Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ups and downs ...

... we all have 'em. There are few things in life that stay the same for long. Anything and everything can change in the blink of an eye. Now we can't be ready for every little thing that comes along. All we can do is take things as they come.
Nana's been feeling reasonably well for quite some time. Her recent visit with gerontologist Dr. John confirmed what we'd been thinking: for her age, she's in really good shape. Next thing you know Nana's having trouble keeping her food down, which means she's not able to take the pills she needs to keep her as well as she has been. A quick visit to emergency confirmed there was more to her sudden change in health than we first figured. She has a urinary tract infection that is probably contributing to her not feeling well.
Once the emergency physician was able to diagnose Nana's condition he sent her home with more pills for the infection in hopes that she was well enough to take them and get better soon. Unfortunately taking pills when you aren't feeling well is not so easy so we had another brief stay in emergency, long enough to administer some medication by intravenous. We're back home and feeling a little better. Better enough to sneak some pills into Nana with a light meal. And to keep her sipping as much apple juice as she wants.
Nana's still weak, tired and not quite over her infection but here's where slow and steady wins the race. Time and plenty of TLC will have her feeling better real soon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mining for Gold

Finding the right doctor sometimes seems like mining for gold. You dig and dig, getting sidetracked, discouraged and frustrated until, if you're lucky, you finally hit gold.

Dr. John R. is gold. A gerontologist, aka specialist for seniors, Dr. John saw Nana for the first time last Friday. On our way to her appointment she asked me where we were going and who he was at least 29 times in the hour it took us to get there. She was as unsure as I was as to how he could possibly help her. Nana figured that you can't turn back the clock and that whatever her health issues are, she's stuck with them. I am a firm believer in searching for help with whatever ails her, or anyone else in the family, until I find it.

We made it downtown, grabbed a great parking spot right out front and found our way to Dr. John's office. We only had a short wait before we were called into an examination room. The doctor stuck his head into the room to introduce himself and asked if it would be alright for him to see one more patient before us, so that he could take his time with Nana during our first visit. That kind, simple gesture was a hint of exactly what this doctor was all about: he is genuinely interested in his patients. Of course we didn't mind waiting, which took no time at all.

Nana now belongs to Dr. John's fan club. They had a nice get-to-know-you chat. He recommended new medication to control her chronic pain, that would be longer lasting and easier to swallow, two of her most pressing problems. He was impressed with her overall health and encouraged her to keep doing what she was doing. Her short term memory issues may not be dementia but simply age related. He told us to call him to let him know how the new meds were working. And he'll see Nana again in a few months but would be happy to see her sooner if anything else comes up.

Seems to me, we struck gold!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Patience with a capital 'P'

Do things seem awfully slow these days? They do to me and it's no wonder. Slowing down is a huge part of ageing. What's the worst part about it: getting used to it. Is it a problem: depends on how you handle it.

When Grampa George goes for a walk, whoever walks with him must slow down to a crawl because that's as fast as he can go. It might take some adjustment since many of us are used to rushing from place to place as fast as we can go, often multitasking along the way. How to handle it: walk at his pace and enjoy the scenery. We've seen eagles sliding through the sky on the breath of a mere breeze that we might have missed otherwise. We've watched squirrels chase each other like kids on a playground then suddenly stop, face each other and chatter like celebrities on Twitter before resuming the chase. We've seen dragonflies dance through the humidity hanging over a pond, their cellophane wings sparkling like precious diamonds. It was worth the slower pace to see what we saw. After all, it means Grampa George is out and about, actually walking. And somehow conversation comes easier when you're not going a hundred miles an hour and gasping for breath.

At mealtimes it's normal for everyone to enjoy their food. Most meals take a good ten minutes to inhale, add ten seconds to put down your utensils and another five for Grampa George to slurp up a stray noodle from his placemat. And then there's Nana. A Nana-sized mini-meal takes her about an hour or so to consume. It took some time but I've learned to let the world go by and wait patiently to let her finish at her own pace. If that's all she needs to manage a meal, then sitting nearby in quiet solitude is fine by me. Miraculously, here's Nana taking pleasure in her food, still eating unassisted, and I'm able to watch her do so.

Attitude is a wonderful thing if you take the right one. The slower you count your blessings the more you'll think of how many you actually have.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Truth, the whole truth and nothing but...

Reality can be hard to face, especially if it concerns something we'd rather avoid. As a kid, facing the harsh truth about not being able to have that cookie five minutes before dinner was catastrophic. As a newlywed, facing up to the fact that my cooking didn't taste anything close to the delicious food my husband was used to from him mom, was hard to stomach. It took time, but slowly my cooking improved and so did the reviews. As seniors, new challenges that bring about changes to how 'I always did this', can feel devastating. With time, we face up to what we must and move on.

Grampa George was pretty calm about losing his driver's license when the doctor told him she'd be sending in the paperwork to keep him from driving anymore. In the back of his mind he figured if he only drove locally, close to home, he'd be just fine. After all, he'd been driving for so long, what could possibly happen? When he had to be reminded that no driving means absolutely no driving, at all, anywhere, anytime, he was quite depressed and withdrawn. Can't blame him, really. It's a big thing to give up the privilege to drive, especially when it's not a matter of choice, but forced. He'll have to get used to it, period. There is no way to ensure he can drive safely given his medical condition and so better safe than sorry. After all, he's luckier than most, he has friends and family to get him where he needs to go. Some people have no one.

