Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sooo Tired

Today is the first day in over three weeks that I have been able to stay home and relax.  It's kind of nice because I'm somewhat snowed in and my one appointment canceled and Keith decided to try and fight the storm to get to work.  For the last three weeks we've been on an entire merry-go-round trying to get the mountain kitchen remodel done, take care of my folks, children, grandchildren, children's dog, prepare for Thanksgiving, and deal with two funerals and follow the sudden illness of Keith's sister.  I haven't had time to return phone calls to my son's in-laws or to make more than a perfunctory phone call to a friend who broke her sternum.  In the meantime my eye won't stop twitching and I did serious damage to my pointer finger when attempting to move our grandson's port-a-crib upstairs.

Thanksgiving went something like the following.  My cousin from LA came to visit ten days before Thanksgiving.  For a while he went to Canon City for work and visited his other cousins in Denver.  In between he hung with us until his wife came and they headed down to Colorado Springs before heading up to Vail for the holiday.  The weekend before Thanksgiving, Keith and I journeyed up to the mountains to put the kitchen back together in preparation for our first Thanksgiving in the new kitchen.   We returned on Monday and left again on Tuesday.  In between I grocery shopped several times and cooked and froze the scalloped potatoes and gravy base.  On Tuesday my father, Keith and I journeyed up to Vail where our cousins were already comfortably situated in their Vail hotel.  In this order, we go out to dinner on Tuesday night, I cook on Wednesday, my cousins cook late on Wednesday, I make dinner for the five of us on Wednesday, then cook on Thursday and have a really nice dinner.  The kids come early on Friday, I repeat the dinner on Friday.  On Saturday Keith hitches a ride back to Denver with my cousins so he can catch a plane to Chicago for his Aunt's funeral and to visit his sister.  My father and I stay on in Vail with the kids until Sunday.  Steve takes us all to dinner on Saturday night.  That is just so great for me.  I enjoy sharing a half liter of margaritas with him.  Dad and I come back Sunday and Dad takes me to lunch.  I then collapse and try to recover for the next day when the second round of pest control takes place in my father's apartment.

Here is the day after Thanksgiving in summary:
8:00 am - call from the security system in Vail.  The alarm went off.  We dispatch the police.
Call the cleaning lady, the contractor, and the alarm company to look over the situation.  None was there to trip the alarm.
Send cleaning lady over and she trips the alarm again.
Text niece to find out how my sister-in-law is doing.
Cleaning lady calls back to say all is well and she thinks the fed ex packages tripped the alarm.
Workout
Go to Target for bedbug covers.  While in Target, niece calls back with an update on my sister-in-law.
Go to my father's residence to prepare for pest control.
See the Executive Director who dispatches Housekeeping to Dad's apartment to coordinate with pest control.  The little buggers have returned in full force, she says.
Take home all of my fathers' laundry to wash at high temperatures.  Housekeeping takes the bed linens.
Confer with pest control twice.
Dad chooses to eat in his dining room and remain on the premises.  Thank God.
I pack up the laundry, get into the elevator on the 16th floor and proceed to get stuck with the Housekeeper.  After several minutes, the maintenance man rescues us.  I wait for the one of three remaining elevator that is operating and when it doesn't come, I walk down 16 flights of stairs with the two laundry bags.
I have my first glass of wine of the day at 2:00 and just keep drinking.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hurricane Two

On return, my dad has no laundry and the people who are scheduling my parents both in therapy and in personalized living have no system and again, I go ballistic.  I have now eliminated all fun activities for myself, i.e. politics, writing, book club, luncheons, lunch group and I'm trying to figure out a way to get through out of town company during Thanksgiving and somehow pull the mountain house back together.  I'm up there for two of the five weekdays and it's payback when I return.  My father is out of underwear, and he's bored.  Yikes.  Plus I have to take care of the kids' dog which means running home to walk him in the middle of chores.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hurricane One

