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Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Beloved has gone home

This morning when I awoke, the sun was already up and this is unusual, because usually Bob wakes me at the crack of dawn with his "The sun is shining!" and "Good morning!!" so I called "Good morning!" and got no reply.

I went to his bed to find him gone.

My beautiful, wonderful Bob passed away quietly in his sleep sometime last night or early this morning.

I am still in shock.

Monday, May 25, 2015

And How Was Your Holiday Weekend?

So! My holiday weekend started bright and early -- er, um, I should say: dark and early, at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning when I woke to a strange scrabbling noise coming from the living room. And I laid there a moment, thinking, what the heck is that noise? Then, finally got up to investigate only to find Boomer, our geriatric dog, had somehow slid behind his orthopedic doggie bed and was now caught between wall/bed/Bob's wheelchair and scrambling (fruitlessly) to get to his feet.

I turned on the light to offer him some assistance.  These days, Boomer wears a "lift assist" harness which makes it easy for me to help this big dog to his feet (and also makes him popular with the neighborhood children).  It looks like this:


And basically with this harness, I can grab the handle on his back and pull him easily and nearly effortlessly to his feet in one forward sweeping motion. Boomer, as most of you know, is 13 1/2 years old now and suffers from arthritis which is pretty typical in dogs his breed (Shepard/Great Dane mix) and size (100 lbs).  He occasionally has trouble getting up, those back legs are weak, and that's when the harness comes in handy. Our vet has him on two different pain killers plus prednisone (the latter helps immensely).

Anyway, back to Saturday morning. So I turn on the light to offer Boomer a lift assist, only to discover, to my horror, that not only had Boomer fallen, but he lost control of his bowels at the same time.

It looked like a crime scene (think blood splatter --but this is brown) on the walls, floor, bed, wheelchair and dog. I mean, the stuff was sprayed everywhere. And poor Boomer, slipping and sliding in it.

So I manage to pull the dog up and (I think) out of his predicament, but when I get him clear of the mess, Boomer just can't stand up.  I mean, his legs are splaying out, he's got no strength or balance and he keeps sliding down to the floor and I keep pulling him up and he keeps sliding down and after two or three times, I am in tears because I'm thinking, oh shit, this is it, it's Boomer's time, and I'm thinking I'm going to have to call the vet, and I'm thinking, man, I can't do this, I can't bear to do this, and I am just bawling, tears streaming down my face and I am covered with tears and dog poop, and Boomer is covered in dog poop and there's poop on the floor and the walls and Bob is hanging over the side of his hospital bed, reaching his hand out to me, trying his best to comfort me and oh my god...

Then, Boomer manages to stand up. Shakily. But he stands. Then he walks. His old dog, loping, shaky walk. But he walks and I take him outside to wash him off and he pees outside and it's now, like 2:30 a.m., and I go back in the house to clean up the walls and floor and throw the dog bed blankets into the washing machine and by the time I have everything cleaned up it's 3:30 a.m. and I get Boomer settled in his bed but he's still wobbly and I climb into bed and lay there until nearly 5:00 a.m. unable to sleep because I'm thinking that if Boomer isn't better in the morning, I will have to call the vet. And this just breaks my heart.

I do have it "pre-arranged" so to speak. One call, and our vet will come to our house to put him to sleep when the time comes....

Boomer, resting on his bed, rug underneath to keep him from sliding...
But later that morning, Boomer rebounds. And he's back to his old dog self. Though I have to give him another bath, as I didn't do so well in the dark.

And I tell you, I am physically and emotionally exhausted on Saturday.

And then I get an idea, to put a rug under Boomer's orthopedic doggie bed to keep it from slipping out from under him and, you know what, it works.  I don't know why I hadn't thought of this before -- it's not the first time his bed has slid out from under him on the slippery wood floors.

Mornings, these days, I am caregiver x3, as my morning routine now consists of first, crushing and syringing Bob's medications down his tube, then Boomer's medications (prying open a large dog's mouth and cramming 5 pills down -- no small feat -- but only got my thumb crunched once so far!) then Zenith's medication (liquid in a syringe popped in her mouth).  The latter involves a chase!
Zenith: Don't even try!!

So Saturday begins like normal, with meds all around, but then Bob announces that he's constipated and I have to give him a laxative so pretty much Saturday is "poop day" and I am hauling bags of you-know-what to the dumpster about 5 or 6 times.

