7

Her Bowl Runneth Over

Update from the Eldercare Underground:  Moving Edition

As you’ll recall, dear readers, my mother had been in the nursing/rehab facility since the end of October after she suffered a fall at home; one which was precipitated by a mild heart attack.

She successfully went through a vigorous program of physical and occupational therapy during that time.  (As an example of the sense of humor all the wonderful people at the nursing home share, the therapist told my mother on her first day that “No, occupational therapy doesn’t mean we’re going to give you a job.”)

She later let me in on her joke by saying that if the patient “got” the joke, then she knew that they were with it enough mentally to be able to follow instruction on dressing, using the bathroom themselves, etc.

Of course, my mother smiles and laughs even when she doesn’t have a clue what the person is saying to her, so if she truly “got” it or not is anybody’s guess. 

But she did pass Toileting 101, so maybe she really did.

Things were going along swimmingly until “the roommate” arrived.  Poor Annie.  She never had a chance with my mother.  Even lying motionless in her bed and staring at the wall were considered suspect on my mother’s part. 

What was she plotting over there?  *sigh*

So.  After listening to the litany of complaints, I took action and got the okay for my mother to transfer to the Retirement Center that’s run by the same family that owns the other three facilities in town.  I have taken to calling the RC the “Hotel,” because all it seems to be lacking is a casino and a cocktail lounge. 

All the staff at the nursing home either had worked there at one time or knew of it.  They all spoke in reverent terms about the size of the walk-in closet space in each of the residents’ rooms. 

Maybe my mother could convert hers into a mini-cocktail lounge. 

If she added slot machines, I bet she’d be really popular.

Today was the big move, and after tearful goodbyes and thank yous all around with the dedicated staff at the nursing home, we took the short drive over to the Hotel.  My daughter came along for moral support and took my mother for a tour of the place while I finished putting some of her things away.

My mother holds back on the complaints when my daughter is there, but when she left my mother started to grouse some about minor things.  I figure she was somewhat overwhelmed by the whole change of venue, so I’ll give her a pass on that.  For now.

Before I left I wanted to be sure she could use the bathroom on her own, especially since she now wears those “pull up” incontinence briefs.  So I went into the bathroom with her and observed. 

Everything went fine until she flushed the toilet—which promptly started to rapidly overflow onto the floor of the bathroom.

As fast as I could, I reached down and turned off the water valve at the base of the toilet.  The floor was covered in water already but it hadn’t spread out onto the carpet of the living area.

I hurried down to the front desk and told the nurse what happened and after about fifteen minutes a very personable maintenance man named David came to the room to ascertain what had caused the overflow. 

He said he’d worked as a manager of a hotel/restaurant in the 80’s and the main cause of toilet blockages in those days was pagers—of all things.  David said they would fall out of people’s pockets as they used the toilet.  Nowadays, he said that cell phones are often the culprits.

On the floor of the bathroom he found a hearing aid battery which must have come out with the overflow.  Too tiny to cause the blockage, but who knows what else could have been down there.  A pacemaker, perhaps?  A set of dentures?  Some Depends that the resident tried to flush?

David was really grateful that I’d had my mother use the toilet before I left.  He said that one lady resident had gotten up in the early morning to use the toilet and then had gone back to bed—with the toilet overflowing.

The nurse’s aide came to check on the resident later (after about an hour and a half of overflowing water) and discovered the entire carpet was under more than an inch of water.

David laughed and said that this is the way he gets to meet new residents.  I told him I was glad that we’re on a first name basis so early, in case we need him in the future.

You never know.  Maybe my mother might need help sometime with the slots.

20

Flushed with Civic Pride

Because of the ongoing drought here in Texas, our little burg went to Stage 4 water restrictions a few weeks back.  That meant that folks are only allowed to water lawns and landscaping on certain designated days.

Those days are determined by the residents’ street addresses:  those ending in a 1 or a 2 have Mondays as their watering day, and so on through the week.

No one is allowed to water on the weekends and, no matter what your day, there is no watering between the hours of 10:00 am and 6:00 pm because with the temps. hovering at 100 degrees (or more), the water would just evaporate and be a complete waste of that precious resource.

People being what they are (“Don’t Tread on Me” douche nozzles) you can imagine that there have been a number of violations of this city ordinance.

Lawns in some areas have been suspiciously green.  So much for the honor system.

It was time to kick butt, so the city sent out their enforcers who started giving people citations for breaking the “What part of ‘no watering’ do you not understand?” law, to the tune of $250 per citation, with repeat offenders facing the possibility of having their water service cut off.

Suddenly, more lawns became brown and crispy.  The sign of a true patriot.

Or, someone who has to take a direct hit to his wallet in order to become a good citizen.

The other day I was at Walmart, my second home, and I felt nature calling.

