Wow! Long time since I’ve been on here. I’ve only been home three days out of the last 14. I’ve been consumed with taking care of Mom and I was beginning to feel like she was eating me alive. I’ve lost three pounds over the last two weeks but it wasn’t from dieting or exercise. It was because, at the end of many of my exhausting days, I’d be getting ready for bed and thinking…”Did I eat anything today? I don’t think I did.”
My plan was to go and stay with her Monday through Thursday to help her finish her recovery and get back to where she was before her surgery. Maybe do it for two weeks. It’s been a rough ride.
The first week, I went down on Sunday afternoon and stayed until Thursday night. She was doing pretty good the first couple of days. She’d be up and dressed by the time I got up around 8:00 and she’d be in the living room with the TV on or reading a book. She was getting up before 8:00 and staying up until around 8:00 in the evening. But then, after a couple of days, she said she didn’t feel well and began to be more demanding. She’s nice about it…”Honey, I’m just too weak to get up. Can you fix me a glass of water?” and then, “Honey, I’m just exhausted, can you help me to bed?” She wanted me to do her hair and nails. She wanted me to rub her feet, wanted me to help her get dressed and help her get undressed. And the entire time, I’m cooking and cleaning and trying to get her to eat and take her meds. She only took little nibbles of food and her entire meal would only consist of a couple tablespoons of food. She told me she was craving yellow squash so I sauteed it in olive oil and topped it with parmesan. I also fixed homegrown tomatoes with fresh basil, olive oil and mozzarella. She ate one tiny slice of the squaah and one fourth of a tomato slice.
The meds were a nightmare. She must be taking 30 pills and they’re all spaced out during the day so that they have to be carefully monitored and timed out correctly. AND, she decided that she couldn’t swallow them. She decided that before she ever came home from the hospital. So, not only will she not eat, her meds had to be crushed and mixed with applesauce and she would gag and talk about how nasty they were and it was like trying to get a two year old to take his medicine. Then, because she took her meds with applesauce, she’d say she couldn’t eat because she just had applesauce. I was constantly running up to the store and cooking all kinds of stuff to try to get her to eat. Anything she wanted, I’d fix and she’d just take a little nibble or two. Still, she was getting up every morning and dressing herself and staying up all day but taking a little 20 or 30 minute nap in her chair in the living room around noon or so.
I came home for the weekend and she was very clingy when I left. Wanted to know when I’d be back and kept delaying my departure. My brother called Saturday morning and said Mom wouldn’t get out of bed. Wouldn’t get dressed. Wouldn’t take her meds. Said she had horrible diarrhea and he’d had to clean up a couple of messes. I called her and asked how she was doing and she said she “missed her little helper”. I told her she had to eat and she couldn’t just subsist on applesauce. I told her the diarrhea was probably being caused by her refusal to eat and taking in nothing but applesauce. And frozen peach yogurt. That’s the only thing she wants to eat. Kroger frozen peach yogurt.
I had planned on heading back on Monday morning because I figured she could be on her own for the two or three hours between little brother leaving for work and me getting there. After all, the rehab center said she was able to be fully independent at home. But, when little brother called Sunday morning and said she still wouldn’t get out of bed, wouldn’t eat, yada, yada…I decided to go on up Sunday afternoon.
As soon as I got there, Mom made a big fuss about how glad she was to see me. How much she had missed my help and she got out of bed (by herself), got dressed (by herself), and walked into the living room (by herself) to watch TV. Little brother was a mess. She had refused to do anything for him all weekend. He was really upset and worried about her because she’d spent the entire weekend telling him she couldn’t get out of bed and wouldn’t eat anything. I went to the kitchen and cooked a pot of homemade onion soup with toasted bread and mozzarella. Mom ate about 1/4 cup and said she couldn’t eat anymore. She’d had diarrhea all day and I called one of the nurses who said blueberries might help if I could get her to eat them so I went to the store and bought blueberries, stuff for pancakes and stuff for muffins.
Mom told me she’d had diarrhea ever since she got out of the hospital and it was getting worse. I called the doctor (keep in mind, she’s having visiting nurses and therapists every day) and he ordered a stool sample. I won’t go into the gory details but getting a stool sample from an 87 year old woman who has severe diarrhea and can’t make it to the bathroom in time is not an easy job. The sample had to be delivered to the hospital within an hour and I felt like one of those nurses on TV during a heart transplant. Ready to go. The car warming up, the culture bag ready. Following Mom around like a shadow trying to get an opportunity to collect a sample and rush it to the hospital in time. To my credit, I got it done. Not something I ever want to repeat.
