Saturday, November 21, 2015

My Turn to Give Respite

I had respite when my husband was alive as I shared on this blog. Often I had to ask for help--but not always. Once my sister-in-law took me on a cruise while my late husband went to stay with his son. Near the end of his life, my husband could not go to church and I had someone stay at the house so I could go to worship.

Caregiving is often a 24/7 job. I found this with my new friend in Huntsville, Sally. Several years ago Sally's mother Evelyn came to live with Sally and Bob, and gradually this 99 year old mother developed dementia (as we all may should we live that long).

Sally and her husband Bob need to be with her mother Evelyn constantly. Evelyn can't hear well and has glaucoma and macular degeneration.. She walks with a cane because of her hip and at her advanced age, a hip replacement is out of the question.  In addition, as can be expected, she has developed dementia, but doesn't know it.

Recently I went to Sally's house to meet her lovely mother Evelyn. Sally showed me the tub where her mother gets an aided bath with a home health care aid that Sally hires. I was impressed at how this bath routine worked and didn't know about the long shower chair. Evelyn uses Depends on her own, and is able to dress herself with the clothes that Sally puts out.

When Evelyn is in bed and needs help, she can press a button Bob Bob installed on her bed. The button rings a wireless doorbell out in the hall that can be heard through the whole house. Bob or Sally can then go and help her.

How do you test for dementia? The doctor can ask the care receiver as happened with my husband in 2008, or the caregiver can answer questions about their loved one.

But the test for Sally was not needed. She was stressed to the max. She needed respite. I contacted her pastor and others at her church about help for her. The wheels were put in motion. Sally also started brainstorming about people who could help including a young person she could hire. Aging Care has suggestions also HERE. 

Meanwhile I provided respite on Sunday, November 15. It was my time to help. I did not go to my Huntsville church but would have my church with Evelyn (hymns and prayer).  Sally and Bob could get out to their church together --Sunday School, worship and out to lunch.  This retired couple deserved this respite and a date together. Sally had it all arranged--the usual breakfast was set out for her mother and a delicious ham was warming in the oven. They left for church about 9 am.

Evelyn came out all dressed and chipper. I reminded her that I am her new friend Carol. She had buried one husband and I told her I had buried two husbands. She quipped:

You are pretty hard of husbands
aren't you!

She also said that her hip was bad, but she needed to keep it because it was attached to the rest of her body. Delightful lady! She said she couldn't hear well or see well.

After lunch of corn, ham, squash and a banana, she occupied herself with a large Word Search puzzle, taking great pride in what she was doing. We did not watch TV, but I enjoyed maintaining the fire which we both watched. 

About 2 pm Sally and Bob returned and Evelyn showed Bob her progress on the puzzle. 

But there is more to the story and Sally was brave enough to tell me that Sunday--something I hadn't noticed.  

I had had Sally over to my apartment last summer with some of her friends that had been praying for me in my caregiving journey. I didn't notice her hands. I didn't notice her hands at the Alzheimer's Association Conference recently which her husband insisted she attend while he watched his mother-in-law. That day, I had just noticed her tears and the stress she feels being an 24/7 caregiver at the time in her life when she and Bob should be enjoying their retirement. She had characteristically bent her elbows and folded her hands in front of her like a speaker would do. Remarkable woman and remarkable smile. 

In 2001 Bob and Sally had planned a trip to Maui, Hawaii in conjunction with a test connected with Bob’s work.  Bob was delayed at a test at White Sands so Sally went on ahead alone to wait.  She became sick and eventually went into septic shock.  She went to a "doc in the box" who treated her for nausea when she asked for antibiotics.  The next day he said he couldn’t help her and called an ambulance to take to the hospital emergency room as she could no longer drive.  Bob only found out when he was paged in the LA airport and told he needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. The first three days they could not tell Bob whether she was going to survive or not.  The actual message was, “She is hanging over a cliff and we are reaching for her but we don’t have a hold yet.” She was in the hospital for five weeks with nineteen days in the ICU.  Septic shock causes the capillaries to shut down.  That affects the lungs and extremities the most.  She was put on 100% oxygen to keep her alive which is not a good thing for long periods of time because it turns the lungs to “leather” and will eventually kill you.   While she eventually began to improve, her fingers and toes turned black. She had to have all her fingers beyond the first knuckle surgically removed except for thumbs which she begged to keep. All but her little toes also had to be removed.  

