Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not A Creature Was Stirring

I find myself, strangely, home alone tonight. Completely alone. With the possible exception of the dog, 3 goldfish and an elf who has taken up temporary residence here until Santa takes him back on Christmas Eve. Which is tomorrow. Wow, it's already Christmas and I can't say that I'm sad to see 2008 go away. This year has been filled with a lot of trials and tribulations for my family. Here's a synopsis of life for us this year:

You might remember that as January began we were dealing with Pal having MRSA. That was one of the most disgusting things I've ever dealt with (see posts from last February, there are pictures...). The last flare-up he had was in July, and I am hoping that we are MRSA free, forever.
February brought many changes to my immediate family. My Father, after several close calls with my Mom wandering out of the house, and at all hours of the night, finally made the decision to move my Mom into an Assisted Living Facility. Our original plan was to move both of them into this one place we had already picked out, but my Dad decided that he wanted to stay at their house and just move my Mom. It was one of the hardest things we, as a family, and I, as an individual, have EVER had to do. Of course, all of us had assumed that once the "burden" of my Mom was off of my Dad's shoulders, he would regain his former life and continue on in freedom. However, this was NOT the case at all. My Dad became almost reclusive, drinking to drown the sorrow over the loss of the life he once shared with my Mom. It was something none of us saw coming, and we began the process of talking about selling the house and moving him elsewhere. He has always wanted to go to this one retirement community which is an excellent place for active seniors, but my Mom never wanted to go. I am thankful that I can say that we have SOLD his house and he will be going to that retirement community in January!

March brought on another problem my Hubby and I were dealing with, and that was Pal. His inability to pay attention or control his impulses had reached a boiling point at school, and he was ending up in trouble with the Principal, a LOT. Our suspicions had been suspicions long enough, and with the encouragement of Pal's teacher and lots of "discussions" between Hubby and I, we decided to have him evaluated by a team of professionals. Of course, we were not surprised in the least to have them tell us that he was "classic case" ADHD. He is not hyperactive, and there are other signs and symptoms of ADHD that he does NOT display, but the impulse control (or lack thereof) and inability to pay attention were the symptoms he displayed greatly. I felt so scared, but reassured that we were not crazy, and Pal's problems were not due to bad parenting or lack of discipline. Funny, how your own words can come back to bite you -- I had said many, many times previous to having my own child that I thought ADHD was a copout for those parents who didn't discipline their kids!!! Open mouth, insert foot. Thankfully, since he was diagnosed and put on a very low dose of medicine, his behavior at school and his grades are definitely MUCH better! He even commented to me yesterday that "he is so glad that the medicine helps him to act better because he hasn't been to the Principal's office once this whole year!". Thank God for small favors!!!

In April my father-in-law had a knee replacement surgery and everything went really well. That was until they looked at some blood-test results and his Ph levels were sky high. He ended up needing a transfusion in the hospital, and they sent him for a bone-marrow test. It turns out that he has leukemia. CML to be exact - Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. It is highly treatable and is not fatal, but it does explain the chronic fatigue he suffers from, as well as some other minor complications. He has been taking an oral chemo drug for 6 months and his Ph levels have evened out. He still has bad days but overall is feeling well.

May was fairly uneventful, with the exception of Pal's allergies. This poor kid looked like someone punched him repeatedly in the eyes! They were so swollen, and we were back and forth to the Pedi several times before they found a medication that worked. Another major event in our life was that Hubby went back to being self-employed. This was what he has wanted for a long time and now that I carry our health insurance it was the perfect time.

June brought dental problems for me, a nasty fall for a close friend of mine in which she was hospitalized and in rehab for almost a month. She ended up with the same injury as Christopher Reeve, except she didn't sever her spinal chord. Then the Assisted Living Facility (ALF) where my Mom was called us and said she needed to go to the hospital Psych ward and be evaluated because they "just can't handle her". Basically what was happening was she needed to use the bathroom (urgently most times) and because of her Alzheimer's she couldn't find the bathroom and would end up having an accident on the floor. And it was usually in someone else's room, or in the director's office. It was obviously embarrassing for my Mom, who was always an extremely proud and independent person, and she began refusing their help. She wouldn't allow them to help her clean herself, and she wouldn't allow them to put a "Depends" on her either. In my opinion, and hindsight, this was mainly because they just didn't WANT to deal with her. She was evaluated and in the Psych ward for 2 weeks, where they had her on a toilet schedule and she was allowing them to help her with her hygiene. As soon as she went back to the ALF, the same behavior started (and they didn't stick to the toilet schedule, either!).

