I Guess Ya Had to Be There

Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Sibling Scorecard Edition

My brother lives in Colorado with his wife, so consequently he’s not involved in the day-to-day stuff with our mother’s care in the nursing home like I am. 

Prior to Mom’s moving there, I was also the one who made sure her bills were paid before penalties were levied, and I was (and continue to be) the one who schlepped her to all of her doctor’s appointments—including ER visits on my birthday and wedding anniversary and five hour marathon sessions at the retinal ophthalmologist.

Do I sound just a teensy bit resentful about the division of labor here?  Well, if I do….to quote Olympic gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte, “Jeah!”

But through all of this, at least I knew my mother was somewhat aware of what I was doing for her, and also somewhat aware of what my brother wasn’t doing.

Until today.

I’d asked my brother a couple of months ago to please send some photos of his new granddaughter, my nephew’s little girl, to our mother.  Mom doesn’t remember who’s who in the family but she had anticipated that baby’s birth because she had given up hope my nephew would ever get married and have kids.  Well, he didn’t get married, but he and his girlfriend did have Baby H.—and she’s adorable.

Mom loved to look at the early photos of Baby H. so much I thought it would be nice to have more.  And it would be a way to keep her connected to what was going on in the family, if only briefly.

So, no big deal.  Just some copies of photos I’m sure they had, being the proud grandparents. 

Weeks went by.  No photos.  Then about a month ago a package arrived at the nursing home with a bunch of “Country” magazines from my brother, along with a note that said my sister-in-law would be sending photos soon.

As of Tuesday, there still were no photos.  (I had sent a terse email to them requesting the photos, please, and got a reply from SIL saying she was working on it, but her computer printer had run out of ink.)

Come on, how hard can it be?  No other responsibilities but the two of them.  No grandkids nearby to tend to—her daughter’s kids and my nephew’s new baby are all in California.  Surely they would send the photos in time for Mom’s birthday last week….but, no. 

Meanwhile, I’m down here in the trenches.

So today when I went to see my mother, I found her lying down for a nap.  As I put away the laundry I’d done at home for her, she told me my brother had been there to see her today and had brought her a bunch of magazines.  Hmm….There were no magazines, other than the ones he’d sent earlier.   

I looked in her dresser drawer and found some new photos of the baby.

In her mind, she’d conflated the two things, the magazines and the photos, and threw in a visit from him to boot.

So now, not only do I see to her day-to-day care, but my brother gets points for showing up even when he didn’t

Ya just can’t win.


Methinks the Lady Doth Protest Too Much

Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Nutrition Nazi Edition

Went over to see my mother at the Hotel today after my Zumba class.

I figure if I can withstand 45 minutes of strenuous (but fun) dance routines to songs like Shakira’s “Rabiosa” and Arash’s “Boro Boro,” I can withstand 45 minutes of visiting with my mother.  Fun not necessarily included.

Plus, the sound systems for Zumba and my mother’s TV share about the same decibel range for creating nerve deafness, give or take the loss of a few inner ear hair cells.

When I got there, she had just finished having her lunch in the dining room. 

The Retirement Center (aka the Hotel, as I call it) has chef prepared meals that are nutritionally balanced.  The noon meal is typically the largest one of the day, with the evening meal being lighter due to the elderly clientele’s general preference for that kind of thing.

When my mother and I go out anywhere for lunch, she always complains about the size of the portions of the meals, to which I always tell her she doesn’t have to eat it all if she doesn’t want to.  Everybody has different appetite levels and not everyone eats like a sparrow like she does.

Being the Virgo that she is (laser-like in her observations of others), she has taken to commenting to me about the eating habits of her tablemates in the Hotel’s dining room.  She observed that several of them usually left most of their vegetables untouched on their plates. 

The other day she said that none of her friends had eaten their carrots, even though she’d told them “You’ll eat your carrots and like it!” 

(Some of you may remember this is similar to what she’d told my brother at a family dinner years ago, right after he’d told her he couldn’t eat a particular Mexican dish because he was allergic to cilantro.  Pay no attention to that man swelling up with anaphylactic shock over there.)

So today she launched into a critique of the lunch; its size being too big, its general fat content being too much, and the fact that the pumpkin pie they served for dessert had a huge mound of whipped topping on it that was just too much for words, so on and so forth ad infinitum.

I started to say that she didn’t have to eat all the dishes of the main course if she wasn’t that hungry and that she could always scrape off some of the offending topping if she so desired, but I was quickly cut off when she casually remarked:

“But, I ate it.”

Ah.  I see. 

And I’m sure she liked it, too.


Toeing the Line

Quick Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Grooming Edition

When my mother was still at the nursing/rehab facility the week before Christmas, they had a big party for all the residents. 

I wasn’t aware of the festivities because my brother (“What’s-his-name,” as my mother now calls him) was down from Colorado to see her and I hadn’t been by the home for a few days, mainly to let him get the full brunt of her focus for a change. 