Bob got a medical leave from work to stay with her, and her mother and sister also came out to stay with her.  However, the last week Bob had to leave to attend their son’s wedding so Sally’s secretary and her secretary’s daughter, Beth, came out to stay with her.  On September 10, 2001 they took Sally directly from the hospital to the plane to return to Huntsville.  They landed in LA the morning of 9/11 and all flights were grounded.  Beth, not being a shy person, pushed her way to the head of the long car rental line and said she needed a van for a medical emergency.  For the next three days they drove straight from LA to Huntsville.  At every stop Beth would drag out a suitcase to put on the ground beside the van for Sally to step down on.  That trip served as Sally’s in residence PT!

Sally returned to work as head of research and development for Huntsville City Schools.  However the stress of her job and the lasting effects of her septic shock were too much.  In 2005 she took an early retirement  from her administrative position and as a former Special Education teacher with Huntsville City Schools.

Sally deserves respite! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Attending a Huntsville Alzheimer's Association Conference

Met a speaker, Chanda Mills Crutcher, founder of American Senior Assistance Program, who really had common sense about seniors and caregiving. Her friend had wanted us to meet and we did! She even had me rap at the end of her talk. 

I did my rap about helping seniors. Oh my goodness! They were recording me in the audience! Bad hair day as usual! They just needed to see this on YouTube where it is called "Technology" by my producers. 

Also talked with Sally who is the 24/7 caregiver for her mom. She was on the verge of tears. I emailed several in her church who might be able to help. 

One excellent workshop was on Alzheimer's proofing the home by Jason Parks, Lead Pastor & Chief Executive Officer, Refuge Church. I wish I had had that workshop years  ago. If you have been following this blog you know that I went through "The House That Cleans Itself" several years ago and with each room I thought about safety for the home. Hope to get together with Jason for input on that dissertation. 

This workshop was in The Cooper House auditorium -- a facility owned by the church I attend. 

Cooper House With Large Auditorium in Back
Walking to workshop with church in the background
Back to writing my caregiving dissertation while seeing that Sally gets respite from her church. 


Monday, October 19, 2015

The Plot Thickens: Helping a Young Couple

I walk my dog, Ziggy, all over now since he doesn't have that Plant City backyard, I downsized and Ziggy and I live in my new apartment. In the morning and late afternoon walks we meet people and sometimes other dogs being walked in my new city of Huntsville, Alabama.

I had been hearing sermons on being there for my world. And so it was outside my apartment that I met "Billy and Kelly" (not their real names). They were intrigued by my dog and stopped to talk with me. Since they were obviously young, I rapped for them—my fun "Boredom Games" rap that is now on YouTube. It was Saturday and I invited them to my church here in Huntsville the next day. Only they weren't ready and took a rain check. 

In the meanwhile life happened and Kelly had to go to the hospital to have her kidney stones removed.  Billy’s mom had their baby born in June while she was hospitalized. When no one would come to the Huntsville hospital to pick her up so she could be with Billy and their baby, Kelly had a melt-down. She was sent to a psyche ward in Anniston. Billy's mother had their car because she was making payments on that car and helping Billy pay the rent and the car payment while he was looking for work. She lived about an hour away in Athens. Resourceful while Kelly was in the hospital, Billy walked and found a job in a restaurant; he has to walk 45 minutes to the job and back and still does.

I didn’t hear from them for a while. After about ten days Kelly was ready to be picked up and Billy texted me to tell me what had happened and why she was in an Anniston, Alabama hospital several hours away. Billy said he was looking for a way to get there to pick her up. His mother wouldn’t do that.

I could do that, I said. It was fall break here and I didn’t have substitute jobs all week. That next day Tuesday, Oct. 6th, Billy got off work and we headed south for several hours to Anniston. Beautiful rolling hills and small towns kept me entertained and I got to know Billy and his family more. Billy and Kelly appeared to be Christians struggling to make ends meet and hoping to get married and raise their son together. I commend them for not getting an abortion and staying together.  See my rap lyrics from a year ago for “While You’re Still One” on this blog. (That rap is not on YouTube yet.  Alabama is a pro-life state and the high school students here like, but I was informed last year at one high school in Florida, to not say that rap.) 

I parked outside the hospital while Billy went into the Anniston hospital. I heard that Kelly jumped into his arms and also did the “happy dance”. She was free from the depressing psyche ward and rescued by her boyfriend and myself whom she decided to call “Mimi”, short for grandma. We ate at KFC on the way home. Kelly had me sneak some chicken in my large purse before we left and it occurred to me how really poor these seemingly happy young parents were.

