Monday, September 22, 2014

Take Me Out to the ? Game?

APR, Rachel, Cutie Catie, 2013
This evening's dinner conversation was a bit interesting. For background, I've been talking to my mother about the incident of the NFL player who whipped his son, and is now suspended. It is my premise that what has been done to him is racist. That is NOT this tale of football, junk food, and the near impossibility of keeping Princess Sadie out of the dinner plate when my father left the table. FYI we were having marinara, ziti, and mozzarella. Because I'm tired and don't want to cook, I used sliced cucumbers and onions I made yesterday, and were marinating in rice vinegar, sugar, and a touch of pink Himalayan sea salt. One of the more interesting aspects of Alzheimer's Disease is that my father picks up on a conversation, something on the news, and blends it into his own little world. He's basically in a different orbit from the rest of us. I'm not adding more to inform. It is rather like a mystery, trying to figure out what he's talking about.

We're at the table.
 "Do you think I should go check on the team?"
"He said he was sick. I wonder if he was faking."
"Most people aren't when they say they're sick."
"You need to call Jimmy Southerland (cousin by marriage, dead for at least 25 years) and tell him that someone is sending him a bus ticket to come down and play for the team."
 "If someone said that to me, I'd hang up on them. That's an insult, sending a bus ticket."
 My mother just sits there, shaking her head. "You get someone a plane ticket."
 "You're going to call him for me. The team needs him."
"What team?"
"They're waiting for me to join them."
 "No they aren't. It's raining. It's been raining all day. They postponed the game."
He became quite angry. "Why didn't anyone tell me?"
Playing along with him. "It's been raining all day. I guess they thought that anyone who can look out the window has sense enough to know they can't play in the rain."
"I need to go meet the bus with the team. Someone needs to get the bus across the road to the field."
"There's no game, it's been canceled."
 "I need to go over to the high school."
"No you don't."
 "If I hire that guy, he can take your tests so you can pass."
By now he had left the table and was foraging for junk food. "That's why you can't go over to the school. You hired the guy to take your tests and was caught. You've been expelled."
"No one told me!"
 "That's why you aren't playing with the team."
"I need to meet the bus and make sure the guys have dinner."
"The game has been called off due to rain. Besides, you've been expelled."
"I need to go over to the school."
By this time my mother was just sitting there, shaking her head. "He'll wake up in the middle of the night and complain about being expelled."
"That's a smart guy. He makes good grades. Your grades aren't that good."
 My mother looked at him. "You can't hang out with them. You were expelled for letting all the air out of the teachers' tires." (This is true. He and his BFF, Herbie Johnstone let the air out of the right front and left rear tires of all the teacher's cars during a parent-teacher night. They then threw away the plug cap thingies. Today, they would have been sent to prison. Then, they became legends in their own time.)
"I can't believe you aren't interested in helping the team. This is all your idea."
 "I'm not interested in any team."
"You are the one pestering everyone about it."
"I don't care."
"You need to support the football team. I need to go play. They know I'm good. Jimmy Southerland is also good." (Neither man ever played a day of football. My father never even watched a football game, much to my knowledge).
"I don't like football. I hate football. I don't approve of high school sports."
 "But it was your idea."
"No, it's not."
 "I need to get to the team bus."
Finally...from my mother. "There is no team. There is no bus. You are not in high school. You are a 90 year old man. You don't even like football."
 "Then, where is my $90 social security. We need to get the government to pay me."
"You get $1200 a month."
"That's not enough. We need to make the government give us more."
"I agree."
"I need to check on the team."
 "It's raining. It's dark. No one in their right mind is outside." "No one told me." And so forth and so on....

 They say, when the person who has AD drifts into their fantasy world, to just go along with them, then gently try to reel them back to the real world, if possible. Eventually, within the next 6 months or so, it will no longer be possible for him to comprehend the difference.

He's happy.

All rights reserved, SJ Reidhead

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Eat It, Just Eat It!

August, 2013
Years ago, when I was in college, my parents were horrified when my grandmother Froehlich (Nana) called my mother to tell her that my father's mother and her sister were literally starving to death, and had reached the point of no return with their health. My grandmother Reidhead (Gram) had become bedridden over it. Her sister, Mabel was valiantly trying to care for her, but Gram had become so malnourished she had passed go. If something was not done, quickly, she would not survive. My father and one of his employees drove one of his trucks (he had numerous delivery trucks at that time) left, almost immediately for the 600 mile drive to Lake Worth. Meanwhile, Nana was beyond shocked at the condition of the little house on C Street. It had become infested with roaches. Over two hundred years worth of family history, antiques, and memorabilia were at risk. My father's brother, Paris, flew down from Virginia. By the time my father arrived, Uncle P and Nana were already sorting through dozens upon dozens of packing boxes. Nana had simply packed Gram and Mibsey up and took them to her house, where Mae (her housekeeper and our surrogate grandmother) was force-feeding them - anything! It was one of those all-hands-on-deck family crises moments, with both sides of my family working together to do whatever was necessary to save Gram. (FYI: Nearly 40 years later we are still sorting through the mountain of family memorabilia - there was that much.)

