Monday, January 17, 2011

Please worry about me

The phone message from Dad is, "I'm in terrible shape. Please worry about me." I do worry. I have a black belt in worry.

Trouble is, I already spent two hours with Dad and another frustrating hour with his Medicare D prescription plan provider's phone menu today. I'm practicing balance, limits, and self-preservation now that Dad is just a few blocks down the street instead of 650 miles away.

Where can I get a WWYDIYWBIN wristband for Dad? Where can I get a WWIDIHWBIN bracelet for myself?

What would I do if Howie was back in Nebraska?

Dad, what would you do if you were back there?

How on earth do elderly people manage to find their way through the darn insurance phone menus? HOEDEPMTFTWTTDIPM would require a wristband as big as a hula hoop!

After a dismal noon mealtime with Dad Sunday, I needed a 1/3 lb. bacon cheeseburger with fries ASAP. Caregiving is going to make me a blimp in time for the Super Bowl! Got calls from a son and my sister while sitting in the booth. Knowing I have their emotional support is essential.

Still sitting and slurping my Barq's, I read Karen M. Thomas' essay in the Dallas Morning News instead of skipping to the Sudoku puzzle. This poignant feature had tears streaming down my cheeks right there in the burger joint. 

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Phone outside the box

This wouldn't be a major telecommunication breakthrough for most people, but Dad called me from out in the corridor tonight. Yes, he is out in the hall, and amazed the miracle of his cordless phone extends that far from its mothership.

Dad has lost the social filters that keep him from blurting out whatever he is thinking. He uses his nightly news hour phone calls as a megaphone for insulting his roommate, the roommate's visitors, and the care facility staff. I'm embarrassed 650 miles away. I'm often insult fodder myself. Tonight the dynamic was a bit better.

The time just before and after supper is difficult for elderly people. Dad usually feels compelled to call me during this time, and I am most likely to be able to talk with him then. Dad is irritable, anxious, and truly obnoxious. Unfortunately, people converge in his room at this time to watch "Wheel of Fortune" and coax his Alzheimer's roommate to eat supper. This is a powder keg situation.

Phoning from outside his room is a good step for Dad, even if he misses the tv news and weather report. Thanks to the trained staff for helping other residents and families understand the characteristics of Dad's dementia. Thanks to so many for kindness and patience.

Out in the hallway, Dad won't insult his roommate's family. He will still announce his uncanny estimates for the weight of every staff member who walks down the hall. "Hush, Dad," I say. "You don't need to say that out loud!" You won't win a giant teddy bear for guessing weight and fortune.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A flood of engagement and clarity

News flash! Dad is totally on top of the current flooding situation in both the Elkhorn River area of Nebraska, and the region north of Oklahoma City including Edmond and Guthrie. Dad can reel off names of all the towns along Highway 81 near Norfolk, the number of bridges out, and the sandbagging operations. When I fact-check his reports, he has it nailed.

This same dear old fellow couldn't separate news of Israel's Gaza blockade from the depressing reports about BP's disaster in the Gulf of Mexico when I was visiting him. Most days he doesn't bother to concentrate on current events at all. His big challenge is squinting at the digital clock to decide when to start wheeling down to the dining room for meals.

Dad's not just engaged in the news. He has a fresh perspective and sense of gratitude to be "high and dry," and living in a facility that cares for and about him.

I'm wondering just what part of the disasters hook Dad's thoughts and drag them out of the fog. Is it the placenames recalling childhood homes and more recent visits? Is it the Dustbowl Era childhood memories of Nebraska droughts and floods? Is it the tactile experience of his own distant childhood efforts to build little dams on Willow Creek? Or is it a resurfacing of the empathy that often made him contribute to Red Cross efforts during international catastrophes?

I wish I could share with Dad the Google Maps satellite views and YouTube videos, and record his memories of the topography and history of the region. As it is, I'm just enjoying this window of clarity with Dad. I wouldn't wish flooding on any person, home, or community, but I'm thankful for this side effect.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Friday, May 21, 2010

Life imitating Tom Robbins

Good grief! Dad is convinced that he's been invited to South America. He says his night aides won't let him leave. They want him to go back to sleep.

All this scenario needs is a parrot. It's been years since I read about Switters in his wheelchair. Dad is indeed a fierce invalid, and a recalcitrant dreamer.

I'm worn out trying to explain the use of a phone to Dad. He's lost the list of memory-dial numbers.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Wave

Thank heaven for major league baseball on tv! Alleluia, and then some. The romaine growing on my patio is doing The Wave (in slow motion). I am doing The Wave with inflated beach balls. If the magic invisible stadium organist played the macarena, I would do that, too. If Kate Smith bumped me out of my seat in the seventh inning stretch and started belting, "God Bless America," I would buy her a hot dog with relish. And one for my dad with kraut. And one for me with extra mustard. Life is good.

Dad is charged up about the exciting Cubs game today. He knows all that went on, even if he can't figure out how to turn down the volume when I call.

For several months Dad's only interest has been cracker jacks. The staff advised me that eating caramel corn was considered a fine motor skill work-out at his age. Now we've got peanuts and pine tar. Yippee. So let's root, root, root for the old folks' home team. If they don't win it's a shame.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder