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.