Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Many Layers of the Black Umbrella

The last couple of weeks have brought a lot of junk into my life - like a big black umbrella blocking out the sun.

Several days ago my sister phoned me to say that my 80 year old mother was being helicoptered to a major hospital in Minneapolis from her small town in central Minnesota. She has been struggling with both emphysema and heart failure and her condition was serious.

I raced over from work and found her on the cardiac floor, hooked up to tubes and machines but still smiling and saying she was glad to see me. I spent the night in a recliner in her room, getting up every so often to pace the halls because my restless leg syndrome was acting up. The next day the woman who helps her with housekeeping said she'd found 11 days worth of untaken meds shoved in a drawer. The doctors concluded that the episode was brought on by noncompliance with her diuretic, which helps control the buildup of fluid. I asked her about this and she said she was sure she'd taken all of her meds.

They got her through the physical crisis and suggested an evaluation for cognitive function. Even though I knew that she was failing mentally, I heard myself tellng the social worker that I didn't think it was necessary. (Yeah, Kathy, just refuse to face it and maybe it'll go away.)

The day of the evaluation I woke up with a raging sore throat and fever. I went to the Minute Clinic in Target and was given some Zithromax and told that I absolutely could not visit anyone in the hospital until my fever had been gone for 2 days.

As I laid in bed, staring up at the ceiling, I started to feel these great waves of fear and sadness - thinking about her death and also my death (maybe from diabetes) and what lay between. I microwaved a Lean Cuisine but forgot to take any insulin, and later in the day my bg was 470. I corrected, but really didn't care. I was sinking deep into the "life is hard and then gets harder" mindset.

My mom's evaluation determined that she has "moderate dementia" and cannot live alone primarily due to the possibility of medication error. She also will not be driving anymore. My other sister had driven to M's home and found a large array of unpaid bills strewn about, and a frig full of old food. Two more days and her utilities would have been shut off. She had fooled us, always saying everything was "ok".

She transfered to a full care facility in her town this last Mondayand will remain there until an apartment becomes available in the assisited living wing. I did not get to see her because I am still not well. I went to my internist and he said "well, your lungs sound good - I guess you'll just have to wait it out". Last night I was coughing so hard my neighbor above me came down to see what was going on. After I shut the door I started crying, asking why everything has to happen all at once.

Now this afternoon I got an email that I have to be at work tomorrow because my company was visited with a surprise audit from the New York Stock Exchange, something which happens about every 10 years.

I am ready to blow a gasket. I am not good at dealing with multiple stressors. If anyone has any magic tips, do tell.


in search of balance said...

Aw, Kathy, I'm just so sorry to hear about all of this. I don't have any tips, but I am thinking of you and wishing you and your mom well. Sending lots of love and healing thoughts.

Anonymous said...

me? tips for stress? ha!

But really, I'm sorry you're going through all this. Ugh.

Minnesota Nice said...

Beth and Rachel - thank you so much. I feel better all ready.

Donna said...

Kathy - You're the one that always gives the rest of us words of wisdom. Thank you so much for that.

I wish there was something I could say to make all of this better. All I can think of is my usual - I'll keep you & your mother in my prayers.

Molly said...

Whew! That'a a lot of hard stuff all in a short time.
Remember to breath. Take time to think and reflect. Stop and look at your tree.
Here's sending lots of good energy your way.
:-) Molly and Dixie (Woof!!)

Minnesota Nice said...

Donna and Molly - thanks so much. You guys made me cry - which I think is a sign it's time for bed.

Zazzy said...

Ah, sis... I think what life does to the elderly sucks. How is it fair that getting old not only causes aches and pains but robs us of our memories and independence? Sending hugs to you and your mom.

Colleen said...

As you know, I know that what you're going through truly stinks. I'm sorry you're going through a tough time with your mom. Being sick yourself doesn't help one bit. My only advice is to take care of yourself or you won't be able to help your mom.
Feel better soon. Your mom will be in my prayers.

