Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The medical community continues to disappoint!

I've been keeping an eye on Dad for many years; particularly his finances. But keeping an eye on Dad now includes assistance with his medical needs. Dad's 90 years old and in relatively good health following a hospital stay last Christmas due to a small heart attack and stroke. I'd received a tell tale call one evening. It was Dad, speaking in a slurred voice. My caretaker duties were expanded significantly on that fateful day.

Since then, we've had a number of reasons to call on our local hospital for assistance. But this hospital hasn't lived up to its own super medical center hype. And every new need turned into another sad incident where this unwitting caregiver was left to ferret out answers and probable solutions. Each failure of the medical community brought back memories of the failures before, until I'd finally had it! And so, I put pen to paper and fired off a letter of complaint.

My letter to the prez, of the hospital that is, hasn't been ignored. It took nearly a week, but an assistant to the president called, acknowledged my letter, and set more follow-up in motion. To date, I've heard from the Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehab Center department head. Though he began by reciting his department's mission statement, he ended by considering the implemention of a simple procedure I'd suggested. It's a start. There was a telling moment during my conversation with this young member of the hospital staff, however. I'd said that more and more Baby Boomers, now assuming responsibility for their elderly parents, would not be willing to accept the status quo. "As members of the Sandwich Generation", I began, but noticed the words had fallen on deaf ears. I asked if he was familiar with the term Sandwich Generation. He was not! This tells me more than I care to know about my local hospital.
"More than 25% of American families are involved in some way with elder/parent care."
"Recent studies say there are already about 10 million people in the U.S. who are members of the Sandwich Generation....and that their ranks will continue to swell as the population ages."
Quite obviously, I'm not alone in learning that some members of the medical profession are not on top of their game. And we, a huge wave of boomers as caregivers, are clearly ahead of the curve. The best we may be able to hope for is to lay the groundwork of change, for the caregivers who will follow. It's a sad commentary, but may be an even sadder truth.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Excuse me Ma'am, are you walking your cat?

Maine Coon cat Annie rolls. Click here for cat lover gifts!

We're back, from yet another great adventure. On this early Autumn day, after bringing the geraniums in last night for the threat of frost, it's crisp but not cold and quite simply glorious. I'd grabbed my coffee, put out the flag, and dutifully escorted Annie to the end of the driveway for her morning roll before our walk around the cul-de-sac.

We were on one such walk when a neighbor's friend, observing us approach as she loaded her son in a car seat, queried, "Excuse me, Ma'am, are you walking your cat?" I hadn't really thought about it that way, since it's Annie who's been traipsing me around the neighborhood, over and through the little wooded strips that divide some of the yards, sometimes stopping to groom and letting me sit and read under a tree. "Why, yes I am", I replied, which wasn't all together true. But Annie was already down the walk and with her "please come now" swish of the tail, and her plaintive look over her shoulder, I knew I'd best move along.

Now, after a sprint home and satisfying nibble, Annie is zonked out for what I hope is a very long nap. Working from home has its benefits and being with little "Annie girl", a very polite Maine Coon cat, is certainly one of them. Like so many moms who juggle family and work, it's a constant challenge. But, I'm free for the moment and best make hay while the sun shines!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Where does modesty go in the elderly?

I had a conversation this evening with my sister, about Dad and his lack of modesty. Was he always like this or is modesty something the elderly don't find useful? We don't know the answer, and it doesn't matter anyway, but I needed to talk it out.

I check in on Dad often and have had to ask him not to wander out without clothes on. I don't want to see my 90 year old dad nude and I have had to condition myself to accept his walking around in just jockey shorts. But I simply was not prepared for what I saw today. I arrived to collect Dad for the drive to his date's house and out he walks in a pair of the protective underpants I'd bought him for his latest medical problem. That's it, just Dad in a pair of slightly saggy disposable underpants. I was blown away! It was not a pretty site. But Dad? Oblivious to my disgust.

I have to throw these images out and substitute them with the indelible images I have of a handsome man. It's simply not worth the energy I spent emailing every pathetic detail to my sisters and brother, willing them to participate in this caregiver thing and begging for help. When I was offered support, it was for me to vent; rehashing what got me going in the first place. Simply not worth the effort. So I've learned, many years later, to simply throw the bad stuff out. You've heard of the book Elder Rage? I need to read it, it has to have been written by someone like me.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The answers don't come easily when an aging parent is in crisis.

I'm absolutely amazed at my dad's ability to exercise an hour at a clip, when I find it difficult putting in 20 minutes on my treadmill.

Following Dad's heart attack and stroke, I had difficulty finding help with his recovery. We were given no direction from the hospital and sadly, none from Dad's retirement community. He was hastily discharged on Christmas Eve to assisted living, a shadow of the man he'd been just days before. The doctors had said both heart attack and stroke were tiny and nearly full recovery could be expected. But I needed help. The medications the hospital used to subdue Dad and keep him compliant, left him unable to function. My research cautioned that depression was to be guarded against, and so I visited often and petitioned for Dad's return to his own apartment as soon as possible.