Nana can't walk around on her own anymore. Her lack of balance and previous falls mean that she could end up falling again. The risk of falling and getting hurt more seriously than before gets worse as time passes. While she thinks it's a bother to call someone to walk her to where she wants to go, I tell her that ending up in an ambulance on the way to hospital is worse. Telling her that we want her around for as long as possible helps briefly, until a new thought enters her mind and she's forgotten what we just discussed.

Facing the truth, especially about our own individual limitations is tough. As one of the faithful 'glass half-full' preachers, I remind myself, and those around me, that giving up something we've taken for granted could be a whole lot worse. I try to dwell on the good things that I still can do rather than mourn the things I'm no longer able to handle. We really are lucky, if we remind ourselves of it, from time to time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Homeward bound vs. Housebound

We've been staying close to home lately. It's become too difficult to go places since simple things like climbing in and out of the car, using stairs, being more than a few steps from a bathroom, and so on are just too much for Nana. Even with someone walking her, she's too unsteady on her feet to make going out worthwhile. This, and Grampa George's unscheduled dizzy spells, have kept us relatively housebound except for any necessary appointments.
Nana's pretty contented to stick close to home. Grampa George is getting claustrophobic. In order to cope with the boredom he naps. Alot. And it's not fair.
Since Grampa George can't drive anymore, he relies on me or other family to take him out. When I'm not home, someone at home has to take over for me, keeping a close eye on Nana so that she doesn't wander around on her own and risk another fall. It's time for a change.
Grampa George is going home. He's not so sure about the changes and was reluctant to admit that sitting around here waiting for an opportunity to get out and about was not good for him. But there is a better way.
We agreed that he'd have his very own housekeeper/caregiver/ take care of him, his medications, meals and showers daily. She'd also take him to appointments as well as any outings he wanted to go on. Now that we've found someone who introduced herself as his 'personal assistant' he feels like a VIP and is no longer housebound. He's homeward bound.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Magic of Music

It's been ages since Nana's played the piano. Since her fall in March, she's slowed down more than ever in both mind and body. I compensate by helping her with all the little things she used to do by herself. She no longer walks alone, even for short distances. She needs prompting to get ready in the morning once she's up, and Monday to Friday her trusty Personal Support Worker, Glenda happily helps her. She finds it more and more difficult to get all of her pills down, or even to take them all some days. It's nothing major as long as she has help.

Nana's advancing dementia means she's having more and more trouble remembering what day it is, how to read her watch and whether we've had lunch or not already. She's still pretty good with many of the faces in the photographs she loves to look at with Glenda and remembers most people's birthday's, especially those who've passed away already. The pictures we've taken more recently don't seem as familiar, which isn't unusual with dementia.

When Glenda stopped in front of the piano during her daily 'in-house' walks with Nana I had the urge to step in front of it to hide it from view. Glenda happily listened to Nana talk about how she used to play and even teach when she was younger. When Glenda urged Nana to sit down and play something, I cringed, afraid Nana might not be able to anymore.

I was impressed and relieved when the glorious sounds of Nana's familiar favorites rang out miraculously loud and clear. Nana's gift of music has not faded one little bit. She might not remember that she's played the same tune a few times over, but she still plays beautifully. Glenda has helped her rediscover something I'd almost assumed she'd lost. What a wonderful thing!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Curse of the Pink Blob

There are all kinds of brands, types, flavours and miraculous claims to fame about the variety of dental adhesives available now. Grampa George calls his dental glue, and will use whatever's on sale. Nana insists upon her tried and true favorite brand that barely keeps her teeth in while she's talking. I marvel over how much of it goes down the drain every day.

Grampa George probably swallows most of the dental adhesive he applies to his dentures since over the course of a day he re-applies at least once per meal and again after his afternoon coffee. While others at the table keep their 'eyes on their fries' he won't hesitate to slip out his lower plate to demonstrate that, once again, there's nothing holding it to his gums. He's taken to carrying a tube of 'glue' in his pocket, but I've managed to convince him to apply it to his dentures in the privacy of his bathroom.

Nana could stretch a tube out to last her nearly six months. Once proud of this accomplishment, it opened my eyes to the fact that she'd been applying it so sparingly that it's no wonder her teeth wander around her mouth all day. Now that I'm the one preparing her teeth for adhesion I use a more reasonable amount. The downside of this is the mess of pink refuse that ends up going down the drain. We haven't had a clog yet, but the little knob that lets the sink stopper go down hasn't moved in months. I can't watch most evenings when Nana uses the end of her toothbrush to stab at the globules of pink goo that gather around her sink drain until they've gone down. I can only imagine the millions of sinks swallowing mounds of the stuff every day the way ours does.

Then again, this stuff has been around for decades. And more importantly it plays an absolutely vital role in day to day life at our house. Grampa George and Nana can still enjoy a nice meal because of it. A good set of teeth and some paste to hold them in place make this possible. Meals are events at our house. They are an opportunity to sit, eat and spend some time together marveling over the weather, good or bad, comparing aches and pains or just chewing. Meanwhile, Guten Apetit!