It’s been a while since I’ve needed to use a baby monitor in my son’s room, but I keep it on because his bedroom is just across the hall from mom’s bedroom and having the monitor on allows me to hear at night if either needs me.
I first began using a baby monitor several years after my mother had a nasty fall while visiting relatives. Her recovery required a nursing home stay and months of physical therapy before she could return to our house, which had a divided floor plan. I used the baby monitor so I could hear her during the night if she was having any distress or needed my help going to the bathroom.
One particular night instead of a hearing uncontrolled coughing or my name being called, I awoke to the sound of bumps coming from the vicinity of her room. I soon realized that the noise was the sound of her walker banging against the hallway walls as she made her way to the bathroom. I couldn’t help but smile because it was the first time she had been able to stand and go to the bathroom without human assistance since her accident. It was the best scary bump in the night sound I ever heard.
A doctor measures the blood sugar level of an elderly patient.
I recently returned from a business trip to find my mom sick with a nasty cold. As with young kids, you always have to pay special attention to elderly people when they are sick because most have other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or even some coronary or bronchial condition that may complicate their recovery.
My mom has several complications but I keep a close eye on her diabetes, especially if she’s not eating or has been vomiting. Her doctor has told me to frequently check her blood glucose, or “Sugar” as I was raised hearing it called, to make sure her glucose level doesn’t get to low. If it does, I’ve been told to decrease the amount of insulin she takes while she’s sick and on a few occasions I’ve been told to withhold it altogether. Like many medicines, insulin needs something to counteract its affect and if my mom isn’t eating much or vomiting what she has eaten, her usual dose of insulin could cause her blood sugar to plummet and lead to serious medical issues.
Of course Mom hates getting her finger pricked to get the blood, but better safe than sorry. Also we use Embrace Blood Glucose Monitoring System, which administers a milder prick and also allows me to take blood from Mom’s forearm or someplace else that won’t hurt as much. I also like that you don’t have to code the system when you begin using a new box of test strips, and that the machine talks allowing users with limited or no vision to check their own glucose levels.
I’d love to know if you have had similar advice or other suggestions from your physician about caring for your elderly parents when they are sick.
I said in my previous post that my mom’s referral to the dietitian was probably the most important one we received because it’s helped me manage her diabetes just as much as the medications she takes.
With all the low-carb diet books and articles out nowadays, today’s twenty-something may know that too many carbohydrates aren’t good for you. But when my elderly mother was growing up, eating carbs was a good thing. I believed the same thing for more than a third of my life. But too many carbs is a bad thing for diabetics, especially if they contain no dietary fiber. As her dietitian informed us, carbs break down very quickly as sugar in the bloodstream and cause energy spikes and lulls. So when my mom overindulged, her blood sugar would spike and she’d complain about not feeling well. Often times it meant she’d get dizzy, overheated or made frequent trips to the bathroom.
The dietician recommended five to six small meals a day rather than three big meals to control the amount of carbohydrates my mother ate. That meant trying to restrict her breakfasts and dinners to foods with portion sizes that contain around 60 grams of carbohydrates. For lunch it was 30 grams and snacks about 15 grams of carbs. So food labels were now on my list of required reading. And I learned that carbohydrates with no dietary fiber turned into sugar faster than carbohydrates with dietary fiber.
I’ve read the labels and tried portion sizes, but let’s face it, the routine can be difficult to stick to, especially when you’re joggling the responsibilities that go with work and family activities. And then there are the hostile looks that come when you tell your mother “you shouldn’t have that.” So I do simple things like using Splenda in her coffee, lemonade and homemade desserts. And to keep mom’s blood sugar from spiking when she wants a biscuit or something sweet, I give her some protein, such as deli meat or egg whites before or along with any high carb foods to help slow the rush of sugar into her system.
Another added benefit of eating protein with a meal is that it builds muscle and keeps her from getting hungry quickly, which can cut back on her desire to eat the candy she has stashed away.
If this information was helpful, feel free to share your thoughts. If you want to know more about how I manage carbohydrates in my mom’s diet, email me.
Within a week of moving in with me mom's health issues required an ambulance ride to a hospital emergency room
There I was, July 4th weekend, sitting in the hospital emergency room waiting for the results of my mom’s tests to come . She hadn’t been in town a week and we hadn’t even gotten a chance to visit her doctor yet.
My mom’s best friend Margaret had come down to help her get settled in her new home. She went with her in the ambulance while I followed in the car. It was a long night waiting for all those tests. Mom was hooked up to a heart monitor and other equipment. A definite sign they had concerns. Before they let her go, the hospital wanted to know her doctor’s name and when she was scheduled to see him. They’d wanted to forward her test results.
When we missed the first appointment with her new doctor because I couldn’t get the day off work, he called to reschedule – the first time I’d ever known that to happen. It wasn’t the ideal conversation to have when meeting your doctor for the first time, but I remember it clearly and I’m grateful for it.
