Thursday, September 29, 2011

Molly's Message (from Sept 8, second half)

See first part of post before this one.
Grandma Doris still very much has a sense of humor and I know she knows that we enjoy seeing her smile, otherwise we wouldn't sit in front of her all day just making funny faces at her! I feel as long as she's smiling, she's doing well.
Just as we have always known her, she is stil la social butterfly. She seems to love to get visits from friends and family and she'll normally just sit and stare at the visitor with smiles. So if anyone would like to let Grandma Doris be the center of attention, I'm very positive she would enjoy that. Pass the word!

Reprinted with permission---Thanks, Molly for all you do for Mom and for us all.

Molly's Message (from Sept 8, first half)

We could easily speak about how Grandma Doris isn't doing well, but we can't leave out how well she is doing! Two weeks ago, we hired a hospice nurse to come in. I haven't met her yet because I've been in Lincoln and Kansas City for the past couple weeks. I called my Grandpa a couple weeks ago, expectig him to not be doing so well, but I was very relieved to hear that he sounded happy! He said the nurse is coming four days a week, which means he doesn't ever have to worry about bathing her again! The nurse tested her blood pressure, heart rate, and all those tests and found that she is at a healthy level for all of those. Hospice care is completely free for us and I'm sure that is another relief for Grandpa Carl. The days are pretty much gone that Grandpa gets scared and frustrated with his part in Grandma's care.
She is though, slowly giving up swallowing all together. About the week before I left, she stopped drinking any little sips of water. Now she just has fun spewing on us! We think she seems scared to swallow and therefore she won't do it anymore. We began feeding her juicy summer tomatoes, melon, and peaches by the ton. Along with that, hospice brought us modified corn starch also known as Thick It. The more we add, the more the water takes on the consistency of pudding and we all know how much Grandma likes pudding! The nurse said the body will still register it as water though.
Grandma doesn't have much strength, either. As of when I saw her last, she still rocks back and forth in her wheel chair and can roll around in her bed. Her legs work somedays but other days it takes a couple people to safely move her from chair to chair. Despite her immobility though, we try to get her outside for a couple hours everyday in the warm weather so she can get some breeze, sun, and smells into her system. I fear the colder weather, though. Maybe she won't mind being inside, but I would think it would get old.
She smiles constantly. She thinks everyone around her is a bit carzy, and well, it's not false. She interacts with us still sometimes in certain ways. Chrsitine was sleeping on the couch in the stove room while Grandpa was wheeling Grandma towards the bathroom. He stopped at the end of the couch where Christine's feet were uncovered and bent down to Grandma's ear and whispered, "Reach down and tickle Christine's feet." Grandma did look down and then smiled big.
Grandma smiles at all the parts it would seem "approriate" to find funny whether she's watching I Love Lucky, which Grandpa says she always liked that show, Christine spilling her syrup covered pancakes all over her lap, or she's listening to Laurie tell Christine, Devri, Eric, Liesel, my dad Allen, and I a story that happened over 30 ears ago, in which Laurie was the victim of one of Grandma's interests (such as seeing how long a snake is next to Laurie in bed!)

What happens on the farm.

Dad called just tonight to say that Mom was holding her head at a tilt all the sudden, unable to keep it straight and the nurse said this is a sign of real decline. He said, "Calves, dogs, and cats do that, too, when they get ready to die." So, we interpret her condition by what we have seen in the pasture, and most generally, it's a pretty good reference.

