Parental update — 073010

It has been another long interval since my last post and, again, it’s because nothing remarkable has occurred.  This somehow brings to mind the TV meteorologists who say basically the same thing day after day and you wonder, ‘they get paid for this?’  But when a storm’s coming, you’re watching that meteorologist with the greatest of interest because you could be directly affected.  And the meteorologist is there pointing and talking until the danger is well past.  This is when they earn the money.

The same holds true for me, I suppose.  Since arriving here in North Carolina last November, there have been three or four hospitalizations, and innumerable other incidents, occurrences and issues to be dealt with.  Right now, it’s all quiet on the southern front.  Tomorrow…

It has been just over a month since Mom & Pop moved into their new room.  They are both still as happy as clams about the accommodations, and have developed a rhythm of life that seems to suit them – for better and for worse.  I’ll tackle Pop first.

You may recall my concerns about Pop’s old (bad) behaviors resurfacing by having him constantly in the same space as Mom.  My fears were indeed realized, but have been somewhat muted by medications in the treatment of lower back pain.  I’m still working with the Piedmont Place medical team on the medication balance because Pop is still complaining about the pain.  A further adjustment of meds could make him a bit more docile, which could remove the behavior issue altogether.  Hopefully, it would also remove the back pain completely.

Today, Pop looked pale, he was lying in bed, had a slightly elevated temperature (99.1), and is again suffering diarrhea as he has for the past several days.  He’s being monitored closely because of his history, and is being given much more water.  Also, we watched him write a check today.  It took him fifteen minutes.  Not to minimize these issues, we’ve been here before.

A more curious thing has developed, however; one that I have taken no steps to fix.  Over the past month, Pop has become concerned with Mom’s absences.  When she takes her daily walk, or goes across the hall or to the nurse’s station, he wants to know that she’s coming back.  This has caused Mom to alter her behavior: first by not leaving his presence, and then – at my suggestion – telling Pop assertively that she’d return in x-time.  After a poor start, the latter strategy works sometimes, and sometimes not.  Mom is resigned to following Pop’s will on this.  In the past, I might’ve thought that he’s putting the control screws to her again…but this time it’s different.  It seems as if he’s genuinely worried that he might lose her; that she might not come back.  It isn’t a reasonable concern, of course.  Where’s she going to go?  But it’s real to him.

While they were living in nearby rooms, Mom’s self-declared ‘life-purpose’ was the care of her husband.  She’d spend her days in Pop’s room keeping him company, generally in silence.  Mom’s own physical and mental situation seemed somehow improved in this role.  Her countenance, strength and ability were noticeably better.

Mom would like us to believe that her ‘purpose’ remains unchanged in her re-habitation with Pop, but her body and mind may be changing, too.  Every once in a while, I have to remind myself that Mom has had strokes, heart surgery, Parkinson’s Disease, and early-stage dementia to name but a few of her issues.  I need no reminder of her long, direct connection with God.

In recent weeks, Mom has been losing sharpness in her thinking (which has been feeble relative to her old self for quite some time already).  The world in her head is shrinking, and her ability to remember the details of even that are weakening as judged by the frequency of her questions about it.  Her pronouncements about spiritual things, long considered by many to have come from God, Himself, are now held in question.  It’s as if Mom has taken kernels of information from disparate sources and formed something new and confusing with them.

When you talk with someone face-to-face, there is generally eye contact and body language.  With Mom there is, increasingly, odd mouth sounds – smacking, for example – and eye diversion over your shoulders.  These, I’m told, are symptomatic of Parkinson’s.

George & Shirley asked about these things last night.  Of all the people on this planet, G&S are most closely connected to Mom.  They’ve noticed the changes, and they said that Mom, herself, knows her mind isn’t working well.

Perhaps I can use some humor to shed a bit of light on what’s happening here.

(Telephone rings)

Mom:  Hello?

Me:  Hi, Mom.

Mom:  Fred, how ARE you?

Me:  Just peachy, Mom.

Mom:  How’s Lisa?

Me:  She’s fine.

Mom:  What do you hear from Elizabeth?

Me:  Haven’t talked with her for several days, now.  Didn’t you talk with her yesterday?

Mom:  She was busy and I left her a message.

Me:  Well, I’m on my way in to (whatever).  Do you need me to pick up anything on the way?

And so the conversation goes; usually brief.  A short while later I arrive at Piedmont Place.

(Knock on the door to M&P’s room)

Mom: (from within)  Come in !

Me: (opening door)  Hi, Pop.  Hi, Mom. (Pop always remains silent until drawn out)

Mom:  Fred, how ARE you?

Me:  Still peachy, Mom.

Mom:  How’s Lisa?

Me:  (exasperated)  She’s as okay as she was a half hour ago.

Mom:  What have you heard from Michael?

Are you seeing a pattern yet?  A while later, I leave the room to visit the Administrator, or medical staff or bookkeeping, or whatever.  Then I return to the room.

Mom:  Fred, how ARE you?

Me:  (fragglenabbits!!!).

Mom:  How’s Lisa?

And on it goes.  Mom has always found ways to get under my skin.  This conversational sequence seems to be the latest way.  I know, of course, that I’m wrong.

Little brother Michael, who has a doctorate in such things, posits that this series of questions is Mom’s way of determining that her world is still okay.  Nothing more than that.  While this makes perfect sense to me, it’s still annoying.  My bad, not hers.

But her world is not okay.  Today, she took Lisa by the hand and introduced her to a couple of people on the nursing staff with whom we have been interacting on a first-name basis for many months, and yet this was new to Mom.  She’s still walking too fast, and (this is new) is keeping her hand on the handrails to compensate for the higher risk.  She has also reduced her walking time to thirty minutes.  Sixty has lately caused her blood pressure to go nuts.  After a half hour walk today, Mom was panting.

There are other stories too numerous for this post.  Suffice it to say, neither Mom nor Pop is doing well.  The curious thing is that, in the past, one or the other had issues to deal with.  This is the first  time in my memory that they have both suffered substantial issues at the same time.


About FredMarx

Old enough to have wisdom; young enough to learn.
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