Then Sunday rolls around and Bob wants another laxative because he still feels like "poop" is on it's way. So more laxative, more bags of you-know-what out to the dumpster...

And now it's the official holiday.  I gave Bob a bath. Did some cleaning. Ordered some medical supplies online. Wrote this.

And how was your holiday weekend?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Caregiver Frustration, Anger & Guilt

Two stories here. The first, as told to me by Bob's CNA (who comes in twice a week).  I call her "E."

E. was pulling into a drug store parking lot when she witnessed a man grab an elderly lady and "drag" her toward a car.

On hearing the beginning of this story, I said, "Oh my gosh! A kidnapping!"

E. said, "No, it was his mother."

So the story goes that E. slams on her brakes and jumps out of the car because, as she says, the man is  yelling at his mother in a way "one should never speak to a woman" and she confronts the man, who explains to E. that he had only gone into the store to "pick up one thing" and had told his mother (who has Alzheimer's) to wait in the car and when he was standing at the check-out he saw his mom ambling off across the parking lot, so he ran out and grabbed her and was taking her back to the car.

E. then tells the man that this is "no way" to "treat a woman".

The man tells her to "mind her own business" because she (E.) "has no clue" what it's like "to be a 24/7 caregiver".

To which E. responds that she knows full well as she has been "a caregiver" for over 20 years (meaning working as a CNA) and there is no excuse for his behavior.

All this erupts into a yelling match between the man and E. And when the man "shoves" his mom into the car and drives away, E. photographs his license plate number to report him to the police.

And I can only imagine what that man was feeling/thinking when he saw E. snapping photos from his rearview mirror...

Story #2 is more personal.  Let's call it "The MRI Day From Hell"....

Two weeks ago, Bob was scheduled at the hospital for an MRI. I was told to get him there 20 minutes early as they had to arrange for orderlies to lift Bob from his wheelchair into the MRI. So, I plan accordingly.

That morning, I got Bob bathed, dressed, shaved and ready to get up in his wheelchair with a good 45 minutes to get to the hospital. Then Bob tells me "pee" meaning he's going to pee and we have to wait on the transfer to the wheelchair. So, I leave the room and double check my purse (do I have everything I need? cell phone? etc.) and when I return to his room I find that GAA! somehow Bob's catheter tube had gotten disconnected from the cath bag and there he was, blissfully unaware, peeing all over himself!  And his pants and bed were soaked...

So, good thing I left plenty of time, because now I had to remove his pee-soaked clothes and wash him and also change the soaking sheets out from under him (no small feat) and put on new sheets and new clothes...

And then it was up into the wheelchair and there are good transfers and bad ones and, of course, that day we had an awkward bad transfer that took more time than usual. Then out to the van, where Bob immediately ran one wheel off the ramp and GAAA!! nearly tipped over. Then finally into the van and on our way and I'm looking at my watch thinking well, we won't be 20 minutes early but we will at least be on time for the MRI, when Bob announces he wants "a smoke". And I tell him there is no time for a smoke, but he insists and gets whiny about it, so I pull over (as there is 'no smoking' on the hospital campus and that includes the parking garage) and let him have a smoke and that takes a few minutes but I'm thinking I'm only 2 minutes from the hospital and we have 15 minutes to get to the MRI room and we should be OK.

Of course, once in the parking garage I can't find a wheelchair van accessible parking spot, they are all taken and I have to stop at the valet who directs me to a space that is (GA!) parallel parking which I am absolutely no good at, but I-- with much trepidation and after several white knuckled tries -- I manage it and by this time, we are late and I am more than frazzled.

But I get the van parked and the ramp down and Bob's chair unhooked and Bob backs up and somehow backs up into the space between the driver's seat and the rear seat of the van and he can't go forward or backward and the wheelchair wheels are just spinning as he pushes the joystick. So I try to help him, but manage only to make it worse and end up having to pull the plug (so to speak) and throw the chair on manual over-ride and try to pull that heavy wheelchair out of its predicament and I finally succeed only to have Bob take over the controls and back himself up INTO THE SAME POSITION that I just freed him from and GAAAA!!! I SNAP! And I YELL something like "WHAT DID YOU DO? TAKE A STUPID PILL THIS MORNING???!!"