I posted on Facebook that now is the time to come see Mom if you want to do so on this side of life. It still could be a while. Or it couldn't. I guess if death could be that predictable we'd all die early of worry. I'm still going to work every day so far. Devri is so sad to be in Florida for this whole time, but I told her she brings a lot of happiness to her Grandpa by doing her thing, living a happy life, and on occasion, being Peter Pan. It is a ray of hope for Dad, but still....she is pretty sad right now. Our imaginations are always worse then our realities. I post a photo of Devri as Peter Pan at Disney, so you can see what makes her Grandpa smile so much. :)

Enter Hospice

A month or so ago we all were getting pretty worried because Mom was giving us fits about eating. And we had the worst time getting her to drink. We'd try to give her a drink and she's spit it right back at us like a fountain. And then she'd smile, ornery thing. So, I'm clueless with this whole "death and dying" thing so I called one of the most capable and professional and super-duper people I have met lately, Mom's nurse in Joplin. She always acts like she has nothing more to do all day than to take care of us and tell us what to do next. God bless her. I explained that Mom wasn't eating and we all figured that wasn't a good thing, but I didn't know how to contact Hospice or what to say. She asked if we had chosen a Hospice program to which I said, "I have no clue who I'm supposed to call or what I'm supposed to do. The problem is, I don't know if Mom is going to live another week or another year....I just can't tell." She said, "Well, I'll tell you what. I'll call my favorite Hospice group and get you all set up." (Yeah, as a nurse, she's probably 'legally' not supposed to pick favorites, but I'm so glad she knows when to follow the rules and when to break them) I told her I would LOVE for her to do that. (I'm right in the middle of new teacher orientation at work this whole time, of course.) Within a day I received a call from "Marjorie,' the sweetest lady you could imagine who set up an appointment for Friday evening She came at 5:00 p.m. and and poured humanity all over us. This lady knew exactly what we needed to hear; they would take care of Mom and we would take care of each other, and they were there for us any day any hour, and they would do it all. Christine, Molly, Dad, and I all breathed a sigh of relief.( Mom smiled....she was intensely interested in the lady's computer.) Much to my amazement, however, Dad suddenly asked, "Well, all sounds real good, but how much is this all going to cost?" My eyes got large and my jaw dropped. I thought, "He's never heard of Hospice? What cave has he been living in?" She smiled her angel smile and told Dad it was absolutely free and he didn't have to worry about one thing from here on out. I could just see his shoulders relax. How do you put a price on that? Makes a person want to sniffle.

Anyway, she said, "Would you like me to call the nurse now?" It was about 5:30 p.m., so I said, "Oh, no...I wouldn't call her this late and ask her to come over here." I'm sure she was thinking, "They are just not getting it." She explained that oh no, that's what they do. This particular nurse works from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. (or something like that.) And just like that, we waited, and here she came. She took all the vital signs and Mom is healthy as a horse on that count. Ninety-six percent oxygen, great blood pressure and everything. Molly was intensely interested in the whole thing and had her blood pressure checked, too. She hauled in bags of hygiene supplies, much to our amazement, pads for the bed, and even little deals to clean Mom's mouth and moisten her lips. (If you've ever bought Depends, you know how much money was in all those bags.) We stood amazed. She acted like she was our new best friend and coming over to see us was just a real treat. Sniffle again. (It makes you just want to quit your job and start working full-time for Hospice.) Molly was dancing around like a nut when she left declaring it was "Just like Christmas!!"

So now, we have two nurses that each come twice each week! One checks Mom's vital signs, (and I'm sure Dad's mood) and another comes and does the same but also bathes Mom, (which is a MAJOR task for Dad, which he does not like doing.) Dad loves the company and looks forward to them coming---four days each week---still can't believe it! A chaplain also came out to see if he could be of service. Dad told him kindly that he appreciated his mission, but he'd call him when he needed him. (Stubborn mule father of mine.) Also, a social worker comes out once a month. I asked Dad why she came. He said he figured she was making sure he wasn't abusing Mom or nothin'. "Dad! She does not! She's coming by to see if she can help you in any way and she's coming to see if YOU are ok!" He's so goofy. :)

So, it appears that Mom may never have to go to a hospital or nursing center at all. It appears that she will just pass away at home, which....crazy as it sounds, make me want to throw my fist in the air and yell, "YES!!"

Yeah, the whole thing is stinky, but let me tell you, it could be a LOT worse. We could be doing it all alone with no clue, thinking we were probably responsible for Mom's decline, and completely stressing out.

