantee that your relatives are getting top notch care? You're paying out your ass for care, but they have no water and no tissue to blow their noses. Dad's upper dentures have disappeared. The last nursing home lost his glasses.

You try to keep perspective on things - there's a whole ward of demented people who need care, they wander, they pick things up from one room and move them to another. But you have to ASK, "Is it too much to keep my relative's glasses and dentures?" There's not many 90-year-olds who don't have glasses or dentures. If one or the other goes missing, doesn't that ring a bell in SOME care takers' mind? How hard is it to search a ward for glasses or for god's friggin's sake dentures?

Regardless of circumstances, Joe's health is on a steady decline. His creatinine (spelling?)  levels aren't normal, indicating kidney failure. His oxygen levels are low. He's having frequent spells of unresponsiveness - meaning he won't respond when they try to communicate with him.

When I first arrived, Joe asked if I was his sister. I said, "No. I'm your daughter." It was met with a blank stare. Later a PT gal was in there, and she asked him if he knew who I was. He didn't. She told him I was his daughter and asked him if he knew his daughter's name. He replied, "I don't know." She asked him his wife's name. He replied, "I don't know." She asked him his name. He said, "Joe."

As usual, my visit today was only filled with his desire to be out of there. He wanted me to open the door to the pen, i.e., let him out of there. He wanted me take him home because he wasn't sick and didn't need to be there. When I finally said good bye and said I had to get home to take care of Lola, he pleaded with me to take care of him.

There are other things I'd like to write about - the neighbors trimming/cutting trees and other things good people have done, but that will have to be in another post.

Max's Visit

It's been quite a while since I posted to the blog. The last post I was working on was when Max visited. It went:

It's Max's weekend to visit. Since Joe is in a nursing home, and his hospitalization racked up some bills, much less his nursing home care, I'm not going home to Memphis anytime soon. We can't pay for a sitter for just Lola for a few days for me to go home. So Max is coming up here to Arlington every two weeks to visit me.

When Max was going through the living room to his bedroom, Lola just stared at him. Finally I asked her if she knew who he was. She told me, "No!" Even though he had greeted her when he arrived, she didn't know who he was.

That post was a while ago, and Max has spent 2 weekends here. The second one he arrived on Friday night and left on Sunday morning.  He spent a large part of Saturday whacking on the holly bush on the front of the house. He would have liked to have taken it out, but Joe, in confusion, put the wrong fuel in the chain saw, and it's, alas, dead as a door-nail. It's going to take a bit of doing to figure out what actually works amongst Joe's tools and which ones he's killed from senility or neglect.

Lola was about as confused with Max this 2nd visit as she was on the first. He said everytime he went through the living room while whacking on the holly bush/tree to get a different tool or take a break she looked at him like he was an alien intruder.

To add fuel to the fire for the Republicans in the area, do you really want Rick Perry as the Republican candidate for president next year? This is the guy who wants to do away with the Dept. of Energy - you know - the department who runs the Paducah Plant - Carbide, Gaseous Diffusion Plant, whatever - that so many of you work at or retired from? You can check out his position by clicking here.

Not to mention what it would do to Oak Ridge, where I lived and worked from 1983 to 2007. Besides my parents needing me, I would still be there if both Max and I hadn't lost our jobs due to DOE cut backs. I don't know about you, but the DOE supported my family from the middle 50's until about 10 years ago. Yeah, let's just gut this department that has given us jobs for 60 years. Go Republicans.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sleeping All Day

Dementia takes such strange tacks. On Monday night, Lola went to bed. On Tuesday, she seemed to want to sleep a lot. So I let her. I kept thinking eventually hunger would drive her to get up. It didn't happen. Since every time I peeked in she seemed asleep, I finally decided if she wanted to stay in bed all day I'd just let it go. Finally in the evening I woke her up to take her medicine. She didn't seem inclined to get up, was somewhat disoriented, and I feared if she arose at that time she'd be up all night. So I let her lay back down. Around 11 p.m. it dawned on me she hadn't been drinking all day and needed hydration.

I made her some sugar milk, a bowl of peaches and some bread with butter and went in to make her eat and drink something. When I forced her to get up, she commented, "The bed's all wet."

My mother had laid in the bed, peed in it, and was contented to simply lie in a soiled bed. It had never even entered my mind that she wouldn't get up to go the bathroom. I know she mostly lives in the past. I know she sometimes doesn't recognize people. I know she gets confused sometimes about things around her. I didn't know the dementia would make her just pee in her bed and lay in it.

I got her up and cleaned up, change of clothes and bedding. Sat her down to eat and drink, which she did with gusto. Then put her back to bed. When you're not experienced with caring for elders, these things just sideswipe you.

Today she got up at 10:30 a.m. acting as if there had been no day between Monday and today, Wednesday. She's gone about her normal routine of watching TV, eating, and toileting just like nothing had happened on Tuesday and everything's as normal as it can be for her.

The only thing that was striking today was when I served her supper of chicken noodle soup and a plate of condiments she loves (pickles, okra and olives), she commented that she didn't rightly know how to eat that. Somehow the bowl of soup confused her. I explained to her to use her spoon or just drink it, and she was back on track and doing what she's done her whole life.

I've been scrambling to get papers in order, needed information and get ready to file the Medicaid claim.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lola's Joe's Fallen Delusion

The last two days Lola has wanted to stay in bed until 3:00 p.m. or later. Today she was up by 11:30 a.m. Sometime in the early evening, I heard her crying. This was the first time since my Dad's crisis that my mother has cried. My first reaction was to let her cry a bit to grieve and get it out.

