Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lola Update 5/20/12

I think that my lament until my mother dies is going to be, "How long can the body keep on going after the mind is turned to total mush?" Yes, this last week has been a bit difficult as I've been under the weather somewhat myself. Without going into the TMI  (too much information) field, let's just say I think I have a partial bowel blockage.

Since I have to pay someone to stay with my mother if something happens to me, I've been trying to let this work itself out. It's a totally new thing for me, as I've never been plagued with these types of symptoms before, except for the one time after my hysterectomy when a shunt pulled too soon caused a total bowel failure. That resulted in surgery, two weeks to the day after the hysterectomy. Otherwise, this is not a problem I've dealt with a lot.

Anyway, I've tried Exlax, Correctol, Fleet Enemas and Magnesium Citrate, and things seem to be resolving or working downwards at least. If things continue to cause discomfort by Monday, I suppose I'll be going into the doctors. My, what a concept - can you give me a mega  whatever to get whatever is causing my belly to look like I swallowed a bowling ball, sounding like carbonating a coke, and causing discomfort with every step I take?

So, dealing with someone whose brain has turned to mushy peas has been irritating. Lola continues to get up every morning and commence thumbing through the same photographs she's looked at for hours every day for the last 6 months. She no longer considers combing her hair a thing to be done, ever. She continues to turn every glass she drinks something from upside down on the good end tables, not on her food tray. She continues to place every plate and saucer on some good piece of furniture, rather than on the replaceable food  tray from which she eats. She continues to hide her forks and spoons in various places surrounding her chair and tables.

She continues to throw every lap towel, napkin, drinking straw and wrapping from a Hershey's Kiss across the room. Also, anything she's now forgotten that she used to keep in her side table drawer - nail files and finishing brushes, for example, gets thrown across the room. She continues to hide her dentures in various pockets, tissue boxes and on end tables. She continues to be silent and not conversant.

She continues to be content to urinate anywhere anytime and sit in the results without saying a word. On the other hand, she continues to creep off to the bathroom and throw away perfectly good, dry Depends without replacing them and go back to her chair and sit without any underwear on whatsoever. She's begun to think it's perfectly okay to come into the living room with any clothing whatsoever on below her waist.

You could spend hours sitting in the same room with her, without her saying a word or making a move. Yet, if you go about your day and your chores, you never know what to expect when you check back on her.

Herding her to bed is a 15-minute project. It takes forever for her to walk from her chair to the bathroom. It takes forever for her to change the single diaper into the double one for night. If I stand by and watch, it bugs her. If I go away, she gets lost and ends up coming back into the living room and thumbing through photographs again until my 10-minute alarm goes off and I check back in and discover her in the living room instead of going to bed.

Now I seriously am asking why in the hell haven't I heard any of these horror tales of caring for the elderly. Was all of this so shameful that no one ever talked about it? Is everyone else packing their elderly off to nursing homes so they don't have to deal with this? Did people used to just die of high blood pressure, cancer, or whatever before they got to this point?

1 comment:

Alex Dragon said...

I think in the past people used to die before they really got to this stage, either from something treatable now or from cancer, or simply from neglecting themselves; failing to eat properly and then succumbing to an opportune infection.

People _do_ talk about these things - just not where you've been looking. :-)

Yes, the challenges of looking after a frail elder with senility/dementia/alzheimer's is frustrating and seemingly unending.

The scenarios you've mentioned all happen daily in nursing homes. My wife's sisters promised their mother on her deathbed that they wouldn't put their father in a nursing home - but he's getting to the stage where it's going to become inevitable. He falls, and the daughter who lives with him can't pick him up. He doesn't want to eat and has lost almost 20kg - and wasn't a big man to begin with. No-one should ever make such a promise to their parents or partner - no-one can see the future and see what will happen.

In a nursing home (a GOOD nursing home) a frail or demented elder should get excellent care that is just not possible to do for one person on their own. In the nursing home there's a team effort - a team of people cooking, serving and feeding food. A team of people doing the cleaning, someone whose job is just to do laundry, someone whose job is just to keep the elder entertained or engaged or just supervised. There's someone whose job it is to get her up and showered and dressed, and someone else who puts her to bed at night. Someone to supervise the medications. When you think of all the jobs that need to be done to look after an elderly, confused, incontinent person, you realise what an overwhelming thing it is for one person to cope with.

Some practical ideas for dealing with the "takes off the pad and clothing" issue: I know you have her in pajamas but you might consider clothing that she can't undo so easily - like sweatpants with a tie (make a new opening for the tie so it ties at the back - out of sight, out of mind). You can also cover her usual chair with a kylie or bluey - even if you just buy the puppy training pads that are absorbent on one side and plastic coated on the other, it will protect the furniture from urine soaking into it and save you some cleaning up.

If the photographs are a problem, make your mom a special "magazine". I made one for my grandmother - I gathered a heap of the funny animal photos from a site like the daily squee, and put them into a plastic-pocket display folder. Nan would leaf through it for hours at a time and comment about the animals.

With the furniture you could try buying the clear plastic protectors that are sold for dining tables. here it's sold by the metre. Cut a piece to exactly fit the top of each piece of furniture. You can wipe spills off with a damp cloth or dry towel.

Lastly, if part of the problem is that she feels the need to "fiddle" with things, give her things that she can fiddle with :-) the dementia association here sells cushions with pockets and bits of lace and different textures and such - but they are expensive. The ladies of our church made some of these with knitted patches and crocheted flowers and zippers and buttons and ribbons. They are really good for non-destructive fiddling and fidgetting.