Archive for the '(if) Elder (why) Care' category

The Cabbage is Sad

I've been eating a soup of struggle, pain, and loss for the past two years. Still I have not found my way back to the center, and I begin to suspect there is no one who will or can say "stop, little pot".

Mr. Z and I throw in a dash of bluegrass festival or getaway vacation or just an evening's Jeopardy-watching marathon to season, as we can. In this way it is possible to continue eating the soup; our eyes meet over the rim of our bowls, and we remember the world-without-soup.

In the past few months, we have been eating the soup of sorting, packing, giving away, and leave-taking. My siblings and I are clearing out the house my mother lived in for over eighty years, the house she was, literally, born in, so that it can be sold. Mr. Z and I are helping his parents winnow down their already-once-winnowed possessions for the move from two-bedroom condo to daughter's house. Three lifetime's worth of belongings form a river past our selves; some diverted to siblings, some to charity, some to us, until the river will dry up. As our tributary washes in the front door I begin to dig a channel out the back, pouring in unworn clothing, unused bedding, dishes-replaced-with-dishes, furniture-with-furniture. My channel is no match for the tributary, itself a tiny offshoot of the river; the house floods with worldly goods, memories, and regrets. The river itself would drown me if I am not careful.

Yesterday evening Mr. Z came home with three pottery bowls and a cookbook. You've seen the type; a church or community or extended family gathers favorite and treasured recipes; they are typed up, printed, often spiral bound with a cover evoking embroidery or tatted lace. This morning I began reading the tales of food, love, friends and family. Appetizers and Pickles proved disappointing. How many Taco Dip recipes does one need? The next section was Soup, and there it was, first recipe on the first page: Cabbage and Potato Soup. Hungarians, cabbage and potato soup - surely this will be good. The ingredients list included Kalbasz and sour cream; very promising. And then the first instruction:

Place cabbage in large bowl; sprinkle with salt. Allow it to get sad.

If only this cookbook came with a bubba! Perhaps a DVD bubba, if a real-life one cannot be assigned. A bubba to say "this is how cabbage looks and feels when it is sad; this is what I mean by 'stir occasionally'; lard will not kill you, eat, eat!; done but not mushy is like this; season to taste just so; and here is where you can get real Kalbasz, or how to make it if the old ones are all gone."

Alas, it does not. My mother is gone. My mother-in-law is moving away. I shall have to content myself with My Grandmother's Ravioli. And imagine I am a bubba myself, and try the Cabbage and Potato soup recipe. I will allow the cabbage to get sad; I will stir occasionally; I will cook until tender; I will cook until done but not mushy. I will mix and return to pot. I will season to taste, and I will always remove scum from top of water when cooking with small strainer.

I will do all this, as A.W. asked, in memory of E.R., and in honor of all the bubbas who so willingly cooked and served up food and love against the struggle, pain, and loss, all throughout my life.

6 responses so far

I Wasn't Hearing That So Nicely For So Long

Last night I found a note I’d written to myself at least two and maybe three years ago, at the end of a beach vacation.

The ocean’s so vast – we can’t imagine it fished out.  Mom has been with me so long – I can’t imagine I will lose her. We don’t want to imagine these things. We tell ourselves all is okay even in the face of blatant evidence to the contrary.

Z contemplates life, the universe, and everything

Z contemplates life, the universe, and everything

I knew, from the moment we first got the diagnosis of congestive heart failure for mom, that we were at the beginning of the end. I knew that CHF could be managed, but not cured. And even if it could be cured, there is no cure for life. I knew but as my father-in-law says when we offer information he is not thrilled to receive: “I don’t hear that.”

This was maybe in 2004.  As one does, I resolved to treat time as precious. Resolutions waver, especially in the face of one’s own chronic illness. I often think about the four relatively good years of mom’s life that I let slip by.

In the summer of 2007 she expressed a desire to go to Cape Hatteras once again. It was a family vacation spot with many happy memories.  My younger sister and I managed to take her there for a week in September. We did everything. She didn't even want to wheel by a little yellow flower without a closer look.