I can't remember all these folks names but, "God bless Mom's nurse, the paperwork lady, the evaluating nurse, the vital sign checker nurse, and the bathing nurse. May they be as blessed in their lives as they have blessed us in ours!" A-men!

P.S. The photos are of Eric checking out the new air-circulating mattress cover on Mom's bed, which keeps her from having bed sores---so cool. Also, there is a photo of Mom and Dad watching t.v. Dad says she seems particularly into "I Love Lucy" right now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Uneventful Event

Love this photo Christine took---not only does it symbolize the fading of my mother's awareness of this world, but behind her head is a photo of Christine, with an insert of myself, both wearing the same baby dress,and both wearing Mom's heart-shaped locket. Mom took Christine to get this photo done, (and the photo of me.)
As stated, it was indeed an uneventful event, giving her the flower planted in her honor in my Memorial Garden. She pushed the vase to the middle of the table, then pulled it toward herself, back and forth, again and again....did not attempt to smell them or anything.

I had dreaded the moment for days, but I shouldn't have. She was not affected, I don't think, by the flower and I know that I only cry for myself, and not for her.

When we hear of the passing of an older person, how relieved and "glad" we are when we know the person "died peacefully in his/her sleep." I am comforted that although I do not know how I, myself, will die or other people I care about----(there are thousands of awful ways---cancer, body-crushing accidents, liver disease, violence.) I am comforted when I see my Mom, knowing that she is blessed not to have to edure any of these things. She will, and has already begun now, to "die peacefully in her sleep." The Lord appears to have allowed her to circumvent the whole, "walking through the valley of the shadow of death" thing and has already led her to green pastures and still waters. May you be at peace, Momma---I love you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tomorrow Will Be the Big Day

More peach than pink, which I like all the better. Tomorrow, Momma will see the flower planted in her memory....and I will accept it. P.S. It is the most beautifully fragrant iris I have ever had the pleasure of snicking my nose into. I hope Mom will be pleased. If she can understand anything at all, I know she will be. **sniff**

And it's going to be on Mother's Day weekend! Now that is ironic!

Friday, April 29, 2011

the bloom of doom

I'm bummed out---feel like garbage....and it's all because a flower is starting to bloom for the very first time in my garden. It doesn't make sense, but I will explain.

No doubt I have mentioned that I have a "Memorial Garden" in my yard--a special area where I have one plant or item to represent everyone I know who has died, that I actually cared about. The center point is a North Star pie cherry tree, for a baby I lost in my fourth month of pregnancy. Under the tree is a nice concrete bench. That's for my brother, Lloyd, who cared more for structures than flowers. On the south side of the bench is a small "dry creek bed" representing Hubert VanSlyke and the property my family bought from them and where Bob and I built our house. The property is prominently marked by a long dry creek bed, (plus, I hit a boulder when I was planting in that area and said, "Hey....Hubert!") Surrrounding these main features are wild flowers for Linda Skaggs a dear friend who died young from an extremely aggresive cancer, peonies for Iliene VanSlyke and Chad's grandmother, a plant that has four-leaf clover-type leaves on it for Jim Sawyer (ISWNE--ashes left in Ireland,) hollyhocks for my Grandma and Grandpa McCleary, (my mother always had to keep the hollyhocks separate at home, so as not to cross pollinate and destroy "the original" Foster flowers), a nicely shaped lilac bush for Barbee and Maude Martin, and, *chuckle*, still looking for a plant that looks similar to marijuana for my Aunt Marilyn...funny family story there. It's probably sacrilege, but I confess, I buried my dog, Shasta, there and planted Shasta Daises, and also...Max....who was an exceptional cat.

Whether my mother was sentimental, or she just liked the whole genealogy, grave hunting, or dead-people-identification and remembrance idea, I don't know. I never asked. But she loved to bring people by just to see it, and have me give them the tour of what plant was for what person and why.

Well, that became a dilemma for me, when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and I had to think about the fact that someday soon, though I hadn't even considered it yet, I would be planting a flower for my Mama.

