Congestive heart failure causes, among other things, shortness of breath, especially when one is lying down. Mom takes her diuretics in the morning, so by bedtime they’re becoming less effective, and when she first came home after her heart attack, she would frequently get up in the night and sit up on the couch for awhile. If I asked her why she was up, she would just say she couldn’t sleep. She’s a very bad reporter.
Fortunately, we have Allied Healthcare, a medical supply store, just a few blocks away. The owner was very helpful and I ended up buying a 7″ rise sleeping wedge, as he said sometimes the taller one can cause backaches for side-sleepers, and Mom is a side-sleeper. The blue cover shown is removable and washable, but not waterproof, so I wrap Mom’s in one of the many Save-A-Sheet pads we have for her bed.
It has made a big difference in her sleeping patterns and quality of sleep, although if you were to ask her what it is and why it’s on her bed, I don’t believe she would have any idea.
Every morning, Mother and I play The Sock Game. When I come out to the living room to wake her where she’s fallen asleep on the couch, I find where she’s hidden her socks (sometimes behind the pillow, more recently shoved way down into the toe of one of her shoes so they are not as easily detected), remove them from their hiding place, tell her to be sure to get clean socks, and then put them in her hamper, along with yesterday’s clothing she has set on the end of her bed.
She then goes into her room, gets dressed with fresh clothes from the closet (since I’ve taken away the clothing she had planned to wear), and proceeds to the bathroom to tidy the hair around her face and put on lipstick. Her next stop is the living room couch, where she sits down and realizes that her sock cache has been raided and she cannot finish dressing. Here’s where the frustrating part (for me) comes in. She doesn’t want to expend the energy to get up and go back to her room, and so continues to sit there until I happen by, usually about the time the driver is due to arrive, and ask her why she doesn’t have her shoes on. At this point, she asks me to get her some socks.
This morning, she watches me pull yesterday’s socks out of her shoes, and I remind her to get clean socks. When I find her later just sitting there, slippers still on, and she requests clean socks, I yell (because she’s deaf and because I am frustrated) that she needs to get clean socks EVERY MORNING! She remains unruffled (because she’s deaf and because my impatience doesn’t faze her) and tells me, “Well, I need socks, now.”
I get socks for her. She starts putting them on as I get more coffee. Then she calls out, “My ride is here!”, and I come back around the corner to see her struggling with her second sock, unsuccessfully trying to shove her toes into the heel corner. I help reorient the sock on her foot, for which she, as always, graciously thanks me, and she gets her shoes on while I put the now-barking dogs into the studio.
I open the door for the driver, help Mom get her sweater on, grab the comb from the lamp table to tidy her hair in the back as she’s walking toward the door, and vent to the driver about this morning’s version of The Sock Game.
And tomorrow, I’m sure, we’ll get to do it all again.
This is the template I use for our weekly dinner planning. In order to simplify the process, we’ve made Friday night pizza night, and generally, Monday night is pasta night.
Mom’s bath schedule on Wednesday is 6:30 – 7:30 pm, which means we’ve been having dinner after 7:30, which means everyone is hungry and grumpy by the time dinner is actually served. It occurred to me this week (sometimes I’m slow) that I could leave work a little earlier on Wednesdays, plan for a quickly-prepared meal, and we could eat BEFORE the bath lady arrives. Leftovers would be perfect, but are not always available. Pasta is always pretty fast, so we might switch pasta night from Monday to Wednesday. Gyro King has BOGO gyro night on Wednesdays. Five Guys burgers is on my way home. Pre-prep might help, too.
Every morning, when I get up, the dogs get up. I let the dogs go out, then go to the kitchen to give Mom her meds. I watch her take her meds, the dogs come back in (unless they’re barking, then they come in in the middle of me trying to watch Mom take her meds), I feed the dogs. I give Mom her coffee, I let the dogs back out. Finally, I get to pour my cup of coffee. By this time, it is almost 7 am.
This week, I’ve been trying to get up a half-hour earlier, 6 am instead of 6:30. Sunday night, I forgot to change the alarm setting on my phone for Monday morning. Monday night, I didn’t sleep well, so Tuesday morning, I turned off my alarm and waited to get up until I heard Mom’s alarm at 6:30. Yesterday morning, I got up at 6:00 am – hooray! – and Mom woke up early, too. *sigh*
Today, Thursday, is the first day the process has gone as envisioned. I got up at 6, got the dog circus out of the way by 6:15, emptied the dishwasher, got a cup of coffee, got Mom’s meds and coffee ready, and sat down at my writing table at 6:19 am. Mom got up a little early, about 6:25, but I had already had a tiny bit of writing time and a few sips of coffee. I was almost zen.
I finished my morning journaling at 7:05, just in time to wake Mom up from her post-coffee nap, get yesterday’s socks out of her shoes (she’s given up hiding them), and toss them, along with yesterday’s clothing, into her hamper and out of sight. A quick refill of my coffee cup, and here I am, at the computer by 7:15, blogging away.
I think this new schedule is going to work out quite well. Now I just have to figure out how to get to bed before 11 pm.