The flower she couldn't pass by.

The flower she couldn't pass by.

One night she had food poisoning from some bad shrimp. We feared that she would be out for the rest of the week; I knew how long a similar bout would knock me down. The next morning she up was up, ready, and determined to go. Perhaps she knew this would be her last vacation trip ever. I thought it would be her last. But I didn't hear that.

Happy feet at Hatteras

Happy feet at Hatteras

 

It was January of 2008 when she moved into assisted living.

I became her power of attorney and as time went on, became ever more intimately involved with her affairs and her life. She called me often, sometimes several times a day, and left little voice messages if she didn’t catch me. Suzanne, it’s me, I just called to talk a little bit. Okay, I’ll talk to you later. Bye-bye. Suzanne, it’s me. I just called to see if you’re watching the Steelers. Okay, talk to you later. Her Reader’s Digest subscription needed renewal; send a check to the KDKA Turkey Fund at Thanksgiving; donate to the Red Cross for the Haiti earthquake or the tsunami in Japan.  She would remind me to pay the hairdresser at the assisted living home, tell me to buy a lottery ticket when the jackpot got high (“and one for yourself!”), and ask me to “bring some extra cash” the next time I visited, to pay for some handmade cards purchased from a friend.

Her health status oscillated, each time the peaks scaling a little less height, the troughs diving a little deeper.  The cane left at home when she moved to AL; first a walker, then sometimes a transport chair or wheelchair, then almost always the chairs, while we were out and about. She said she dreamed of being at a home town wedding in the firehall, walking around and saying hi to everyone seated in the chairs around the edge of the dance floor, and I just walked and walked and walked! It was such a good dream! But it's never gonna be. I listened and I sympathized and I felt sad. Still, I didn't hear that, not really.

Last October she was in rehab; at the end of my visit, she tried to coax me to stay an extra day. In my mind I had to get back home for some damn thing. I'm not going to live forever, Suzanne she said. I really did not hear that.

Even as late as last Thanksgiving I was still not hearing so nicely. She'd gotten as strong as I'd seen her in years after a round of PT at the rehab facility and was so happy to be back at her assisted living home. She surely had at least another year yet. We had a glorious feast in her home with many family members present, and she tasted the pleasure of every moment. We made silly art sculptures from vegetable pieces and she laughed.

 

Thanksgiving spread at mom's house

Thanksgiving spread at mom's house

Veggie art

Veggie art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day she fell and broke her arm. In the ER she said to me "This ruins everything" and my heart broke.

I knew broken bones are often the death knell of the elderly; but I didn’t hear that. “It’s only her arm, not her hip” I soothed. “She will recover! It will just take time!” In the nursing home she experienced excruciating pain at the slightest jostling, and by Christmas she was a shadow of the vibrant woman she had been one holiday earlier. By the first week of January, when Dr. Bones pronounced her healed and said the sling could go, she didn’t give much of a good goddamn about anything.  Or perhaps more accurately: she would have given it, but she was clean out of goddamns, good or bad.

I knew for sure then that the end was very close, and yet, I was not having any hearing of that.  Maybe she needed her meds adjusted, or she wasn’t getting enough attention at the nursing home, or the right attention, or she needed to be encouraged more in rehab. Or a pony, or a unicorn.

One afternoon of the week I was to leave for Science Online 2013, waiting at a red light, I saw an unusual number of cars go through the intersection before me. I saw, but I didn’t see that. The light turned green and the line of traffic just kept on going through the intersection. One, two , three cars…what the hell…red light runners are so fucking annoying…I honked my horn. And then I saw that. I saw the last two cars with little flags attached to their hoods. Flags that said “funeral”.  Oh! Sorry, sorry, I mouthed, hands waving wildly as if that would both communicate my apology and magically ward off some kind of bad karma I had just created.

A few days later, during a meal at SciO13, my cell rang, and it was my younger sister. She told me mom had had what looked like a stroke, and she was having trouble talking, and they had taken her to the hospital for observation. I knew what that meant. And this time, I heard that. I heard everything my sister said, and some things she didn't.