Much the same way when a child reaches the point where they fail to thrive, senior citizens can do the same thing. If they don't get the proper nutrition something happens to them, emotionally, mentally, and physically. It literally destroys them. I'm terrified this has begun happening with my mother. She has problems with my father that no one should endure. Still, from now on, I gather the story of my life is going to be trying to get her to eat.

My day began around 8AM when my mother called. I was up working on a project and did not fall into bed until around 6:30AM. It adds perspective. She was being EMSed up to town - again. I met her at the ER around 10AM. In full a-fib, her heart rate was anywhere from 139 to 179. Once I saw it go up to 199. She was in bad shape there for awhile. There's a new young doc in the ER, who really has it together with cardiac. We finally left about 2:30. During that time they hit her with diuretics. They also gave her enough Valium to take out a T-Rex. She slept all afternoon. I had to go back into town and pick up a prescription, then the poodle, go to Wallyworld. It was 6PM by the time I was back at SP.

During the process, it was discovered she had a broken vertebra. You know, the one we've had problems with, an ER visit, X-rays, and a session set up to block a nerve - for something that was broken and this is the first time they found the break. Since the middle of July, we've been dealing with that - and not this other #$%@!

We have a very real problem with my mother. She has stopped eating. She has aged so much from the photo taken in August of 2013, I can't get over it. She's managed to let herself get old, feeble, and in some sort of a depression. She's basically quit eating, to the point where it's becoming a vicious cycle. If I say anything to her, I'm bullying her or harassing her. She's literally killing herself, and I can't get through to her. She's just too tired to eat, or doesn't like what there is to eat. She fights it, argues, starts almost crying, says I'm treating her badly.

I've spent most of my summer dealing with this $%#@ back and trying to get her to eat. I saw this behavior destroy my grandmother Reidhead. It's destroying her. I don't care how much your %$#@ back hurts, you don't stop eating. I disparately need your help and your prayers. If she doesn't start eating, and get an attitude adjustment, we're going to lose her. It's that critical and that simple.

 Today, in the ER, I was so frustrated I did my usual bitch thing. I am a wreck, emotionally and physically. I'm exhausted. I'm literally giving up my life to take care of her and she's throwing hers away. She loves cheesy fries. I bought the fries, bacon, cheese, made them for her. She ate about 6 or so fries, said she'd eaten a huge amount. Earlier, around 7PM or so, I forced her to eat a donut. She told me that, and to stop picking on her. She'd eaten so much. No, she had not. She was playing with her food the way someone with an eating disorder does.

There comes a point when you know there is a problem when the messenger is attacked. Right now, I'm so pissed about the back, I'm not quite sure what to do. I've spent hours cooking, and she just picks. It just makes her too tired to eat. She can't breath good. Her back hurts. Just leave her alone. She just doesn't want to eat. I need help.

 Not eating destroyed Gram. My next mission is to keep it from destroying my mother.   Of course, we don't have that problem with the Junk Food Junkie!       

All rights reserved, SJ Reidhead

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Oh the Pain!

March, 2014
Even back in the mid-1970s, people who did not know my mother thought she was Joan Rivers. They had the same hair styles and color, wore the same things, basically. Like Rivers, my mother is perfect when she dresses. Unlike me, everything matches, basically New York Flash & Trash. My mother is not a celeb watcher. She never paid attention to the woman everyone said she resembled. The hair styles, over the years, became just plain uncanny. Going back through the past four years of photos, it is rough, how my mother has aged, primarily due to dealing with my father and the Alzheimer's.

My sister and I live in horror of medical proceedings. I think any normal human should, but, when you have a 90-year-old father with AD and an 84-year-old mother who has a serious cardiac condition, it is worse, trust me. My sister and I monitor everything going on with them. It is exhausting, annoying, and can make a person want to lose their temper on a regular basis, but it is necessary. I don't think I can stress how necessary this is. It is critical to anyone's survival, but when dealing with seniors, it is even more important. Now that the details about the incident leading to the death of Joan Rivers are finally becoming public, as the daughter of a woman her age, I am horrified.

I am also quite angry.  During the spring, when my mother began developing late stage signs of digoxin toxicity, and was placed in ICU, someone put a DNR bracelet on her. DNR = Do Not Resuscitate. They were also discussing the fact that she was in congestive heart failure. The ICU doctor said that she was having a heart attack. My mother was in a panic. When we discovered what was going on, I had to go total bitch on everyone to get the directive changed, including threatening legal action. That's the real problem, I think for anyone dealing with any medical crises, even when it isn't a crises. You must have someone with you who has emergency POA. (Power of Attorney). You need a medical directive. Depending on where someone is, you don't leave them.

