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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Can't I Just Hit Snooze One More Time?

I'll make space in the backyard for one of these.

Isn’t that photo great? I saw the coffee tanker on the way to visit Grandma and lately, I just NEED one of those! It’s not an easy thing to do, but I’m going to stay home and study and not go visit for a couple of days. First off, I need to get my studies caught up and caught up. In her full and clear-minded voice, I can hear Grandma in the back of my mind, “Get off you a** and get it done!” I think in her current state if she thought I was blowing off school to visit her, she’d still complain. Then, bless her; she’d forget it ever happened.

I have been making the almost 2-hour trip to visit her for the last three days. To be fair, Wednesday was the paperwork day. I saw them bring her in while I was doing paperwork and then went to visit her. I went with David the next evening and then I went there yesterday after I took exam one in my class this semester.

The staff at the facility she’s at is wonderful! And they’re supportive of Grandma and all of us too. I call every morning, whether I plan to visit or not. They always either answer or call back with a report of how she’s doing, what she’s doing and how much of her meals she’s eating. That enables me to give reports to Dad and Dave, who pass the word on to family and I send emails to what I call Grandma’s fan club. I have a great network of friends and family who make sure other friends and family know what’s going on. Grandma has a beautiful collection of cards and flowers to bring her cheer. The nurse I spoke with today was telling me that Grandma smiled at her and commented about her brining the “happy color” into the room with her shirt. When she said it was purple, I told her it was Grandma’s favorite color. She said it explained the happy smile that went with her comment.

When I went in yesterday, she was with the activities group. They were making a no-bake peanut butter chocolate crunch candy and had just passed out some dishes of it and juice for a snack. It was a delightful surprise to see her active, or as active as she can be right now. When I walked in her back was to me and I put my hand on her shoulder and leaned over and said “Hi Grandma.”

She smiled so widely and cried. She told the whole table, “It’s my granddaughter!” She even said my name while we were visiting back at her room!

I can’t tell you how warm it was for me that she recognized me. We went back to her room to visit. She was still confused, but she knew who I was. She wanted me to take her somewhere, anywhere. My house, my Dad’s house, my Mom’s house, anywhere. That was a little awkward. She spoke of my parents by name and I think, to her mind, Mom was alive and she and Dad are brother and sister instead of husband and wife. Dad has always been more a son than son-in-law to her and maybe in her mind, that’s how she justified him not being with Mom when she sees him. I don’t know.

To be honest, when Grandma was sleeping and only saying a few sentences here and there, it was easier on me than to hear her speaking of relatives who’d passed like she had just been talking to them. What she’s going though now is really not too different than my Great-Grandmother was like, but it happened so much slower with Mums that I sort of grew into it as it progressed. With Grandma, it’s so accelerated that it is a major emotional, drain.

I know this is why Grandma preferred for her mother, and I’m sure would choose for herself, a situation where professionals do the care and the family is just there with her. I remember that it was hard with Mums, even before she forgot who I was, because as she went back in her mind, she spoke of planning to see people who were gone. Planning to be gone. A professional, a stranger, can care without feeling that pain because they don’t know who the people are she’s speaking about. Yesterday when she was talking about having seen an aunt and uncle who were gone just last night and making plans to see Papa again, it hurt. I mean, I know it’s part of the dementia, but it’s still hard for the family members too. Grandma doesn’t realize what she’s saying she wants is only possible when she leaves us, whenever she and God agree on that being, but hearing her “prepare” hurts, because I know that’s what it is. About a half hour from home the total exhaustion hit me. I took today and tomorrow as days I’ll catch up my homework and just relax, sleep a little extra and meditate – play some Chuzzle! ;)

Right now one concern gnawing at the back of my mind is that Grandma seems to be better than she was at the hospital. Now she’s in a very nice senior Inn. They take great care of her and even escourt her to some group activities with other residents in the “memory unit.” I think the fact that she’s eating a little and participating is great! It’s that she’s off all of her medication and seeming better that bugs me.

I recall when I was in the hospital when I was 18. I had a senior roommate who I thoroughly enjoyed talking to at first, but I watched her become more muddled in her thinking as she was there and they kept adding medication. I did mention to her son when he visited, that I was concerned about how much she’d changed since they changed her medicine. That’s when I started asking not just what the pills they gave me were and why they were giving them to me, but I also asked what they’ll do to me, possible side effects and how will they mix with the drugs they are already giving me. I’m not saying doctors are negligent in administering drugs, but everyone reacts different to combinations of things in their body. We had a family friend who failed a drug test at work because he’d eaten chicken my Dad marinated in a dressing that had poppy seed in it. I woke up screaming and accusing my Mom of beating me when she shook me awake one night after eating pizza with sausage with fennel in it. Every body is different and when someone is taking a cocktail of drugs, doctor prescribed or not, it just concerns me. Do they really KNOW they are doing more good than harm?

John is in a rehabilitation home right now after his last stint in the hospital for heart and breathing problems. The good side of it is this time he says he’s going to completely stop smoking. I guess sometimes you have to be knocked on your butt a second time. But he was telling me on the phone that he was having worse troubles in the hospital because they overmedicated him! Not, negligence or poor information. John just reacted differently than everyone else and they had tomake major adjustments. All I’m suggesting with this, is if you or someone you love or are caring for is taking a surplus of prescription drugs, ask, ask, ask! Ask what the pills are, why you’re taking them, what they are supposed to do, what side effects there might be and how it is supposed to interact with any drugs you’re already taking. If there is more than one doctor involved, make sure all of your doctors have a list of all of the drugs and get those questions answered by every one of them. Don’t be afraid to ask those questions of your doctors. As a patient you have a right to ask them and have them answered as many times and as many ways as you need to understand them. If your doctor won’t do that for you, find another doctor. Remember, you are his/her patient and also their customer. When you’re talking about your life, you can’t go back later and get a refund!

In fairness, there has only been one doctor who would not adequately answer my questions. That was a doctor the company sent me to when I was getting carpal tunnel checked and it was a workers compensation claim. Know what? I didn’t go back to0 him. I went to my own doctor and turned in the receipts for payment. Every state is a little different, but in Michigan, you can choose your own doctor if, after the initial exam, you want a different doctor. Not too many places tell you that!

Grandma’s doctors and nurses have been great. They’ve been honest and answered every question. When she had full clarity, Grandma was glad I asked the doctors lots of questions once she saw they were glad to answer them. She started asking for clarification of anything she didn’t understand in their answers too. Most doctors are good ones, so there’s no reason to settle for less that one that’s right for you.

Okay, “Ms. Power-to-the-people coach” off her soap box. I have a little more catch-0up work for school tonight and tomorrow, but good news – that first exam? I got 47 out of 50, 94%, an A! So, while I feel like I’m always racing to catch-up, I’m doing it well enough to get the information sinking in. Even open-book tests, I answer first, then verify my answer rather than just look it up. I want to know this stuff is sticking. Eventually, I’ll be taking the certification tests and those aren’t open-book, open-web or even with notes. I’m still a bit behind, but also a bit more confident now!

And now, I need to get back to work!

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