Friday, September 01, 2006

Watching Grandma

I’m writing this while still at Grandma’s on Thursday morning. Or at least I’m beginning it. She seems to be sleeping in this morning. She woke several times during the night, crying out like she does when her back is paining her. She refused the naproxin at bedtime the last couple of times I offered. I think I need to be more insistent. She hates to be dependent on pills whether drugs or vitamins and resists even doctor’s orders. She has a mind of her own. I am the first to understand a reluctance to depend on pills. I am supposed to be on BP meds but after three tries at finding one that wouldn’t blur my vision or mental faculties, I gave up. And because I have been flouting doctor’s orders and have no intention of complying with taking a med that muddies my mind or blurs what is left of my vision, I haven’t been back to a doctor in three years.

I had to bow to the inevitable this morning though and take naproxin my self. I should have taken it yesterday immediately following the incident that is necessitating it now. I fell over Grandma’s dog, Spot, yesterday afternoon. It was a jarring fall and I knew I was in for it. I woke this morning with pain from my neck to my tailbone and one hip and knee. The worst of it is the whiplash of my neck. I can barely turn my head and that is going to make it harder to keep an eye on Grandma and harder to watch where I am going as I compensate for my tunnel vision by scanning my environment frequently to keep track of where everything is in relation to me and what or who might be in motion. Like Spot or Grandma. That is much harder to do when moving your head is painful and slowed by stiffness.

I am worried that I waited too long to take the naproxin and am now going to be in the grip of a pain cycle for the next several days to a week. The two things that I know will prevent that are impossible to do. I have already missed the opportunity to nip in the bud by taking the anti-inflammatory immediately. Nor can I do the other most important thing--rest and sleep. Because I am staying with Grandma so many days in a row this time I have to get my sleep while she is getting hers. But when she has a rough night like she did last night, I do too.

I do get to go home for a day--from this afternoon until tomorrow afternoon. But there are three imperatives that will be preventing me from getting needed rest. I want to get online to take care of business--post, look at my stats, visit fave sites, read and reply to email; prepare an extra draft or three that my husband can go up and publish for me while I’m gone and so on; spend some time with my husband; spend some time with my niece who is spending one last night at her Grandma’s before school starts next week. I may end up getting little or no sleep tonight before returning here tomorrow afternoon. So I’m going to be gong into my four days and three nights with Grandma with a severe deficit of rest.

I have to be as alert with Grandma as with a small child. Only in this case it is necessary to remember I am dealing with someone who vividly remembers autonomy and resists every hint that it is being whittled away. I have to be careful to present her limited choices in such a way that she continues to feel that she still has a choice. At the same time, if I give her too many options she gets confused and will then choose to just not choose, such as claiming she isn’t hungry when I offer three different menus to choose from for dinner.

She is devoted to her dog to the point of obsession. She can not stand to not know exactly where she is at every instant. Grandma will take it into her head to go outside to look for her. She frets that Spot doesn’t have food in her dish. She will ask me, or Spot, if there is dinner in her bowl. I will check and tell her yes. Five minutes later she is asking again. And again a few minutes after that. Often instead of asking she just gets up from her recliner and goes to the back porch where Spots bowls are and checks for herself and if she thinks the amount is too low she adds some more, forgetting she has already done so as many as three times that same day.

At bedtime Grandma will not stay in bed if Spot will not stay in the room with her. Spot will not stay with Grandma if there is one electrical thing still on in the living room--TV, fan, light, heater--or anyone still out there. Which is why I have to hole up in the other bedroom with the door shut after Grandma goes to bed. If Spot decides that she needs one more constitutional before bedtime and goes outside instead of into the bedroom, Grandma will call and call and call and call her incessantly until she returns. “Spot! Spot! Let’s go to bed, Spot. Spot! Spot! Come on Spot! Let’s go to bed!’ And if Spot doesn’t come to her calls within a few minutes Grandma will get up and go looking for her--even outside.

Last Saturday was a fairly warm day but not hot enough to warrant turning on the cooler. At least not until the evening hours when the sun started beating on the front of the house. Grandma and I were watching one of her favorite TV shows, Everybody Loves Raymond, which I thought would be enough to keep her attention for its duration. She had been complaining about being too warm, had me turn up the fan and when the extra noise made the TV hard to hear, she asked me to turn up the TV.

She continued to make comments and suggestions about the heat. She wanted to open up the back door but it has no screen and would have let in flies and mosquitoes. I told her that in half an hour the sun would be off the front of the house and it would cool down real quick after that. She seemed content with that but a couple minutes later was suggesting we turn on the cooler I explained that by the time we got all the windows and doors--front and hallway--shut and then waited the half hour or so for the cooler to cool the front rooms of the house, the sun would have gone down so why don’t we just wait a half hour and the breeze outside will be cooler and the sun will be off the front windows. She nodded and I turned back to the TV.

A couple minutes later she suggested turning on the cooler without shutting the windows and doors. I explained we would have to cool the entire Phoenix area before we would feel cooler ourselves, that it would be like leaving the refrigerator door open. She seemed to understand. I said that by the time Raymond was over it would already be a lot better. She turned back to the TV as did I. I heard her laugh at something Raymond said and chide Debra for being so snotty to her husband. I thought she was engaged in the story again. So I was too. I was sitting not three feet from her.

Suddenly, I heard a loud thump coming from the back of the house. I looked to my left at her chair and she was gone. I hadn’t heard her get up and leave. Both her walker and Spot were gone. I thought for sure she had fallen somewhere in the bedroom or bathroom and I went running back there, switching on lights as I went. Grandma hates having extra lights on. But she wasn’t in the back rooms. I found her outside on the back porch with Spot. The thump I heard had been the back door shutting.

I chided her some then. I was out of breath. I said, Why didn’t you just tell me you wanted to come outside? I would have come with you. I thought you had fallen. She said, I didn’t want to interrupt your story. I said, That was your story, I’ve seen that one like three times. Then I told her to stay put, I was going to go turn down the blaring TV and be right back. She said that’s OK she would come back in, as it wasn’t all that much cooler out her anyway. So we head in together and she makes detours to shut off all the lights that I had turned on while trying to find her.

We get settled in our chairs again. We’re still watching Raymond. I keep glancing over to her and she continues to still be there. I start to relax. Then the next time I glance, there she is sitting there stripped to the waist. I gave in and shut the windows and turned on the cooler. I was trying to save her a couple dollars on her electric bill. Next time I will just turn the darn thing on the first time she hints at wanting it.

So that is what my weekend is going to be like. Picture me there, with my eyes peeled open and taped to my eyebrows, watching Grandma. This time I won’t be able to watch DVDs or read at night as I will have to get my sleep while Grandma gets hers but then I will have to keep my ears pealed for sounds of distress coming over the baby monitor of which I’ve had to respond to an average of two per night in the last couple of months. It can be anything from bad dreams, to back pain; breathing difficulties to bladder demands.

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