Best way to jerk myself out of an emotional swoon was to begin to think practically. Obviously, the plant would be her very favorite, the iris. She had (has) every color one would ever want, and delighted in planting even more different ones whenever she had opportunity.

I first thought of bringing a purple iris from their house to remind me of home, (she has them there by the gross), but I decided I would rather get something extra special for iris she had never seen, and something that would make her proud and impressed. So, through catalog after catalog, I finally chose what I considered "the perfect iris." I can't remember the name, but it's pink---the color of cotton candy, (she could never have enough), and super-ruffly, like the dresses she always sewed for me and my girls. I thought it was a fine choice.

My next dilemma was when to plant it. Would planting it now be "jumping the gun?" Planting the flower "before the deed was done?" Then again, iris take two years to bloom.after planting. And the truth of the matter was, I wanted to share it with Mom. I wanted her to see what special iris I had picked just for her. So, I thought "Whatever" about whether it was the "right" thing to do or not, and two years ago I planted it. Two years have passed in a blink. And I am shocked to is beginning to bud. As the days pass the bud is getting bigger, and I am getting more and more upset. It's really pretty stupid---it's a plant for heaven's sake. But just like the first time you look at someone's tombstone and say, "Wow. They're really dead," I look at that bud in the Memorial Garden and know, "Wow. She's really going to die!" And it's not going to be so very long from now, either. So this plant has been the cause of much suffering in my heart lately---self-inflicted sorrow, I guess.

At first, when I was passing through the yard and happened to glance at the iris, I saw the bud begin to swell and my bottom lip began to tremble. Now I can almost see the very top where the petal color will soon show and I just want to run out there and tape it shut and say, "No! Don't bloom yet! I'm not ready! I can't do this yet!"

I forced myself to look again tonight and there are now two buds swelling and the plant is healthy and strong. Mom is bound to her wheelchair now and the ground is soft, so I know I can't bring her up to to see it. There's no other way, but for me to wait until it blooms, cut it, and take it to her. And I'm not sure I can do that. To me, it will be like handing her a beautiful flower and saying, "Well, Mom....your flower is blooming in the garden. You can go now." My heart is broken and that darn bud just gets bigger and healthier every day!! Never have a wished a plant to just die, but sometimes I do now. (Of course, that would be painful for me in a different way, too.) Part of me is excited to see if the bloom will be as spectacular as I hope....and part of me wants to be angry, rip it to shreds, and cry.

But what would Mama want? I think she would want me to let it bloom fully, pick it, take it to her, and show her what I have planted for her. Sigh. It may kill me to do it, but that's life----"A time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted."

Heaven must be a wonderful place..... where people do not die!

Will post a photo of the flower soon. :(

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Changing of the Guard

Grandchildren Molly, and Eric after coloring Easter eggs while Mom watched.

Well, Christine has been living with Mom and Dad for the past three years and has been an immense help, but in my opinion, she is worn down. She has and continues to help with Mom's care, the cleaning, shopping, organizing, and errand running, but all this time she has been growing up more every time I turn around. Last spring she graduated from college and landed a couple of jobs she absolutely loves---part time at the library at MSSU, and part time with the Joplin Museum Complex. She belongs to more clubs and civic-type groups than I can name and she also has become engaged and looks forward to a wedding next year. She works as many hours as possible, and often stays the night with friends in Joplin after work, rather than driving back down to Mom and Dad's. I understand. It's not a picnic. And she has more than fulfilled anything I could have ever asked her to do, (and she still does.)

But still, Mom and Dad need a lot of help.