I was on a plane the next morning and at mom's bedside by the afternoon. A few days later she had a grand mal seizure, and by the end of the week we had moved her back home with the help of hospice. Just one week more came the moment when I traded my role as power of attorney for that of executor. Tomorrow will be the half-year anniversary of the transition.

 

She lived a long life. I know how fortunate I am to have had that much time with her, to have been with her at the end, and for her end to have been in her own home as she had wished, as peaceful as we could make it. My grief is not exactly that she should have had more time in her life - not more years of increasing disability and sickness, for sure - but that she should have had more time in her life when I was more present, more respectful, more attentive to her as a person and not just my mom (but also my mom).

Some of you may know I wrote some things in her memory on Twitter; they are collected here in a Storify.

Thank you, dear Zuskateers, for reading this.

Z and Z-mom January 2007

Z-mom and Z, January 2007

 

16 responses so far

How Sentiment and Respect Can Leave Your Parents Vulnerable

Jan 29 2013 Published by under (if) Elder (why) Care, Tales From The Coal Patch

A woman's purse is a part of her person. Even hairy-legged feminazis know that. A purse is an intimate thing; it carries so much of a woman's life inside. If the woman is a mother, it also magically produces all sorts of things for her children: tissues, pieces of candy, bobby pins, loose change, ketchup packets, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and much more.

Of course a woman may have more than one purse, and will transfer contents from one to the other as the social occasion warrants, but the concept of a woman's purse more than any one purse is what I am talking about. The purse is a symbol of her autonomy and responsibility: she takes care for herself, and she takes care for others.

My mother's purse was ever-present, bountiful and authoritative. Z-mom was the family banker; her purse held the wallet that paid for groceries, clothing, or shoes. When at last she had to move to assisted living, her purse went with her. We knew she could not keep large amounts of cash with her but she wanted some money in her purse "just in case". We allowed $20. And her debit card. The debit card she wanted so that when we took her to doctor appointments, she could be the one to pay for lunch or dinner out. We bought a safe for her room but the purse never ended up in it; it was too awkward to get at and too difficult to open, and mom wanted her purse more accessible.

Inevitably, of course, some one of the low-paid staff stole her wallet out of her purse. The bank immediately recognized suspicious transactions and called me; we cancelled the card. Mom grieved the loss of the photos in her wallet more so than the few hundred dollars card theft (which, in any case, the bank reimbursed, as she was covered against fraud). Luckily, the wallet was found and returned to her, minus the $20 and the debit card. The thief and her boyfriend were caught on surveillance video and sentenced to some jail time. Mom's trust in the staff who cared for her took a hit. And we decided, no more debit card in the purse. My sisters would hold her card to use when they took mom out.

This was the right decision to protect mom against identify theft and fraud. We should have done it from the start. But it felt like cutting a hole in the bottom of her purse. Hacking out the purse was something we just couldn't bring ourselves to do at the time we were uprooting her from her life-long home for the potting soil of assisted living. So we left her exposed to theft.

Mom continued to take her purse with her when she went out, but sometimes we just took the handicap parking pass. Once or twice she remarked that there wasn't any point in her taking the purse since it wasn't needed for anything. This broke my heart. Your heart breaks at least three or four times a month when you are caring for your parents, if you are doing it right.

This past year has been full of grief and illness for Z-mom. From June to December, she underwent eleven transitions between her assisted living home, the hospital, rehab hospitals, and a skilled nursing home. The last straw was when she was finally back to her old self, but just for a few weeks; she fell and broke an arm. Back to skilled nursing. Recovery has been difficult. When I last saw her in early January she seemed distant. It was difficult to engage her. The thought occurred to me, we should take her rings home. She's so not herself, what if someone takes them off her hand? Or what if someone takes them off her for some reason for bathing and they are lost? And then I thought, what am I taking them home and saving them for? For when she is "better"? She's so depressed, won't this just make things worse? How can I go to her and tell her, you can't wear your wedding rings anymore, you can't wear your mother's ring with the six gemstones anymore? How can I take them away from her? Getting old is a process of gradually losing pieces of your life and autonomy. How can I say, even this, your wedding rings, you must lose, so that you can keep them? Keep them safe, so we can put them back on you in the casket?