The last week and a half or so has been such a complete hurricane.   The retirement home has a new executive director and in the space of his short time span, he has extended an edict to get all paper work in order, a few pieces of which I had let go.  He has also been notified of Dad's ennui and has put personalized living on his case to try and "integrate him into the community."  In short time, I have had to get Keith to transfer Mom's medical power of attorney to me, meet with the director of personalized living, fill out twenty pages of forms for Dad, and get Mom to sign off on the POA.  (I prayed she would be in the mood to sign off and write her name).  That all being the background, the week started with making the half hour trip down to the shade place to go over the specs once more for our mountain kitchen remodel since I thought the salesperson wasn't focusing on my order.  I made the appointment, drove the half hour and she didn't show.  She had "spaced."  I was livid and read the entire mega thousand foot store the riot act.  Then  it was Halloween, and I, of course, wanted to take Zeca over to the senior home to show him off in his zebra costume which he wore without the ears because they "kept falling down."  Hoping to carry on a tradition, I had already made Halloween cookies with him on the weekend.  Then I had to try to finish my book club book.  The book was Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken  and it was miserable reading about what the Japanese did to American prisoners of war and totally depressed me.  I was also trying to get ready to go to Arizona for the weekend to see Keith's sister and brother-in-law since my brother-in-law is quite ill and we hadn't seen them for a long time.  On the Thursday before the Friday when we were to leave, my day was the following:  workout (my personal trainer insisted I get in my second session originally scheduled for the Friday when I was leaving), copy all personalized living papers along with the orders for giving Mom and Dad extra care while we were away, go to book club (another half hour drive), pick up lamps (another forty-five minute trip there and back) to take up to the mountains for the kitchen on the Monday after we returned from Arizona, bring them back to the house and trade cars, have a bite of lunch in fifteen minutes (Keith shows up unexpectedly and I growl at him), go to the manicurist, and meet Keith and my father at my mother's so the business officer at the retirement facility can notarize the change of Power of Attorney.  That is about five more activities than I like to have in a day.  When it was over, we went back up to Dad's apartment for a glass of wine.  Dad suggested we then dine at his place.  We accepted since I had nothing prepared for dinner.  I  did have a few glasses of wine before we went to the dining room.

We sit down in the dining room in a visible spot.  We ordered and then I proceeded to the salad bar.  I brought back my plate and started to sit and the chair which has rollers in the front rolled back and I fell straight down, hitting my head solidly on the wood chair and my butt on the floor.  The salad and plate were strewn all around me.  The rest of the octegenarians in the room looked for a moment, and without missing a beat went back to their meals, I assume grateful it wasn't them.  The cleaning crew moved in quickly, and the dining room director came over with a bunch of free meal coupons.  My head was bleeding and I could feel the inch and a half gash in the back of my head plus it hurt.  I went to the bathroom and tried to clean up the blood.  Keith stood outside the rest room waiting to see if we were going to the emergency room.  I insisted on normality and returned to eat my entire meal which Dad relished including his chocolate mousse dessert.  He seemed unperturbed by my fall.  We went home and I appled cold compresses.  Keith wrapped my head to hopefully close the wound.  Our plane was at 8:00 am on Friday and we were running out of time.  I woke up at four, and somehow or another managed to shower, dress, pack and leave.  I was so grateful that I was away for the weekend.  I vowed to once again cut down on my activities and try to figure out how to better balance my new life.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Ugly Tuesday