Once again the Lord provides and surprise, surprise, my niece, Molly, (Allen's child), who is 20 or so has moved in with them now. They are officially a family of four. Molly is very different from Christine and is a real change of pace. Where Christine is a neat freak who insists that the world be in perfect order and would clean all day if given the opportunity, Molly is much less intense. She enjoys cooking with a variety of herbs and spices, lots of vegetables, and makes cooking combinations that I have never heard of. She will, no doubt, turn Christine's clean counters into space for bowls and bowls of creativity. :) Molly also loves to grow her own food. Boy, does she have opportunity there! She's been digging around all weekend, "turning that place into a real garden" Dad says, and also helping him plant potatoes. She's one of those "organic, vegetarian" types who actually eats food that is good for you and has flavor. Dad has called me a couple of times just today to tell about the wonderful rice, black beans, kale, and who knows what else dishes that Molly is preparing. He says, "It takes her all day, but its the best stuff I've ever just can't stop eating it!" He also raves about Mom eating twice the amount of food since Molly came than she was before. He says, "Molly keeps putting it down her, and she keeps eating it." He's amazed, because getting Mom to eat has been a real stressor for him. And I know when Christine comes home after working long hours, she will be SO happy to have Molly and dinner there when she gets home!

So, Christine will catch a break, Molly will get some land to garden her little heart out, Dad will have company, (and have a garden to be proud of), and Mom will be eating her fiber. It's a win-win-win-win situation. I cannot possibly express the thankfulness (and a little bit of the guilt), I have felt with both girls stepping up to the plate and offering their best skills for their grandparents. You can't force a kid to do that, and I am so very proud of them both! Thank you, Sweeties!!! I don't know what Mom knows and doesn't know, but I am confident that if she sees (or could see) and understands (or could understand), she would be the proudest grandma on Earth!

a chair....with wheels

When I mentioned the idea of a "wheelchair" to Dad he ducked his head and said they didn't need it. Somehow the idea of Mom in a wheelchair just seemed like one more step down the ladder, I guess. Still, Mom twists her ankle and "melts" into the floor often. She also loses her balance and is quite weak. She's been using the dining room chairs for the same purpose as a wheelchair, to scoot from here to there so she doesn't have to get up. It's painful to watch, though, because she moves about a half inch with each effort.

Dad absolutely can't take her anywhere, so I told him I'd check into a chair "just to get from point A to point B....a chair....with wheels." I met a great lady at the elderly appliances store who did all the Medicare paperwork and had the "transport chair" ready at no cost and no pain to us. The disease is bad enough, but to have to deal with Medicare, too, would be unliveable. Anyway, after this angel of mercy's quick tour we decided a transport chair would be the best choice. I have learned that a "transport chair" is exactly that---not to be wheeled around by the owner, but just with four small wheels to be pushed around. It folds up in a snap, has foot rests that easily pop on and off, is only 31 1/2" across at its widest point, and weighs nearly nothing. And it's in candy-apple red! ZZZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMM!! ZZZZZZZZZZOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

I took it down to my doubting father and we put her in there for a spin. She acted like she it was Christmas morning. Much like a little one in a walker, she easily learned to push herself backwards and with a little practice can go forwards as well, and turn a 360! Although she gets hung up cutting corners too close sometmes, she smiled and smiled and smiled! That made all the difference in Dad's opinion and he has been fine with it ever since. He thinks she gets more exercise now than she did before she had it because she is always scooting around the house. One morning she got all the way out of bed and into her chair before Dad even noticed!

Of course, we get her up and have her walk often, but that can be kind of a big deal. If she wants out, she'll help herself out, but if she doesn't, she won't try at all and is dead weight. She really likes the chair! Now I need to build a ramp. It was nice to be able to wheel her outside to sit in the yard the other day in the sunny, wonderful weather, but on the way back in, she lost her footing on the step and sank to her knees. It was quite the trick getting her back up again and took both Dad and Allen lifting and me holding the door to do it! Anyway, she now has a wheelchair, and it has made her more mobile and happy than she has been in some time. Yeah!

after Christmas

I haven't written because I've been mad about deleting a video of Mom at Christmas before I got it posted here or saved. I have it on Facebook, but don't know how to get it from there to there. I've been aggravated.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mom at Christmas

As you can see, she was very smiley and happy. Just as we did last year, my kids and I spent the night with Mom and Dad Christmas Eve. We put up a tree that night and Mom helped decorate it. She just smiled and smiled.