So I said nothing. It turns out, my sister had much the same thoughts and doubts as I did. And, it turns out, we should have listened to ourselves. Z-mom's wedding rings are gone.

She says I took them off my hands to put lotion on and I put them on my tray table and then I forgot to put them back on and then they were gone. This doesn't make sense to me. How did she get the lotion? She can't reach it from her bed or wheelchair; someone had to give it to her. But also: she never takes her rings off, not for anything. Not for wringing out a mop while scrubbing floors, not while doing dishes, not while changing diapers, and definitely not while putting lotion on her hands. Why would she have taken them off, unless someone told her to?  I can't prove it, but in my heart I think someone stole her wedding rings, probably to sell for the gold.

A friend said to me, this is tragic, but in the scope of tragedies, keep in mind that she is safe, she isn't being abused, she doesn't have bedsores, her health is being well looked after. This is all true. But in the scope of all that Z-mom has been dealt in life and over the past six months, I say, really life? This too? Enough already.

What I would advise someone in a similar situation: if your elder loved one is in a senior living arrangement and is showing signs of confusion and/or dementia, take their rings home. When you come to visit them, bring the rings and let them wear and enjoy them while you are there with them. Then take them home again. It's not a perfect solution; you still have to rob them of another piece of their autonomy. But they won't be robbed of their rings, and you won''t have to try to console them over the loss of something that can never be replaced.

It's so very hard to make these choices. Everything you read about elderly people going into assisted living or nursing homes says, don't let them have anything valuable with them. But I haven't seen anything that gives advice on getting past the emotional roadblock involved in doing just that. "Don't let them have anything valuable" sounds sensible in the abstract. No thousand dollar bills or original Monet paintings in the room! That's easy! Taking someone's wallet and rings, however, feels a lot like saying "you're getting more feeble and closer to the grave each day, so just let me have hold of these things dear to your heart and sense of yourself!" Out of respect and love, we desire to let our elders hold on to as much autonomy as they can, as long as possible. In doing so, we risk leaving them vulnerable to thieves and accidents. It's enough to break your heart, one more time.

UPDATE: Apparently I learn nothing, even from my own experience and writing. "Do not give in to sentimentality" is advice easier to give than take. Sigh.

13 responses so far

Just Another Week in the Health Care Trenches

Some things I did this week:

1. Wrote a check for $5 for a copay; probably cost the doctor's practice more in time, paper & postage to send me the bill.

2. Wrote a check for $thousands to a nursing facility. Thought about how many people can't afford this care (including me when I am older).

3. Called about a bill  for ~$25 that showed Medicare billed, but "Secondary Insurance: None" to let them know Z-mom has secondary insurance and they should re-submit bill. Told to fill out back of bill with secondary insurance information and send it back. Tried not to think about cost of time to resolve this.

4. Called the pharmacy required by nursing facility to ask them if they had made progress in getting approval from Z-mom's insurance. Found out the person working this issue had left the company.

5. Filled in new person at pharmacy on backstory, got them working the problem.

6. Called Mr. Person at company that owned the mine my dad worked for, to talk about Z-mom's prescription coverage and ask about the pharmacy in #4. Granted a six-month "trial" exemption to use the pharmacy, but have to send written request.

8. Got approval to submit for reimbursement already paid bills for $hundreds of meds. Wondered what people do who can't pay out of pocket in advance. Or at all.

9. Sent email and wrote follow-up signed written request.

10. Tried not to think about six months from now.

Oh, United States of America! You do indeed have The Best Health Insurance in the World!

Comments are off for this post

All Good Things...Eldercare Version

You’ve been traveling on the Enterprise E(ldercare), when one day you burst into your therapist’s office confused, upset, wanting to know what’s going on, what the hell you are supposed to be doing, and why she was on the holodeck with Worf. You feel at a loss, half-recalled pieces of the past and visions of your future mixing with your present. In short, you have become unstuck in time.