On Monday the cleaning lady at my father's apartment found a bedbug in Dad's bedroom and we were instructed that on Tuesday, the cleaning crew would come to the apartment and remove all linens, have a pest control company spray and would then have everything back in order by 2:30 in the afternoon.  I'm in a funk over the bedbug stuff and so I decide I'm going to go easy on my chores for the day.  I have to find a restaurant for my cousins and us to eat at before we go to the theater that night which I do on Open Table.   I work out as usual, then shower and dress, call my cousin and tell him to drive separately because I have this bedbug situation.  Dutifully I arrive at my father's apartment at 10:30 where as instructed I pick everything up off the floor before taking Dad back to the house.  Dad spends the day grunting before the television and reading a few pages in his book except for when I feed him lunch.  I do chores around the house and walk our children's dog who is staying with us while our son is in Colorado Springs on business.  I even take a short nap.  I am concerned because we have received a phone call from the theater warning us that there are some street closures because President Obama is in town.  As predicted, the weather turns cold and it starts to rain around 4:00 as I am taking Dad back to his apartment.  Of course, the apartment is in complete disarray when we arrive.  There are no linens.  The boxsprings and mattresses are off the frames and the couch is still torn apart.  I call the front desk and housekeeping.  Soon after they arrive and try to put things back together.  The pillows are still wet so we have to borrow two pillows from another apartment.  At 4:45, I finally leave after my father thanks me and I tell him I don't mind but could he please try a little harder to be happy?  I'm fine on the street to downtown until I get mid-way.  My cousins call to tell me they are already seated at the restaurant.  They took the light rail.  Smart people.  I call my husband and leave a message to order me a big fat glass of wine and dinner at the restaurant so we won't be late.  Then I begin a series of jigs and jogs through downtown. I try to call my cousin and discover I don't have his cell number.  I accidentally call my daughter-in-law who calls me back and tells me she has to have her gall bladder out and in addition to taking her and the kids out to dinner tomorrow night, could I come at 7:00 tomorrow morning and help her get the kids ready for school.  Every street to the theater and the restaurant is blocked by a bus and a police car.  It seems the president's hotel is adjacent to the theater and the restaurant.  I finally turn into a parking lot that shows up miraculously, not the one I usually go to for ten bucks.  This one is fifteen.  Two women are ahead of me to pay for their stalls at the pay station.  They're having trouble paying for each of their cars.  I hold the umbrella for the second one, the first one finally makes her payment, then the second lady makes her payment and then it's my turn.  I then have to take the receipt back to the car (the furthest away I could have been from the pay station) and then scurry over to the restaurant.  Altogether I am more than a half hour late and my husband who has sprained his foot and is wearing a soft shoe is still not there.  I go to pick up my phone to find out where he is.  (He's also stranded in the traffic).  It seems I don't have my phone.  I left it in the car.  My husband arrives concurrently, we rush through dinner....oh, that wine tastes soooo good and then we're off to the play.  It's wonderful, so worth all that it took to get there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Meltdown

Yesterday Mom had dental work done at her facility.  The dentists (a father and son team who insisted on receiving their $1300 fee ahead of time) came to Mom's unit and got her.  We all walked downstairs and outside to their cozy van where they proceeded to pull one tooth, replace a crown and salvage another tooth. I waited in the lobby while the procedure was done and then returned to pick her up and take her back to her unit with one of the dentists accompanying us.  She did great.  (She loves the attention of all doctors.)  The problem was a series of mishaps that came later and resulted in a total meltdown by me.  The dentist failed to send a fax describing post-visit needs.  The occupational therapist, I'm told came to take Mom for her session without any knowledge that she'd been to the dentist.  The second shift at the unit received no information that Mom had had work done.  A cryptic note by the "lead" from the morning shift said she needed a prescription for acetaphamine (over the counter generic that is also Tylenol.)  At the grocery store where I'm shopping for my father, I get a call from one of the unit caregivers asking for the name of the dentist. I don't have it with me and can't remember if it's in the car.  When I get back to the car, I find the number. When I call back, I get a different caregiver who insists that it's fine if I give her the number.  She is the current "lead."  Why wasn't the number on the instructions?  Well, it seems there were no instructions faxed.  I'm somewhat leary of this because they knew about the acetaphamine.  And besides if the "lead" from the first shift hadn't received the instructions she had been notified were coming, why didn't she call me to find out why they hadn't come yet or better yet call the dentist who is the retirement facility's on premises dentist?  Everyone is trying to cover their backs and I'm just plain livid.  This has happened before.  The caregiver unit tells the dental office to call me to explain what's going on and they also make excuses.  "You know," the receptionist says, "these homes are all the same.  There's constant turnover."  I don't care that there's constant turnover.  I want the instructions sent and permission for whoever to give my mother Tylenol.  I go downstairs and tell the "Health and Wellness" director.  She nods blandly and says it sounds like a lack of communication, but she doesn't really sound very remorseful.   I take a deep breath and decide to let them duke it out while I go home and get a glass of wine.  As my husband says, I've learned my lesson.  If I don't watch every move it won't get done.  And there are a lot of moves!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hey, Dad, It's My Birthday