After I got back home, Mom said she’d like some blueberry pancakes so I fixed some and she said it was good but she only ate two bites and I had to throw the rest of the pancakes and batter down the disposal. I used up the rest of the blueberries making muffins and figured I might be able to coax her to eat one.
The lab called a couple of hours later and said Mom had a disorder that’s caused by a strong antibiotic destroying all the good bacteria in her intestines along with the bad. The doctor ordered her to eat nothing but yogurt with live cultures for 24 hours to begin to replace the bacteria in her intestines. I checked the frozen yogurt that she likes and discovered that it was lacking live cultures so I went to Kroger and a health food store and found vanilla frozen yogurt with live cultures, Activia, and some yogurt smoothies (peach) to feed her.
I came home to find that she’s made a horrific mess all the way from the living room to the bathroom and couldn’t figure out why she was “leaking” as much as she was. She was a mess and I took her to her shower to clean her up. I discovered she was wearing a large diaper and it was literally hanging around her knees. I bathed her and, when I went to get her dressed, she refused to wear the correct diapers. Instead, she insisted on wearing some of the large size that the hospital had been using when she was bed bound. They were literally falling off her and she had to hold them up when she walked (not an easy task when you’re using a walker). I told her she needed to wear the small diapers that fit but she said they were too tight. They weren’t. She just didn’t want anything touching her waist.
I spent the next three days following Mom around like she was a puppy I was trying to housetrain. She refused to wear the proper size diapers and I alternated between trying to get her to eat yogurt (which she refused to do, except her “peach” yogurt that didn’t have any live cultures), scrambling to fix anything she’d eat, monitoring meds, and cleaning carpets. Mom likes yogurt. She used to have Activia for breakfast every day and yet she would gag and carry on and make sour faces everytime I got her to take even a tiny bite. Told me she couldn’t stand it and it was so gross it made her gag so she couldn’t eat it. I was ready to tear my hair out. I called the doctor and told him she wasn’t eating and would just take little sips of water now and then. No matter what I tried to do, she just wouldn’t eat. He said to be patient and just try to fix bland food that she enjoys and keep trying to get her to eat the yogurt. Still, mom just refused to eat. Like a little kid who refuses to eat his vegetables. And she’s doing it all with her sweet little baby manner of acting like she’s so helpless and she’s trying so hard to please me.
I cooked beef barley soup from scratch. Chicken noodle soup from scratch. Tiny little chicken nuggets from scratch. Fresh green beans, homegrown tomatoes, cheese and crackers, peaches, canned pears, cereal, oatmeal. She wouldn’t eat more than a teaspoon or two of anything and just kept demanding her frozen peach yogurt. I bought a six pack of Ensure but she wouldn’t drink it. I tried to get her to eat a blueberry muffin but she just nibbled a couple crumbs and you couldn’t even tell she’d touched it. On Wednesday, she was begging me to fix her fresh kale greens with bacon, fried potatoes with onions and cornbread. I stood my ground. No way. Not gonna happen. Eat your damn yogurt or I’m calling Jamie Lee Curtis. She kept on and on and I finally wore down and said, “Okay, if you eat the yogurt from now until dinner tomorrow, I’ll fix it for you. IF we see an improvement in the diarrhea.
So she did. A little bit. A spoonful here and a spoonful there until, by Thursday morning, her diarrhea had improved and I hadn’t had to clean up any accidents for almost twelve hours. I went to the store and bought all the crap I needed to fix her dinner and started cooking. HER kind of food. All the things I KNOW she shouldn’t have. I fried bacon, cleaned kale, cooked kale in bacon grease, peeled potatoes and fried them with onions. I made a pan of cornbread from scratch, set it on the back burner of the stove to cool, turned on the wrong burner switch to fry the potatoes and burned the bottom of the cornbread all to Hell. So I made a second batch of cornbread. Mom kept going on and on about how good the kale smelled and I hope the neighbors enjoyed it as well because the entire block smelled like kale greens.
After all my efforts, she ate a piece of cornbread the size of a gumball, two bites of kale, and a couple of fried potato slices. And then, when I told her she needed to eat some yogurt, she refused. She was too full.