You were perfectly fine with your role in Engineering; serving drinks in Ten Forward; trying to corral tweens Jean-Luc, Ro Laren, and Guinan; or just being a red shirt. But now the Enterprise E(ldercare) has been ordered to investigate an anomaly in the Nursing Home System of the Senior Living Zone. Off you go. And there it is, a large anomaly threatening to consume you, your ship, and your elder. You go in for a closer look and…

Suddenly, you are back in your youth. The anomaly is bigger, but you are stronger, more confident, maybe even a bit arrogant. You take the Enterprise D(evilmaycare) out against explicit orders to see what's going on. You drive it around late at night, with too many of your friends in it, hepped up on synthahol. You ignore the jeering fools on the sidelines as best you can. You set off for Far Point University with barely a "make it so". On the way you run right over the trappings of your childhood once carefully hoarded by your elder.

Wait! That was a dream! Wasn't it? But it felt real. Who was that callous ass who paid so little regard to the feelings and concerns of others? And why was that anomaly so damn big?

Whoa! You’ve been put out to pasture; your joints are creaky, your hair is white, and you've got early onset Irumodic Syndrome. But you remember, you remember, you remember...there was an...an anomaly...your family is visiting, you desperately need to communicate to them the importance of going back there, because you were just there, it is real, it is not a dream, it is happening now. And they speak soothingly, and promise to take you there, and...

No, you are back in the present! That's just a vision of the future, some projected bad acid trip. You do remember the past. If only people would listen to you when you tell them it's bigger in the past...

And you're back there, and you are taking Enterprise D(evilmaycare) further and further out ...

Into the future, where your kids and ex-wife remind you that you that Irumodic Syndrome is causing your brain to deteriorate, and this is all in your head.  But they promise to take you for a ride anyway, and that goddamn son of your is driving the Enterprise E(ldercare) and after a spin around the block he insists it’s time to go home and you say "no, no, we have to go to the Devron System!" and you become increasingly agitated and they say we were already there and we're on our way back and here's some haldol and wait those aren't your kids and those aren’t Starfleet uniforms and a voice whispers to you that the only way to understand the anomaly is with a letter-call-visit (LCV) beam...

You are talking to the staff of the nursing home where your elder is now staying. You suggest a more aggressive LCV beam to deal with the health care bureaucracy and to fight depression in your elder, making physical therapy more effective. Your family needs professional support in this, and some sort of data organizer. And you think...

That you should use a LCV beam all the way out here at Far Point University And Beyond. Yes! Make it so!

And waking from the haldol you insist you do remember the Devron System, you must go there, the LCV beam is absolutely critical, and they wheel you to the holodeck and set up the Wii bowling...

And now in the present you realize that the LCV beams from all three time periods are together creating the anomaly, which is indeed a temporal anomaly. But the LCV beams must not be disengaged, they must be made stronger in each time period. (Your therapist tells you to ignore that little voice which says you are going to be responsible for the destruction of humanity, that’s just internalized homophobia.)  Together the LCV beams create a static warpshell and blammo!

You find yourself in the present, wishing that when you’d gone to Far Point University And Beyond you could have somehow brought the Enterprise D(evilmaycare) back to the spacestation a bit more often. The little voice in the future, the one that whispered about the LCV beam, was also going to tell you how to arrange things so that people can do useful work and keep their elders close by, and not have to worry about their own elder care years, but it stopped short. All you can do is share your time-travel story, finally join the poker game – and keep that LCV beam going.

One response so far

Letter to Santa

My mother kept a book for each of her children (at least, the younger ones) called "School Days. It had two pages and a pocket for each grade. It had room to record your child's teacher(s), friends, pets, hobbies, clubs & activities, awards & achievements, sports, school & location, height & weight, "additional information", a place to paste their photo, and a line for them to print or sign their name, as they gained prowess. We always thought the entry for school and location was hilarious because you could just put it in at the beginning of the book: Bobtown Elementary, Mapletown Jr-Sr High School. What else was there to know? We had no concept of kids moving from one school to another as their families moved. Nevertheless we dutifully filled it in.