Okay, I had to pee.  So I went to the restroom at the back of the store.  You have to walk along the faux flower aisle to get there and I saw that they have all the Fall decor out.  Everything was a rather loud array in shades of orange, brown and yellow.

Normally, I wouldn’t mind seeing that.  But since all of the countryside is already in hues of desiccated oranges, dried-up browns and parched yellows, this was not something I wanted to linger around and enjoy.

I headed straight to the bathroom, and upon opening the door I was immediately met with a loud whooshing sound.  In fact, I could hear it outside of the bathroom and from some distance.

At first I thought it was one of the wall mounted hand dryers that blast out a stream of air, since those things are pretty loud.

Get your hands dried and lose 25% of your hearing all at the same time.

Pretty quickly, though, I discovered that the sound was the continual flushing of the toilet in the handicapped stall.  I went to investigate and was somewhat amazed at the velocity and volume of water that was, literally, being flushed down the toilet in a wasteful fashion.

The toilets are the kind that have a sensor that detects (I’m assuming) when your hiney blocks out the light and then gives you so many seconds before the automatic flush kicks in.

There is also a little black button on the wall behind it so you can “do-it-yourself” if you’re so inclined.  So I pushed that a couple of times just to see if maybe that might reset the mechanism or something.

Nope.  Niagara was still churning away.

So upon leaving I snagged an employee who was walking to the storeroom area adjacent to the bathrooms.  She was taking off her name tag so she probably was done for the day.

To her credit, she only looked slightly annoyed when I stopped her.

I told her what was going on in the ladies’ bathroom and her expression changed right away to one of concern.  “We can’t have that!” she said and then she told me she would find someone who could take care of it.

Today we got our local paper which has been reporting the state of the water wells for the city every week.

This week’s amount of water being pumped on any given day was 3.6 million gallons.

We figure 550,000 gallons of that came from the ladies’ room handicapped toilet at WalMart.

8

Finally Kicking the Bucket

The unusual blast of frigid Arctic air that swept though here last week left this part of Texas, if not reeling, then at least with a new respect for the power of Mutha’ Nature.   Overnight temperatures in the low teens and single digits and wind chills that reduced those numbers even further to zero or below were the new normal we were facing. 

The first front that went through was followed by three days of highs (!) in the teens, which may sound downright balmy to our Northern cousins, but around here that is pretty damned cold. 

There was a break of a couple of days and then a second front came through, equally North Pole-ish, and dealt us the coup de grace:  many homes had frozen pipes that burst and many, many folks in the outlying countryside had water well equipment freeze up and quit working.  Ours included.

No well=no running water=no showers, no flushing toilets, no water to cook with or drink, no washing laundry, no washing dishes, no washing anything that requires water coming out of a faucet. 

They say you don’t miss your water ’til the well runs dry.  Boy, they weren’t kidding.

However, we are nothing if not prepared.  Hubby, ever the good scout, had made sure we had a good supply of drinking water on hand.  And since we have a swimming pool, we had 13,000 gallons of water from which he dipped five gallons at a time each for the two buckets we used to flush the toilets. 

Not very glamorous, but it gets the job done.

If I wanted hot water to wash my face, I heated up four cups of water in the microwave.  Ditto with a smaller amount of water to fill a spray bottle so I could dampen my hair then blow it dry to get rid of some the bed head thing I had goin’ on.  I did make a couple of trips into town to shower at my daughter’s house.  Ah, sheer bliss.

Initially, always trying to look on the bright side, hubby said: 

“Just pretend you’re camping.”

Yuh, huh…

Although I’m not as unhappy a camper as, say, Kate Gosselin was when she visited Sarah Palin in the Alaskan wilderness (“roughing it” with camera crew, production company and hair and makeup artists) I wasn’t about to smile and agree with him. 

As Damon Wayans used to say as his t.v. character, Homey the Clown: 

“Homey don’t play that.”

Then my husband offered that the early Texas pioneers and ranchers had no electricity and running water and had to use outhouses.  They all survived.

I replied “Maybe so, but they didn’t have to be anywhere either.” 

They were probably overjoyed if they saw someone other than immediate family once or twice a month.  I loved the “Little House on the Prairie” books, but I bet when Laura Ingalls Wilder had a shot at indoor plumbing, she went for it in a heartbeat.

Today the nice young man from the well driller’s company came out and replaced the offending part in the well pump control box.  He worked his magic and the precious liquid again started to flow through the pipes into the house—and most importantly—the showers and toilets. 

He said he’d been so busy that he racked up over a hundred hours with overtime, which allowed him and his wife to splurge on some new furniture. 

I say, good for him.  He deserves it.  It’s been a tough couple of weeks.

I’m just glad that I can finally kick the bucket—out of my bathroom.