Friday, February 6, 2015

Caregiving

Before I get into the excitement of February, I thought I'd start off with a picture that was given to us recently.  Something that made ME smile.


Was she adorable or what?  I love this picture of Melissa.  It was at some family get together, might have been Thanksgiving at the Rado's.  Not sure, but I love pigtails and that smile.  She didn't change much over the years, did she?

***


 January is always a difficult month, especially the first week.   After the anniversary and Melissa's birthday, I try to get back into some kind of routine - basically going to basketball games.
Something to get me out of the house.

I thought it was March that was supposed to "come in like a lion and go out like a lamb" or just the opposite.

This year it's February.

If you have had the opportunity to be a caregiver to someone you love, or kind enough to be a caregiver to a friend, I want you to know how much I appreciate you.

Because in the last ten years, I was blessed to be the caregiver for Melissa (along with her husband John) and in the last few years for my dad.    I appreciate you because I have walked in your shoes.

It was time to post again (most of the time for my own sanity), and January ended up being a pretty peaceful, laid back month.  Not a whole lot to write about.  February is looking to be a lot more exciting.

We have a good friend that lives down the street, Bruce.  He just turned 92.  Great guy- WWII pilot who tells a great story of his days in the service  We could sit and listen to him for hours.  His wife, Ruth, was like a mom to me.  The last few years of her life we had coffee every Saturday morning at McDonalds.  We were friends for over 30 years.  Ruth died of breast cancer two years after Melissa.
Anyway, whenever Donny and I take a walk, we always stop in to visit Bruce.  He has one son, who lives in town and is his primary caregiver, but his neighbors and Donny and I also check in on him.
He had a heart attack Wednesday night and is in the hospital.

Me and Ruth @ Donut Man - late '80s


While I am not his primary caregiver, we love Bruce.  He and Donny have gotten pretty close.  And he calls me "his gal".  We are really worried about him,  but haven't had any updates.  We were going to stop to see him at the hospital last night, but were taking Donny's mom out for dinner for her birthday and got a late start-so didn't get a chance to stop yesterday.

Me & Bruce


Had a nice dinner at a local Hungarian Bistro (not much traditional Hungarian food though - a little disappointed) and a nice visit with Roz for her birthday.


When we got home, my nephew Matthew stopped by to pay his rent.  I was telling him my dad's most recent escapades…last weekend he was throwing up-just didn't feel good.  Thought maybe he had the flu.  He doesn't normally have someone there (home health care) on Sundays, but he asked if I could get someone to come over.  Fortunately, one of the women that is with him during the week was able to help him out.  I talked to her the next morning and she said "I told him to take his blood pressure when I got there.  It was 210/98."  UGH.  Can't understand why they didn't call 911…I'm guessing because he said "I'll be fine. I'll just lay down".   The next morning it was still high, so I was able to get in touch with the home health nurse and get her to come back in.  

So he made it a week without too many problems.  Except one.  This is not something that I really want to share, but I will because I'm betting that there is someone else who is going through the exact same thing.  Something that is not easy to deal with.  Getting a nurse or the paramedics or adult day care is EASY.  Telling someone they need a shower is not.  For the second time in a couple of months I received a call from his friends at the VFW.  He was starting to offend people.  With his smell.  So for the second time, I have the job of telling him that he needs to take a shower.  Not an easy task when you are doing this over the phone from a thousand miles away.  My dad is 84 years old.  And German. A stubborn German.  His opinion is "I don't do anything.  I don't sweat.  I don't NEED a shower."
What he fails to realize is that sweating is not the only reason you take a shower.  He has arthritis in his shoulders and it is very painful.  He has a hard time taking off his shoes and socks and getting shirts over his head (yes, I bought him several button down shirts) He likes t shirts.  So I get that it is painful for him to get in and out of the shower.  And I have offered to get him an aide once a week.  That was a mistake - he yelled at me and told me not to do anything until I asked him first….

Ahhhhh…the joys of being a caregiver.

And what do you know…and hour after I called him, he called me back. 
 "I just got out of the shower!"  
"GREAT!  Did you use soap?"
"Yep. Shampoo AND a fragrance soap."
"What about your clothes?"
"Carmen is washing them."
"That's great dad.  Your friends at the VFW won't recognize you!"
"I think I'll start taking more showers."

