Saturday, December 27, 2008

Belated Christmas

Gary and I just exchanged our Christmas gifts, and I'm typing this on my Blackberry on a Universal Freedom Keyboard. Wheee! It's a great little device, and while I don't know all the ins and outs of it yet, I'm already delighted. It was a breeze to set up, and it's so much easier than typing everything with my thumbs!

Gary also got me a digital voice recorder (since I had nothing with which to record our meeting with Dad's doctor a few weeks ago), Shreve Stockton's The Daily Coyote (the book based on the blog of the same name), a lovely tapestry waistpack I'd requested, and a silk scoop-neck t-shirt from Land's End.

Oh, and the greatest thing! He found a PBS video called Healing Words about poetry therapy in a hospital: absolutely perfect for my narrative-medicine interests!

Yay, Gary! You outdid yourself!

The funny thing is that this morning I felt horrible, never less Christmas-y in my life. Swimming helped, though. So did getting to Dad's and discovering that I could deal, that I was still a competent adult. We are, to be sure, having Adventures in Gerontology: Dad's displaying some confusion, although we aren't sure if it's really cognitive or simply caused by deficits in sight and hearing. Fran's announced that taking care of him is too hard, and that she's going to give it another month and head back to Chicago if things don't get easier. Thing is, you can't have leases on two different Section Eight apartments at once, and she signed a one-year lease, so she can't go back to Chicago until it's up. Dad's tried to explain that to her, but she doesn't believe him.

Meanwhile, back in Philly, my mother's desperate to go home and seems to think that Liz is plotting to keep her in the nursing home, which must have been hard on Liz on her birthday. We just want Mom to stay another week or so for rehab (which is, of course, being broken up by the holidays, making the situation even more confusing for an elderly person).

So life remains challenging. But we're all doing the best we can: Gary chipped away at unpacking Dad and Fran's apartment today, and made enough progress that it looks more like a house than like a storage unit. I chipped away at bills, insurance issues, and end-of-life paperwork: among other things, Dad's advance directive is now attached to his refrigerator door by magnets, so that any ambulance folk who show up will see it and, we hope, read enough of it to discover that Dad's DNAR/DNI. That sounds morbid, but I've seen entirely too many elderly people who never wanted to be on ventilators brought into the ER on vents because the paramedics didn't have the paperwork readily available and were legally required to resuscitate and/or intubate.

With any luck, the situation will never arise. I'm not sure if we've been very lucky so far or very unlucky -- maybe both at once -- but I'm not inclined to push the issue.

Dad and Fran are both happy with unpacking progress, which should help ease tension. On Monday I'll take him to a bunch of VA appointments. On Tuesday he and Fran have their interview to be admitted to the paratransit system, which I certainly hope will happen, since it would make life much easier on all of us (or maybe only a little easier, but we'll take what we can get!). Fran reports that Dad's eating more than he had been, which has to be good news, although he's very tired and reports a sudden cessation of pain without pain meds, which alarms me because I know that happens sometimes right before people die.

One day at a time, right?

So, anyway, by the time we got back, I was feeling sufficiently festive to wrap Gary's presents. We put the Yule log DVD on the widescreen, and it worked really well, creating a great atmosphere for opening gifts. I feel as if maybe we've stumbled on a new Christmas tradition, and I already have ideas for how I want to handle next Christmas.

Bwah hah hah! And to all a good night!


  1. What an excellant set of Christmas gifts! Using a DVD instead of chopping down a tree sounds pretty "green" to me. Plus you don't have to clean up afterwards. :-)

    Good to hear that you are making progress on the Fran & Dad front. Maybe Fran will feel better as things get worked out.

    Wishing you, Gary, Dad & Fran a Happy New Year!


  2. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  3. Glad you were able to have some good experiences in the midst of this elder-care tsunami that has come over you both so suddenly. I would not react too much to Fran saying she wants to leave - it's likely her way of expressing her fear of the future, frustration at your dad's illnesses/decline in functional abilities. Focusing on getting a daily routine in place is wise, and just take it one day at time..that's all you can do.
    Is there an elder services agency that can help you at all? Federal funds pay for Area Agencies on Aging in ALL parts of the country, and some states add on a lot more services. Some stuff is free, or cost based on income, and sometimes it is worth paying some money for help. Remember you can be a care COORDINATOR but not be the one PROVIDING ALL of the care - sometimes this is what you need to do so that you and Gary don't lose your own couple and individual lives!

  4. Glad you're home safe. Glad Christmastide lasts more than one day (or the two attributed by Retail - Christmas and Returns), and that you've had some. May you be blessed with a much more reasonable 2009.


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