Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Healing Touch

Mom's physical therapist came the other day to begin work on an injured bone and strengthen muscles.

He's been with us since the beginning.  His name is Al and I can tell you my blood pressure calmed the minute he walked in the door.  I credit Al for Mom's success.  Al worked with my father.  After enduring (and yes, enduring fits describes it well) other therapists who threatened to give up on Mom, Al has the gift of healing.  He kids her through the routines, calms her fears, and encourages her, all the while summoning muscle and bone to work.  She's lucky.  I'm lucky.

Al offers hope, which, IMHO, is the hallmark of a genuine healer.  I shouldn't tell you about this guy because I'm afraid his caseload might become too overwhelming.  So, look for a guy like Al to help you get your loved one back on their pins.

And remember, Mom had Al first.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

On Writing Through the Storm

Writing, whether it be this blog, my journal, or my book, is like breathing.  I need to do so daily, frequently, with abandon.  It fuels me.  Those words on the page serve as my mood meter as it tells me just how far from or close to center I've lived.

Folks have asked me why I didn't blog when my mother first entered the nursing facility.  The answer can be as simple or as complicated as life itself.  You see, writing in a journal exposes the "raw" me.  The woman who could finally stop at the end of the day to jot down emotions, observations, random thoughts, and plans of action.  If anyone read my journal, their next call would be to the nearest mental health professional.  My journal reflects the hurt, anger, victories, growth, frustration, exasperation, and ecstasy this life contains.  Those pages are my dumping ground replete with incomplete thoughts, actions, and phrases.  This journal reveals parts of me that I'm proud of and those words who seem to belong to someone else.  I find myself saying, "Did I write that?"

No one needs to know the fear I experienced as my mother faced surgery at 89-years old, the medical folks I couldn't stand, the attitudes expressed by folks I encountered, the shock at having been "dressed down" because my mother didn't meet a system's expectations.  No one needs to read the rage I felt as our current healthcare system insisted on a "one-size fits all" approach to elder rehabilitation.

The journal keeps THAT discouragement at bay.  Yes, I write about life's toils and troubles, but the most important aspect that rises from that collection of words has to do with self-awareness.  Pitfalls to avoid.  Summoning the where-with-all to get up the next morning without reliving the previous day's feelings.  A journal can be the ultimate, most self-sustaining tool on the planet.  These pages provide the clean slate I require.  Every day.  I don't have to relive those emotions.  I've dealt with them, instead of airing them.

Author Julia Cameron advocates writing "Morning Pages" every day.  While I love her teaching and her work, I have to say I've slept better snuggling with my journal every night to dump the day's joys and sorrows.  It works better for me.

So, these blog posts are filtered extracts from my diary.  I've stripped the rawness of the emotions of the day to focus on what matters - care giving and the quality of my mother's life during this time of crisis and healing.

I write to help myself and others facing what I'm facing.  Call it caregiver self-care.

And the best part you might ask?  No prescription required!

Inner Workings

Good morning!

Mom and I are entering Day 2 of her transition here at home.  Each minute, each hour invites a new event that we must overcome together.

Caregivers at nursing facilities have the luxury of being pleasant all the time.  They go home at the end of their shifts.  In the 24-hour world of home care giving, that's sometimes not the case for safety-sake alone.  Yesterday, Mom pushed against the boundary of getting up by herself.  Her mind told her she needed to retrieve something on the floor.  It's at that point, and, no, I don't like being mean, I had to lay down the law.  I know her inner thought processes and it's my job to circumvent or re-write her behavior.

When Mom first entered the facility, my friends thought I finally had the opportunity to a) grieve the loss of my father; b) get some much needed rest; and c) kick up my heels like a spring lamb.  As much as I wanted to accomplish the aforementioned I had work to do.

Introducing a family member to a bunch of healthcare professionals we had never laid eyes on can feels like teaching new technology to an office staff.  "Hi, here's my mother when she does this, it means...she does not like...she's prone to ..., she cannot...etc., etc."   My mother, like all patients, have little quirks that require recognition in order to get the desired result.  Sometimes the professionals look up at you with a glazed stare; others possess an inner knowing.