Mom used to wear slip-on loafers, but now, with her congestive heart failure, her feet swell during the course of the day, and if the loafers fit well enough to not slide off, then they get too tight later. Before our Thanksgiving trip, I got her two pairs of velcro sneakers, one white (above) and one black (currently on her feet). I was afraid that she wouldn’t like them, but she thinks they look nice and appreciates the fact that they are more comfy than her other shoes had become.
This morning, I stood behind her as she struggled to put on her socks and then her shoes. The diuretic she takes each morning for her CHF helps, but leaning over to reach her feet gets her winded and wheezy. The driver had arrived a little early, and was patiently waiting outside as Mom fumbled around trying to find the black-on-black velcro strap on her 2nd shoe. I helped her find the strap and resisted the urge to move to the front of the couch and put her shoes on for her, to hurry the process along.
During our above-mentioned Thanksgiving road trip, I helped her get dressed every morning and helped her in all the bathrooms on the way. We were gone from home for about 12 days, and the first morning back, she sat on her bed, waiting for me to come help her get dressed. I pointed out to her that since we were home, she knew where her clothes were and could dress herself. She was happy to take up that task again, but I realized that she would also be just as happy to allow me to do everything for her. And so I don’t end up doing just that, I have to give her the time and space she needs to still do those things she is able to do. Even when the bus driver is waiting.
Mother has never voted in any election, ever. When she was young, jury pools were pulled from the voter registration lists, and she was afraid she would be called to jury duty. The family moved from rural Arkansas to Lubbock, Texas, and then to Houston and finally to Dallas, where I grew up. Each move introduced her to a larger or more complicated cityscape and her fear of freeways, traffic, one-way streets, and really just anything outside her experience increased her worries about receiving a jury summons and having to negotiate a drive downtown.
Even after jury pools began being tied to driver’s licenses, she still never registered to vote. I don’t understand it. I’ve never understood it.
Mom allowed her fears to dictate her behaviors her entire life, and my life, too, until I moved out at 17. Maybe that’s why I’ve always tried to act in ways that challenged my fears. I guess I’ll always have to work on that.
As best I can remember, Mother never really had any major hobbies. She gardened a little. Read Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Sewed some. Cooked your basic Southern fare. But she has always liked pie. Fruit pie, cream pie, pecan pie. Her favorite breakfast was leftover pie with coffee.
Fortunately, Publix bakery has lots and lots of pies, including small, personal pies which quarter nicely. We buy blueberry, apple, Dutch apple, peach, and sometimes apricot. I’m not sure she can taste the difference anymore, but it makes my happy to offer a variety.
And now, she asks for pie after every meal except breakfast, since breakfast is always cookies. And when I say “asks”, I really mean expects and demands. And she is very disappointed if I let us run out of pie.
I serve her dinner first, so she is generally finished with her plate before I am with mine, and lets me know she’s ready for pie in a variety of ways.
“Do we still have some of that good pie?”
“I’m ready for my pie whenever you want to get it for me.”
“Do you want to get me some pie, now?”
“I want a BIG piece of pie!”
And sometimes, she just looks at me, fork in hand, and says, “Pie! Piepiepie!”
When Mom first moved in with me nine years ago, she was already having mild incontinence issues, but her solution was to use a wash cloth as a pad. As you might imagine, this was not an ideal choice. It’s part of what fooled me into thinking that she was taking a bath, as I was finding these tortured cloths in the laundry, and assumed they were being used for their intended purpose.
When I finally realized what was going on, I bought some incontinence pads from the store. Mom agreed to use them, but didn’t know anything about pulling the paper off the adhesive strip to secure them, and it just didn’t work out well. When I brought home the first package of Depends briefs, I was a little worried that she would reject them as something for “old people”, (the reason she gave me and my brother for over a decade as to why she didn’t want to look into getting hearing aids), but she thought they were a great idea. She didn’t seem to realize that such a thing existed, so I guess even with all the television she watched, the advertisers did not get their money’s worth with her.
Once even the most absorbent of the briefs available at the drugstore became sadly inadequate to the task, I took to the internet and Amazon. I now order the Tranquility Premium Protection, Maximum Protection, Premium Overnight disposable absorbent underwear for Mom to wear day and night. It is really a great product, and I would be doing a lot more laundry if they weren’t available.
Every day, people make choices. Good choices. Poor choices. Bad choices. And every day, I make the conscious choice to take care of Mom. I don’t have to. Many people choose not to care for their parents, or even have much contact with them. My work in child welfare shows me every day that some people don’t even take care of their own kids.
Oh, sometimes I get whiny inside my head about all the stuff I have to do to care for her and all the stuff I can’t do because there’s no time in between all the other stuff. On a good day, I stop this negative spiral by reminding myself that as far back as I can remember, my first goal was to be a good mom to my children (even before I had any children), and as soon as I was old enough to understand that the need would eventually arise, my second major life goal has been to make sure Mother is well cared for.
We’ve been on this journey together for nine years, so far. And every morning, when my alarm goes off and Mom’s alarm goes off, I make that choice again.