Fifth grade's additional information dutifully notes in my crabbed printing "My teeth are coming in; hair is shoulder length; am going to write". A very important year: the gap from my missing front teeth, which had inspired the great poetic work "Toothless and Teethless" (another time, Zuskateers) was finally getting patched; and I declared myself as a writer. Never mind there were detours through engineering and administration, and writing turned out to be blogging. I was right all along.

The pockets were for newspaper clippings, extraordinary art work, and things of that nature. I was going to say "I don't know how she had time to keep up with that" for all of us. Except that, you know, we were our mother's job - nay, her life's work. There was time because this is what she did. I was thinking the other day how badly we've all been hoodwinked with that "how can I combine career and family" question. The question implies that "family" a.k.a. mothering (and here I mean mothering, not parenting) is something that is not very difficult, creative, important, worthwhile, or time-consuming when done right. Therefore it can be "combined" with Career, which is all of those, by correct application. Think of Career as the shiny new glass tile of your kitchen backsplash that everyone looks at and wants, and Family as the grout which you paste in the thin little spaces inbetween (and nevermind that you need the grout to keep the whole business together).  Once the grout is properly in, you need not think of it much anymore, and can refocus all your attention on the pretty, shiny glass tile.

Mothering can be done by women or men, I think, but it truly is more than a full time job - it is a life's work.  Parenting is something different. It can be done by one or two parents, and parented children can thrive just as well as mothered children. Whether you are in a family where the children are being mothered or parented, life for everyone would be so much better if everyone's workplace was less greedy and demanding. And not just your fancy white collar jobs.  I remember my dad would trade shifts with someone in the coal mine, or go without sleep before the next shift, so he could see me or my sister or brother sing a silly song in a school play, or be crowned Queen of Hearts at Valentine's, or march with the band at our first football game. Mom would be glad he was there, and then worry about him at work.

Among the ephemera my mother saved in the pockets of my school years was a frantic 5th grade note:

Mom,

I need 50 cents, one self-addressed envelope, 3 buttons, my cotton balls, and a milk carton for Monday. Also, get me up at 7:00 and make sure I get up then.

Sue

p.s. I need an 8-cent stamp

I would dearly love to know what that was all about.

Another piece she saved leads us finally to the title of this post - a letter to Santa. Written when I was 9 years old and in the fourth grade, I was teetering on the edge of believing/non-believing. As a budding scientist, I was hoping to garner some proof one way or the other.

Letter to Santa Claus from 9-yr-old Zuska

Letter to Santa Claus from 9-yr-old Zuska

The text of the letter reads:

Dear Santa,

We left some cookies and milk for you, and some salt for your reindeer. (Be sure they all get equal amounts.) I hope you brought my Love doll, and Cindy's doll like mine. Are you real? (Write yes or no) [Arrow pointing to two blank lines]

I really do believe in you.

Suzy, Cindy, Paul, Andy, Eddie, Mom, Dad [unexplainable sibling deletion - sorry, Pat!]

In the morning, the cookies and milk, and the salt, were gone, and the letter was signed in elaborate script "Thank you Merry Christmas - Santa". Santa declined to answer the "are you real yes or no" portion of the letter. Obviously beneath his dignity, or maybe he just didn't see it - it was in the messiest part of the letter, and he was probably in a hurry.

So Santa, since I have written proof of your realness, I'm writing again to ask for just a few things this year. I believe I have been especially good this past year. I've whined only the usual amount about the migraines; I've done a lot of elder care and not begrudgingly either - time spent with elders can be difficult but is often a gift itself; I've done most of the litter box duty and all of the cat puke duty. So please, please Santa, this is what I am hoping for.

1. Let lots and lots and lots more people follow George Bush Sr.'s lead and resign from the NRA.

2. Let those who remain fight like hell to change the organization from within.

3. Let Wayne LaPierre vanish into a world where the only sound is is own howling.

4. Let the tide be turned back on the vicious onslaught against workers and unions.

5. Let the people realize that not just the children, but the teachers, too, are our future.

6. Let parenting and mothering both become more possible and pleasurable as real and unconstrained choices for all.

7. Let The Hobbit be a reasonably pleasurable and escapist viewing experience for me and not a total crushing disappointment when I compare it to my own mental images of the novel.

