(With apologies to Lisa Black, author of the article "Walking a Mile in the Shoes of My Elderly Mom Ain't Easy," which was published in the Chicago Tribune on January 3, 2011.)
Subject: Re: Walking a mile in the shoes of my elderly mom ain't easy
Hello! I hope you didn't think I forgot you. When this message arrived, I was smack in the middle of something inane with my mother .... I think it was requesting her medical records from the orthopedic surgeon's office for the second time. His medical records person/X-ray tech (don't ask me how she fills both roles) had just explained that I had
picked them up quite some time ago ... er ... that she had faxed them to me ... er ... that she didn't have the report of surgery but she could get it from the hospital and mail or fax it to me.
Finally the records arrived, and they were even in time for her final appointment for her broken leg on Thursday.
I usually let the nursing home know a few days ahead of time when I'm going to pick up Mother for a doctor appointment. So the weekend before Valentine's Day, I began trying to call. I kept getting the recorded message "All circuits are busy; please try your call again later," so I kept calling. Finally on Tuesday, 2/15, I called the cell phone number of the admissions director--a number that I just happened to have (another long story). She said the phones had been out of order for several days because of the big snow but that someone had called me to let me know. That was news to me. Eventually I spoke to the nurse on Mother's floor and explained that I would pick up
Mother at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, 2/17, for a doctor appointment. The nurse said she'd make a note of it. That way Mother would have breakfast early and be ready to go. I didn't explain that the doctor's office was about five minutes away.
At a few minutes before 9:00 on Thursday morning, I arrived to pick up Mother. (I'm almost never early for this type of appointment.) Mother was in the dining room with a breakfast tray, but it looked like she was finished. I gave her a little Valentine's Day present and card because, after all, I was early and we had plenty of time. As Mother was eating a chocolate, I went to her room and got her coat. It took a little coaxing for me to get Mother to stand up and put her coat on. Just as I was pulling the coat onto her second arm, I noticed a puddle in the wheelchair that was dripping onto the floor. Mother managed to remain standing while I pulled the coat off before it got soaked. Then I whisked her to the bathroom and got a diaper and clean pants. As I did that, someone went to get the aide assigned to Mother that day, and the nurse apologized for forgetting the appointment.
At 9:20 we were waiting at the elevator, and I was explaining to Mother that I would REALLY need her help to get right into the car. By 9:30 we were safely in the car (wheelchair tossed into an unclosed trunk). We headed the
few blocks to Wilmette Avenue--where there were no open parking spots! Oh, wait, I could see one farther down the block. Even with her dementia, Mother knows when I'm stressed out, and she can really pull herself together to cooperate. Getting her out of the car was just as easy as getting her in. I ran her down the street to the doctor's office.
We were greeted by a pleasant receptionist who handed me a sheaf of papers to complete--medical history and such. Never mind that Mother saw this doctor about 2 years earlier when she had broken the other leg. I'm filling out the paperwork without any problem until I come to the list of medications. Now because the nurse forgot the appointment she didn't send me with the standard paperwork, including a long and complicated list of Mother's
medications. So I just wrote "numerous" in that section.
Finally, at about 10:30 we were called to an examining room, and the physician assistant questioned me--somewhat disapprovingly--about the missing medication information. I listed what I could remember. A few minutes later an X-ray technician--an extremely tidy and polite man--took Mother for her X-ray and closed the exam room door. That's when I caught a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door.My hair was sticking straight up, my face was flushed, and sweat was streaking down my face.
So yes, walking a mile in the shoes of my elderly mom ain't easy.
And tonight I went to see her solely to get her to signature on a VA form. The last time I asked her to write something she didn't have any trouble. This time, though, it took about 15 minutes of badgering and modeling before I resorted to threats. I explained that we could only afford to keep her there if she could sign the paper. Finally I gave her firm and loud directions to "WRITE YOUR NAME. YES. Write Margaret. NO, Mother, I need you to write your name. Your last name is WALKER. Write WALKER here. WALKER. Write a W," and so it went for about 15 minutes. The signature is a little iffy, but I think it's believable. After all, she has dementia.
Well, that's how things are with me. How are you doing?
Causes Susan Walker Supports
The Posse Foundation