Minnesota Nice said...

Zaz and Colleen - I know that both of you are also dealing with aging parents, and I value your wisdom. Thanks.

Araby62 said...

From one Kathy to another, hang in there (:-)

Cody Turner said...

Sounds like you have the flu. I went to quack in the box and got diagnosed with sinus and ear infection and bronchitis. Was given antibiotics, got worse, finally got into see my regular doctor and turns out I had the flu. Was down almost 2 weeks with it and now have a horrible lingering cough. Sorry to hear about your mom. It is hard to see a loved one hurting.
Come visit me on my blog. I need to do another post which I will probably try to do tomorrow.


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Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy,

I also don't do well with multiple stressors. One thing you might try is PharmaGaba which is a supplement that helps to control stress. T1 diabetics can be deficient in Gaba because it is processed by the beta cells which of course don't work well in T1's. I have been taking 200 mg of PharmaGaba daily, and more when I have extra stress, and it has helped to give me more serenity in dealing with problems.

Good Luck,

(from tudiabetes)

Lyrehca said...

Oh, Kathy, I'm sorry to hear about the rough times you're going through. As someone else said, I'd just say to breathe and approach everything as it comes. When you're at work, focus on work, so that when you're with your mom, you can focus on her. It's the multi-tasking and the multi-thinking about everything all at once that will cause more stress.

Good luck during this time--Baby L and I are wishing you the best.

Sandra Miller said...


I'm so sorry to hear about your mother.

And I hate like hell that you have to go through this while sick-- with work stress to boot.


I've started this comment several times-- trying to think of something that might really help, that would make some of it a little easier.

The best thing I could come up with is that I'm thinking of you and sending boatloads of positive energy your way.

And that you will make it through this.

Oh, and Kathy-- we're just three weeks away from spring... from gardens and flowers and green trees...

Meditating on that for a while might help too.

Please take care.

Karen said...

Oh gosh, I'm so sorry you have been hit so hard with everything all at once. I will send out good thoughts and energies for you and your mom.

Lili said...

I'm sorry, Kathy.

Shannon said...

When it rains it pours!

I'm so sorry about the hardship with your mom. It must be so hard to see someone who took care of you as a child needing special care herself.

When I was a teen, my parents took in both of my stepmother's grandparents, plus my own grandmother, all at once. All of them needed 24/7 care as they were all ailing.

It's hard, but your mom will be well taken care of. You will get through it!!!

When you feel better, you'll feel strong enough to face all you have coming at you. Right now, you feel lousy with being sick, so don't expect to carry any of this weight on your shoulders just yet.

One day at a time. And then the sun will shine.

Scott K. Johnson said...

Hey Kathy,

I'm sorry to hear about all of this too.

Like many others have said, take one day at a time and don't try to do too much.

From Riva Greenberg's book "The ABC's of Loving Yourself With Diabetes" (reviewed by AmyT, and recently purchased by ScottJ):

B is for Believing You Are Stronger than Diabetes

Kathy - I really think you would love this book and get a lot from it.

If you are willing, I would love to give it to you. If you're not willing to let me do that, you really should pick it up for yourself.

MileMasterSarah said...

It does seem like typically everything happens at once. I know that I don’t have a “magic” answer. What I do have is the age old “one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.” The most amazing feats we ever accomplish start with the first step, and the ability to look back with sadness or thoughtfulness at times past is a true indicator that we stuck through it, right until the end (even if we didn’t feel like we were.)

Minnesota Nice said...

araby62 - I not know your name was Kathy - where have I been? duhhhhh.....thanks for the good thoughts.

Cody - I miss you in the chatroom. It's been 2 weeks now and I'm still coughing, but temp is gone. My pharmacist said zithromax is not all it's cracked up to be.

Hi Cleo - enough snow your way? I keep thinking we're gonna see ours in March. I will check out your tip. Thanks.

Lyrehca - thank you. Yes, I must focus on living fully in the "present moment" and sort of accomplished that today.

