Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Best Thing About Being a Caregiver

I know that it has been a couple of weeks since I sat down and wrote anything. It has just been so quiet around here lately. The Grandmas have been mostly staying in their rooms and doing their own things.

Yesterday though my parents ended up taking Boonie to the hospital. She had been dizzy all afternoon and ended up vomiting from it. The hospital admitted her and it will be Monday at the earliest before she can come home so please pray for her.

In my last post, I shared what I believe to be the worse thing about caregiving and that is how isolated you become, and honestly, I have to take most of the responsibility for that. Sometimes I think that I would have made a great hermit. (lol)

Today I want to share with you what I think is the best thing about being a caregiver...


I absolutely love it when people share their stories, and when living with your grandmas, you hear a lot of stories!

It is so easy to just see one side of a person like seeing Mom as just a mom or Dad as just a dad. We forget that people are multifaceted. Each person has many different roles that they play throughout their lives so I love it when I learn a new story about someone because I'm learning something new about that person.

I especially love it when the Grandmas tell stories from their childhoods. We live in the town that Grams grew up in and so I have learned a lot of the history of the area because of the stories that she has told. Boonie grew up in Netawaka, KS and I have been out there twice so it is easier to imagine the area she grew up in. I have seen the place where she used to live as a child.

Even now it is easy to fall into the trap of seeing the Grandmas as just the grandmas, but when they start to telling their stories, I start seeing them in a whole new way again.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Worst Thing about Being a Caregiver

Most of the time I love being a caregiver, but there are many days when I hate being a caregiver. It is a tough job. While it is not always physically draining, it is mentally and emotionally exhausting. You celebrate the good days and the funny incidents, but some days you just want to curl up in bed and cry or you want to run away and never come back like most jobs. But what makes caregiving different from other jobs is that like parenting caregiving is a 24/7 job.

It is hard to get away. It is hard to take a break. It is hard to do anything without interruptions. It is hard to take time for you.

And the worst thing about being a caregiver is how easy it is to become isolated from your friends and family.

In the past few years, as the grandmas needs for caregiving have increased, I have found myself increasingly home bound and increasingly isolated.

It is has been extremely easy for me to fall into the trap of isolation. I'm an introvert. I'm an INFJ for those of you interested in the MBTI. I fall easily into my inner world and literally spend days lost in thought about one topic and fade out the world around me.

I love to spend time by myself, and I have a hard time reaching out to others. It is hard for me to connect with others because I'm really a very private person. It is not that I hate people or that I'm not interested in what is happening in other people's lives. I'm curious and frequently wonder what is happening which is one of the reasons that I enjoy Facebook. Facebook gives me a small peek into the worlds of the people I care about.

But Facebook also helps to keep me isolated because it makes it easy to keep in the know without actually keeping connected to my family and friends. I can know who is getting married, who is pregnant, who has a new job, and who went to the Royals game last night and I don't have to talk to a single person to find it out.

To be completely honest, I want to feel like I can call up any of my friends at any time and know that they are willing to drop anything and come to see me.I don't because I don't want to be a bother.

I want to call up my friends and say, "How about meeting for dinner on Tuesday night?" but I can't because I don't have the money to go out to dinner on Tuesday night and I feel bad because they would have to pay.

But being an introvert is not the only reason I've become isolated...and my dear friends and family have to take part of the blame.

When I first started taking care of Grams, I was able to do things like going out to lunch with friends and going to church on Sunday. Then her need for care increased and with all of my family working my time to do those things decreased and as that time decreased so did how often I heard from my friends and family. Now lunch with friends are a thing of the past and church on Sundays just isn't happening. (And before anybody says anything: I have tried going on Sunday nights or at different times, but when you go to fellowship with others and no one does more than greet you, do you really want to continue going there?)

My friends and my family are busy people. I understand that. With babies, marriages, work, children who are involved in many different types of activities, church and a variety of other activities, it is easy to get caught up in what is happening your own lives.