Little brother got home from work at 6:00 and I was ready to go. My bags were packed and I was headed home. Little brother had plans from weeks ago to meet up with a bunch of his friends Saturday and go camping from Saturday morning to Sunday evening and I had told Mom I would be going home Thursday evening, little brother would be with her until Saturday morning and I would be back before he left.
Before I could get out the door, Mom said she needed me to help her to bed. Then she needed me to help her undress. Then she wanted her nightime meds. I told her it was too early for nightime meds but she insisted that she was exhausted and needed to go to bed for the night. So I went to the kitchen and crushed her meds, mixed them with applesauce and went back to her bedroom. Found a trail of diarrhea from the bed to the bathroom and Mom was a mess. Her diaper had fallen off and her gown was a disgusting mess. I had to clean her up, get her dressed again. I told her it was ridiculous for me to have to clean up this kind of mess and she was going to wear the right size diapers. I changed the sheets on the bed, put new pads on it, cleaned the carpet and got her back in bed. By now, it was 7:15 and I KNOW she was trying to stall enough to get me to the point of just saying, “It’s ridiculous for me to drive all the way back to Louisville tonight so I’ll just stay.” But I was determined to get a break. Even if it was just for one day.
I drove home, got here late and DH was already in bed. I got to relax a little while and, before I went to bed, little brother called to say that Mom wanted to know where I put the large diapers. She said she couldn’t sleep wearing the correct size because they were too tight.
Little brother called non-stop on Friday. Mom wants this, Mom wants that, Mom refuses her meds, Mom refuses to eat. Mom has diarrhea again. I told him to hang tight and I would be back Saturday morning.
On Saturday, I was awakened by the phone. Little brother was very upset. Said he thought Mom was dying. She was unresponsive. He’d called little sister and she was on her way. Called an ambulance and they were on the way. Wanted me to know so I could be prepared for the worst.
I told him I’d get dressed and meet him at the hospital. DH said he would drive. I cried and told myself that maybe it was for the best. I felt terrible for little brother. He has a lot of problems of his own but he truly had tried to help her and she just wouldn’t let him. Big brother cares for his significant other. She had a stroke a couple of years ago and never really recovered. Still, he’d been by to see Mom three times during the days I’d been with her. I called him and told him what was going on and he said he’d get someone to come in to be with Kim and would meet me at the hospital. I decided not to call little brother who lives in New Orleans because I wanted to wait and see what the situation was before I called knowing he couldn’t come and would just be upset.
Little brother called just as we pulled into the hospital parking lot to say Mom was being admitted but seemed to be much better. We walked in the room and, I swear, I think she smiled. She had this look about her…like, “Now, are you all paying attention? See how sick and helpless I am?” Little Sister and I exchanged a look. We knew what was going on. We understood. The boys don’t. My brothers were being so solicitous. They were hovering over her and patting her hands and hugging her. Donna and I were not so enamored.
The doctor came in and said Mom was dehydrated, malnourished and just extremely weak. He said they were going to give her fluids and take advantage of the fact that she still has an unused feeding tube in place from her surgery to fatten her up and get some nutrients in her. The feeding tube was supposed to be removed this coming Thursday and little sister and I had rearranged schedules and appointments to be able to transport her to Louisville to have it removed. Good thing we didn’t. She weighed in at 90 pounds. Down from the 115 she weighed two months ago and the 100 pounds she weighed when she came home.
The doctor joked and said, “Why haven’t you girls been feeding this woman?” and Mom said, “They wouldn’t fix anything for me but yogurt.” And I had to bite my tongue. Instead of raging, I said, “Mom, I fixed you beef barley soup, chicken noodle soup, onion soup, kale, cornbread, fried potatoes, cereal, Ensure, sandwiches, fruit, and anything else I could think of to get you to eat and she said”…(Are you ready for this?)…”I don’t remember any of that. Just yogurt. You kept trying to make me eat that stuff and you know it makes me gag.”
To finish up this epic post, I gave her a kiss and a hug, said I’d be back to see her in a couple of days, and came home.
Little brother called this morning and said Mom looks a lot better and they’re saying they’re going to keep her a few days and keep feeding her through the tube. After that, she should be able to go home. He wanted to know if I would be able to help her out for a few days when she comes home. I told him I’d have think about it and let him know.