Thank you, Santa. I know you are busy this time of year and I will appreciate anything you can do with this list. If #7 is too difficult you can leave it off.

One last question. Are you real?

(Write yes or no).  ___  ___

 

 

2 responses so far

Yogurt: It's a Woman Thing

[View the story "Yogurt: It's a Woman Thing, You Wouldn't Understand" on Storify]

Yogurt: It's a Woman Thing, You Wouldn't Understand

Storified by · Sun, Sep 09 2012 20:00:14

At 10:34 am on 9 Sept 2012, @Scicurious tweeted (really sorry, I can't figure out how to embed this tweet):

"Open letter to commercials targeting women: So true. I express my own uniqueness through feminine care products."

(The bolding is mine.)
You must go read that article NOW!
@GertyZ tweeted the same article and also replied to @Scicurious
Haha! But true. MT"@GertyZ: Open Letters: Open Letter 2 the People in Charge of Commercials Targeting Women. http://zite.to/PORwow via @Zite"TSZuska
@scicurious doesn't everyone? BRING ON THE MINIVANGerty-Z
And we were all off and running!
@scicurious but the poor guys who keep getting rejected from the yogurt aisle? So sad!biochem belle
@scicurious enjoy it now. Someday, menopause. Then: no uniqueness, no femininity. Unless you eat yogurt.TSZuska
@scicurious Although those yogurt-eaters always look awfully young. I thing all that's left post-menopause is bone loss & hot flash meds.TSZuska
@TSZuska And wrinkle cream! LOTS of expensive wrinkle cream.sci curious
@scicurious Indian commercials include vaginal tightening creams, vaginal fairness & well, regular fairness creams. http://youtu.be/vPayFrCOiZMManasi Jiwrajka
Well now, that's something to look into! I am certain I have not been nearly worried enough about my vaginal fairness.
@TSZuska @scicurious @kateclancy perhaps you've missed news that Poise has developed a whole line of menopause-related products #innovative?Lisa Hinchliffe
Depressingly, there will come the day when we all need something like a Poise pad, or worse. #oldagesucks But I am seriously not going to worry about "feeling confident" in my bladder leakage years with panty fresheners and feminine wash. There will be no equivalent of an Air Wick Stick-Up on the bottom of my pantaloons.

Let's change the subject.