Mother didn't just cry a bit and get it out. She began to sob and didn't quit. So I went into the living room and sat on the stool in front of her and asked her if she wanted comforting or to be left alone. Her reply stunned me.

My mother was crying because Joe was lying on the floor in the den and no one was picking him up.

Note here: she hadn't run out of Xanax so the hallucination wasn't, as far as I know, caused by a drug.

I gently told her that Joe was safely in a nursing home in Martin, TN, and that he was perfectly safe. Then I asked her why on earth she didn't call to me - I'd walked through the room twice trying to check on her because she was crying. Sobbing, she told me that, well, he was just lying on the floor and she was so confused she didn't know what to do.

Again I reassured her he was safely in a nursing home that  was keeping him from falling. Then, astoundingly, she asked me who was going to pick that man in the den up. Gulp. I assured her there was no one on the floor in the den. There was most surely was, she told me. So I walked into the den and across the clear floor space to show her there wasn't. Yes, there was, over by the bookcase. So I walked over to the bookcase. No, I wasn't in the right place. Covering every single floor space available I walked around the den. She still wasn't exactly happy.

So I distracted her with pizza for supper. That ended the saga of Joe in the den. She sat back waiting for pizza, which I had been in the process of making. She ate pizza and has not been upset over anything the rest of the evening.

Of course, it's now 2:00 a.m., and she's still up and avidly watching TV. I'm beat and going to herd her to bed after I finish this blog post.

Visiting a Demented Relative in a Nursing Home

Uncle Charles went to visit Joe in Martin today. His wife, my Aunt Agnes called to let me know he'd gone, but it was pretty upsetting to him.  Of course, it was an upsetting visit. With the state of Dad's dementia, all Dad knows is that he wants to be home, and no one will take him. I got the impression that although Charles' visit was fairly long, the majority of the visit was spent with Joe asking Charles to take him home. Aunt Agnes said Uncle didn't want to go back.

On the outside hearing about people being dumped in nursing homes, people want to judge about that. When you're on the inside, you begin to understand it. Joe's mind is far enough gone that he can't be controlled at home. So the caretaker - me - is faced with the decision of whether or not to care for the demented in the home.

The bottom line question is:  Do you let the demented live at home, with you the caretaker
  • devoting every minute trying to keep them safe
  • letting them go and take what happens - broken hips, arms, or skulls
  • letting them die from injuries suffered at home
or do you put them into a safe environment?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Research Topics, Good Neighbors and Applesauce

Saturday post actually posted on Sunday morning:

The other day when I was getting Joe checked into his new facility, one of the staff was questioning me about his medications, not in detail, just in general. I said he didn't take many.

She laughed, shook her head and said, "The Alzheimer's rarely do."

I asked, "They don't?"

She replied, "Nope. It's almost always like that. They rarely take as many medicines as our regular patients."

Makes me wonder if that's a facet some brilliant researcher ought to be looking into. An Exploration of the Ratio of Medication Requirement in the Late Stage Alzheimer's Population Versus the Non-Alzheimer's Population. It might make a dandy paper to be published by some medical journal. Chuckle. It might make a dandy thesis. Except, do physician's do thesis (what's the plural of that?). Wonder what field that falls into.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lola Doesn't Know and Alzheimer's Stages

Most of the time I make Lola get up by 1:00 in the afternoon. Today I just let her sleep/lay there. Finally at 3:00 I went and stood, arms akimbo in her door. She sat up, sat there looking at me and eventually said, "Who are you?" "Your daughter, Gayle. Who are you?" I replied. You could see her face relax, and she laughed and said, "Your mother."

I asked her if she was going lay around in bed all day, so she started getting up. I left to go get her medicine and a "breakfast." When I walked back through to get her dentures, she was just turning around to sit down on the bed again. I asked her if she was going back to bed. She said, "Well, I just didn't know where I was or who was here or where to go." Sigh. So I told her to go to the living room.

I got the dried tissue brushed off her dentures, and she had just put them in when Katherine Dubrock came by for a visit. When Katherine asked Mom about Joe, I had to answer for her. Mama didn't know anything about where he was or his condition. All she could say was we had to put him in a home. I swear the thing she says most often now is, "I don't know."

In addition to sometimes shredding the styrofoam cups, she's also taken to turning any drinking glass upside down on the table next to her. Sometimes they're mostly dry. Sometimes they're not.

Since Joe's Alzheimer's diagnosis is recent, I don't really know a lot about the progression of the disease. So today I went to an Alzheimer's page (click here to see) and read over the stages. From their descriptions, in my opinion, Dad is at Stage 6 out of 7. I'm just at Stage 3 (tongue in cheek.)

The dietitian from the new facility called me today, per my request, to discuss Joe's eating. We had a good discussion. I came away feeling that they do go farther than the other institutions I've experienced so far. She mentioned one man that ate baloney sandwiches every day. It's what he would eat, so they gave it to him. She said they monitor what the patients eat and try to make adjustments where possible.

Oy, I've felt about as bad today as I did Wednesday. Hopefully, it's just reaction to three weeks of high stress. A lot of times when I've had bad stress, I've caught a cold. Today I've felt achy in my throat, itchy in my nose, and droopy. That could just be hay fever, which I also get worse in the fall than the spring. Keeping my fingers crossed it's not a cold.