We have made it through the Jewish holidays somehow or another.  My father insisted on attending services with us in the mountains (a one hour and forty-five minute trip up and back two times).  He insisted on going to services (the second day was three hours plus and he finally made us leave).  Then, after saying he wasn't going to go with us for Yom Kippur services, he changed his mind and insisted we take him with.  We decided to only attend at night.  I warned him that it may be cold and snowy. (It was).  It didn't matter to him, he said.  "We have no kitchen," I told him.  (We're remodeling).  It didn't matter to him.  We traipse up the mountains to our kitchen-lacking home.  We, of course, have to go out to dinner and, of course, we have to go early to get a handicapped space at the chapel.  (This is the fourth meal we've had to eat out in order to accommodate my father.  Keith, my husband, always pays.)  He stays awake for the service and, as if to show his macho side, rises and sits throughout the service.  "I'm confused," he tells me. "About what?" I ask.  "Where are we going?"  "To services tonight, then home for Break the Fast tomorrow."  He gets up the next morning and asks if we're going out.  I tell him Keith and I are fasting, but I'll go to McDonalds and get him some breakfast.  I go down the mountain, purchase the breakfast (for $5.47 you get a drink and hash browns...I've never eaten breakfast at McDonalds and the clerk stares at me as I try to navigate the process).  My father eats everything and then we head on home so I can prepare for the Break the Fast with our children and grandchildren.  The next day I am visiting his apartment and take out his calendar.  "You know," I tell him.  "My birthday is Tuesday.  Why don't you have that written on there?  You've got your grandson's, you've got your son's.  Why don't you have mine?"  Tears come to his eyes and he makes excuses.  "You know what, Dad, Tuesday you're going to take me for lunch and you're going to pay."  (We have to go to the doctor anyway so we might as well go to lunch.)  He shows little emotion but agrees.  I guess I'll ask the doctor once again for anti-depressants.  He is really being a grump and I'm losing my patience.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Flu Shots

Ok.  So the retirement community where my folks live isn't perfect.  It still does its best to service its residents.  Take, for example, flu shots.  Walgreens, it seems will be offering flu shots for all residents.  All it takes is filling out a form and showing up.  For my mom, they will come to her.  For my dad, he'll have to go to them.  A few glitches.  First, Mom's form is filled out by someone else and they leave off her Medicare number.  Then they can't find the file with her Medicare number on it.  Can I get a copy to them in the next forty minutes to meet the deadline?  Then my Dad's shot is scheduled for the Jewish holidays.  How's that for timing?  Right idea, not particularly well executed, but I'm grateful that they try.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eldercare and Dale Carnegie

One of my dad's friends from Chicago called the other day to find out how Mom was doing.  Apparently he wasn't getting much information out of his conversations with my dad.  Dad's friend is 92 years old, still drives (so did Dad until he moved out here) and lives at home with his wife and his wife's caregiver.  (His wife has a form of dementia as well).  We speak about my mom, he fills me in about how he and his wife are doing, (He is still working out three times a week at the Y.  His wife just broke two vertebrae and is in a lot of pain) and a bit about a mutual friend who is currently in rehab after falling and breaking her arm. "I'm more worried about my dad," I tell Dad's friend.  "He seems to be down in the dumps and suffering from inertia."  "Your Dad ought to be thinking about his time when he studied that motivational guy (he's referring to my Dad's studies with motivational guru Dale Carnegie who espoused the power of positive thinking)."

I have left a message with Dad's doctor asking if perhaps an anti-depressant prescription might be the answer to his depression.  The doctor leaves a message on my voice mail.  "I talked to your dad and I just don't think he's ready for anything.  He seems fine to me."

