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.