Two hours later, I got another phone call from him.  This time he was at the Verizon store.  He knows that he can get a new phone every two years.  So he is at the Verizon store picking out a new phone.  I asked him what kind of phone he wanted to get.  He said "I think its called an I Phone".  UGH.  So I proceeded to give him the list of why he didn't need an I Phone.  
"Dad.  You use a phone to make phone calls.  That's it.  You don't text, use the internet, take pictures, send email…"
"But I can get music on it."
"Dad. You will never listen to music on your phone."
"I like the way I can touch the screen."
"How much will this cost you?"
"99cents.  Plus $35 (activation fee).  And $20 more a month."
"Why don't you wait until I come down and I'll show you mine.  Then you can decide if you would use it.?
(In this conversation, the phone is handed back and forth from dad to the sales person, oh, about 7 times.  She agrees with me that a smart phone is not the right phone for my dad.  She also says that the flip phone that he has is better than the new ones.  So if he Upgraded, it would really be a downgrade.)

Then I ask the clerk if he gets one and doesn't like it, can he return it?  Yes, if he returns it within 14 days, then there is a $35 restocking fee.  REALLY?????  Don't get me started on Verizon ripping people off.  That's a story for another day.

Finally, the clerk says to dad "having a smart phone is like having a computer in your pocket."

So I ask him "Dad, do you really want to walk around with a computer in your pocket?"

"Yes."

Then he said "Im just going to get what I want."

"Then why did you call me?"

"Well, will YOU tell her what I want?"

OH. MY. GOD.

"I don't know what you want dad."

"This one."

"I can't see it dad. I'm not there."

"Alright.  I'll just wait til you get here."

Arrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh…..

Whew.

So happy we worked that out.  Fast forward to the next day.  Thursday.  Last night. Matthew is here and I'm telling him about the last two weeks with dad.  My phone rings.  It's BRETT-Dad's Friend.
Who I haven't heard from since dad fell in the driveway and had to go to the hospital last summer.

"Hello?"

"Pam, It's Brett.  Your dad fell in the driveway again.  I can't go over there."

"Thanks for calling".

Here we go again.



Fortunately, I have Melbourne Fire and Rescue in my phone, because even though dad has a Life Alert  button, he doesn't use it.  He calls Brett first.  This all happened around 9:30.  I didn't know where he was transported (dispatch wouldn't tell me because of HIPPA laws) I had to call the two hospitals in Melbourne to figure out where he was.  Finally talked to the medics, then the nurse.  He was throwing up and dizzy again.  They admitted him and did some bloodwork, CT Scan and he is waiting to hear from the Cardiologist.  I have one of his caregivers from Home Instead staying with him at the hospital today.  And it looks like some major changes are coming for my dad in the next few weeks.

And you know what?  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I love my dad so much and I worry about him and I want to take care of him.  Stress and all.  

So the purpose of this blog is to remind myself that I AM NOT ALONE in this caregiving adventure. I have several friends who take care of their parents also…one whose mom lives close by.  She doesn't drive, but they pick her up every day and have her over for dinner.  They take her to appointments, to church, wherever she needs to go.  Every day.  I talk to my dad every day, but I don't get to see him every day. I would rather be there with him than sending a caregiver.  I am the caregiver.  I have another friend whose mom just passed away and her dad had a stroke a few days after the service.  She's taking care of her dad too.  We are all in this together.  We can help each other get through the stressful days, and remind ourselves that when they are gone, we will miss having them around…good and bad.

Melissa always said "No matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes." I have two good friends from high school who have cancer and are going through treatments - one is having a 17 hour surgery next week, the other prays to be able to get her chemo treatments on time.  I think about that a lot when I am overwhelmed, and I sit back and realize that I can do this.  I am not alone.  I have Donny.  Nick & Mere.  My extended family. Good friends. And this blog…to vent when I need to vent.

Thanks Dad, for giving me a purpose.  I love you more than you know. 

***

There were some good things in the last couple of weeks too, believe it or not.  Melissa's good friend from high school, Andy Aracri, was inducted into Fairmont's Athletic Hall of Fame - she would be so proud of him!

Me, Andy, Melissa after the Miami/Akron game

Melissa & Andy

Andy at Hall of Fame introductions


Fairmont played at Northmont last week.  It was their "Coaches vs. Cancer" game. They asked me to write something about cancer or Melissa.  Betcha can't guess what I wrote about…then I got to read it to the crowd.  Easiest thing for me to do…talk about my girl.  

My cousin Lindsay plays for Fairmont. Tore her ACL the first game of the season-her senior year. She continues to go to practices, sits on the bench at every game and cheers on her team.  With a smile.  They honored her at the game last week by wearing t shirts with her name/number.  The whole team and the coaches!  She's pretty amazing.  (just like someone else I know). Melissa would be so proud of her!  Lindsay is on the far right in the picture.