Well, Dad, better take out the old Dale Carnegie manual.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Life Goes On

Can't believe it's been ten days since my last post.  I think we're settling into a pattern, though Mom has been under the weather for the last several days.  In the last ten days I've only received three phone calls from Mom's dementia unit, one about her being sick, one about the doctor's report and one about the need for bringing her a new toothbrush.  (In her unit, there is no such thing as personal items!) In between, I visit her and see for myself that she's not feeling well.   I've taken Dad to his weekly bridge game, gone shopping for him, filled a pill prescription, done his laundry and taken him with us to the mountains where he and my husband have watched marathon football games and only stopped for my meals which are anything but gourmet.  At least once a week one of my parents' friends will call to find out about Mom and Dad and to fill me in on the latest incidents that are happening to them.  Two of my parents' friends fell, one is in rehab with a broken wrist, the other has two broken vertebrae.  We are getting ready for the Jewish high holidays.  I've got Dad writing New Year's cards to his friends, and I'm making Mom's traditional plum cake for her dementia unit.  Then I've been anointed by my son to make the Break the Fast dinner for the family.  In between I packed up the mountain kitchen and am trying to finalize the plans for the remodel.  Life goes on.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"That's Not My Style"

Sooooo, Dad came with us to our mountain home for Labor Day weekend.  We were joined by our son, our daughter-in-law and our two grandsons, ages five months and three and a half years.  Amidst the racing cars, the rattles, the Lego blocks and the sippy cups and burp cloths, Dad wove his way from room to room, constantly asked what day we were going home and camped out in my husband's study in front of our new plasma tv where he was surrounded on a rotating basis by the children, my husband and my son.

He was morose.

Sunday we all left him to fare for himself while we went for a hike.  (I realized later that I was totally out of cell phone reception and that he'd have to call my brother in Chicago or 911 if anything went wrong...oh the guilt).  Upon our return, we all unwound, exhausted from our adventure.  Around four, my husband tapped me on my tired shoulder to say my dad was hungry.  Apparently he hadn't had much to eat for lunch.  Both of us had told him what to find in the refrigerator but he didn't put forth much of an effort.  I hurriedly rushed into the kitchen, whipped out guacamole, salsa and chips for us and Edam cheese and stone wheat crackers for Dad.  (I knew he would probably have preferred salami but I didn't have time to get to the grocery store.)  I placed the spread in the study for all to munch on along with small plates and napkins.  About a half hour later, he brings his plate with remnants of the cheese and crackers into the kitchen where I am preparing dinner.  I look at the half-filled plate and he says to me, "It's not my style." I respond with acceptance, "Sorry, Dad.  What is your style?"  He looks at me with an empty gaze, "I don't know," he says.

I'm frustrated with his inability to find his happy place and thinking maybe I'll call the doctor when we return to see if he'll prescribe some anti-depressants.  The way he is behaving is like his reading patterns. He reads a book for thirty pages and then sets it down.  Our trip to the mountains is the same.  He comes with expectations but then loses interest.  I'm at a loss.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Laugh Out Loud

After initially suggesting to my dad that he should stay at home last weekend while we journeyed to our mountain home, we gave in to his disappointment and invited him to come along.  It was actually a rather enjoyable weekend that culminated in the three of us going to see the new movie, "The Help."  My father, aged 95, cane and all, walked into the movie theater for the first time "in a long while," he recalled.  We all enjoyed the movie.  I made way too many dinners but hey, it's better than eating out all the time.

Upon returning to our in-town home, we visited Mom.  She was sort of happy to see us, but more concerned about getting her nails done and going for a walk with her unit.  I said to Dad, "I guess we're not that important."  He laughed for the first time in a long time.  We're going to have to deal with his moroseness, i.e. depression.  But at least Mom seems to be adjusting.

My dad accompanied me downstairs to the lobby and seated in the front was a charming, well-dressed, familiar looking lady.  "I put a copy of the Jewish News" in your dad's mailbox, the flaming red-haired centenarian said. "When I moved here, I didn't know anything about the Jewish Community and the paper talks about news on all levels, local, regional and national."  We chat about my father's ties to the midwest as well as hers, bridge, and many other subjects.  I'm hoping she'll inspire my dad and get him out of his funk.  I don't think it's quite that easy.  The physical therapist suggested asking the doctor for some anti-depressants.  We'll see.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whew!

I've returned from a lovely (and much needed time out) weekend in LA where we visited our son and daughter-in-law.  Only once did I get a phone call from our Denver son that Mom had fallen again (it's always on the weekend) and that she was OK.  He and our older grandson had biked over to visit Mom and Dad.  Very nice of them.