In our current healthcare system, Medicare has rigid guidelines that keep or eject a patient from a facility.  They call it "progress".  I call it absurd.  Such was the case with my mother.  Three weeks into rehab the physical therapist informs me in the middle of the gym that my mother's not "making progress".  That unless or until she does so immediately, out she goes.  My first thought at that time?  "Did you run a diagnostic?"  "Did my mother have something interfering with her software?"  I ran back to the nurse to ask for tests and sure enough there appeared a mitigating condition that explained her lack of "progress".  This happened not once, but twice.  I wondered what happened to other patients who didn't meet the guidelines.  Doomed as irrelevant?  Sentenced to life in a nursing home when the problem really was a bug in the software?

Now, with Mom home, we're re-programming our days.  Today brought a better result.  We're learning.  Our pup, Dickens, continues to learn and adapt to Mom's needs.  We're all in this together.

Now, we just have to stick with the program and keep on the lookout for any bugs.  That's me caregiver, patient advocate, and Inner Processes Technician (IPT).

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Good morning!

Day 1 of Mom's transition continues.  She's exhausted, but still able to defeat her only kid and caregiver, me!

I woke several times during the night.  Listening for stirring from her bedroom.  She wore her bed alarm.  Somehow, someway she defeated the bed alarm, did her thing, and placed herself neatly back into bed.  How?  I don't know.   That's just the way Mom rolls.  No matter how keen one's instincts she can outwit the best.  She's heard the same tune for the past twelve hours - "Call me if you need to go to the bathroom!"  I'll Mom-proof the bed alarm today.

Being a caregiver is rife with alarms.  Time for medication.  Time for nutrition.  Time for the bathroom.  Time for getting dressed.  Time for the visiting nurse.  Time for the physical therapist.  The beat goes on...

What's equally alarming rests in our healthcare system.  As Mom lay on a stretcher six weeks ago getting poked and prodded, my alarm bells went off as the doctor told us nothing could be done for her.  They could immobilize her poor leg and send her home.  My alarm bells clanged loudly in my head.  "You're going to send a woman home with a broken bone?  Really?  We won't make it  from the driveway to the house!"  I stood my ground and told the doctor that the scenario he presented would not play in Peoria.  No way!

The doctor consented to 24 hour observation in the hospital.  "Well, at least that's something."  The next morning the nurse reported that my mother continued to complain about pain.  Now they ordered a CAT scan for the next day, so 24 hours turned into 48 hours.  At the end of the 48th hour, the CAT scan revealed a much more serious break than originally thought.  Surgery became the order of the day.  I thought, "And you wanted me to take her home?"

As I bounced back and forth from home to hospital and back again, my little man Dickens sensed a difference in the house.  We made it through those 48 hours.  My alarms worked overtime to meet his feeding schedule, walking schedule, playtime and juggle my life in the middle.  He worked his alarms to help keep me on track.

Alarms are useful things.  They heighten our intuition by screaming loudly in our heads, remind us of important tasks, and bring to light errors in a healthcare system gone mad.

And THAT, to me is what's truly alarming!


Friday, April 12, 2013

The Winter of My Discontent

Good morning,

It's been a while since I've written.  Life has been hectic.  I have been frantic.  I found myself holding the door open so winter could fly south.  Good riddance to that season.

It all started on Saturday, January 26th.  Mom had a good day.  As always she comes out to watch television after dinner.  Catch up on her love of politics.  We observed the "getting ready" ritual whereby I make a nice nest in her lift recliner while she readies herself to march into the living room.  Her walker parked beside the bed, I didn't worry about her getting mobile.  Big mistake!  HUGE!

Little did I know that she decided to take the "three hour tour" around the bed away from the walker when I heard a crash.  That crash resulted in a broken femur.  I assessed her and called 911 immediately.

Thus began the saga that winter brought and ends today as I prepare to bring her home.  The following blog entries promise to give insights into a caregiver working to insure a facility gives the care required.  It's been a fight.  I'm tired, but women in my family don't give up.

So buckle up and prepare to read about a very bumpy ride.