Although Dad's community has an exercise room and early morning group classes, Dad is hardly up before the crack of noon and was fearful of using equipment on his own, his confidence shaken. I set out to find an organized program and was stunned to find it at the very hospital where we'd been summarily dismissed just weeks before. When I called to see if they offered programs with instruction at their Wellness Center, I was made aware of a Medicare covered cardiac rehab program Dad qualified for. Wearing a small telemetry bib, transmitting vital information to a monitored computer, Dad would receive instruction and exercise 3 times a week. What a relief! I couldn't ask for anything more, except to have been told about this by the hospital upon Dad's discharge.

Following an emergency with an aging parent you may well find that you are on your own. Sadly, the failure of professionals to step forward with guidance is too often the norm. It's my sincere hope that dialogue, among Boomers, will help ease the way for those who follow.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dad's biggest concern is his Friday night date! I get to deal with everthing else.

Just when things seem to settle into a comfortable routine and health care isn't the primary issue, something new invariably rears its head. I'm the caregiver by default and it's not a comfortable role. I've tried to give it up, this caring for an elderly parent, but no one will take it. So while Dad goes on with whatever it is he chooses to do, I'm left to figure out what might be going wrong. Today, he's interested in only one thing - his Friday night date. Me, I get to deal with the matter of blood in his urine.

After a visit to the doctor's Monday, I delivered Dad home and found blood stained items piled high on his hamper; waiting for me, I guess. I wish I'd investigated adult male "protection" before this mess occurred, but the thought never crossed my mind. After a crash course at the local pharmacy, I learned that there are pads for men, much like sanitary napkins for women, in addition to protective underpants that are sort of like a toddler's training pants. The concept of adult diapers, the brunt of night show humor, simply isn't accurate and I returned to Dad's apartment with 2 packs of male "protection" in tow.

Dad's biggest concern? Making sure this little situation doesn't interfere with his dinner dance and overnight stay with his favorite lady. It looks like the man-pad can be worn discreetly under his formal attire and the protective underpants will work well at night. So for Dad, at least, it's problem solved!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My 90 year old dad counts on me to have the answers.

I returned home from a late bite to eat Saturday night, to find a phone message from Dad. Dad turned 90 a month ago and there have been significant changes with his health this past year. The current thing is this; he's been having to make about 5 trips to the bathroom every night. His message, was to tell me he has blood in his urine.

Dad counts on me to handle things. This goes way back, but to an even greater extent since he's gotten old. He doesn't know what to do and so he calls me.

I called my Florida sister, a hospice nurse, to see if she knew what light blood in the urine could mean. Prostate problems, possibly, a urinary tract infection very likely. She cautioned that a blood clot could interfere with the ability to urinate, in which case a catheter might be necessary. Dad didn't seem anxious, neither did my sister, and I'm inurred to the big panic after having dealt with Dad's bizarre behaviour which culminated in a hospital stay last Christmas. I had my sister call Dad to tell him what she'd told me, then I left a message for one of Dad's doctors.

I'm not going to anticipate anything. I'll call to check on Dad tomorrow and hope that he's comfortable.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Women aging with humor and grace!

Who saw 20/20 Thursday night? In a provocative segment on the difference between men and women in the bedroom, a 33 year old former Playboy Playmate of the Year unabashedly revealed that she wears a bra to bed because her "boobs flatten and spread" and she has a side to side Cesarean slice with a "little shelf that hangs over." Jenny McCarthy may have been promoting her book, and delivering her message with humor, but it just goes to show that no matter our age we can always find something to find fault with.

Jenny's candid disclosure reminded me of something my sister mentioned while visiting this summer, about Jamie Lee Curtis appearing in a magazine without being all "glammed" up. Already down this path of thought, I did a quick search and easily found the 2002 article entitled "Jamie Lee Curtis: True Thighs". There she was, 43 year old Jamie Lee Curtis in a sports bra and spandex briefs with a less than perfect aging figure and no makeup.
Baby boomer Jamie Lee Curtis said:
"There's a reality to the way I look without my clothes on. I don't have great thighs. I have very big breasts and a soft, fatty little tummy. And I've got back fat."

It just doesn't get more real than speaking of having back fat and this from a woman who once played the starring role in a film with the title "Perfect." Still, she says, "This is what I look like .... I've had to accept that part of me."

Flash forward to October 2006 and More magazine's online feature "Jamie Lee Curtis: On Growing Older & Wiser", a several page interview with the woman who's been so physically exquisite on the big screen, yet so frank in exposing the myth. Kudos to a beautiful woman who is setting the stage for gracious aging.