Thursday, February 26, 2015

Warm Hand and Foot Treatment - for Seniors

To the question, What Is the Largest Organ of the Human Body? You might think the lung (certainly lots of volume there), the heart (big heart, big hearted)... the large intestine (large and long)...

But the answer is the skin.  (I got that question wrong the first time I was asked so don't feel bad...). And touch is what, if it is missing, leaves children scarred for life.

Is touch any less important when people age, when people are "elderly"? 

No - but there may be fewer opportunities to get that hug or that handshake. 

Yesterday my mom had a PT appointment at her center and the therapist recommended, among other things, an appointment with a podiatrist. With her living in a center that has two podiatrists who have part time hours there, I made her an appointment. 

But that also got me thinking about none other than the beauty salon. 

She's been there for styling, for a cut, a shampoo.. but never for her feet! She's never had a pedicure or a manicure.

I looked at the flyer.  There I saw what I was hoping for. I saw Warm Hand and Foot Treatment. $15. This is clearly more than a hair salon. And that was really all I needed to know, but read on I did:  Key healing ingredients such as Keratin, Vitamin E and Copaiba Oil naturally strengthen nails, relieve dry skin, protect from... That was all I needed to know, but read on I did: ...harmful UV rays and help to prevent skin aging.

That's where I had to smile or laugh to myself. EVERYBODY who lived there was elderly. EVERYBODY was in their 70's 80's 90's. Maybe a few even in the 100s. Are we really talking about preventing skin aging?

I think the wording of the flyer is brilliant. No matter what age we are, we want to make sure we don't look even older. (Well, maybe teenagers want to look older so they aren't carded everywhere they go.... )  People in their 70s don't want to look 80. People in their 80s don't want to look like they're in their 90s. Right? When my mom looks in the mirror and complains about "that old woman there" she mimics my exact words when I look in the mirror and go running to my husband. "I look old."

So I'm going to ask her if she'd like a Warm Hand and Foot Treatment. $8 hands only, or $8 feet only. I'm hoping she'll splurge and go for the two full sets of appendages. I'm hoping that the thrill of being touched will ease her out of her depression and aloneness. There's a lot of surface area in those fingers and toes, and in between those fingers and toes... 

I call her. 

"Mom, there's a hand and foot treatment, you can get a massage and treatment. Would you like that?"

"I'll let you know next week."

When I talk to her the next day and ask again, she says, "I told you yes." This is Mom, who forgot she wanted to think about it? Or is this Mom who really wanted to say yes, but always has to disagree with everything first?

I hoping that tomorrow I'm going to make her (or I'm going to assist her in making) an appointment for a Warm Hand and Foot Treatment.  

(And by the way, what is copaiba oil?)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mothers Who Are Always Putting Up an Argument

I have arranged for a nurse to go in every morning at a fixed time to make sure that my mom has taken all her meds. She is billed $5. per day for this. At $15 per month, it's definitely worth it.

With this, I know that my mom is okay and that she's taken all her meds, and it leaves me the opportunity to live my life. 

But then what? Life is more than just waking up and taking your meds.

My mom will probably sleep most of the day if I don't call her and make sure she's up and about. And it's not because of her age. It's because of depression.

It's past that hour.... By now the nurse has long gone in to make sure she has taken her meds.

So... Do I call my mom this morning or not?

I will call her for sure in an hour or two to make sure that she's up and ready and moving for her aid.

But should I call her now?

Of course, call, you'll think. It's your mother.

Maybe not. It's usually very depressing calling her. We start her day with an argument and we start mine with an argument. Arguing and opposing seems to be how she survives, but it's not how I survive. If she says she's sleepy, and I say 'have some coffee,' she says she doesn't like coffee. If I remind her that she does, in fact that she herself bought coffee and it's in her fridge, she says that she changed her mind about coffee. Yesterday she said she couldn't go to her Dr appointment because she was nauseous and couldn't eat. As soon as I cancelled the appointment, she got up and went to the kitchen to eat. "Mom, I thought you were nauseous." 

"I'm always nauseous when I wake up."

"So then why don't you just wait a bit until you're not nausous and then eat, and then we don't have to cancel your Dr appointment."

No answer. I'm aware of what she does and how she can egg a person on into an argument whose point is - what is the point?? from her point of view? Just the love of arguing?

She will always come up with a fact in opposition and if she doesn't have a fact in opposition, she will make one up.  In fact it's what destroys me. It's been that way since I was a kid. (And maybe it's what destroyed her.) So what's the point of calling?  I don't need the argument or the negativity. 