As my friends and family have gotten caught up in their own lives, my own life has been put on hold and I hear less and less from the people that I thought were my friends. Right now I don't hear from anybody unless I contact them first or unless they need something from me. And when I do contact them, all I hear about is how busy they are which just makes me less likely to contact them again because I don't want to be a bother.

Most of my family moves on with their lives giving little (if any) thought to the sacrifices that I'm making in mine so that they don't have to make them in theirs. Most of my friends are so caught up in their own lives that I feel like I have no one to turn to.

And that is the worst thing about being a caregiver is feeling like you're isolated and no one cares.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Don't Let the Grandmas Use the iPad

I love my technology. I enjoy spending lots of time on my computer, having the latest cell phone, playing games on the iPad and reading on my Kindle. I spend a lot of time using modern technology.

The Grandmas on the other can barely use their cell phones, and both of them have flip phones. Boonie just got a new cell phone a couple of weeks ago, and since then she enjoys talking about how much more difficult it is to use than the old one and there isn't a lot of difference between the two of them.

A couple of years ago Grams received an iPad from the family for Christmas. I think that iPads are relatively simple to use, but Grams always ends up messing it up somehow.

So here is my tribute to the Grandmas and modern technology...

If you give your grandma an iPad, she is going to want to have an email account.

If you give your grandma an email account, she is going to want a Facebook account too.

If you give your grandma a Facebook account, she is going to go on Facebook and click on a link.

When she links on the link, she will not know what website she is on and she will click on another link.

When she clicks on the other link, she will see a form asking for her name and her address and she will start filling them out.

When she is done filling them out, she will click the button that says "submit."

After she clicks "submit", she will put the iPad down and go take a nap. She will forget all about filling out the form.

When she receives a package in the mail two weeks later, she will wonder why she is getting a package in the mail.

After she opens the package, she will ask for the iPad.

So one word of advice if you are thinking of getting your grandma an iPad: Don't let the Grandmas use the iPad.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Don't Let Grams Touch Anything in the Van

Grams had two doctors' visits this week.

The first one was with her nephrologist (kidney doctor) at NKC on Tuesday.

NKC Hospital has done something I personally consider a pain in the butt...They started offering valet parking at the Pavilion. Now honestly, it wouldn't be a bad thing, but at Grams appointment they had 5 cars parked and blocking the drive to drop off because the valet service was taking so long. I had to drop her off because they didn't have any open handicap spots which means that I have to pull up, get her chair out of the back of the van, unhook her oxygen, and attach it to the chair and move her inside. By the time I did all of that there were several cars behind me waiting for valet...what gets me is that many of the people who take advantage of valet parking aren't even the ones that really need it.

Anyway, I get Grams up to the doctor's office, checked in, and we are waiting for the doctor and she tells me that she has to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately for her, I couldn't take her then because this particular doctor is quick about seeing patients. The nurse came out shortly after to take her back. We go back and she tells the nurse that she has to go to the bathroom. Again unfortunately for her, the nurse tells her that she has to wait. The doctor came in within just a couple of minutes and after he left we had to wait for the nurse to come back...and then she could FINALLY go to the bathroom.

The results from the doctor: He doesn't need to see her again unless we or her primary doctor thinks she needs to him...It is both good and bad news though. A little bit of relief from the number of doctors that she is seeing, but the reason that he doesn't need to see her anymore is because at this point there is nothing more that he can do.

Since I didn't want to sit through the craziness at the Pavilion entrance, I just pushed Gram in her chair out to where I parked the van. I get her in the van with her oxygen attached to the back of her seat, and I go to put the wheelchair in the back of the van. I'm reaching down to open the hatch and I hear a click...

Grams had locked the van doors.

I reached for the key fob and unlocked the doors, and I asked her not to lock the doors.

I close the hatch and I'm walking around the side of the van to the driver's side and I hear another click.

She locked the doors AGAIN.

I unlocked them, got into the van, and TOLD her to NOT touch anything in the van.

We headed home and when I tell Mom, she told me that she didn't blame Grams for locking me out of the van. Really?

