Saturday, December 19, 2009

Penthouse of long-term care

The caregivers at Dad's assisted living facility are anxious to move him on up to the skilled care center. His outbursts in the dining room are disturbing to the other residents. They would like to move him from his private apartment into a small double-occupancy room, but with more staff available to assist him.

Dad's already on the east side of town and he's mighty fond of pie. Still, it doesn't seem like an improvement in his situation to be irritated by a roommate and pay twice as much each month!

Well we're movin on up, To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Dad was always pretty enlightened, tolerant, and polite, even before Norman Lear brought Archie Bunker and George Jefferson into our t.v. living rooms. One aspect of Dad's dementia is his use of labels we consider racist. This seems to be common characteristic of dementia in the elderly, but that doesn't make it less uncomfortable for anyone within hearing distance.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chef Boyardee Had a Great Fall

The assisted living nurse called the school to reach me about 10:50. Dad had fallen in his apartment. His aide, found him on the floor with a lot of blood at about 9:30. The nurse was summoned immediately. She checked Dad's vitals and cranium. She cleaned the laceration above his left eye which she said was gaping at least 1/4". Dad was sent to the ER for sutures or skin glue. Dad didn't know when or how he fell.

I went into the jam-packed teacher workroom to send my siblings a quick text message about this episode. When I turned around I bumped a shelf. A teensy glass jelly jar with a red checked lid fell off the shelf and shattered all over the workroom. By the time I swept that up, it was time to get ready for lunch. One child brought a Chef Boyardee Noodle-roni cup--the kind where you remove the red plastic cap, remove the metal pop-tab lid, replace the red plastic cap with vent holes, and nuke for 45 seconds.

Plumppf. Not the usual microwave explosion sound, but I went to look through the microwave door. Chef Boyardee had fallen over on his side and was shooting greasy red goo out the vent holes, spraying the microwave walls and down under the rotating glass tray. As I stared, the lid popped off, and this merry carousel started trailing noodle-roni like a parade of grubworms. Some people watch reality tv. I watch reality Boyardee.

I just called Dad and he was speaking clearly. He said he had no aches or pains, but I was keeping him up. He knew that he had nine stitches and will have a black eye. He said everyone took really good care of him.

I didn't ask any questions about what happened, as I didn't want to flip him into anger mode. We agreed that he would try not to have a repeat adventure tomorrow. I can only pray that Chef Boyardee will agree to the same.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Monday, November 02, 2009

Pink Floyd switches from Daylight Savings Time

Time waits for no man, and it is scary to consider Pink Floyd wearing Depends. Time is preoccupying Howie today. I called to ask him the name for workshop masonite with holes because I was having a brain meltdown. He knew "pegboard" immediately, and I hit my forehead and said, "Duh. Thanks."

Dad was fretting about finding the instructions for his Seiko watch to switch from daylight savings. Had I run into those instructions in the chest of drawers at the house? I told him they were probably in the top middle drawer of that chest of drawers which is actually right there in his Eastmont bedroom. He was too anxious to check that out to continue our conversation.

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.
Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)

Ticking away the moments that make up the dull day. Fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way...

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Howard Carter discovers Mr. Coffee

Mr. Coffee bit the dust today. It's heating component just gave up after what the obituary writers would call a long battle with caffeine. The deterioration was almost imperceptible at first. I figured it had something to do with my hot flashes that the coffee never seemed piping.

I don't build personal relationships with small appliances, nor do I consider them a relic to be preserved. I rarely save their receipts or read their instructions. When they are done for, I throw them in the dumpster without a eulogy, and get a replacement at Walmart.

This was not the way I was raised, and that's okay! Cleaning out my parents' house we found four coffee makers packed in their original boxes with receipts and instructions. Taped on the boxes were notes that said, "broken". Why were my parents saving broken appliances?

Tut, tut. What would the ancient Egyptians do with boxed broken Mr. Coffees? Would they put one at each corner of the sarcophagus along with a shabti servant statue to brew the coffee for waking up in the afterlife? Maybe those tomb inscriptions covering the walls in horror vacui style contain the receipts and instructions for the tomb contents. Down at the bottom there's the legal fine print reminding the deceased that coffee is hot.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Friday, October 23, 2009

This has been a crazy week, but the first tests show my dad doesn't have bladder cancer. He definitely has some other problem, although he doesn't understand this. Next week he will have a renal ultrasound. In mid-November he'll have a cystoscopy. That seems to be a day surgery (with anesthesia) poking around in his bladder. His last anesthesia experience sent him into another galaxy for five days, so this is scary. Of course, he spends much of his time in an alternate galaxy now. Please send good vibes and white light!

In my limited experience, having a doctor jam a scope up my deviated septum to view my sinuses is grounds for murder. I'm sure Dad will want to yell, "STEP AWAY FROM THE BLADDER, AND NOBODY GETS HURT."

A couple years ago Dad fell and hit his head. Having a brain scan, lying immobile in the tube with beeping sounds and light flashes gave Dad a vivid, terrible flashback to foxhole experiences in World War II.

I hope he has a little bit of Clint Eastwood in him to get him through that day.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Monday, October 05, 2009

Screenplay of the intermediate place

Not for the first time, I got off the phone with my father and pushed the VHS cassette of "Amadeus" into the VCR. I'm writing another scene in my imaginary screenplay, and F. Murray Abraham is playing the lead role.