The point would be to make sure she's up and dressed and has taken her cold medication, so that it can be working by the time the aid arrives.

Whether to call or not is not always so clear cut.

Friday, February 20, 2015

When Positive Energy Meets Negative Energy

You're in a good mood, you're ready to share good spirits with the birthday person. You pick up the phone ready to blast a Happy Birthday, dial, wait while it rings.  

It's especially important because this is your elderly parent. This is your second call for the day; the first was in the morning. This is the evening call and it will be your last for the day, so you want to make it a good one.

The phone is answered. There's a pause. Even before you hear the voice on the other end, you know it's going to be a downer. "Hello?" It's a tired worn out voice. The voice does not sound happy that you even called. Your heart sinks like a stone.

You feel like Debbie Downer has just walked through the doors of your party.

No matter what you say, the other person is bringing you more and more down. If you say, "Take some allergy relief" you hear "I don't want to ; it will make me even more tired."

"But your allergy relief pills don't have anything in them to make you tired."

"I don't want to take any medicine." 

"Okay, have some coffee."

"I'll get sick if I take coffee." 

You realize this person is not in rational mode. Everything you say will be met with a negative. You will get nowhere except more and more lost into a cyclone. There is NO conversation.

Wait! you think to yourself. No, you say aloud. "I just called you to bring some birthday cheer to you. And instead of bringing you birthday cheer, you're just complaining and complaining. I don't even know why I want to wish you a happy birthday" and you hang up. Instead of a happy birthday, you feel anger and you're not even recognized for who you are, for what you've done.

It feels awful. Not just that things didn't go like you planned, like you wanted, to bring cheer and good will..... But what just happened to your positive energy?

When positive energy meets negative, seems like the winner is the negative. How do you, the positive person, sustain a relationship where the negative energy dominates?

Not just that, if you're a positive minded person, how do you hold onto yourself in the midst of such a relationship? What happened to all that anger that was generated from frustration at not being able to utilize the energy and positive attitude that you were given in life?

I wonder.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Saddest Moment of Accepting Your Parent's Mental Illness

We get to act normal for a while and then every now and then the disease manifests itself. 

I've had a lot of time to think about this. I've had a lot of time to accept that things are going to seem normal for a while - and then they're not.

I've had a lot of time to accept that there's nothing that I can do to avert this, or to avert that sooner or later I'm going to be the bad guy. The one who always rescues my mother, the one who made sure she was out of her home and safely in a new apartment before she was financially destitute, the one who made her divorce happen because she couldn't function enough to do anything let alone appear in court to face her (soon to be ex-) husband... eventually I would be the bad guy.

I've had a lot of time to accept that it's an emotional state that she enters, and that there is nothing that I can say that will release her from that, or cause her to see anything, rationally, any differently.

So when this afternoon, I said "So what about the credit card and the taxi ride?" I knew that sooner or later warm air and and cool air were going to meet and produce the thunder and lightening. I was at a shopping center, in a big soft easy chair that they had for patrons to relax.

"He said that the card was turned off."

"Yes, Mom. I closed the card."


But of course I could, and I did. And a person who is being abused, or who is part of an abusive relationship, or a co-dependent relationship, will never, or rarely, acknowledge it.

"I had to, Mom. You're going to be destitute again and I can't allow that to happen."

What was different about this time is that I saw her illness roll in like a dark cloud. The issue was her and her Unidentified Male Relative. There would be no talking to her.

"But I'll have bad credit."

"Mom, you'll have bad credit if I don't do that. There's too much money going out to UMR"

She screamed "YOU CAN'T DO THAT." and screamed "YOU DON'T HAVE THE POWER TO DO THAT.", she was going to "get a lawyer and that will cost even more money" while I waited quietly. The voice in my head said, "There's nothing you can say." I felt like the center of the hurricane. All was quiet. Maybe it was one of the saddest moments of my life. But I had reality on my side, and that's nothing to sneer at. There was one thing I could say:

"Mom, I'm going to get off the phone now. I'll talk to you later."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Credit Card Company Screws Up and Declares My Mother Deceased

One day a few weeks ago the credit card company and I conference my mother in to a telephone call. Count it. One person Two people Three people. Three is the owner of the credit card, my mom. A few days later I'm on the phone talking to "an associate" about my mom's card and the associate says "she's deceased." I think I've heard this wrong. I ignore it.

A few days later we are on the phone again. She says, "She's deceased." I clear my throat. 

"Did you say she's deceased?"

I have here that she's deceased."

