Friday, April 11, 2008

Good morning from the world of a geriatric caregiver

No. 2 in a series
April 9, 2008

Good morning from the world of a geriatric caregiver,

Any good southerner is familiar with the word "Doozy", a description for anything that is pretty astronomical. One can have a doozy of a headache, a doozy of a black eye, a doozy of hangover, etc. Well, last night the experience of being a geriatric caregiver was one real doozy!

Mom got settled into her downstair's bed around 9 PM and by 12 midnight I heard her faint calls for assistance over the baby monitor. In a stupor, I bounded from the warmth of my attic bed, grabbed my robe and dashed down the stairs to her bedroom, where I found her having difficuty breathing, brought on by her congestive heart failure and lung disease (COPD). Using her nebulizer machine, which she calls her "Peace Pipe", I gave her a breathing treatment , in hopes that the medication would ease her breathing difficulties. I securely tucked her in, bid her good night, returned to my bed and just as I snuggled back under the covers she called again... Down the stairs I went and this time we adjusted her pillows so that she was now almost "sitting" up in the bed and crossed my fingers that this would work. Once more it was good night, sleep tight, etc. and back up the stairs to bed. In only seconds there was an instant replay of the two previous calls and on this trip we decided to simply move into the kitchen/den and let her sleep in the upright recliner, in hopes that that maneuver would alleviate her discomfort and allow her to get some rest.

Now one must understand that our kitchen is turned into a virtual kennel during the nighttime hours, when it becomes the safe haven for Fortson, the Black Lab, Betsy, the Cockapoo, Charley, the Pekingese and on occasion... two cats, Opie and Squeak. Opie was out doing whatever male cats do in the dark of night, but the other pets were all in residence last night. Mom, cane in hand and oxygen tubes trailing behind her, slowly wove her way through the sleeping menagerie and got comfortably settled in the recliner...immediately falling fast asleep. My settling took a great deal longer, due to the fact that a love seat is in no way long nor large enough for a grown, sleep deprived woman to fit herself into comfortably enough to sleep for half of the night. Following an individual game of "Twister" I finally found an endurable resting position. Just as I was delightfully drifting off I was startled by a wet, slurpy "kiss" from Fortson. I patted his head, thanked him for the late night romantic gesture and hoped he would be pacified, thus returning to his doggie dreams. No such luck... He then decided that if kisses didn't work to get my attention, he would take his paw and wack me on the face.

When I finally got Fortson settled and turned over to resume my sleep I heard drip, drip, drip...the pesky kitchen faucet. Took care of that and once again wadded myself onto the love seat. Now...finally I could get some rest. However, Charley, the Pekingese chose that time to begin scratching and chewing his allergies. Now, getting rather irritated, I picked up Charley and put him out the back door and for good measure I "invited" Fortson out also. I staggered back to the loveseat, got tucked in again when ..."whop", something suddenly landed on my back. It was Squeak, who found this late night hour the perfect time to knead, purr and pace up and down her "person". About that time Fortson decided to bang on the storm door. His signal to "Please let me back inside". I had hoped he would develop some rhythm to his knocks, which would help lull me to sleep, but apparently he knew the trick of getting my attention, so he banged at random intervals; which made everything worse. Biting my tongue (my personal limit of tolerance reliever) I stomped off the loveseat, muttered some "unmentionables" and let the dang dog back inside. Well, let's not leave sweet Betsy Marie out of this magnigicant circus performance. I had no idea she was so talented. Her snoring rendition of " Row, Row Row your Boat" is really outstanding! Oh, well...what's another pebble in your shoe.

Just as the sandman was arriving I heard Mom begin to awaken and being afraid that she would try to get up from the recliner, trip and fall, I shook my groggy head, angrily flung back the quilt, with Squeak attached and stumbled across in the room to check on Mom. She looked up, smiled sweetly and said, "What do I do next?" I said, "Next, we go back to your bed, Mom." It was 3 am when dazed and bedraggled I slowly clawed and crawled my way up the stairs and fell exhaused into the cold bed. In what seemed like just moments, but was actually four hours later, I heard, through the baby monitor, the deep voice of our son talking to someone. I jumped from my stupor and lumbered downstairs where I found Mom, dazed and puzzled, sitting on the lounge in our guest bedroom. "How long have you been up ?" I asked. Mom replied, "I don't know." Tonight I am praying for a "dooziless" night. Please, take pity, and join me in prayer!

Gotta love those elders.

Jane-Ann Heitmueller

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