And of course at that moment, the valet appears asking if I need help and I tell him "no" and I do manage to get Bob back out of the corner and down the ramp and we are now 10 minutes late instead of 20 minutes early and I'm trying to rush but Bob is tooling sooooo slow and we take a wrong turn and get lost (this does not help) and finally make it to the MRI room a good 20 minutes late instead of 20 minutes early.

I get us checked in.  And I sit down.  And it's then I look at Bob and see tears streaming down his face....

And shoot.  Do I feel like the winner of The Bad Caregiver Of The Year Award? You betcha.

I mean, I feel like a total, absolute shit.

And then, everyone in the MRI suite is asking what's wrong.

Oh my.... what does one say?  And I say something like we had some trouble getting the wheelchair out of the van and got lost and are late and we are both just frazzled... And thankfully, no more questions are asked. And Bob goes off for the MRI and everything returns to normal...

I guess I'm sharing both of these stories because E's story really bothered me. I don't think she should have confronted the man and his mother in the parking lot.  I mean, who is she to judge? Not knowing these people, what they go through, and only seeing this one small snapshot in time?  And I certainly don't think she should have reported him to the police!   jeepers

And I don't think many folks (even CNA's -- which by-the-by is ABSOLUTELY NOT the same thing as caring for a loved one) understand what it's like to be a 24/7 caregiver to someone you love (unless they've actually done it) and how often you feel both physically and emotionally helpless and the frustrations (and anger and guilt) that come with the turf.

Being an unpaid/volunteer/doing-it-out-of-love/never-having-a-break caregiver is NOT an easy job, emotions run high, both good and bad ---  and even the best of us have bad days, it really can't be helped -- it's called "being human" -- and we all (me, the guy in the parking lot, all of us caregivers) need just a little understanding.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Something Every Caregiver Should Do ...

So, on Saturday, I was walking out of the grocery store, carrying a bag of groceries, when I felt something SNAP in the back of my left calf. And an unbelievable pain shot through my leg which nearly brought me to my knees.  (This is not the "something every caregiver should do", in fact, I highly recommend you to not do this, if you can help it.)

Anyway, after I pulled my wits together, I limped painfully to The Bobmobile and went home. The next day, the pain in my leg was so intense, I could barely walk. And I knew, for my own sake, I needed to "baby" my leg. That's when I eyed Bob's power wheelchair and decided to put it to good use.

Now, I have driven Bob's wheelchair before -- to park it, to move it from his bed to the charging station, etc. And I thought I had the hang of it. But I've never relied on it for my mobility.

All day, on Sunday, I power-wheeled through the house doing my normal chores. I tell you, it was an eye-opening experiment. There I was, crashing into doorjambs, scraping up the woodwork, bouncing off the walls, dragging furniture and assorted sundry items in my wake. It's not as easy as it looks.

I learned that many things in the house which I thought were OK were not. It was like obstacles were jumping into my path. Like the footstool in the bedroom, which I ran into not once, not twice, but three times. And, truth-be-told, I really didn't think it was in the way when I placed it there. And the bed, which would be ALOT easier to get around if it were moved three inches to the left. And the door to the laundry room, which needs to be kept closed lest it catch on the back of the power chair and the free-standing medicine cabinet which got trapped between my rear wheels (not once, but twice) and needed to moved a few inches right.

Then there were things. I tell you, in my wake I dragged my purse (caught the strap on the rear wheel) and my shoes and a couple of books. (I need to be more careful where I leave these things.)

In addition to obstacles and things, I learned that just navigating the chair is not as easy as it looks.  And our ramp in back is certainly not as easy to navigate as it looks. The turns are quite tricky. And if you stop the wheelchair on the ramp, the wheelchair keeps rolling! GAAAA!

I learned one must be super careful and really watch what you are doing even while you are "parked". I found this out the hard way when I reached for something and my left breast brushed the joystick and sent me slamming into the refrigerator.  I call this "boob driving" for lack of a better term.  And along with "boob driving" there was also "armpit driving" and "elbow driving" and my! I learned that joystick is touchy.

I also learned that everything -- and I mean everything -- takes a lot more time and is a lot more difficult in a wheelchair....

But, I guess, the biggest lesson I learned was to be more patient with Bob when he gets "stuck" in corners, slams into things or tools along sooooo slowly that it can be really irksome.....

And I think, every caregiver should do this. Jump on that wheelchair and spend an afternoon of chores in it. Heck, I think everybody should do this, caregiver or not!  It will really open your eyes. It sure did mine.