Sandra - it is indeed fortunate that we are not going into winter. The cardinals were singing this morning and the days are getting longer - a great mood booster.

Karen - so nice to hear from you, my knitting sister. Thanks.

Lili - nice to see you here. Thanks.

Shannon - I was really stuck in the thought maze of "why do I have to deal with both db and an aging parent?" How silly - many people deal with many things, and, as you said, they pass.

Scott, you are such a dear. I already have the book and yes, it is a gem. Riva's website/blog are great also. Some days I feel very strong, but am still royally ticked off that I have to deal with more than one thing at once.

My sister up the interstate - You are a prime example of "one step at a time". I just needed to be reminded that I am capable of that also.

art-sweet said...

Ugh, ugh and triple ugh.

I don't have any good tips, except to give yourself credit for dealing with all this shit.

Pepito sends smooshy kisses your way.

BetterCell said...

Hi Kathy.......
Yes, an Assisted Living Facility is what your Mom needs.
It is too bad that she could not have had a person from Social Services stay with her during the day to have administered her meds as well as prepared food for her. Is that not available in your state?
I hope that her health and strength improve.
Your symptoms sound more like Bronchitis Kathy, in which an Elixir combining Codeine w/Promethazine would have helped.
Get Well!!

Minnesota Nice said...

Art, I can't think of anything that would make me feel better (in addition to all the sincere comments here) that a big smooshy Pepito kiss. Thank you.

Minnesota Nice said...

Better Cell - my mother had a visitng nurse come every week and help her sort her pills in a M-S box. Apparently she took each day's supply out and then put it in a drawer, letting the nurse think that she'd been takng them.
She had someone come in and help with cleaning but kept insisting she could do her own cooking and didn't want "anybody messing up my kitchen". Her weight was stable.

Yes, it was time. And I have slowly covinced myself this week that this is the best solution.

I did go to my regular clinic this last Wed and they were so overbooked I had to see Dr. K, who is 85 years old. He said my lungs sounded very clear but said he was still a big fan of penicillan. I then pointed out the big red letters at the top of my online chart, "allergic to penicillan" so he sent me away with nothing.
Thanks BetterCell.

BetterCell said...

I would have been a better Physician for you Kathy.
In addition to what I had suggested, I would also have recommended an INCREASE in your fluids and the type of fluids would be hot water w/fresh lemon juice and 1T honey. If you were unable to get my Rx then I would add some Irish Whiskey to the aforementioned recipe. Your cough would be gone quickly as you slept in the atmosphere of soft Dreams.

Minnesota Nice said...

BC - yes, soft dreams would have been lovely.

Anonymous said...

Would it help at all to know that in the midst of all this hardship, you continue to be a blessing to others? True. Amazing. I always find cheer when I visit you here; though I haven't stopped by in a long time. I'm sorry about all you are dealing with. You are dealing, beautifully, though. Take joy. And, thank you for giving joy. As you make your way through, there are others who learn that they will be able to make their way through, too.

Major Bedhead said...

Ugh, I'm sorry you've been dealt such a lousy hand. I hope things improve for you and I'm sending you my best wishes.... Hang in there.

Minnesota Nice said...

Anonymous - thank you for the very kind words.

Julia - you know, maybe we are dealt a few bad cards, but, we play them out, sometimes learn some new strategy and then wait for the next round - knowing that it is entirely possible that the new hand will be better.

Cara said...

Bless you! I hope the stressors have decreased somewhat. Keep us updated.

Minnesota Nice said...

Thank you Cara.

Yours and everyone else's comments were so very kind and nurturing. They really made a difference.

Anonymous said...

haven't heard anything from you in weeks. are you doing okay? how is your mother doing?


Minnesota Nice said...

OMG, Landleigh - seems like it's just been a few days.
I'll do an update post tonight. Thanks for reminding me.
I feel it's rather rude to post about a crisis and then leave people hanging wihtout an update.