Non sequitur: I don't understand non-touch soap pumps. If you're washing your hands to get rid of dirt and germs, aren't you washing off anything you might get from the soap pump?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fear of Nursing Homes

So many people of my parents' generation have this overbearing repulsion of going into a nursing home. I've been pondering this. I have to admit that I don't fully understand it.

I do understand the desire not to be in a Medicaid home. To not be in a room with another person who is perhaps moaning and groaning whilst enduring months of reaching death while you have the sense to know it. To not want to live with a functioning brain amongst people reduced to drooling, diapered hulks in a wheelchair in the hall.

What I don't understand is trusting that this will not happen to you. I don't understand not being willing to plan for needing help, getting finances in shape, and not being willing to live in assisted living that assures privacy while also giving needed help. If this is planned for, it doesn't have to be the horror of a Medicaid nursing home.

What I don't understand is insisting on being HOME when your children have lived elsewhere for 3 decades. Or if none of your children in your area have room to house you. Or if all of your children and their spouses work, and none of them can quit work to care for you when you can't.

In my wildest dreams I wouldn't wish on my son what I'm going through with my parents. My first desire is that I just drop dead before I ever am in the straits my parents are in. In conjunction with that, I desire to plan ahead enough to be able to afford a place that allows me a private life while needing some bit of help as I still enjoy living.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Post Apocalypse Thursday

Following the apocalypse of Tuesday - Joe getting kicked out of the last nursing home in west Ky. that would take him and the mad scramble to find a lock-down unit that could - I mostly collapsed on Wednesday. I slept on and off all day. I had a headache and was groggy all day, barely functioning.

Today, Thursday, I woke up feeling much better and able to do at a few things. I managed to get by Bardwell and pick up a few groceries, then drive to the Courthouse and make an appointment next week for a deed transfer.

I drove down to Martin with some paperwork they needed and an extra blanket for Dad. I opted not to see him after talking to the nurses in order to give him time to settle in and let them gather a picture of his mental status. They had had to give him a shot on Wednesday (yesterday) to calm him down. If I saw him, I would simply agitate him and skew their assessment. They said when they gave him the shot it didn't knock him out or anything, with looks of amazement on their faces, and that he simply went into the dining room to eat. The picture of them giving him the equivalent of enough Ketamine to knock a horse out yet the 99-pound man just kept on going went through my mind.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Joe's and Lola's Behavior

Here's a little more information about Joe. Firstly I later learned that when he had his episode at Parkview on Friday and they sent him to the hospital, they did not want to take him back. Although they offered to "save his bed," in reality they knew the situation and knew I couldn't pay them $269 a day to hold his bed. They had already placed somewhere in records that he was undesirable to them. It was easy to give lip service to something they didn't think would happen. In other homes and with easy patients there's an ability to handle things without demanding you must pay me this amount of money now.

Parkview didn't want Joe because he argued with other other patients. He hit caretakers sometimes. They weren't equipped to care for escape artists. Although some workers said he was beginning to adjust, he was more than most could handle.

On Friday in the hospital when some of the caretakers were doing procedures, he hit them. Later in his room, he was biddable, and "a nice, sweet old man." So most reports on him suggested Medco could handle him.

Medco accepted Dad not realizing what a handful he was. Their facility was not a locked door facility. They had to put 1 person dedicated to him, and they're not set up to work that way. Joe was intent on going home. Every time he thought he wasn't being watched he headed for the door. Where he thought he was going is a guess; it was just home. He didn't know where he was, but if he got out he could go home. How he thought he was getting home was inconsequential. In a little over 15 hours they called to say he had to go.

Surprisingly, after he had his stroke on Friday once he recovered by Monday, he was more stable and more mobile than before he had it. You'd almost swear the stroke fixed something from whatever happened two weeks prior. The Medco people worked hours yesterday trying to find a facility for Joe to go to because they honestly felt he could not be sent home with one caretaker caring for two elderly people.

On Mother's side of the fence, she's doing weird things lately. For some reason she started sitting half-full Styrofoam cups of water in the Kleenex box. When I chided her about it, she started shredding them in the wastebasket. Foam cups are easy to use in a situation like this - smaller for unstable hands to hold, firmer than plastic cups, not breakable like small juice glasses.

Her shredding them is a PITA because they can be rinsed and dried quickly. They cost money, and getting optimal usage out of them is, well, optimal. She's also taken to throwing away the little pill containers one of the sitters brought us. I think they're sauce cups like a restaurant uses. Convenient. Black, which makes it easy for elders to see if all the pills have been taken. If she'll quit throwing them away, I have enough to last.

She's been on a kick of going through drawers and things to see what's in them. She doesn't have a clue. I'm finding all sorts of stuff out - a book on sex and chronic disease. Really? Huh. I think she goes through things in the middle of the night, and frankly, I don't sleep lightly enough to hear her. I find toothpaste out, scissors out, Efferdent tablets out (even though she hasn't washed her dentures herself in 2 years). She's throwing things out she's kept for years - old photos and letters. She doesn't even know she's done it when I ask her about it.

She's quit wearing her glasses. She forgot that she had to use a magnifying glass in addition to her glasses to read anything. So now she's not even wearing her glasses.

She sucks all the glue out of her bottom dentures in about 15 minutes if not less. Now she's started taking them out when the glue is gone. Her mouth is sinking in. If I reglued them every time she wanted it, she'd eat a tube of denture fixative in 2 days.