“I don’t know you well,” the doctor told us, worried we’d blow him off or might not like his tone or candor about what needed to happen. But he was blunt about mom’s weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose level (sugar as most diabetics call it), and everything else. “You’re a prime candidate for a heart attack or a stroke. I’m afraid the next call I get about you is that you are in an intensive care unit.”
Deep down I knew mom’s health was bad. She could only walk a short distance without stopping and when she did, her breathing was heavy, no matter how minor the activity. By now I’d learned that whenever we went somewhere together I had to add anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes onto the errand.
Although mom chalked some things up to getting older, I’m sure she knew things were not right, but I don’t think she took it seriously until that day. Face sullen, bottom lip poked out like a child who has just been scolded, mom got quiet, probably because she was trying to let the news sink in.
We both were. Moving her in with me and assuming responsibility for her care just got a lot more complicated. From preparing daily meals and medicine, to finding help to care for her while I worked, my list of things to do instantly became mostly about her. And if her quality of life was going to get better, I was going to have to do it right.
In additions to the several prescriptions mom needed, her doctor gave us some referrals, including one to a dietitian. That was probably the most important. Come back later and I’ll tell you why?
My mom has lived with me for more than 10 years now. But oh how naïve I was when I moved her to Missouri to live with me within weeks of finishing graduate school and taking a new job in an entirely new industry than what I had done for more than 10 years.
Ironically, I thought senior care would be easier for me in the St. Louis area than in New York. I had planned to move back to Brooklyn to be closer to family and work on Wall Street. I even turned down the job in St. Louis, I eventually took to do it. But my first interview in New York for an associate research analyst position convinced me and mom that it was a bad idea. I was informed that I’d be expected to work about 14 hours a day and on Saturdays. Sure, I’d get car service home, but after that kind of day, who’d have time for anything or anyone else.
When mom heard that, she finally agreed to leave New York after living there almost 40 years. She resisted for years because she liked her independence and preferred to have a place her children could come to if we ever needed it. But in the end, she agreed to move because she didn’t want me working those kinds of hours and coming home late at night. Luckily the gig in St. Louis was still open and my employer agreed to pay for my mom’s move as well. (Those were the good old days).
Like I said, I was naïve when I moved her in because I honestly thought bringing her to live with me would almost be like having a roommate, but one with a little more needs. We’d eat together, do a little shopping and keep each other company when I home. So my mother wouldn’t be bored and lonely when I was at work and I wouldn’t worry about her being in unfamiliar surroundings, she’d attend a adult day program and make friends at a new church.
I learned better within days of my mother’s arrival in my home. It was the first weekend in July and we were still living in the temporary housing. In less than a week, mom was supposed to visit her new doctor so he could, at the very least, check her sugar level and prescribe the insulin and other medications she’d need.
But her health wouldn’t let her wait a week. After dinner, mom started complaining of chest pains and dizziness, so I checked her blood glucose level and blood pressure. Both were dangerously high although I didn’t know it when I called the paramedics. When they arrived, they apparently didn’t like what they saw either and took her to the hospital.
It was a long night and my reality check on how my life was about to change. But we survived and you will too. Stay tuned for how we did it. In the meantime, how about sharing your elder care wake up call or reality check.
After nearly a year of trying to get the blog to look more appealing and wondering if I should feature more breaking news, I decided it’s the content that matters. And what seems to matter most to the people I talk to when it comes to taking care of a parent or elderly loved one is how to do it. Friends often ask what to do. How to do it, and what type of help they can get and where they can get it.
So I’ve decided to go back to my original idea of sharing snippets of my experiences taking care of my mom. I hope others can learn from these offerings as they take on or consider taking a larger role in their aging or disabled parent’s care.
I’ll also include breaking news about things that can or will affect the elderly and what it may mean for people across the country and in my community. I invite you to share your experiences and ask questions by posting a comment or sending an email via the contact page. If I can’t help you, perhaps a reader can.
Photo By Anissa Thompson
I sincerely hope that after reading MyMothersKeeper many of you will understand that becoming your mother or father’s caregiver is doable whether you do so in your own home, or remotely from your own or even from another community. I don’t regret a single day because I don’t have to lose sleep worrying if my mom is eating, taking her medicine or is safe alone in her home. And I don’t have to worry about someone abusing or taking advantage of her.
It’s bad enough that Medicare is running out of money and that elderly people can’t afford their medication and treatment they desperately need. But the Associated Press reported today that 36 people, including health care providers and Medicare recipients, were arrested for involvements in Medicare scams totally $251 million.
Of the group, six patients are accused of selling their Medicare numbers to various clinics so the clinics could make false claims. One woman’s Medicare number was reported to be used to make more than 3,700 claims over six years – services she never received.