"She's not deceased. We just had that conference call, remember? It's in your notes."

"Oh, okay."  I assume that as long as I say this and they can check their records to see that indeed they just spoke to my mother, the credit card company should repair the records and bring my mother back to life.
A few days later I call back to see if matters have progressed, if they have processed the paperwork I sent in, and we have a similar conversation. "It says here that she's deceased."

I say, "She's not deceased." They also have not processed the paperwork I sent in. Or if they have, they can't tell me, I later find out because they don't really know who I am. I could be anybody calling. (But wouldn't that also be the case if the Power of Attorney was processed?? That's why they ask their little series of questions....)

One week later, I call back to see if matters have progressed, if they have processed the paperwork I sent in, and we have a similar conversation. They say "Your mother is deceased." I say she's not. I'm assuming, of course, that as long as I say this, they should repair the records and bring my mother back to life. I ask to speak to a supervisor. Sometimes they say that "The supervisor isn't going to do anything that I can't do." But of course I know that's not correct. I know that the supervisor has the power to bring my mother back to life.

Now the kicker: Legally, Power of Attorney is not valid if the person is deceased. So as long as they have my mother as deceased, they refuse to talk to me.

But they tell me I can talk to the estates department

Now we're really getting into the corporate belly. The one thing I want to avoid is bringing my mother into this and ringing the alarm about the elderly abuse, which was why I called the credit card company in the first place. 

This is my first true experience of the pen being mightier than the sword.

We're in the middle of a huge winter storm. We've had 80 inches of snow in the last 2-1/2 weeks.  I'm just trying to get some things resolved here, to make life easier, simpler.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Memory Loss from Stress

We're reading about so much memory loss, memory loss from Alzheimer's, and then we read stress is actually the NUMBER ONE cause of memory loss among seniors

Forget about seniors for a moment - what about all the rest of us??? The effects of stress on memory is strong enough to be identified amount people under 50! That means people in their 40's.

I have my theory about my mother's inability to recall. I won't get into the details but I'm sure it's because there's so much she wants to forget. She has NO symptoms of Alzheimer's. She just has things she wants to forget. Many things.

I also think that when life gets so complicated - so many lies, so many things you want to deny - that the mind deals with it by just shutting down. What is true and what's a lie? One lie begets another lie. For her to deal with how she's disappointed me, she has to deal with the reality of those who have been lying and stealing from her, those whose love she's been trying to gain (whereas mine she was secure in????).

Doctors do a few tests, ask some questions, they see her hysteria when certain people's names are mentioned..... but the lies in our family, the splits, the bad-mouthing,the anger, the hatred, are so rampant that even lately I have been unable to deal with anything, unable to remember. So that's why I'm taking a simpler approach. I'm simply saying THIS relationship is too complex for me to even have. So let it go. Then the next. Then the next. 

The other day I went nordic skiing. it was beautiful, simple, quiet, exuberant, exhilarating. It was nothing like the way I'd been living the past 2 years. It brought me back to the years of my life when I had that quiet and simplicity in my life. It was transformative. And I can't go back.

But back to my elderly mom.... Who can tell me that this memory loss of hers is NOT due to self-imposed stress?

And who among us can think that the effects of the stress in our lives NOW will not be seen LATER?

Monday, February 9, 2015

What you don't have control over

Somebody recently hearing my lament said "You have to accept what you don't have control over." Ha. Sounds like a good soundbite - but it's very cheap advice. I hate cheap advice. 

I check all my power of attorneys. This account checks out. The next account checks out. But one account I've never filed my power of attorney with them. For sure I was too overwhelmed - busy with some critical "other". I won't say it was a mistake. I'll have rachmanus on myself. but it definitely adds new stress.

THIS BANK I have to overnight it in....  And I quickly check all the rates - FedEx, US Priority Overnight... And the US Priority overnight wins. I can save a few dollars by doing it online and printout out my mailing label. It won't accept the address. I'm frantic. Aha - I've misspelled the street.  Now everything is ready. I've printed out the PoA. Added my cover letter. Everything is in the packet, sealed, ready to go. Next a trip to the post office. I didn't plan this for today. Like I have nothing else to do today.

It's been well over one week. They're saying it's not processed - it's 7-10 BUSINESS days, which can be over two weeks. I call on a Saturday night - They can't even tell me IF it's been received. And THAT office is closed weekends.

I'm freaked because HE - Unidentified Male Relative - is on his way to my mother's. That can mean only one thing. 

"You have to accept what you don't have control over." Easy for you to say.

