Posts Tagged ‘caregivers’

As mentioned in my previous blog, my elderly (sorry mom) mother fell and broke her hip three weeks ago. Since then life has been pretty much devoted to getting her back on her feet, both literally and figuratively, and figuring out a plan of action on where to go from here once that has been accomplished.

This will mark my second round of care giving responsibilities. When Rick, my significant other passed away last year, I was warned to pace myself as the mortality rates for caregivers are alarming. Thirty percent of caregivers will die before the loved ones they are caring for do. I have heard higher numbers but 30% is sufficiently worrisome, thank you very much. Emotional and physical exhaustion can lead to a compromised auto immune system as well as a myriad of other health problems. I am so thankful when I was coming down the assembly line I was right behind the Energizer Bunny thus blessed with the same full tank of boundless energy and a high octane metabolism. However, the bunny was constructed of cotton and fiberfill, where I am flesh and bone so I am mindful of how thin I stretch myself.

Three nights a week and a good portion of the days I am at the skilled nursing facility where my mom is housed. When I walk in the building I hear the staff saying “Susie’s here”, which gives you a good idea the amount of time I am around. Last night I settled down in the bed next to my mother. I thought the chairs they provide for the visitors were quite possibly the most uncomfortable furniture ever constructed, but I have to admit they went the extra mile when putting the beds together. I hold to the notion they tied a stack of sheet lumber together, wrapped a layer of bunting around it and called it good when making the mattress. When you turn on your side you literally rebound off the top like a rubber ball hitting a cement driveway. The pillows are constructed of a plastic like material which glues to your hair like rubber cement and the linen smells vaguely like a mix of urine and bleach. For me I brought my own throw and pillows and would have brought in an egg crate cover for the mattress if I didn’t think that was a bit over the top, no pun intended.

Last night I was back to sleep for the second time after the staff came in to check vitals and make a toilet run for my mother. Slipping back into a deep sleep something must have triggered my eyelids to open revealing a well wrinkled face peering into mine. The woman looked to be well into her nineties. Seated in a wheelchair she was resplendent in bright pink flannel pj’s with penguins marching across them accessorized by a lime green travel pillow curled around her neck. “You are sleeping in my bed”, she announced loudly. Coming up from dreamland I felt for all he world like Goldilocks. For a minute I wasn’t sure if I was actually awake or simply dreaming I was awake. Groping around for the damnable call button the penguin lady zoomed off knocking my glass of water to the floor prompting my mother to sit up. Mother and I watched in fascination as the lady did 360’s in her chair in the middle of the room and then zoomed into the bathroom closing the door behind her. Finally a nurse came in to retrieve the poor lady apologizing for the disturbance. I could still hear the woman screaming going down the hall “she’s in my room, she’s in my room”. I’m beginning to think my mother is right when she says “it doesn’t pay to get old”. Life in the bin I guess.

Another thing to consider is that any hospital or nursing home is a witch’s cauldron of germs brewing and stewing on every surface you come in contact with. I have washed my hands so many times now I had to buy the industrial sized moisturizing cream to combat the skin simply cracking and falling off on the floor. Rick contracted C-diff while in such an institution. As you can imagine germs travel quickly with staff moving in and out of rooms and people in the halls and communal areas spreading the wealth. Bleach is used for washing clothes, linens, floors, and every surface in an effort to keep this under control. C-diff by definition is a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Oh, yea.

When you get this bacteria you are sequestered. Visitors are suited up from head to toe in protective clothing each time you enter or leave the room where the infected person is housed. With Rick, I spent many days seated across from him looking like an extra from Outbreak. Poor guy. He said he felt like a leper. Even the cleaning staff gave his door a wide berth. I had to bleach my clothes when I got home and be careful again to wash my hands often and well. Growing up in a doctor’s household, (my grandfather was a urologist, my grandmother an RN) this was not unfamiliar training for me.

My kids come in and spend some grandma and me time on the weekend giving me a little time to myself. Today I intend to remove the dust from my own life and see if there’s still something left underneath it. The yard, the cat, the house, are all ready to go on strike if I don’t give them some attention. Boo, the Queen of Cats, stands guard on the floor by my feet when I’m home shooting me a glaring look with one eye from time to time should I make a move towards the front door.

I shall always consider myself blessed to have had my mother all these years. Like most mothers and daughters we’ve shared moments not suitable for a Hallmark greeting, but we always mended and came together again. You are given one mother in this life and that is the allotment. Some of us fare better than others under this system, and I feel I’m one of the lucky ones. All of us who are parents probably can be seen as needing improvement by our offspring but she always let me know I was well loved, and you can’t do better than that. Hug your mom today. Today is what we have, fill it with the important things.

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