She's almost stopped talking. Whenever I ask anything or say anything to her, I have to repeat it. Frequently I have to tell her to answer me, or she will just sit there and look at me.

She can't remember how to nor is capable of changing the channel of the TV by the remote control. But she can turn it down every time I get a call and she wants to listen. I have to go outside if I want to have a private conversation.

That's about all I have the energy to document tonight. I've napped on and off all day today. I've simply taken the day off. I've had a headache and felt groggy all day. Tomorrow I have to be up and at it again - courthouse and visit the new facility, talk to the dietician, take an extra blanket. Don't look forward to the visit.

Because I Needed It

Because I needed to remind myself of who I used to be and what I used to do, here is a repost of a video I made about some of the lampwork beads I used to make before I had to move to care for my parents:

I used to get lost in working hot glass. I used to spend hours making one bead. I used to be good at it. I used to have the skills and knowledge to know reactions, chemistry, temperatures, and how to do certain things. I used to make actual, gasp, money  at it.

It's been so many years now, if I ever do get to do it again, I'll have to relearn the basics. I'll have to retrain my hands to do what they used to do automatically. I'll have to spend a year building my business back up.

You have no idea how much I miss what I used to be and do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Joe in Martin, TN

It took all day, but we finally got a bed in a lock-down unit for Joe. It took going to a different state, but fortunately, not too far from us at the present time. Martin Healthcare in Martin, Tennessee, has a lock down unit and had an empty bed. Thank heaven.

The social services person, Letitia, at Medco in Paducah, worked tirelessly today to find a place. Thank you, ma'am. I appreciate your effort. You managed to pull off a task I am totally unqualified for. Again, thank you.

I spent from 2:00 p.m. until a bit after 5:00 p.m. waiting, hiding from Joe, while they found a place, faxed papers, got a confirmation, got discharge papers signed and done, got referral papers signed so the new place would know the proper meds and medical things they needed to know, and packed up his stuff.

Then I met Joe, got him in the car and headed toward Martin. He was so terribly happy. He thought he was going home. I couldn't tell him I was just taking him to a different facility. He babbled all the way from Paducah to Martin. He was delighted to be out of there. He was delighted with the day. He was delighted with all the new roads. My, wasn't it a long round-about way to Arlington. He either knew every single road we were on or had never seen them before in his life. He talked about how long the trucks were. He talked about all the lights. He talked and talked.

When we arrived, he was going to wait in the car. The people at the new place had it all together and had a wheelchair and personnel waiting for him. I told him he needed to go in. He agreed, but when they wanted him to sit in the wheelchair, you could see it come over his face that he realized he was in another facility and not going to Arlington.

While the staff got him settled in his room, I spent the time with the new social services person, Debbie, signing paperwork, reviewing policies, and getting enough information that it will likely take me 2 days to process it all.

The new facility impressed me with its cleanliness, its spaciousness, its light airy feel, its furniture, and its patient to caretaker ratio. Joe is finally in a locked ward from which he cannot escape. The personnel on the ward, at 8:30 in the evening seemed like long-term employees, not young staff that were new-hires. They seemed to know their business, seemed to know their patients, seemed to have endless patience with them, and seemed to know how to deftly handle difficult patients.

I was forced to leave Joe a bit before I actually had meant to because he was becoming so agitated, argumentative and loud. He was already yelling at other residents. He was extremely angry with me and totally incapable of understanding anything other than he wanted to go home, and I was preventing that. Everything was a load of crap.

Of course he could walk. Of course he wasn't falling down. Of course I didn't have to care for him. Those were the main issues he could deal with. Dealing with you won't wash, you can't shave anymore, you stink, you shit and pee in your pants, you wander, you won't quit going, you won't quit trying to burn, you won't quit walking to town were so far out of the realm of his brain that they're not worth even trying to deal with.

So I left him in the hall, propped against a corner, in his khakis, t-shirt, shirt, and lined winter coat with the hood up over his head shooting dagger looks at me and anyone crossing his path.

I arrived at Lola's house around 9:30 p.m. worn out. Aunt Agnes had again come to my rescue and sat with my Mother. My regular sitter had been at the hospital because her daughter had fallen in the shower, smacked her head on the faucet and was in surgery. It was late for my aunt, and I could tell she was tired and anxious to go. There is no way you can express the gratitude you have for family that will come to your rescue when you're in a tight spot and are begging for help.

May I please, please, have a few days to breathe, to handle the present business affairs, to go to the courthouse, to meet with the elder care attorney, to consider what's next, to simply sit and recover one day? With any luck at all, in the locked ward, he is safe in the hands of people that can finally handle him and will not kick him out because he's too difficult. May he not have another stroke or health crisis for enough weeks that I can figure how to and actually go about resolving other personal care issues with Lola, my husband, and myself.

Kicked Out

Well, I just got a phone call from the new nursing home. Joe wasn't in there 24 hours before he managed to get himself kicked out.

There is not one facility in Western Kentucky that can handle him, or will take him. There is not one bed available in any facility with a lockdown unit, which is what it takes to ensure his safety.

My choices are to scramble to find a facility in a different state or bring him home this afternoon. If I bring him home today I can almost guarantee that he will have fallen again by tomorrow. I might be surprised. It could happen.

So I'm off to Paducah at 2:00 to bring him home.

Bits and Pieces

Something I wanted to document before I forget it - Joe was weighed at the hospital yesterday. He now weighs 99 pounds. He lost 25 pounds since September 10.

I have to go to Paducah this afternoon to finish up paperwork for Medco. I'll be taking Joe some extra blankets and things. I'm going to stop by Wallyworld to see if I can find a small, affordable TV for him to put beside his bed. I  debating whether or not to get him a headset to listen to it on. One would think he would be able to hear the TV with it, but then one wonders whether he could remember to use them.

Let's all keep our fingers crossed that Joe doesn't act out at this new place. He seemed calm yesterday, and was well behaved. Things will be so much easier if he remains so. I still have to coordinate getting his glasses replaced, his teeth cared for and his bottom partial usable, and hopefully some new hearing aids. I don't know if he can do the trip to the VA in Marion where the VA might hopefully assist in the cost. The price of them is mind boggling.

For Lynn - I've been listening to Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, a financial book by Michael Lewis (for a review, click here.) One of the cities he visits to discover it's money woes is Vallejo. The first time he said the city's name, my mind immediately went to you.

Lastly, I hope to find time later today to finally get the pictures of Josh and Maurya's wedding off the phone and posted here. I'm sorry it didn't get done and posted more closely to the wedding day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Update on Joe 10/10/11

Joe is now in Medco Nursing Home in Paducah as of today. It was, as usual, a heartwrenching thing to do. I picked him up from the hospital. He wasn't medically qualified for an ambulance ride. Excuse my French, but fuck them for making me do this. Considering it's about $800 for an ambulance ride if you're not medically in need, which they didn't consider Joe in need of, I had to either drive him myself or pay the bill. Guess what, I drove him myself.

His mind isn't worth a dime, but his body just keeps on ticking. All he can think of is going home. He cannot for the life of him realize that he's had a stroke, he has Alzheimer's, he has a huge risk of falling, LIKE EVERYDAY, and that I simply cannot care for him at home. I cannot be calling neighbors over every day because he won't quit trying to go and falls down now.

When I pulled out of the hospital parking lot, he put his hands over his face and just cried. He was so glad to be out of there. He just wanted to go home.

Thank you Joe and the universe for making me bear the price of not letting Joe go home.

Every single person out there that reads this blog should stop and consider what plans you have for yourself.

  • Which child are you going to task with taking care of you when you've lost your mind? 
  • Do you have enough money to pay for that? 
  • If not, is that child hooked up with an elder care attorney to protect them and you from Medicaid? 
  • Did you take the time to educate yourself and them on what should happen?
  • Are you just simply trusting things will work out?
If you're simply trusting things will work out, you're setting your children up for a world of heartache. Get over yourself and take care of business and don't curse your children with that.

So I drove my sobbing father away from the hospital and across town to another facility for him to live in.

Since I appear to be bitter beyond belief at the moment, just let me end with saying I hope to have my emotions under control sometime soon, and I hope to return to just putting up factual documentation of how the days are faring. 

Lola's Response

I talked to Lola honestly tonight (Sunday, October 9, 2011) about what's happening with her husband, my father.  Knowing that my mom also has dementia, I had no idea what to expect. Feeling that it was her life and her spouse, I felt obligated to, at the least, talk to her. I had slight expectations from their lifelong history. Her responses floored me.

Up front, I told her that if she did not want to visit her husband she would never ever see him again. Ever. She had no reaction.

I asked her if she would like to be with him in a nursing home with them together in the same room. She vehemently said no. My mother would prefer to never see her husband again than to live with him in a nursing home. After 66 years of living together.

Even knowing that my mother's mind has deteriorated, I must admit that I never ever expected her repugnance of a nursing home to override her desire to be with Joe.

My grandmother used to say that she couldn't throw the dishwater out without hitting Joe with it. My father hung around my mother and her family from before they were teenagers. My father and my mother were emotionally tied from before they were teenagers. That's 71 years at a minimum. 71.

To hear my mother without tears or emotion say she would prefer to never ever see him again than to live with him in a nursing home was astounding to me.

What kind of primal fears drive human beings that dementia cannot override?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An Explanation

I feel the need to explain a few things.

I am not made of money.

  • I had to buy tags for my car - $120.
  • The days I had to hire sitters for my mother to allow me to attend my son's wedding cost a total of $1,561.
  • The days we paid for a hotel room in Frankfort were at least $267.
  • We had to eat, preferably, 3 meals a day while there - at least $45 on the cheap per day x 3 days - $135.
  • We had to pay for gas to get there and back - At least $150.
  • I had to buy a dress appropriate for the mother of the groom - on sale around $50.
  • Max had to buy a suit appropriate for the dad of the groom - basic acceptable $100.
  • We had to pay our share of the rehearsal dinner the groom's family picks up - let's just say over $300.
  • We gave the newlyweds an appropriate financial wedding gift - none of your business.
  • I am spending around $30 every two days for gas to go to Paducah on, right now, a seemingly daily basis.
  • Sitters for mother cost $9 an hour.
  • It's not nice to constantly impose requests for sitting on relatives.
  • Max's income covers our present debts and household expenses. He lives in Memphis. He has to be housed, fed, clothed and buy gas to get to work.
  • My parents' income just barely covers their household expenses, grocery bills, and 72 hours ($648) of sitters.
The last four weeks have been a whirlwind of one week of dealing with Dad's bad behavior, his crisis &  unexpected illnesses with two hospital stays, a hopefully once in a lifetime wedding, arranging sitters, still maintaining daily living, and travel on a daily basis.

