Welcome to the first blog post from my new computer. Not much different, eh? Well, it’s working, and if I can only find a printer driver that is compatible with a 64-bit Win7 system for my 10-year-old all-in-one printer, I’ll be all set.
My blog posts of late have been hit-or-miss with most of them previously written weeks or months ago, scheduled to appear as a new post appears each day.
What I really have been doing is caring for my 95-year-old aunt. Last Tuesday, I had to had to call an ambulance and have her transported to the hospital. She had become dehydrated and was hallucinating due to effects of a new drug her orthopedist had given her for pain in her back caused by old bones compressing in the spine, pinching a nerve. The pain was so overwhelming at times that it was all she could think about. She said she was not hungry, and wouldn’t eat or drink … thus the dehydration.
She was hospitalized for four days. Her orthopedist led us to believe that he was going to do a minor surgical procedure to help alleviate her pain. However, last Friday morning I learned that he decided not to do that, and released her from the hospital.
Friday was a day of frenetic activities. Due to her state of Alzheimer’s, we really wanted her to return to her home and familiar surroundings. Had she gone to a nursing home, she would have been so bewildered and befuddled, we think she would have given up and death would soon follow.
Her sons who live out of state were always on the phone with me, but I had to take on the actions and activities to enable her to return home. They couldn’t do it from afar. I called in dozens of favors from my senior legion who live in the same community where she does, as well as some family members.
Her pantry and fridge were restocked. A hospital bed was delivered and another friend bought new linens to get her bed ready. A company we engaged to provide companion services stepped up and organized providing around-the-clock care from personal attendants who could help my aunt physically: get her out of bed, help her use the toilet, prepare food for her, and make sure she takes all of her meds as scheduled and in the correct dosage.
I had to argue and take a strong stand with her orthopedist’s office to change her pain med, since we couldn’t have any more of these hallucinatory situations that were potential life risks. (My aunt was seeing imaginary boxes on the floor and trying to step over them.) The simple act of changing her med took several hours and many phone calls. Man, such a hassle… but her orthopedist just didn’t seem to care or think about the consequences of his non-communication and inaction on my aunt and me, as her primary caregiver, custodian, and guardian.
Hospital personnel got her into my partner’s sedan, which I used because there’s no way my aunt could get up into my truck. When we arrived in the parking lot outside her condo, friends met us with a wheelchair and helped us get inside. And that’s no easy feat, as my aunt’s building has six stairs and no elevator between the outside and her unit. Those six steps are like Mt . Everest when you’re trying to get someone who is frail and weak past them.
Another nephew of my aunt took out her old big double bed and cleaned her room. He even brought the mattress and box spring out and took care of disposing of them.
The new hospital bed was late in delivery, and I couldn’t get my aunt settled into it until 7pm. The first caregiver for the round-the-clock shifts arrived at 8pm. My aunt settled into a deep slumber.
Unfortunately, the bed had a mechanical defect. It would suffice for the weekend, but on Monday, the owner of the medical supply company returned and replaced the bed with a new one that had all parts working. He really was good about it, though this unplanned situation was yet another challenge to deal with.
After my aunt was softly sleeping and her caregiver was oriented, I came home, and called my cousins to provide an update. Then I explained it all to my partner, who was worried about how I was handling all of this, since a couple days before I had my own visit to the hospital E.R. for treatment of a severe bout of colitis. Must have been the nerves and anxiety.
Throughout the weekend and the past few days, I have visited my aunt many times each day. I have oriented each new caregiver as she began her shift. I encouraged my aunt to eat, to drink, and to communicate with us.
Bless her, she remains cheerful and pleasant. She is not one of those Alzheimer’s patients who gets mean and angry. She spends most of her time resting, but when she is awake, we get her talking, walking, moving, eating….
I feel that this is my calling for now… to care for my sweet, lovely, aunt. In a way, I am glad I have the time since my job ended in early June so I can do all the things my aunt requires to live out her life comfortably, at home, in familiar surroundings, with care by her side all the time. I can now relax somewhat, and get going on projects for home repairs on my own home as well as some of my rental properties, and re-start my job hunt.
Could I have just told my cousins, “send her to a home” and be done with it? Sure… that was an option, but not one that my conscious could let me live with. My aunt has the resources to afford to pay for around-the-clock care. Her condo is safe, comfortable, and suited for her needs. Years ago, I installed grab-bars, better lighting, and many other safety features that enable her to remain safe. Sending her to a nursing facility would have provided the medical and physical care she requires, but her life as she knew it, would be over. I couldn’t live with that.
I am confident that my aunt will live what remains of her life in a manner suited for her needs, and preserve her dignity and quality of life. That, my blog readers, is what it is all about.
While the immediate crisis is over, the ongoing supervision of her care remains top-of-mind, with actions that carry out one of my frequent closings to this blog:
Life is short: show those you love that you love them. Each and every day, in every action you take.