I'm so lovable though. Why would anyone want to get away from me?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

It's Been a Scary Week

While many funny things have happened during the week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday ended up being scary days.

One of the things that you have to do with congestive heart failure patients (CHF) is check their weight daily. With Grams, we also check her blood pressure and oxygen levels on a daily basis. Because she has diabetes, I also check her blood sugar multiple times per day.

When I checked her oxygen levels on Wednesday morning, they were at 60%.

Thinking that was a glitch in the telemonitor which sends her numbers to the hospice nurse, I checked it again with the pulse oximeter that we keep on hand. It was still at 60%. We gave her some additional medications in addition to the ones that she regularly takes, and I called hospice. The nurse was in a meeting, and I decided against having her paged.

I continued to monitor Gram's oxygen levels and when they went down to 56% as she was sleeping, I called hospice again and they paged Nurse Cindy. Cindy called me back right away and came out to the house as soon as she could.

We continued to monitor her oxygen levels all day, giving her morphine and breathing treatments. Her oxygen levels still didn't go above 70% except for when we took her to the cardiac doctor. That was really weird because at the doctor's office her oxygen levels went up to 93%, but by the time we got home they had fallen again.

On Thursday, her oxygen levels remained very low. She could barely walk and was having trouble eating or drinking so I called hospice again because that's what we do now. Nurse Cindy was out here at 8:30 that morning.

We continued to give her breathing treatments and morphine throughout the day, and we were really concerned that we were going to lose her or that she was going to slip into a coma. We learned that when your oxygen levels are that low for several days then you will slip into a coma.

Grams slept for most of those two days and by Thursday night her oxygen levels were miraculously back up to 90% percent. I say miraculously because we don't know how or why they dropped so low and then went back up. I say that it was answered prayer and thank you all for praying.

Since then she has been up and around and onery at times by telling everyone that I'm a meany because I make her take her medications.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Can You Make Chicken Salad from Pork Roast?

They say that as you grow older you lose many things. One of the things that both of my grandmothers seems to have lost is their sense of taste, and I don't mean stylistically (although there are a lot of people who seem to lose that too).

When it comes to food, Boonie is a very picky eater, and Grams is not. (At least she usually isn't.) And they both love Chef Boyardee which I think is just nasty.

But tonight we learned that Grams cannot even tell the difference between chicken and pork roast.

Today was one of those days where I actually thought ahead and put a pork roast in the slow cooker.

As we were finishing up supper tonight, Grams looked at the pork roast and told me that I should make chicken salad out of it.

Now I don't know about you, but I can tell a definite difference between pork roast and chicken in look, texture and taste.

So I looked at her and told her that I didn't think that it would be possible for me to make chicken salad from the roast since it was pork and not chicken.

Her suggestion: "Make pork salad." (No, pork salad here. We're having pulled pork sandwiches later this week.)

Dad's comment: "If you can make chicken salad from a pork roast, I bet you could make a lot of money."

The Invisible Dog

It's been a couple of weeks since this experience I'm about to share happened, but really it is too good not to share.

A couple of weeks ago, Grams (my maternal grandmother) started yelling for me.


I walk into her room. She is lying in bed, but she appears to be awake. She is looking around and frantically waving her hand.

I asked, "What do you need, Grandma?"

"Will you take this dog and feed it? It keeps trying to eat my hand."

Now here is where I have to be totally honest. Usually when she does something like this I point out that there really isn't a dog there. It usually starts an argument and then I end up being called all sorts of names.

That day though I did something totally different...I played along.

"Okay, Grandma. I'll feed the dog. Come on, dog! Let's go, dog! Let's get you some food!"

Whistling and patting my leg as I left her room.

As I left I also closed her door, saying, "Grandma, I'm closing your door so that the dog doesn't come back in."

I left and she was perfectly fine.

Invisible dogs, blue horses, and cows in the neighbors' yards...those are just a few of the adventures that happen around here. (BTW, the cows weren't real. We live in town.)