Arriving home on Monday, I went over to visit in the afternoon where I met Dad in Mom's unit and we did the afternoon exercise class.  There was Dad sitting next to Mom, me in the back, and the residents  moving our arms to Theresa Brewer's song, "Put another nickel in, in the nickelodean.  All I want is loving you and music, music, music."  One of the residents asked if the lady in the black sweater (moi) was going to stay or leave.  I wasn't sure whether she liked the idea of me staying or she didn't.  Resolution to myself:  I plan to be less visible in the future.  The residents need calm, not a person who loves Theresa Brewer's music so much that she has to sing it out loud.

I visit marketing after I remember I have to let them know whether I want Mom to move.  They have already moved on and the only decision left I express the next day when I ask them if the next time around, we can move Mom into the less expensive space.  Oh, the guilt about spending too much money.

Dad needs milk so I make a quick run to the grocery store with him before dropping him back home and waiting for my California cousin to arrive for an overnight stay.

My cousin, who at one time lived with Mom and Dad, has come for a visit.  Their reunion in Mom's unit brings tears to my eyes.  She is so gentle and loving with them both, helping Mom go to the restroom and pouring over old picture albums with Dad in his apartment.

We drop my cousin off at another cousin's home.  My dad and she have not seen each other in nine years and it is a charming reunion between two aging people who, though they may not have seen each other for many years, have much in common these days.

I vow to spend a minimum amount of time visiting this week.  Everyone's been talking to me about how I need to make them less reliant on me.  We'll see.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Should She Move Again?

Mom's residence has changed four times in the past two years and yet another opportunity has come about once more.  She has a chance to move into a shared unit down the hall from her current private room and we can save more than $1500 a month.  No brainer?  Well, here's the deal.  The unit itself is doable, not as sunny or attractive as her current residence, but not too bad.  It's roomy, less sunny.  She would share a bathroom where they have removed the door because her possible roommate is in a wheelchair and the access is easier.  The program director at the unit where she lives said she and I should just take her to the room, explain the circumstances and then let her decide.  She's doing fairly well since she moved here and I'm just concerned that another move will disorient her.  I have to decide today.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Whew!

Tuesday, August 15th

I am recovering from a rather intense week of caring and tending to grandchildren and parents almost everyday, this after my husband and I returned from a long weekend in the mountains where we readied our retreat for house guests.  The week was a juggle between taking children and father out to meals and appointments and nestled in between visiting my mother almost daily.  The weekend was no better, full of obligations.  The children were off on vacation and we only had the dog to care for.  Visits on both Saturday and Sunday just dragged me down some more.  My mother expressed a desire to "go home" (presumably to Chicago, away from Denver.)  That did it for me.  Monday I took care of financial stuff and bookkeeping but did yoga, ran, read and enjoyed my day away from them both.  I love them dearly, but you know, sometimes you need a little distance.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Good Day

Wednesday, August 10, 2100 


A Good Day

On Wednesday, I went to see my mom in the dementia unit where she lives and she was not there. She had gone on a picnic. “Wow,” I thought. “She actually went.” “Oh yes,” said one of the nurse assistants. “She wanted to go.”

That moment made me want to look back over the last three months since she had arrived in Denver from Chicago and think about the progress she has made despite her circumstances. In the unit where she resides (the second since she moved here), she has found comfort in those who surround her---the other residents whose maladies run the dimentia gamut, the cheerful nurse assistants who dress them, bathe, them, feed them and usher them to their various activities, and the marvelous activity director whose gentleness and interest makes them all feel needed and loved.

Though it’s not easy at the age of 90 to be uprooted from family and friends from a city where one has resided for seventy years and to face a sea of strange surroundings and new people, I think, though she cannot talk, that she is making the best of it and for that I am not only proud but grateful.

I am struck by moments of visiting Mom and actually having a good time. We’ve sung karaoke together and played the piano together, attempted word puzzles together and visited with some of the other residents together.

Of course, there have been some not so wonderful things as well, i.e. a trip to the emergency room at 4:30 in the morning after she fell and gashed her head, the countless times I’ve come to visit and wound up taking her to the bathroom, the call I got during the first few weeks and another report of some aggression toward others.

My philosophy is to try to take one day at a time and be happy when there's a good one.  That was today.