I cannot care for my father. The decision to put him a nursing home was heart wrenching in and of itself. He has been miserable, combative - hitting and kicking caretakers and verbally threatening them. His behavior has made him ineligible at most facilities. It's been a non-stop fight to find a place that will take him. 

He was only eligible for 20 days of Medicare; the first place that would take him didn't/doesn't have a Medicaid bed available, so a transfer was mandatory. Three places have refused him.

He IS NOT eligible for any present VA benefits. To become eligible his only disability is deafness. To be declared eligible he has to be taken to a VA facility - closest Marion, Illinois. To be taken there, he has to not be combative, healthy enough to not be in the hospital, have enough energy to withstand the ordeal, and be mobile enough to go where it's needed.

My mother cannot be left alone for more than a few hours at a time, thus needing a sitter. Again - pay or relatives. 

I am nearly 60 and cannot go like I did at 20. One person can only do so much, and I am doing the absolute best that I can.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Update on Joe 10/08/11

Am back from visiting Joe at Western Baptist, 5th floor, Room 577. Found out that's the stroke floor.

He is doing extremely well today. The draw in his mouth is gone; most of the slur in his voice is gone. He was lying in his bed asleep with his untouched, uncovered, stone cold lunch in front of him. I couldn't wake him so just sat down in a chair. In a bit a nurse came in to check him and managed to wake him up. He was delighted to see me and wanted to know why I didn't visit yesterday. Sigh.

After the nurse left, he drank all of the soda I'd brought him and started on eating the roast beef off the roast beef sandwich I'd brought. A different nurse came in and about had a fit because the speech therapist had said he had trouble swallowing. I just shrugged and told her he was on his 2nd cola (mine) and scarfing down roast beef and tomato and having no problem.

I sat with him for about an hour. He made no attempt to try to get up. He did want me to go into the next room and get his stuff. He couldn't process he was in the hospital as opposed to the nursing home. Even after I told him 5 times. He couldn't process he'd fainted and had a mild stroke yesterday. Kept asking me why on earth he was there and life was miserable and he wanted to go home. He did manage to remember I'd gone somewhere for a marriage but had no idea who or where.

He asked about Mama, and I got myself in a bit of trouble over that. I didn't want to tell him she's not processing he's gone, so I told him she was a little worried about him. That upset him because he doesn't want her worrying about anything. Can't win for losing, Jola Gayle.

I went by the other nursing home and picked his stuff up from there. In the end, he was missing 3 pairs of khaki pants, a bottle of Old Spice, a can of deodorant and his glasses. I left all the clothes they'd labeled as his that really weren't his in the closet. We can do without the Old Spice and deodorant, but I have to say I want reimbursement for his pants and glasses. Damn it. Now I have to make an appointment for him and take him to get new glasses. Not that he didn't need new ones anyway, but he can't see anything until then.

I knew not to take anything valuable to the nursing home, but seriously, at $269 a day, I did expect a staff capable of labeling patients' clothes and not losing their glasses. They tried to blame the glasses on both him laying them down somewhere and some other wandering klepto ladies. He's always been pretty good about not taking his glasses off except to sleep. If that's so common, a simple procedure like taking a picture and putting it in the file ALONGSIDE the list of possessions a patient checks in with should make it easy for personnel to keep up things like that. Most people don't get to that age without needing glasses, and you'd think that would be an SOP.

It was nice however to get a chance to talk to a few of nurses' assistants. They told me that in the last week, he had been adjusting well and finally allowing them to help him bathe, shower and shave. Perhaps with this last stroke he won't be such a problem as to be unplaceable in a facility.

I asked Mama today if she wanted to visit him, and she said she didn't think she could do that. Don't know what's in her mind, but we can't even get her to go out on the porch and sit outside on nice days anymore. She's become almost, if not actually, agoraphobic.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Update on Joe 10/07/11

It's been a while since my last post. Frankly, I've been worn out. However, today Joe had a mild stroke, and I know I need to update and document.

I got a call at 10:44 a.m.from Parkview Nursing Home that they had just discovered Joe propped against the wall in the bathroom sitting on the toilet after a large messy bowel movement. His speech was slurred, he didn't know where he was, and his mouth was drawn. They wanted to take him to the hospital. Yes, of course, do.

It took me awhile to get dressed, round up a sitter for Lola, and get on the road to Paducah. My 2 sitters were working their other job and going to a funeral, respectively. Aunt Agnes graciously agreed to sit but she had a luncheon engagement with someone she hadn't seen in two years at 11:00 but would gladly come after that. So I got Lola up and eating breakfast before I left. Mom does okay being left alone for a few hours, but she really is bothered if she wakes up and thinks she's alone in the house. Aunt Agnes has gone beyond helpful in helping me with this. I cannot thank her enough.

I got to the hospital before 1:00 p.m. and found Joe in the Emergency Room drowsing. His mouth was definitely drawn. His speech was slurred and very slow. He was totally disoriented and had no idea what had happened or where he was. It took all afternoon long to get various stroke assessments, CT scans, x-rays, and urinary tests done. Joe was lethargic, unresponsive unless forced, and thankfully not a bit combative this time.

There was, again, no evidence on CT scan of a massive brain event. However, I was told this time that mild events can take 3-4 days to show up on CT scans. Again, with no drastic change in outcome or treatment, an MRI was not absolutely necessary.

