Saturday, October 27, 2012

The New Normal

I talked with my mother yesterday and asked about the shoulder pain she's been having.  It was bothering her a lot when we were there for Cousins Day, but we couldn't get her to agree to talk with an advice nurse.  But the pain is worse now and she finally said that "when I had time to come down" she would go to the doctor.

Naturally, I was on the phone to the advice nurse immediately.   She would not go on my report about my mother and so put in a conference call so she could talk with both of us at the same time.  Because this is her left arm, the nurse and the on-call doctor wanted my mother to go to the ER immediately, but I kept saying that this was something she was seen for 6 months ago that had only gotten was not a cardiac problem.  But the doctor was adamant that she needed at least to see her doctor RIGHT AWAY.  I pointed out that my husband had our car and I had no way to get there, but she was so insistent I decided I could rent a car from Enterprise (which will come and pick you up) and get her to the doctor.

(She also told the advice nurse that on a scale of 1-10 her pain level was a 1 and that she had it just once a day for a few seconds, though the pain is constant, she can't raise her arm over her head without wincing, the shooting pains into her chest are frequent and they wake her up at night!)

Then it turned out there were no appointment slots for yesterday anyway and the soonest they could fit her in was today at 4 p.m.

Slight problem was that I was supposed to review a show at the university at 8 p.m., but I was able to reschedule to it tomorrow night instead.  It was conceivable that I could get home barely in time, but if something unexpected came up at the doctor's office or if there was traffic, I would be late.

With a clear conscience, then, I set off for my mother's.  I had told her I would join her for lunch, and I arrived at noon.  She had forgotten I was coming for lunch and had already eaten her lunch, so I had a carton of yogurt, which filled me all right.  But I was exhausted.  All I wanted to do was take a nap.  She pulled pillows off of one of her couches and let out a scream.   There are two pillows, one at either end of the couch and under BOTH of them there was what ended up beling what must have been half a cup or more of mouse turds.   Black piles of poop hiding under the cushions.

That's when she told me that two days ago she found a dead rat in her bathtub.  

I checked the rest of the house and found more mouse (or rat?) poop in the guest bathroom, on the rug, and going into her hall closet, where she keeps a lot of food.  This is from a woman who is a meticulous housekeeper, even if she can't do the level that she used to do.

I'm making arrangements to have her house cleaned professionally again and we bought mouse poison today and hopefully that will stop it. But she said that she was going to vacuum the other day and couldn't remember how to put her vacuum cleaner together, so she had to put it away again.  She got out her broom to sweep, but as soon as she began doing it, her back hurt too much and she had to put it back.  We got as much of the poop cleaned up as we could and we'll see what happens.

I took a nap for about an hour, and awoke feeling refreshed.  We sat and talked until time to go to the doctor, but this was a very bad memory day.  I swear she almost forgot her own name.  She forgot we were going to actually see the doctor, she says she doesn't remember ever being at her office before and wouldn't have a clue how to find it (though we have been there regularly over the past several years), she couldn't remember why she was being seen.  It went on and on like that.

I was pleased that there was a parking place in the garage because I truly did not think that I could let her off and meet her in the doctor's office after I found on-street parking, as I have done in the past, because I didn't think she could find the office on her own.

But we finally saw the doctor, of whom I have become quite fond.   I think she also trusts me more now to be a spokesperson for my mother, who just said she was "fine" when asked how she was and thought she was there for her cough, forgetting the pain that brought her there.

Sadly, the pain is just age related (impingement syndrome) and other than suggesting she use Motrin or Advil, there is little that can be done.  The doctor is reluctant to give her a cortisone shot because it would make her feel somewhat "unsettled" and we agreed that what she didn't need is something to make her unsettled.

She sent her off to the lab for blood work and x-rays and my mother couldn't remember why she was there and was ready to go home after the x-rays and had to be reminded to stick around for the blood work.

When we were finished at Kaiser, she took me to dinner at Applebees, which she said she hasn't been to in years (though I know she eats there regularly with a friend).  

 Sitting in the restaurant she told me she hadn't been to "this store" in years because she just doesn't ever buy clothes for herself any more.

It was a long day, but just as my mother is becoming accustomed to having to sit and rest her back whenever it bothers her, which is most of the time, I am becoming accustomed to the new way that we visit and am learning to enjoy her for however she is on any given day.  Right now she does have a bad cough (nothing serious, the doctor says), and I've noticed over the past few years that when she she has something physical going on with her, her memory is much worse.  I am assuming that as soon as the cough finally subsides, her memory will improve -- a little tip that I picked up at a dementia lecture we attended a year or so ago, which has proven to be true every time I notice a really bad memory day and start looking at what else is going on in her body at the time.

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