After a while, I hear he has called her again and said he has turned around due to delays on route. 

I'm off the hook for another day or two... Maybe the bank will process this PoA by the next move....

Friday, February 6, 2015

Do you want to complain - or solve a problem?

I grew up hearing complaint after complaint. About the world, about each other, about me!! Rarely, if ever, did people get together to try to come up with a viable solution.

It's difficult with a senior parent, when the complaints begin again. You know they have arthritis, you know there's pain. But you have to get past that somehow. "I'm nauseous" is a fair complaint but you know the elderly parent needs to eat something like rice ("You mean dry rice?") or toast. "I'm dizzy" is a legitimate complaint but you know that may be either low blood sugar or dehydration. You know your parent needs to DRINK or eat some carbohydrate or something that will produce sugar for the body.

So "Do you want to complain? Or do you want to find a solution?"

The answer? "I'm all stuffed up."

You're feeling helpless, and you're feeling that your parent is acting like a child and forcing a role reversal. You're feeling that your parents wants it to be that way. Yet you don't want to play that game.

So "Do you want to complain? Or do you want to find a solution?" I said, "You're acting like a child."  I said, Do you want to complain? Or do you want to find a solution?" and I wait. I tell her to go into the bathroom and get an allergy relief pill. She goes, and within a few seconds, says, "It's not here." But I know it is and wait.

Soon enough she finds a pill and says "I already took this." I know she didn't. Soon she asks "What do you want me to take this with?" I tell her the Gatorade, which means she also now has to make her way back to the kitchen.

She does, she gets the Gatorade, and takes a few sips, and the allergy relief pill. Soon enough she's feeling much better.

Do you want to complain or solve a problem? With a senior, it's so much more complex. So much more difficult. We want our parents to be and act like our parents. But what does that mean??? I explore this in future blogs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why Isn't THIS Considered Elder Abuse?

I've been doing my damnedest to stop this flow of money from my mother's accounts TO unidentified family member.

Huge amounts of money going out..  YOu want to guess? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Sneaky purchases of the Vanilla Card made on her credit cards... The cash then used to purchase drugs... Other fraudulent sneaky ways to get at her money. Lying about why UFM needs the money is a biggie.

At that time I contacted county personnel to see if there were elder abuse provisions that could be used. NO. If she willingly gives her credit card or writes a check, it doesn't fall within their provisions of ELDER ABUSE. She knows the person. Not elder abuse.

IN CALIFORNIA, it DOES!!!  I'm going to write more about this later, but it just points to the difficulty I'm having WHEN a FAMILY MEMBER has a way of exploiting a senior's emotional and physical (yes actual fear of being physical hurt by another if she says "NO" and sticks to her guns) weaknesses to get money.  Laws in other states only step in if it's a non-family member OR if the card is stolen, etc. It's been so frustrating - because it's definitely abuse of an elderly person but the laws will not help me at all.

When it happened again a few weeks ago, and my mom was living in a new county, I called that county. Same thing. Must be state laws administered by counties. 

OH and they all say that if she comes in they'll be willing to talk to her. RIGHT. That's going to really help.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tomorrow I'm Telling Her about the Credit Cards. Writing Under the Covers

Tomorrow I'm telling her.

I don't want to get into a fight. I don't want to raise my voice. I don't want to hear her say "I'M YOUR MOTHER." I don't want to say back "WELL I'M YOUR DAUGHTER." I don't want to hear her say "IT'S MY MONEY." I want to explain everything in a way she can hear it, very clearly and simply. I don't want to say anything that's going to be antagonistic. I don't want to get into something that's going to put her on the defensive or that's going to elicit a power play. I'm not interested in power. I'm interested in protecting her, and protecting myself. That's threatening to her.. but that's all I want to do. THIRD PARTY says to her "I don't like that she's trying to control you." Ha. Truth is that HE is trying to get to her money for himself, for his own personal use. So he feeds this stuff into her to turn her against me so that I won't stop her from giving him money.

So I'm writing it all down first.

Writing it down helps me. It elicits a lot of emotions that I can work through on paper before I talk to her.  As I write, more and more emotions come out. I see what's happening.  What games are going to happen, and how to bypass them.

It keeps me awake, thinking and writing.

Thinking and feeling and writing.

I feel my heart beating faster... I feel the stress that this all puts me under. I feel the cause of my high blood pressure. My husband's asleep and the light of my phone from writing my "NOTES" keeps him up so I have pull the covers over my head and write under the covers. There's a point where I know I can stop and put the phone down and get some rest.