Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pills, Glorious Pills

We all have to take 'em sometimes. Most of us don't like 'em, but we're sure glad there are all kinds of medications available to us when we need them.
And so it goes for most seniors as well. It seems the older we get, the more pills we have to take. It's kind of a given since in order to keep well and to live longer our bodies need assistance. If we all exercised and ate right, certainly we could avoid some of the conditions that make it necessary to take as many medications as we do, but lets be honest, many of us don't for any number of reasons.
Regrets and good intentions aside, if we need meds, then it's important to take them, on time and in the proper dosages. It is also important to keep regular contact with the doctor prescribing them.
I'm the 'pill sorter' for Nana and Grampa George. They each have a pill case, labelled and put aside in a safe place the cats can't get to, that gets refilled regularly, as required. Its an important part of their daily lives to ensure that they take the right pills at the right time in the right quantity. And all of this changes constantly.
Grampa George figured that once he had his defibrillator implanted he'd be cured of all that ailed him, fit as a fiddle. He also figured he could toss the many pills he'd been taking, never to have to swallow another one in his life. It's been tough to convince him that there is no way to fix what fifty years of smoking and other general wear and tear on the body has done to him. He still needs all of his pills, some in lower dosages, since his heart does have some assistance now, and some new ones since we now know how seriously damaged his prostate is, from lack of proper diagnosis and medication. He still has high cholesterol, still needs his blood thinned to prevent stroke and/or heart attack, water pills to keep his lungs (and the rest of him) clear as well as anti-anxiety medication that lets him sleep nights and remain calm days when he worries too much about how sick he really is.
On good days, he realizes that it's a small thing to take a few pills when those are what's keeping him reasonably active and enjoying life. He's not in pain, can still walk and talk, enjoy a good meal, share a few jokes and laugh a little.
Nana takes her share of pills too, mostly to keep her blood pressure steady and to manage the pain of arthritis that's been plaguing her for a long time. She's on stronger pain meds lately since we discovered she has a tear in a muscle in her shoulder that could have come from something as simple as stretching to reach for a pen she'd dropped. While the new meds have caused her some constipation (not unusual for these types of medications), her stomach and appetite have not been affected (also not unusual for a patient to experience nausea and/or vomiting). The pain is a little better but still there and so next in line is physiotherapy since at her age surgery is not recommended as it would likely bring with it other serious complications. We're also diligently applying a new topical pain medication (absorbed by the skin) four times a day, since every little bit (hopefully) helps.
Pills: a big part of daily life here at the home of the Carefree Caregiver, and I'm sure glad we have 'em to help out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Power of a PSW

Personal Support Workers, also known as PSW's, are a godsend. They can help with anything from trimming fingernails to bathing and showering and the world is a better place because of them.
When Grampa George finally agreed to move in with us, he needed hospitalization immediately. After a long seven day stay that included the necessity of signing a DNR (Do Not Rescucitate) Order due to the seriousness of his condition he was able to come home. The urgent and constant care he needed after being discharged from hospital included the need for a wound nurse to come see him daily over the course of several weeks since he'd developed huge blisters on the tops of his feet since they'd swelled up as a side effect of his heart condition. While a wound nurse is no PSW, she taught me how to care for his 'wounds' which have healed beautifully since.
The CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) for our area sent a representative to interview Grampa G, gather a history on him and arranged for a PSW to come see him two hours a week for the first six months he was here. Now Grampa George is a most pleasant man under most circumstances, but was clearly apprehensive about some woman coming into our house, a home he was just getting to know, to badger him about keeping clean and staying active.
We were very lucky to have Glenda come into our lives and Grampa George just loves her. Not only is she agreeable to whatever he wants to do, or not do, she's the most cheerful person you've ever met.
Now when we met, Glenda dutifully asked how she could help during the two hours per week she was available to us. Many of her clients are alone and need help with meal preparation, personal hygiene or ordering their prescriptions. Those are all MY jobs here, both for Nana and for Grampa George, not that I couldn't use a hand with those things. What was more important was for Glenda to be here for Grampa George, in any way that would help him feel better.
Glenda's hours have been cut to one hour per week by the CCAC, but it's an hour that Grampa George looks forward to every Monday at 2pm. They sit at the dining room table and chat, while I serve coffee and a little something sweet. Their conversations run from what we had for lunch to the philosophy of Aristotle and they really connect. She listens and lets him talk. He'll tell her that he hates taking his pills and she reminds him that he needs them to stay well. When the weather is better they'll start taking walks again, but only if he feels like it. And she's become a good friend.
Nana's not quite sure why Glenda comes over to see Grampa George every week, but I am. Her visits make him happy, lift his spirits, give him a new perspective and are good medicine. Thanks Glenda!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I have no formal training as a hairdresser but have been cutting, setting and perming the hair of a number of my family members for years. Certainly there are obvious dangers in such a daring pursuit, but my victims aka customers have come away relatively safely over the years.
Nana's single attempt to trim her husband's hair once, long, long ago did not turn out so well, and so she was never asked to repeat her performance. The story of how she neatly shaved off all the hair on the back of his head, with what turned out to be one of those newfangled pet hair trimmers he'd bought at a flea market, remains in the family archives as one of the funniest things she ever did in her life.
Not much more than a year into my marriage to my darling husband, when we were still living with his parents, I walked in on Nana's bi-weekly self-directed wash and set. Aside from the numbness and tingling in her hands from keeping them suspended above her head for about fifty tiny rollers her shoulder was acting up from long term osteoarthritis. Naturally I offered to help and ended up as her regular hairdresser.
I graduated from washing, conditioning and setting her hair, to home-cutting and perming thanks to 'Toni'.
My tried and true method of simply cutting off the same length of hair from each section that had grown out worked to keep her simple halo of curls in check and to keep my husband with the same universal cut he's had since the day I met him. (His numerous bad hair experiences with barbers who wouldn't listen kept him from going to professionals, and yet had him trusting me with his doo, go figure.)
I don't trim Grampa George's hair, but do apply gel and comb it out for him after I've toweled it dry after every shower. And I've trimmed his mustache now and again when it begins to interfere with mealtimes.
My children have long outgrown the haphazard bangs trims and other hair experiments I've doled out over the years, but look back lovingly on family and school photos to remind me of my limited scissors skills. They always look amazing now since they trust the professionals to keep their tresses trimmed.
Nana still gets her three to four perms a year, her hair the same tough dry consistency it's always been. There aren't any bald spots though it tends to flatten at the back since she sits and sleeps a lot. It grows fast enough to force me to do regular spot trims along her collar line, but she's a happy customer who always give me a tip when I'm done: rinse well, dear.