In July, we got another phone call that my Mom had fallen and they sent her back to the hospital; our opinion is that she had not fallen, but they were shorthanded and didn't have the staff to deal with her. In all of this, we were adjusting her medications to see if that would help. When she went back to the ALF, the dosages they had her on made her catatonic and very lethargic. Funnily enough we stopped receiving complaint calls from the ALF while she was so doped up.

July also brought about my niece K's surgery, which I posted about a few times. This was an extremely stressful time for my sister, and obviously our whole family. K came through the operation fine, but hit a few bumps on the road to recovery and didn't end up going back to college like she had planned. Her healing has taken much longer than she expected and because she is such a "go-getter" she has had a hard time adjusting to a slower pace. Right now, she is improving every day and is hoping to return to college in January.

August. This was our emotional roller-coaster month. My Mother-in-law was laid off from her job of 10 years and this was especially hard on her, mostly because it bruised her ego a bit. I don't mean to imply that she has an ego, but that getting laid off was a tough pill to swallow for her.

On August 5th, my Dad and I went to my Mom's ALF for her 6-month evaluation. The director sat with us and told us that although my Mom gets agitated, they can handle whatever she throws at them. She reassured us, several times, that my Mom's behavior was 100% normal and typical of someone with Alzheimer's. We left there feeling pretty good about where Mom was. Then the end of the month rolls around and we get a call that they were sending her back to the hospital because they had seen blood in her stool. We knew this already, because it had been discovered previously that she was severely anemic and her doctor felt that she was most likely bleeding internally. Because my Mom would refuse most tests needed to determine where the bleeding was coming from, the doctor put her on iron pills and told us to consider a colonoscopy. My Mom would never, ever, have agreed to a colonoscopy in her RIGHT mind, so we said no.

Well, when the ALF sent her back to the hospital this time, the doctors at the hospital agreed to keep her in the hospital to do the colonoscopy, and that we should find out what was wrong with Mom for our own health history, if nothing else. My sister, C, had a very hard time making this decision but we all reassured her it was the right thing to do. They prepped her for 2 days before and did the colonoscopy on Tuesday. The preliminary results came back the next day: huge, bleeding polyp, most likely malignant. Colon cancer. Wow. I hadn't even given cancer a second thought, but with our recent family issues with colons, I shouldn't be surprised. The doctor told us that my Mom has probably had this for some time, and she could live a long time with it. It was, however, inoperable. She was released back to the ALF and we contemplated what to do about this new diagnosis.
This was now the end of August. The ALF called me to complain that nobody had notified them of my Mom's return and they were not prepared to care for her, so we would have to hire a 24-hour assistant for her. HUH? Isn't that what we are paying YOU for??? Someone even mentioned to my sister that we should probably start looking for another "place" for my Mom, because they were just unable to care for her there. This threw us into a tizzy, because most places have waiting lists. My sister and I went to a few different ALF's but didn't find one that seemed capable of handling my Mom. We finally found a Nursing Home (NH) that had a bed available, and my sister's sister-in-law was also a nurse at this NH. They took her with no questions asked, and we could not have been more grateful to get my Mom out of that godforsaken ALF.

September has arrived at this point, and Mom settled in nicely at the new NH. School has begun, I am back to work, and things are actually calm for once.

October, though, brought us to the death of a close family friend. You can read my full post dedication to Mrs. D. in August of this year.
Another friend formerly of our campground also passed away, 7 weeks to the day of being diagnosed with cancer.
Toward the end of the month, Hubby's Nana, who turned 90 in September, took a turn for the worse. We had a family trip to Disney planned and were obviously worried about Nana. All we could do was pray that the two didn't interfere. I know it's not nice to think about someone's death affecting your vacation, but let's be serious and think of all the money that would be lost - there were 13 of us going on this trip.

Sadly, Nana passed away on November 1. We buried her 2 days before our big trip. (Thanks, Nana!!) The Disney trip was definitely the highlight of our year. Of course, there are always highlights to go with the lowlights in life, but unfortunately it seems like we can only remember the low.

As we enter into this Christmas season, I know it will be difficult not having my Mom by our side during our annual traditions. But I rest easy knowing she is safe, cared for, and comfortable where she is. I visited her today and will say a prayer for her on Christmas. I will miss her deeply, too.

I can only hope that happier times are ahead for my family. The end of December 2008will bring about a lot of change for my Dad as he prepares to move out of the house he's lived in for 46 years. My prayer, and I hope you all will join me in praying for this: 2009 will begin a fresh start to those who need it, and a new outlook on life for my Dad.

I'm sorry for the Bah-Humbug post! I really do wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Happy New Year.


1 comment:

Manic Mommy said...

Blogging is so good if for no other reason than to get the thoughts out of your head. If you've read Harry Potter, it's a Pensieve.

I read every word and I am wishing you and your family a much better 2009. Blessing to all.