Donny had a day off a couple of weeks ago and was going through some pictures - found some good ones…

This was taken after the OU/Miami game.  Wish I could name everyone in the picture. Melissa is on the bottom row, second from the left.

After the game.  Isn't she beautiful! 

This was on one of our houseboat weekends.  We had two houseboats, each one had to come up with a 
team name - ours was Houseboat Cafe (like Hard Rock Cafe). Friend Dave found these old uniforms that were going to be thrown away - they were our team uniforms.  

A little shaving cream fight...

Donny with his first car.  Black convertible Chevy.  Not sure what year it was, but I think it was probably his favorite car.  Wishes he still had it.

My Grandma & Grandpa were married in 1916.  They went to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon.  On the Canadian side, there was a cable car that went over a whirlpool on the Niagara River.  It was brand new.  They needed volunteers to test it out, so Grandma and Grandpa volunteered along with another couple. They are the couple on the right.

Me and Donny on the new and improved Whirlpool Cable Car. We visited when Nick played for Akron @ Buffalo.

Workers on the Whirlpool Cable Car in 1916.


And of course, I have to end with Andrew and Max.  Melissa would have it no other way…

First a funny story (I think).  I took Andrew to his speech class the other day.  On the way home, I asked him how it went.  

"Good.  I made a new friend.  His name is Billy.  He's in first grade, but he's really small."

I said "well, aren't you the tallest in your class?"

"Yes. I'm the tallest in first grade.  I'm always in the back row."

So I proceed to tell him that when I was in high school, I was a cheerleader.  I was always the biggest too - I was always on the bottom of a pyramid.  (and of course I explained how to make a pyramid).

He said "That surprises me Pamma, because you're so small now!"

Andrew is 6 - how does a 6 year old come up with that concept?  What is he comparing me to?

I love having conversations with Andrew & Max.  It's just like having a conversation with Melissa when she was little.  Andrew talks as much as she did when she was little.  (although he does have Nick's personality too - a very sensitive side!)  Max is like Melissa too - nothing bothers him - things just roll off his back.  

And here they are - growing up…


***
Another Dream!

This one is interesting.  I love interpreting my dreams…I was going somewhere - on some type of transportation - a plane or a train.  I went from one room to another, and when I walked in the room, a little boy came up to me. He was about 4-5 years old.  He looked up at me and said "Mommy!" When I looked down at him, I said "Did you think I look like your mommy?" Then he said "Pamma!" I picked him up and looked in his eyes (one was blue and one was brown) and I said "I know who you are…"  In the dream, I thought he was Melissa in a child's body.  When I woke up and was telling Donny my dream, I realized it wasn't Melissa…it was JP.  He thought I was his mommy, (because I look like her), but when I looked at him, he realized I was his grandma!  He looked a little like Andrew & Max. John Patrick (J.P.) would have been 11 in October.  It's the first dream I've had about him. Hopefully not the last...


Gotta end with this story. It is definitely Melissa.  Last night, in the middle of all the phone calls with the nurses at the hospital and my dad, Donny comes into the room and says "I lost my hearing aide."

Of course, that was the LEAST of my problems.  I did help him look for a minute, and he was pretty good about saying it wasn't that important (they're only $1000), I just couldn't worry about that too.

So he gets up today and goes into work early.  Every day at lunch time he takes a walk in the basement of his building.  It's about 1/4 mile around the building.  He remembers taking the hearing aide out, putting it in his shirt pocket, then pulling out the iPod.  Thought that when he pulled the iPod out, the hearing aide fell out.  As soon as he gets there, he goes to the basement and walks every inch - not there.  A little later, he was at his desk, and something (or somebody) told him to go back and look again.  As he was walking around, he thought "what if someone found it and picked it up and put it on the ledge so no one would step on it."  At that VERY moment, he looked up, and there it was.

Coincidence?  We don't believe in coincidences any more.  It was Melissa, helping her dad again. She comes through so strong so many times, I have to believe she'll come through when I see the L.I. medium in a month.  

Thanks Melissa, for coming through AGAIN!

Love you and miss you pretty girl!














1 comment:

Marcia Sherman said...

It really is best for us to be with our sick relatives every step of the way; whether as a father comforting his son, or vice versa. We should do whatever we can to help. So yes, you are right on taking that responsibility. Though sometimes, our hands would be full or other responsibilities also need your attention, and it would be best to get some outside help to balance things out. But we should keep close watch, nonetheless.

Marcia Sherman @ Comfort Keepers