Finally, around 4:00 p.m. a doctor in practice with the other doctors who treated him a couple of weeks ago came into the room. He introduced himself with "I'm sorry to meet you under such sad circumstances." Uh, oh, this is not good my brain told me.

A quite intense conversation with Dr. Wilson ensued. He was the epitome of a doctor I admire - professional, compassionate, and totally honest. He laid things out honestly, which let decision making be done without misunderstanding. We discussed more of a hospice care for Dad than any other kind of treatment.

We have a DNR, no heroic measures and no feeding tube on Dad. He asked me if I wanted to discontinue medicines Dad was already on, i.e., blood pressure medicines. Okay, gulp, you just put the gun in my hand and asked me to pull the trigger.

That was far more responsibility for Dad's death than I am willing to bear. I can comfortably let Dad die as all humans eventually do. I cannot comfortably deny medicine he was previously on that I feel would actively cause his death. Dad will be treated with current conditions and kept comfortable and pain free.

When I finally got home after 5:00 p.m., Aunt Agnes and I got Mom a supper, and I checked my phone for messages. There were 3 that need responses. Great. You aren't supposed to have your cell phone on in the ER. So now it's after business hours on a Friday.

Dad was supposed to be evaluated this morning for transfer to another nursing home because Parkview doesn't have a Medicare room available for him at the present time. Dad's time where he was was fastly running out because the ward he was on is not a Medicare/Medicaid ward.

Because Medicare won't pay for both a stay in a hospital AND a room at a nursing home, I have to call the nursing home before 9:00 a.m. tomorrow to let them know if I want to personally pay $269 dollars to keep his room for him each day until he's released from the hospital. Gah. Since, OF COURSE, this happened on Friday, normal business people are off on the weekend, and he was supposed to be evaluated today for replacement, I'm flumoxed.

All I can do is try to get people on the phone starting at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday and find out if his placement at the new place is assured, then call Parkview and deny the reservation if so. If I can't get affirmation from the new place, Medco, I have to decide to risk having to bring him home for a few days or pay $269 a day to reserve the room.

May I mention that with Mom's hours, I don't normally wake up until 10:00 a.m. and don't have a functioning brain until 11:00?

I arrived home this evening to a kitchen that was a total catastrophe because I was in the process of making a huge batch of chili when the first call came in. I left the pot of beans on the stove and a counter full of dirty dishes. When I got home I spent time on the phone retrieving voice mails, and calling pertinent people with updates. Then I tried to regroup. Then I finished the chili. Now I'm updating the blog. It's 11:50 p.m., and I'm waiting for Lola to finally go to bed, but if she doesn't go soon, I'm going to have to push the issue because I need enough sleep to make rational decisions in the morning.

Oh, yes. I must mention that in all of this, Lola hasn't once asked to visit Joe. She hasn't shed one tear. She seems vaguely concerned but totally disconnected from what is happening. That, of course, is mind boggling to me considering their total devotion to each other. I always felt in the way of their total devotion to each other, an obligation they thought they should fulfill but really resented. All I can assume, for what it's worth, is that Lola's mind is either gone enough she doesn't realize what's happening or it has refused to process a reality that she can't accept.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Frankfort for the Wedding

Tonight I'm sitting in a hotel in Frankfort, Ky., the Capitol Plaza, for Josh's wedding tomorrow. The hotel is a block from the wedding site and has turned out to be a very nice hotel. It's modern, light, airy, well-furnished, with largish standard rooms, which are clean, at least on the surface.

On the trip up, we left Memphis and traveled to Nashville, then caught I65 north. It was a road I've never traveled before, so it was at least interesting for that. We passed the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. It has a vaguely disturbing modern sculpture outside which consists of a huge, as in 2-3 stories high, bee/sunflower yellow cone with its top cut off on a slant and topped by a bright red spike. Since I'm unsure of copyright issues, if'n you're interested you can see a pic by clicking here.

On the way here, we passed three things I wanted to remember. I've listed the Corvette Museum, and have totally lost the other two things. A mind is a terrible thing to lose.

We played find a Taco Bell for lunch. Not having had a taco for ages, I've been dreaming of them for the last week so I declared at the beginning of the trip I wanted to stop at Taco Bell for lunch. Amazingly, Max managed to drive through Nashville without getting off for a Taco stop. As we passed the last exit, he said, well, there was a Taco Bell. He didn't believe me when I said we'd have to travel into Kentucky before we passed another one. Ain't it grand sometimes knowing what you're talking about?

He kept believing any exit that had a Mickey D's and Wendy's would also have a Taco Bell. Wrongo. We did discover that Taco Bell really doesn't advertise on the Interstate food signs like the other fast food places. Missed marketing opportunity there, Taco Bell.  He kept pulling off at exits sure he'd find one. We did finally, in Bowling Green.

Sadly, after craving for weeks, I discovered that Taco Bell changed their meat recipe after the recent bruhaha over their ingredients, and to my probable shame, the new recipe just tasted off. I find I really liked the dubious meat in the original recipe. Grade D? Mebbe. Mostly not meat? Mebbe. It still tasted better.

And on a final Taco Bell rant, what is WITH putting all the sour cream on one end of the taco?  Are their workers so physically challenged or mentally that they can't lay a stream of even sour cream across a taco shell? No one wants to bite into a mouthful of only sour cream.

We arrived in Frankfort and got checked in by about 5:15 p.m. Called Josh to let him know we were here  and were informed they changed the rehearsal time from 6:30 to 6:00. Gah. No time to unwind. Rush to change travel clothes and put on make up.  Fortunately, the wedding location is just a bit over a block down the road from the hotel. It's a delightful historic setting with a beautiful old house surrounded by a large lawn and gardens.