Dad fell again today, but wasn't injured. He "screamed bloody murder for a long time, waking people up but getting no help". Eventually he pushed his call button. Once the aide arrived, the nurse had to be called before Dad could be lifted off the floor. Dad seems to have read the riot act to the poor aide about the sorry excuse for an "intermediate place" he was in. For Dad, assisted living probably feels like an intermediate place, a sort of limbo. I can only begin to imagine Dad's internal discussions about his current abilities and ultimate mortality.

The aide took Dad's temp, blood pressure, and pulse. Dad ranted because his socks weren't even a real pair. One sock was a Gold Toe and the other wasn't.

I started to say that the aides can't move him when he falls so they don't aggravate a break. Dad started swearing at me, that yes he understands this. Eventually he told me he was embarrassed now about his reaction and behavior. He is glad they were taking care of him, but it was pretty exasperating at the time.

I'm in the doghouse. I contacted the church to change Dad's mailing address for the pledge statements. Because of that, I "sicced" the visitation minister on him. The minister visited Dad today. They seem to have conversed about postage rates. I pray it was not like the priest's visits to Salieri in the mad house.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Painful memories

I just finished shredding all the Medicare and supplemental insurance documents from Mom's illness in 2004 and 2005. I couldn't bear seeing them sit atop the desk in Lincoln, so I brought the stack back to Texas earlier this year. There's really no reason to keep them, so now they are gone.

The shredding reminded me of my intense frustration with the medical profession during Mom's decline. I'm near tears realizing all the invasive procedures she had to endure.

I don't return to this blog very often, as I remember it being about hospitals, doctors, tests, anger, and denial. It's interesting to see that I didn't apply any of those subjects as labels.

I'm still my dad's anchor, and the job hasn't gotten easier. Now being the AnchorWoman includes financial duties and being Dad's advocate in his assisted living facility. We are lucky. He is in a safe, familiar place with good food and caring staff. I am grateful for the evenings when Dad and I have a clear-headed conversation.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Yesterday I took the train to CityPlace Station, and a bus to Preston & Beverly, then walked to work at the library. Left the Buick in Plano. I can't write comments on the Morning News blogs supporting mass transit if I don't ride it. Right?

So, when I walk out of the library at 5:40 the sky is a bit cloudy. By the time I'm walking through the shopping area it is windy and sprinkling. If I'd had any sense I would have waited for the bus outside the Tex-Mex restaurant, but I had time to kill, so I walked up McKinney to the next stop. It's raining, but it feels refreshing. At the stop a sprinkler system or storm sewer has gone haywire and is shooting gallons of water into the air in front of some trendy apartments AND fireworks are exploding in a tree. Lots of fireworks whizzing around, and big dogs running like crazy. So I walk on north up McKinney to where I think the next stop must be. And walking, and walking. My cell phone is ringing. It's Dad. I don't try to answer because the hail is marble size and I'm standing under an awning asking patio bar customers where the bus stop is. They look at me like I'm a crazy homeless bag lady, which I am starting to resemble. So I keep walking north figuring I have to find a bus stop or Mockingbird Station eventually. Once you are soaked to the skin it's not bad once the hail stops. Kind of like running through the sprinkler fully-clothed as a kid. Finally find a bus stop and the bus arrives. I leave a puddle on the bus.

At Mockingbird Station I call Dad back while I'm waiting for the train. He's gotten himself into a panic, calling and calling my sister and I at our various numbers and getting no one, no longer knowing who he is dialing. He says he's got a big problem. I figure he's fallen on the floor again and can't remember to push the call button. No, he got a bill and he wants to write a check, but he can't tell me who the bill is from or for how much. He's all into how the bill had been forwarded in the mail. And he's got to pay it by the 25th of something, but he's not sure what.

So I'm standing there dripping wet, talking loudly into my cell phone about Milk of Magnesia and Rx charges to my father who can't hear. Some people are moving away. Others are coming up to me to ask the time. A train goes by. I try to explain to Dad that this is not the best moment for me and I'll call him when I'm dry, but he's too anxious about the bill. Okay, he can write the check and stamp the envelope. Then I realize he will try to get out of his chair to go find the stamps in the drawer. Sigh. I've got most of the bills coming to me or automatically paid, but this one snuck through.

I stand up on the train all the way home, dripping, so I don't leave a wet seat for some unwary passenger.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Making a list and falling down twice

The weekend my column about fear of falling appeared in the East edition of the Dallas Morning News, my dad fell twice in three days. I spent last night compiling and annotating a list of my father's falls and other incidents over the past two years. Very sad to see the evidence of an average one fall per month, even though most injuries were minor.

The weekend ahead will be difficult as my siblings and I meet with Dad to convince him the time for assisted living has arrived. Dad is frail, depressed, cantankerous, and penny-pinching. He's also a sentimental fool and very funny storyteller. I'm calling up all my memories of that outstanding, ethical, hilarious, inspiring character to form my arguments for assisted living.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Stir fry, bright eye

Dad picked up his new eyeglasses today. He hasn't been comfortable reading for way too long, despite his cataract surgeries last spring. The eye doctor told him it might take two weeks to adjust to the prescription.

I'm so excited that Dad read the stir fry basics from the Lincoln Journal Star Food section to me over the phone. The information was interesting to him and perhaps useful to me. Best of all, he was enjoying reading again!

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder