I promised my sister, Chris, that I would go with her to Mom & Dad's whenever she came. It is hard to visit them by oneself, besides which if I went along, she wouldn't need to rent a car.
Mom and Dad were doing fine.
He likes to lie in bed and watch the news or CSI reruns. He comes out to visit with family, cook, and feed the dog.
Mom enjoys the cat we sent her for Christmas.
She seems to know that it is not real, but treats it as if it is.
Aunt Lela came up to visit. She had a chance to look at Dad's new handgun, The Judge.
I'm pretty sure Aunt Lela does know how to handle a gun. Before I took these pictures, Dad had just demonstrated that the chamber was empty.
As it turned out, our visit was more business than pleasure. Mom had spent Mother's Day in the ER due to an overdose of Xanax. The doctor had told Dad that he needed either to put mom in an Alzheimer's care center, or lock up the pills.
When Chris and I arrived on Friday, there was a large padlock on the cabinet with the twenty bottles of hydrocodone, and the lock box Ruth Ann had bought last summer but which had never been used was now locked with the Xanax in it. As the weekend progressed, more pills had to be put in the box. With the hydrocodone and Xanax out of reach, Mom began to take too many Ibuprofin, and then started looking through her other medications. When I left, she was overdosing on calcium pills. Paul recommends I send her some vitamin C. He says you can't take too many of those.
So what's going on here? Well, my mom has been a prescription drug abuser for as long as I can remember. As a very small child, I was put to bed on Christmas Eve with half a tranquilizer. When I was a senior in high school, mom got so strung out on a series of carefully wangled medications (she had three doctors and two pharmacies involved) that I had to teach her 7th grade class for the last few weeks of school. But through it all, she was too careful actually to OD. Now senile dementia has robbed her of the ability to be sneaky and careful. Dad was in denial. Now he has had to face it.
With the pills locked up and Mom having to ask for a pain pill when she needs it, she is taking only the dosage recommended by her doctor. The Xanax wasn't her prescription in the first place, so she isn't taking them at all. Her pain levels seem to be fine as long as she lies down while waiting for a pill to kick in. Dad apparently doesn't understand that he can give her Ibuprofin alternately with the hydrocodone. I will make sure Rachel knows.
Rachel is our angel of mercy. My 20-year-old niece is the one person in the family who not only has the summer off and can work for mom and dad, but who also can make them behave. When she tells Mom to eat, Mom eats. When she tells Dad to calm down, he calms down. Every family with aging parents needs a Rachel.
Dad has to pay Rachel, though, or she will have to get a job to pay for school. After being poor his whole life, it is hard for Dad to realize that he has a bank full of money from selling the family ranch. He says he understands, though. I hope he does.
What will Rachel need to do?
First of all, basic cleaning. The twice-a-month cleaner has not been adequate. We will need to find someone else when Rachel goes back to school in the fall.
Second, she will make sure that food is available for Dad to cook. Their home is set up for two mobile people with working brains. Unfortunately, Dad can no longer get to the basement to bring up canned or frozen food from the storage room. Mom cannot remember what to bring up if he sends her.
Third, Rachel will entertain Mom. Dad has become a surprisingly gentle caregiver. Mom's need seems to make him feel useful in a way he has not since selling the ranch fifteen years ago. However, he does not enjoy playing cards, looking at albums, doing crosswords and puzzles, or any of the other things mom needs to keep her mind somewhat functional.
In the fall when Rachel goes back to school, we will be back to the drawing board. If Mom begins wandering, there will have to be a shakeup. For now, I think things are stable.