Two days later the grandma, Billy’s mother, informed them that the DHR was involved and they wouldn’t be able to get their baby back.That next day, Friday, while Billy was working, Kelly and I went to the sheriff’s office near the grandma’s Athens home. It was the end of the day and they couldn’t verify the status of the child with DHR. Saturday I washed weeks of their laundry that I folded and brought them Sunday morning. The three of us went to my church; they each went to Sunday School and sat by me in church.

Monday after my morning class at church on spiritual warfare (little did I know how much spiritual warfare would be involved as this story unfolded), Billy, Kelly and I went back to the sheriff’s office. I knew many new friends at the church were praying for this couple, including people in that spiritual warfare class. Monday was Columbus Day. The DHR office was not open on Columbus Day and for the second time the officers took no action, even suggesting the couple get a lawyer. 

The next day, Tuesday October 13, while I substituted in public school and Billy worked, Kelly took a bus to the DHR office in Huntsville and found out that the case was open, no lawyer was needed and they could get their son. Meanwhile Kelly picked up a house cleaning job for a senior lady who said she could bring her baby to the job. At this time I felt this couple would make it and just needed not a handout, but a “hand up”.

Their immaturity crept into the conversation and yet I was hopeful. For example, twenty-five year old Billy wanted an iPhone and kept talking about cars, not about Kelly and the baby. When the iPhone came in the mail, he sent Kelly a text about getting an Otter Box for his precious new iPhone with his first week’s pay. Now there were more important things needed in my opinion and Kelly thought so also. The next day out of the blue Billy was given an Otter Box by someone who lived at their apartment house. Nineteen year old Kelly talked about Billy and the baby and was under a lot of stress, but seemed to be coping and to be more realistic than Billy. I wondered how sincere Billy was and kept trying to counsel both of them.

Wednesday, October 14, after her housekeeping job, while Billy worked, I drove Kelly back to that sheriff’s office. It took some time for the story to be confirmed by DHR, but the officer drove with us to the house in the country where the infant was. Kelly and I waited in my car in the country outside that grandmother's house. The SUV co-owned by Billy and his mother was in the driveway. Finally the sheriff’s deputy came out with the diaper bag.  That lady had produced no document that she was in fact to have custody of her grandson. After some time the deputy delivered the baby in the infant car seat. Kelly and baby were reunited in my back seat. The baby happily sucked on his mother’s finger when he wasn’t sleeping while we drove back to Huntsville. Billy had walked 45 minutes home from his job. 

Kelly is on Facebook and apparently the grandmother sent her a message that night: “What the [swear word] do you think you are doing!” Kelly blocked her then.

Thursday after my sub job I texted Billy who was on a bus with Kelly and the baby after his work. They were going to Social Security to have a benefit transferred to Billy’s address from his mother’s address. It was about 5 pm that I picked them up so they wouldn’t have to take a bus back to their apartment. I felt that this Social Security check that I understood to be from his late father was good news that there would be more income. This happened to be the last day I saw them recently. I let them know that I would be busy Friday with a morning sub job and entertaining my family that night, but looked forward to going to church with them on Sunday.

Kelly’s cell phone needed a new battery, and so I texted Billy to ask where they were on Saturday. No answer. I went by their apartment. No one was home. No one was home Sunday morning also when I was scheduled to take the three of them including the baby to church.

During my times driving them around this past two weeks I aggressively counseled this young couple. I shared Scripture about perseverance and bearing their own burdens; we talked about a wedding. They prayed with me at times and also said that they had been reading Scripture.  I had un-friended Billy because of his questionable posts on Facebook and told him that when he cleaned up his act I would be his Facebook friend again and also that I preferred his real name to a pseudonym. His explanation for the pseudonym is that at one point he sold prescription meds when he was younger and didn’t want people to contact him. I was glad that he didn’t sell drugs anymore, but still concerned about his maturity and character. 

Sunday night I got a clue as to what was happening when Kelly updated her Facebook photo. There is a conversation below that updated photo. Kelly writes, “[Billy] kicked me to the curb and is trying to take [the baby].”

Someone writes: “This is moma I will help u always and I will never leave u again.’
Kelly writes: “I know I love you momma.”
Further Facebook conversation indicates that someone else went to get Kelly (and the possibly the baby) so she wouldn’t be out on the street. It is cold now.

I have no idea where all three are now, but “Mimi’s” heart is broken and so is Kelly’s. Please pray for the baby who one day may want to know what happened to his real parents.