Friday, February 15, 2008

A Perfect Storm

I knew one thing this morning: I didn't want to give up five hours to take Mom to a P.E.O. meeting.
But that's what I do every two weeks. I started taking Mom two and a half years ago, then decided to join in order to keep taking her. It's her one outing besides going to church and going to my house, a vestige of her former life, seeing these P.E.O. sisters.
I'm a member, and she is, and I would take her to the 10 am meeting.
I delayed leaving the house, first typing up the slate of officers nominated for next year. Two meetings ago when they asked for volunteers for the nominating committee, Mom piped up, "I'll do it!" Everyone laughed, but then they said she was volunteering me. I wasn't clever enough to slip out of this trap.
I didn't arrive to Mom's floor until 9:40 am, hoping just to get her purse and wheel her to the car.
No such luck. She was still sitting at the breakfast table in front of a fresh plate of eggs and bacon, her two cups of orange juice and tomato juice untouched.
What I didn't know:
1) The floor was short-staffed today. The lead caregiver, Karen, was late going down to get the food cart from the kitchen because she had to wake and dress a few more residents than usual.
2) Mom had refused to get up at 8 am when Elisa, her caregiver, spoke to her. She had cried and said she didn't want to get up. Elisa didn't get her up until 9 am, then dressed her and took her to breakfast.
3) Mom had eaten her oatmeal but refused to take her meds. Ilse, the medicine person, had decided to try later. Karen had held off on giving Mom her eggs and bacon, waiting until she cooperated with her meds.
As various people were reporting these facts, I decided to take Mom and leave; at least she had had her oatmeal.
"I'm going to get your purse," I said.
But when I got back with the purse and the lighter wheelchair for car trips, Ilse said, "She's still refusing her meds." As if I were supposed to care.
I needed to leave, meds or no meds, but in the same way George Orwell found himself shooting an elephant, I found myself going along with the caregivers who expected me to enforce Mom having her morning meds.
"Mom, take your meds! Good! Now take the next ones," I urged.
"Don't spit them out," said Ilse.
"Mom! Okay, good, now let's move into this other wheelchair."
To Karen, I said, "Why isn't she ready to leave at 9:40? I asked J.R. to put in her chart for today 'No bus rides! She will be leaving at 9:30.'"
"I didn't see any note on her," Karen said.
When I picked Mom up to transfer her to the portable wheelchair, the entire black chiffon long skirt with liner she was wearing fell to her ankles.
"Is this skirt too big for her?" I asked.
"Yes," said Elisa. I'd set it out yesterday with a red sweater with inserted collar and cuffs to be worn to this meeting, but I hadn't thought about how loose the waist might be.
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, wheeling her back to her room to get a safety pin. Why hadn't Elisa pinned it? Mom's clothes are my responsibility, though. She was 130 pounds three years ago; now she's down to 100, and she was probably 150 when she first wore this outfit. I'd bought some velcro and thread two months ago, intending to tighten the waists of all her skirts, but I'd been postponing this task.
By this time my patience was gone.
"You have to take your meds!" I yelled at her, pinning up the skirt. "You can't refuse them. We'll be late for the P.E.O. meeting."
"Don't be mean to me," she cried.
In silence I pushed her out to the elevator and to the car.
"Why are you mad at me?" she asked.
"Because you wouldn't take your meds," I answered.
"I did take them! They're lying," she cried. "They always say 'that old bag' and won't give me my meds."
When we arrived at the meeting, I put her into the wheelchair and opened and laid out the forty-pound ramp to get her up the entry steps.
She was still whimpering, and I thought she might not recover, but she still had her wits about her (well, some of them).
"Hi Evelyn, how are you?" asked Alva Mae.
"Fine, how are you?" she replied.
After devouring the fruit cup, the slice of coffee cake, the sausage, she fell asleep in the chair, quiet for most of the meeting until the Lord's Prayer.
I put the ramp back onto the steps, wheeled her out to the car, worked to get her into the car, then folded up the ramp and the wheelchair.
As we drove off, she said, "I'd like a Pepsi." We picked up a cheeseburger, milkshake, fries, and Pepsi from McDonalds.
I took her back to her floor, first toileting her. Off with the black skirt, on with some tan velour slacks. Off with the red Sas shoes, on with the black ankle-height ones for walking.
I took her back to the dining room and set her up with lunch.
Back in her room, I ransacked her closet for all the possibly loose-fitting skirts, tossing them in a heap, vowing to take time at home to tighten them with velcro.
I took the four pairs of dress shoes off the rack and hid them in a sack at the back of her closet.
I wrote a note to Laquetta, Queen of the Reminiscence Neighborhood, to have Mom's Individual Service Plan updated with these stipulations:
1) Get her up by 8 am--esp. on Sundays and Fridays when she is going out.
2) Make sure she is served breakfast by 8:30 am; otherwise she will have no appetite for lunch at 12 noon.
3) Use only the ankle-high black shoes.
4) Sundays she has to be ready to leave by 9:15 am. Some Fridays she has to be ready to leave by 9:30 am.
I left the note on LaQuetta's desk and fled to the car, feeling angry and upset about the whole morning.
At home by 2:15, I had planned to get to work at the computer immediately.
But instead I put away the forty-pound ramp in the garage, fed the dogs, and collapsed in frustration on my bed, unable to get up energy to do anything.

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