Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mom visits the Auld Macdonald Farm

In my October 29 and November 24 posts I wrote about my 85-year-old mother, Joyce, returning home to her apartment after a stroke and how that happy return was short lived. Mom just could not cope with being alone in her apartment and she needed the security and comfort of 24/7 care. There were services that would have aided Mom during the daytime hours, but there was nothing available for overnight, which was a frightening and lonely time for her. Mom returned to Benedictine Health Center and soon felt much safer.

After weeks of observation, tests and doctor visits, it was determined that Mom could no longer live safely in her assisted living apartment. Mom completely agreed saying just thinking about the list of things she would need to keep track of to navigate a normal day was just overwhelming. Of course, this made the decision to give up her apartment – a place she'd lived for almost 20 years – much easier.

In November, I got Mom on the admissions list for the Veteran's Home of Minneapolis. Mom served in the US Air Force as a registered nurse. She and I toured the facility, found it to be very nice with plenty to do and we began the admissions process. Mom is now at the top of that list and as soon as a bed opens she will be admitted.

In mid January, Ian and I invited Mom to come and stay with us on the farm while she waits for the room to become available. Mom was very lonely and bored to tears at Benedictine. Our farm is 90 minutes drive north of the Twin Cities and I didn't get in to visit as often as I would have liked. Phone calls just don't replace holding someone's hand and enjoying a nice face-to-face chin-chin.

Mom uses a rollator (a wheeler walker) to get around and because the bedrooms are upstairs and the only bathroom is on the main floor, we converted our formal dining room into a place for Mom. We had emptied her apartment and brought all of her belongings here, so we used Mom's own furniture (including a piano) and pictures to make it homey. It works nicely and Mom is enjoying it.

Mom's insurance covers having an RN come weekly to set up her meds (which I administer) plus an occupational therapist, a physical therapist and a home health aide (for bathing) come twice weekly. Mom's doctor visits and medication costs are covered by the Veteran's Administration as a benefit. Nice!

It is so nice to have Mom here for these weeks. We have lived together several different times during our adult lives, so we have a connection and understand one another. It helps that we adore and admire one another too. As an added bonus, Ian and Mom have their own mutual admiration society going too. Our three dogs and two housecats take full advantage of Mom as another person to pet them and to curl up next to.

I have found that there is more structure to my days. Mom needs meds given at 9 a.m., 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. plus pain pills as needed for pain, but no more than six times a day. I have set alarms on my cell phone to remind me. I fix Mom three meals (she eats like a bird) and make sure she has healthy snacks like a sliced apple or orange. I don't do daily this for myself or Ian, but I'm happy to do it for her. LOL I've learned many things, like Mom needs a lighter weight coffee cup versus the earthenware ones we use, and to fill it only half full versus to the tippy top with hot morning coffee.

There are so many things to sort out and stay on top of. Little old people have a lot of things going on – there are appointments, scheduling rides to appointments, getting prescriptions filled, setting up future appointments, and the list goes on! For Mom, I handled her changes of address (you cannot believe how many magazines she subscribes to – and reads!), cancelled the cable TV, telephone service, Internet service and made sure these companies bill properly (some didn't and got their butts chewed!). There are tons of filling out forms, making photocopies and then filing things properly so I can find them quickly, knowing Mom's various types of medical coverage, which doctor is for what, monitoring her bills, and finally becoming disgusted with her bank's customer service and changing institutions. Plus, with Mom's short-term memory loss there are things she just doesn't remember (a doctor's name, what was said at an appointment, why she's taking X medication, etc.), so I must investigate. Thankfully, I have her durable power of attorney and am the agent for her End of Life Directive – in Minnesota these documents open doors and get all my questions answered. I have come to really admire all that Mom coordinated in her day-to-day life before her October stroke. I had no idea.

I've gone through her clothes closet – something I've threatened to do for decades – and tossed out or cleaned/donated everything that was not her size or was in tattered shape. No one wants their mother looking like a bag lady. Now, in addition to having clothes that fit and are easy for her to get in and out of, Mom's well stocked with socks, brasseries and underpants (I refused to buy white, what's the fun in that? But I did get 100% cotton). Next on my To Do List are shoes. I hate the one pair she has, but the pairs I’ve bought haven't fit right so I'm still working on that. A girl's gotta have more than one pair – even on her 80s!

The next semi-urgent item on the To Do List is to go through Mom's book boxes (again, you cannot imagine the number of books this woman owns!) and find the three that are owned and now overdue to the Minneapolis Public Library!