Now I don’t know the full story, but folks make sure that your parents and loved ones don’t fall victim to scams involving senior citizens by smooth talking con artists. If for no other reason, you the taxpayer won’t have to pay the bill and maybe, just maybe Americans will be able to afford health care in the future.
Assuming full or part-time care of a parent can be a daunting experience, especially if you have a job and family of your own. You want to make sure your parent is healthy and comfortable, but taking on their care usually means you also want to make sure they remain as active as possible as they age without always having to be the designated planner and chauffeur for all their social and medical needs.
Fortunately, the more than 54 million Americans who provide care to a relative, elder, or friend 50 years or older don’t’ have to do it alone. There are numerous organizations in or near your community that offer senior services and programs to help you keep your parent active while you work, play and even travel.
Courtesy Via Christi Hope
One of my favorite services is adult day care programs, which my family has utilized in some capacity for more than 10 years. There are several programs for adults with special needs and disabilities in Kansas, but only two Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) in Kansas. Via Christi Hope operates the PACE program in the Wichita area. Midland Care in Topeka, operates the PACE program in the northeastern part of the state.
In addition to providing daily activities and meals for adults 55 years and older for several hours a day, PACE can provide transportation, including escorts to and from the client’s front door (my personal favorite), in-home attendant care, on-site medical care and restorative therapy. PACE also provides temporary overnight or respite care at their facility or nursing home for your relative if you have to travel or want to take a vacation.
Other adult day programs may not provide the medical assistance PACE does. Those may be the programs to consider if you want to keep your parent’s personal doctor.
In general, all adult day program provides ample activities to keep your elder socially connected and you from becoming overwhelmed. And each program allows their client’s primary caregiver to meet regularly with staff members to plan a parent’s care.
Honestly, I would not have been able to bring my mother into my home and care for her and continue to work full-time and start my own family without the help of an adult day service. And I know it would have been harder for my mother to establish her own set of friends in a new city if she hadn’t been enrolled in an adult day program.
One of the hardest things about receiving cancer treatment is how you look and feel. The nausea, hair loss and blotchy skin often are constant reminders that you’re sick. But cancer patients who’ve been through it say a little lip stick and eyebrows can go a long way towards helping you feel better. And the American Cancer Society continues to do its part to help with the little things.
I learned that the organization sponsors a “Look Good…Feel Better” program that teaches patients with cancer how to cope with appearance-related side effects caused by cancer treatment.
They even give participants who attend a free session a free makeup kit that includes more than $200 worth of products and instruction from a licensed cosmetologist on how to enhance your appearance. Because chemotherapy and radiation affect patients immune system, instructors also tell patients how to care for the applicators and how long they should keep their makeup.
Jennifer Kelley, a communications manager with the ACS’ health initiative said the skin undergoes major changes during cancer treatment.
“You can have dry flaky skin or dark or red blotchy skin. The session talks about things like enhancing your moisturizer and how to draw on eyebrows,” she said. “Some patients have said if I know I’m looking better I have a tendency to feel better.”
ACS’ next Look Good…Feel Better session in Wichita is Monday July 19 at the Via Christi Cancer Resource Center located at 817 N. Emporia. Participants have to be active chemotherapy or radiation patients and make-up kits are provided only if patients are able to attend a local session with two or more participants.
Sessions may not be available in every area, but to find one near you, visit lookgoodfeelbetter.org and type in your zip code for a list program locations. Kelley said patients who are unable to attend a session may schedule a one-on-one session with a licensed cosmetologist, but will have to provide their own makeup. Patients also may receive a self-help video by calling (800) 277-2645. Men with cancer also can receive information on how to better care for their skin, hair, body and stress by visiting lookgoodfeelbetterformen.org.
When I look at mom she sometimes reminds me of that MasterCard commercial where the announcer puts a price tag on the cost of items people buy to make themselves feel good. Take for example the ad where Olive Oil from the cartoon Popeye spends $40 on a Wonder-bra. She is still flat chested, but the fantasy of what the bra has done for bust-line has Olive Oil batting her eyes like a Hollywood femme fatale. In that same commercial is a scene of Fred Flintstone doing a ballet (something he did to improve his bowling average), followed by the tag line, “Being happy with yourself… priceless.”
That’s my mom. She can’t see. Anything. In fact, she’s blind and has had vision problems all of her life. But according to my aunties, in her day, mom was the envy of many women with her Coca Cola bottle shape. Mom blames her expanded waistline on giving birth to three kids.
Despite the vision problems, and losing her own mother when she was an infant, mom managed to get a college degree, raise three kids after leaving my father, put us through private school and see us graduate from college. When we were kids, she even worked as a police officer for a brief stint.
Her health problems grew over the years. Nowadays she has diabetes and high blood pressure to name a few illnesses. But there’s no apparent longing for the old days. Why should she? She doesn’t have to worry about as much nowadays. She leaves that to me. Like Fred Flintstone, she’s happy with herself.