Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Barnum and Bailey comes to Town

Good Morning from the World of a Geriatric Caregiver

No. 7 in a series
July 14, 2008

Barnum and Bailey comes to Town

Our three ring circus was churning at full tilt yesterday, with Mom as the head ring mistress and main attraction. The further we daily delve into her condition the more puzzled and amazed we become as to just what is happening to her during the progression of this illness (Congestive heart failure, COPD, Dementia, 88 years of living). It seems we have basically become spectators in an ever changing panorama of spectacular events, as in a Greatest Show on Earth- Barnum and Bailey extravaganza, and have begun to realize that the word "caregiver" represents just that…necessary care in terms of nourishment, medication, comfort, safety and kindness to assist her along this treacherous journey she is traveling. We live in constant awe of the astounding mechanics of the human mind and body… it's spirit, resilience and reactions to external and internal stimuli.

Often, when a person is totally immersed in a situation they fail to see the overall changes that take place…since those changes occur, over time, in such gradual and minute stages. However, the past three weeks have quite visibly, almost abruptly, shown us the tremendous decline of Mom's mental and physical state of health. She is no longer able to maneuver her mind or body in a voluntary manner and has to be reminded when, where and how to sit, walk or eat, comparable to the circus cats, lions, tigers and elephants, as they follow their trainer's every direction. Nor can she recall where various rooms are located in our home, thus verbal directions must be given, as well as physical assistance to reach her desired destination. For several months now she has not ventured to walk on her own and although this is a sad fact, that inability has given us some sense of security, assuming that she would be safe if we were to leave her unattended in a chair, bed, etc. However, one of the recent changes taking place involves this mobility factor. Yesterday, on three separate occasions, we discovered Mom standing alone or walking, with no walker or other stable assistance near by. This is rather frightening, when considering her very low blood pressure, constant dizziness, unsteady gait and overall state of confusion. A drastic example of this happened last night at bedtime. Per doctor's orders, we run a fan in Mom's bedroom to assist with her breathing problems (COPD) and she sleeps nightly with supplemental oxygen in her nostrils. Last night she rebelled against using either, thus I explained to her…once again…the reasons and importance of each device and tucked her securely into bed with her nightly kiss on the forehead, pat on her shoulder and wishes of pleasant dreams . Seldom do we manage to have a calm bedtime routine. Although Mom takes a sleeping pill, she rarely settles down to rest without numerous loud, frantic, rebellious calls through the baby monitor… similar to a two year old child's exhausting antics at the close of day. This frustrating event often goes on for up to an hour before she finally wears herself out and drifts off to sleep. Although this sounds cruel, she has no memory of her screams when you question her, while entering the room to soothe her, and we have wondered if this is simply her way of "lulling" or "chanting" herself to sleep; much like a child sucking his thumb, or rocking in his crib. Last night we had performed our regular nocturnal "dance" of back and forth, back and forth and while returning to the kitchen, after the third visit to her bedside… with my fingers tightly crossed that she would not call again; it suddenly struck me that the sound, coming from her room, was somewhat off kilter. Then it hit me…the fan was not running! Ray quietly slipped into the dark bedroom and discovered that Mom had crawled down to the end of her bed, unplugged the fan, disconnected the oxygen tubing and thrown it to the floor. This is the same person, who only moments earlier, could not recall how to bend her knees to sit down on the bed, button her pajama top, or shift her body to get comfortable for the night; much like the big top juggler who mesmerizes his audience as he rhythmically and skillfully balances numerous colored balls and then suddenly and unexpectedly….drops one! Quite puzzling, indeed.

Somewhere in her lineage Mom is apparently related to either Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand or Mae West. Little did Ray realize, when he offered to stay with Mom while I made a quick run to the grocery yesterday, that he would be a front row spectator to "The Show of Shows". He settled down on the den sofa to watch Tiger win another tournament. Mom dozed peacefully in her near by recliner. In a few moments Ray glanced over to check on her and was quite shocked and startled to see Mom sitting, very relaxed and happy, without a stitch of clothing on her upper torso! She smiled sweetly at Ray and calmly requested a cold drink of water. Leaping from the sofa, bug eyed, bewildered and embarrassed, he sputtered and spewed that she would not get one single thing until she put on her clothes! I have no doubts that Ray will be graciously and eagerly volunteering to make the grocery runs in future weeks.

And so goes it in our ever changing world of geriatrics.
Gotta love those elders… and remember…we're next in line!