I’m not dumb.

I was surprised to find, a day or so later, that my mother’s fingernails had been professionally done.  They were all filed and painted a pretty, deep red and the ring fingernail of each hand sported a decorative design. 

She said they had taken her to the beauty salon room the day of the party and did her nails, hair and even makeup for the Christmas big wing-ding. 

I’d noticed that her fingernails had been getting kind of long and ragged looking, so I was glad that she’d had that attention.  But it was her toenails that had caused me the most concern.

I hadn’t really had occasion to see her feet sans socks for quite some time and I have to say that when I did see them in the nursing home recently, I was pretty taken aback.  It was quite apparent that she hadn’t cut her toenails since maybe Kate Gosselin went on her pretend camping trip with Sarah Palin.

My mother was about to be transferred to her new digs at the “Hotel,” so when we saw her physician prior to the move I asked if someone would cut her toenails for her.  Please. 

Apparently, and probably with good reason, nobody wants to do that, so the job is referred out to a podiatrist. 

(Now, I was a dental hygienist for over 20 years and I have to say I’d rather muck about in people’s dirty mouths than fiddle around with their feet. )

Brief digression: 

When I was in college before getting accepted into the dental hygiene program, I attended some classes with pre-RN nursing students, many of whom already had been LVNs and had experience in the medical field.  When they found out a group of us were applying to the hygiene program, they told us they would rather “wipe a poopy bottom” than have to clean someone’s teeth.  To each her own, I guess.

Anyway, the doctor told us that there were two podiatrists in town:  one who made “house calls” to the nursing homes and one who didn’t.  Naturally, I asked for the one who would come to the Hotel and do the deed.

But several days after her move, the nurse at the Hotel called and said my mother had an appointment Jan. 5th with the one who didn’t make house calls.  Whatever.

So yesterday when I was walking from the parking lot into the Hotel, a man carrying a medical bag passed me on his way out.  It immediately struck me that this must be the “house call guy.” 

I have never personally encountered a doctor actually carrying a “little black bag.”  I always thought that was just on TV, like in “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

When I opened the door to my mother’s room I found her sitting in one of the lovely chairs we’d brought from her house, leaning over and picking up something off of the carpet.

It was toenail clippings.

She was surrounded with them.  It reminded me of when we used to get our old pony’s hooves trimmed by the local farrier.

I helped her pick up the detritus and was grateful that the doctor had saved us (by us, I mean me) the trouble of another doctor’s visit and all that entails.

I’m just glad she didn’t get this look for her Christmas party:


Look on the Bright Side of Life

“My luck is getting worse and worse. Last night, for instance, I was mugged by a Quaker.” Woody Allen
My mother is a card-carrying pessimist and worrywart. 
She’s been that way as long as I can remember.  Her world view can be summed up as:  “If there isn’t anything to worry about, just wait.  There will be.” 
She doesn’t see the glass as half full or half empty.  She worries about who’s been using the glass before her and did they have a cold.
My Mother is particularly pessimistic about the marriages in our family. 
Both my brother and I have gone through divorces (two for him, just one for me.  At least I’ve got that going for me). 
She and my Dad, however, managed to stay married for almost 60 years.  Their marriage was a good one, from all appearances, but she came from an era where you were supposed to stay married no matter what.
I remember a couple that my parents were good friends with when I was growing up.  Even at the tender age of 10, I could tell these two loathed each other.  The wife was from the South.  She would smile that Scarlett O’Hara smile, dripping with honey, and say “Dear” to her husband, but only through tightly gritted teeth. 
If anybody should have gotten a divorce for the kids’ sake, it was them.  But, they stuck together to the bitter end.
My Mother never understood the reasons behind my divorce, or my brother’s.  She only knew that we’d “blown it” in some way.  (Her words.)
I’ve been happily married to my second husband for almost 35 years now, and my brother has been married (I assume happily) to his third wife for at least 25 years, so you would think my Mother would relax a bit.
The other day when I went to take her grocery shopping, she said my brother had phoned her from his home in Colorado.  He said his wife had to go to California to be with her grown daughter from her first marriage. 
The daughter had been seriously ill with some mysterious illness and had been hospitalized.  My sister-in-law stayed in California for 38 days with her, but now she was back home.
I expressed concern about my brother’s stepdaughter and hoped that everything was going to be okay for her.  When I pressed my Mother about the details, she kind of brushed it off—partly because she can’t remember sh*t, but also because that wasn’t her biggest concern at the moment.
Out of the blue, she said “I hope they aren’t getting a divorce.”
For a moment I thought she was talking about someone else; maybe the kids across the street who ricochet back and forth in her esteem from a “lovely couple” to potential contestants on “Divorce Court.”
But, no.  She was referring to my brother and his wife–only because she was gone for 38 days–taking care of her desperately ill daughter. 
My Mother’s mind (much like the Lord) truly works in mysterious ways.