The rehearsal was fun and hopefully ironed out any problems with a smooth ceremony happening tomorrow. After the rehearsal, they were yanked around a bit by the restaurant hosting the dinner not having their reserved room cleared until 8:30 p.m. Like the kids needed more stress added to their plans. The food was Italian and pretty good. The company was fantastic, and all was well in the end.

So now I'm back in my hotel room with my bra off, getting my nicotine levels back to normal and enjoying a nice gin with a coke chaser.

We're all keeping our fingers crossed it doesn't rain tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Update on Joe 9/27/2011

Joe has been moved to Room 1002 at Parkview Nursing Home in Paducah. He's giving the nurses hell and being a general pain in the butt to them. They had to put an ankle bracelet on him today because he tried to escape. He apparently argued with the man in his other room so they moved him, but that may be hearsay according to a nurse's assistant today who passed on a bit of gossip.

He still has his nights and days turned around. I had a meeting with the staff today, and couldn't visit him because he was asleep.

The floor nurse told me today that he did have a urinary tract infection while he was in the hospital. The hospital didn't tell me that; they speculated he had a swollen prostate, which could cause the incontinence. The nurse told me the prostate problem could have cause the urinary tract infection. The importance of the infection is that apparently it can trigger the cascade that Joe went through, turning him totally incompetent in a few days' time.

Tomorrow I'm leaving Arlington to go to Memphis. We have one day to get tags for my car, which expired in, huhum, July. Then we go to Frankfort KY for my son, Josh's wedding. I plan to turn brainless once I'm in Memphis. I will let Max point me in the direction to go and go there. He better not lead me down the primrose path.

If anyone in the area can visit Joe, it would make me feel better about leaving him alone without a visit from family in the days I'll be gone. I didn't visit on Saturday or Sunday because I wanted to give him time to acclimate, and, frankly, I needed a break. Since he was asleep today, he'll think no one has ever visited him.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Update on Joe 9/24/11

For the time being, Joe is in Parkview Nursing Home in Paducah in Room 1004, bed 1 (out of 2). Anyone who wants to is welcome to visit him. I was there today, but I will not be going on Saturday. He has his nights and days mixed up. He is roaming the halls all night via a wheelchair. During the day, they are trying to readjust his time clock by keeping him in the chair and as awake as they can by doing that. Whenever I visit, all he does is plead to go to bed. The nurse told me they would start sedating him at night if it isn't turned around by the end of the weekend.

I understand what they're doing, but it's excruciating to see. My dad has turned into an old man sitting in a wheelchair in a hall in a nursing home. He doesn't know where he is. He doesn't know how to get back to his room. He doesn't know he has a room. In 10 days he's gone from a kinda whacky old man with obvious dementia to nearly witless and unable to finish a sentence. He's nigh onto immobile.

I bawled in the car after I left today. It is heart wrenching. No other solution is available. I cannot care for him at home. I cannot pick him up when he falls. At least if he falls in the nursing home, there are plenty of young people experienced in picking him up. If I were to bring him home, he would require someone sitting with him every minute, which I cannot do.

It is absolutely astounding how he went from being able to ambulate, speak, and live to nearly immobile, incapable of finishing a sentence, and practically unable to feed himself and enjoy life, if limited, in just 10 days.

There are no words to express my dismay. He exasperated the hell out of me, but I would rather that than what is now. It is nearly unbearable.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Update on Joe 9/20/2011

I was simply too tired to post last night and sad. Yesterday Joe was in bed when I arrived. He seemed to be asleep. I had brought him a banana and some sliced ham. The banana because he was eating 3 a day and the ham because his first desire in a meal is the meat. When he came around he wanted the banana but only ate about 2 inches of it. He didn't even touch the ham.

He was fairly lucid, lethargic but lucid. While I was there a therapist came in to walk him, and he made his way down the hall, back and partway the other way before wanting to go back to his room. He was bright and interested in his surroundings. He got the therapist tickled nattering on about the fans on the roof and asking her who was doing that. He paused to let people in wheelchairs go around him.

We got him shaved up a little. I took his electric razor in. He wouldn't let the aides shave him. His beard had gotten pretty long, so it was rough going. We made a basic pass; then he complained of it hurting his face, so I quit. It was sad that he didn't know what the razor was when I handed it to him. He had no clue how to turn it on. This is his razor that he has used daily.

His medical condition is stable, so the hospital wants to release him NOW. They were unsuccessful at finding a place yesterday but expect to do so today. I couldn't get them to give me a release time, so I doubt I'll be there since I'll have to arrange a sitter for mother. I plan to take him some clothes when I go. He's shivering with cold in the hospital gown, and he needs to be dressed in the home in my opinion.

His being more lucid yesterday made it emotionally very hard. He asked me not to go when it came time to end the visit. That took me by surprise and bushwhacked my emotions. Although he wasn't talking to me, I suppose my presence was comforting to him. It also increased my feelings of being a traitor by placing him in a home. He's not lucid enough to understand I can't care for him; yet he's lucid enough to be very hurt by it. When he was whacko and combative, it was easy to be so worn out dealing with him to only feel relief of the burden of care. When he's not fighting everything and passive, it is hard not to feel you're abandoning him to a strange place full of strangers. Ripping away his whole life as he knows it tears you up.