We're dealing with a medical procedure on Oct 2. My mother has a serious back problem brought on by living, falling off a few horses, breaking a few things, and just life in general, along with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. They will give her a local and inject something into a nerve on her spine, to deaden the pain. If it works, they go back in and do a more complicated procedure. It should not be a problem - if you don't have a pacemaker, or on blood thinners. Then, because of her age, and her medical history, we hold our breath.

I can't imagine allowing someone who was the age of Joan Rivers go into a medical procedure, where she is not being supervised by someone who has total control over where is going on. I can't imagine a physician taking it upon himself not to contact a family member to tell them what they are going to do. Sure, in a triage situation, we've been there and done that, but not for a biopsy. If I were Joan Rivers' daughter, I would be ready to destroy a few people. Knowing how angry I was after the home health care debacle on the Fourth of July, just compounding it by what she is going through, and I'd be highly litigious.

 I was reading about a physician who was sentenced to a major prison term, for scamming patients who were dealing with cancer. There are times when physicians are scamming, then there is incompetence. There are times when you wonder which is which. I'm still not sure if what we were dealing with this spring and early summer was incompetence or a scam. I am fairly certain we are looking at a Medicare scam. Home health care companies get something like $250 a pop when dealing with elderly patients - at home.

 The more visits they make, the more money they get. The more tests they give, the more money they get. They cannot do home health if a person is not confined to the home, as an invalid, so they were literally turning my mother into just that. We put a stop to it. Unfortunately, around here, we're dealing with an out of control corporation where the visiting nurse is ruining lives and families. I figured out what was going on and had my mother terminate them. When doing so, I discovered they were treating her for Congestive Heart Failure, only 1/2 of her heart working at all, and she was listed as terminal.

 One nurse wanted to have her to go bed, asked how she was going to "dispose" of my father, and would she allow the health care company to make end of life medical decisions for her. My mother was in a panic. Fortunately, she did a trip to her cardiologist a few days later. She has a-fib. She has a blood pressure problem and my mother, the ultimate food Nazi has high cholesterol.

She is NOT terminal. She is not in the final stages of congestive heart failure. When she has problems eliminating fluid, she can go into the early stages of CHF, but it is stopped by diuretics. The physician who assigned the home health care program lied about her condition. I think he did so in order to make more money.

 I know of a local family who is dealing with with what we are, a 90 year old man with AD. One daughter is the care giver, the other helps financially. Trust me, things get a little testy. I've screamed at my sister a few times. She's hung up on me. She's cried, I've had melt-downs. But - it's family. We do that. We also agree 90% of the time. It's that 10% which gets a little testy.

 This is what happened with the man's two daughters. The same home health care nurse who was turning my mother into an invalid, taking over her life, stepped in and sent social workers to the house, to take this man away from his daughters, who were being 'abusive'. They were horrified, and eventually kicked them out of the house. This is what is going on here. It is enough to make every family member beware and be terrified of home health care. The worst of it, is the fact that these people are paid by Medicare. BUT - those of us who have given up our lives, aren't allowed to get half of what these people get - we go broke. We lose our life savings. We put our lives and careers on hold. At least 65% of family care-givers in this country are women. I suspect if the numbers were the other way around, and 65% of the care givers were men, family care-givers would be eligible for a nice little stipend.

 That's my tale for today, and I'm sticking to it. On Tuesday, I was up until about 1AM doing a couple casseroles for the parents. I have a bad habit of cooking late in the evening. I didn't get to bed until around 4AM, and didn't fall asleep until around 6AM. The phone calls started Wednesday morning around 11AM, and continued until 2:30. I spent hours arguing with an idiot in a doctor's office, that basically took up about 4 hours of the day. By the time I finally reached the parents' home, it was nearly 8PM. We had dinner, then I watched Top Chef. It was after 11PM before I finally had the kitchen cleaned. I didn't even hit the blog until after midnight. I had an hour long nap around 7AM. Finally limped home about 1PM. Fell asleep at 3PM. Was up by 7PM.

I'm tired. I dare anyone to say I'm having a life. I'm not complaining, but, if the Feds are so willing to pay money grubbing, and cheating home health care professionals so darn much, why not give family members half of what the money grubbing corporations are paid, and let us truly care for the parents the way we know they need to be treated.

Anyone who thinks this is a poverty issue is wrong. If your parents are unable to afford a Medicare supplement and qualify for Medicaid,you can get a couple hundred dollars a week to care for them. If you have anything at all, and want to utilize a care facility, you cough up a fortune each month or must be declared destitute, losing everything to get into one.

If you are wealthy, no problem. This is a middle class problem - a middle America problem. You know - we're the ones who constantly get the shaft. It is so wrong that men and women who have worked hard, been the Greatest Generation, paid a fortune in taxes, and done what was right, must now suffer - because of the stupidity and draconian rules of the Feds. I don't expect it to change any time soon.

 All rights reserved, SJ Reidhead