@TSZuska I really pity all the guys who, according to the commercials, don't eat yogurt. That stuff is great!sci curious
@biochembelle @scicurious I'm starting a Men Can Eat My Yogurt support group. There's an entry requirement for each straight man.TSZuska
@TSZuska @biochembelle Is it like a hazing process for men who want to eat yogurt? Like they have to eat plain?sci curious
@scicurious @TSZuska Or require them to distinguish regular vs Greek, nonfat vs full fat by blind taste test?biochem belle
@biochembelle @scicurious Well I was thinking of making them prove they'd eaten something else, but that's good, too.TSZuska
@scicurious @TSZuska Though the dude from Burn Notice is apparently the only man who isn't stripped of his masculinity by eating yogurt.Kate Clancy
@KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska and John Stamos. He's in a yogurt commercial. Greek yogurt. Manly yogurt. :DRadium Yttrium
@KateClancy @scicurious Always an exception here & there. Most men don't have the biological necessities to digest yogurt. #EvolutionTSZuska
@TSZuska @KateClancy @scicurious I've heard that they've got ways of shutting all of that down, though.Emily Willingham
@ejwillingham @KateClancy @scicurious If legitimately forced to eat yogurt, no gaseous bloating will result. It's a known scientific fact.TSZuska
@DrRubidium @SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @TSZuska You mean greek yogurt is MANLY?! I've been eating MANLY yogurt! HORRORZ.sci curious
@DrRubidium @KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska but John stamos isn't eating the yoghurt, it's just who appears when women eat yoghurtNatC
You are safe, @Scicurious.  Still appropriately feminine!
@SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska I do remember him eating some, but he was also feeding a woman, which is just creepyRadium Yttrium
@DrRubidium @KateClancy @scicurious @TSZuska clearly I'm not paying sufficient attention to ads aimed at me. Whoops!NatC
AARGH! RT @scicurious: @DrRubidium @SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @TSZuska You mean greek yogurt is MANLY?! I've been eating MANLY yogurt! HORRORZ.NatC
Or......not.  That manly yogurt may have some biological effects on gendered behavior.
@scicurious @SciTriGrrl @KateClancy @TSZuska yes, I eat it and then start random street fights :DRadium Yttrium
@DrRubidium @SciTriGrrl @TSZuska @scicurious I eat it before roller derby bouts for MOAR TESTOSTERONE.Kate Clancy
And now, a semi-serious tweet...
@TSZuska @biochembelle @scicurious @Mom101 wrote a post about it. If memory is correct, the adverts we want don't do well in focus groupsScientistMother
@ScientistMother @biochembelle @scicurious @Mom101 i have been in focus groups. Ppl r anxious 2 get out & get their $$; herd mentality...TSZuska
@ScientistMother @biochembelle @scicurious @Mom101 one or 2 strong voices, everyone follows them. Drink coffee, get done, get cash.TSZuska
This, among other reasons, is why we have such crap-ass commercials.  This, and the undying belief that patriarchy sells. Because #evolution!
@TSZuska @biochembelle @scicurious perhaps @Mom101 could provide more info. She's pretty awesome about getting change in advertisingScientistMother
@scicurious @ScientistMother @TSZuska @biochembelle Oddly, that's the first McS essay where I've ever felt, "Seen it."Liz Gumbinner
@Mom101 @scicurious @TSZuska @biochembelle seen it bc others have said it before?ScientistMother
Sigh. Sometimes I get the feeling it's all been said before, a thousand million times.  Still, we have to say it again and again, and laugh a little along the way. 

3 responses so far

Olympical Ponderings

Who hasn't been watching a lot of Olympics lately?!?! It's time-delayed and spoiled, even by the announcers on the time-delayed broadcast (damn you!) when you've managed to keep away from twitter, radio, papers, etc.  But still, you can't look away.  Well, you can, when you are shown inane announcers nattering on rather than the sports you want to watch.  Between that and the commercials and the highlights of decades-old Olympics, now and again you do get to see something recent and athletic.  And that's what you live for!

  • Swimming:  I love it, and I wanted to watch a lot of it.  What I did not want: a bunch of  manufactured crap rivalries that may or may not have existed between Lochte and Phelps, or that other guy who says Phelps doesn't train, or this or that or something else.  Now they hate each other! Now they are great teammates for the relay! We at NBC totally love Phelps, except that the poking of athletes must begin now that he failed to medal in the 400 IM.  "Tell us Michael, how totally awful does it feel to have FAILED to medal? Are you totally completely CRUSHED? Will you ever be able to recover and swim again? Please, give us all the details of your agony! America wants to know" This American did not.  You could read all you needed to on his face. The rest was invasive and ultimately uninformative.  What America REALLY wanted to know was this: Just how effing tight are those swim caps? Tight enough to give you a migraine? Are there any migraineurs among Olympic swimmers? Because I would totally be out there going for the gold, if it wasn't for those swim caps.  That, and the fact that I can't swim and I'm old and fat.
  • Gymnastics and gender: I REALLY love me some gymnastics. The men's exhibition of strength, agility, and control is always astonishing to me. This year for some reason I focused on a move on the floor exercise, where they'd bend over, put their hands out on the floor, and then just slowly lift their legs up and bring them together - and then just stay there for awhile. So awesome.  Women's gymnastics, of course, is all about pixies, ponytails, and diva behavior. Tears! Little darlings who are just going to crack under pressure and have to be kissed and hugged by their coaches to survive! Ethereal beings who fly in the air! You get my picture.  I want to hear more about strength, agility, and control, and less about tears, diva bla bla, (Eager commentator: "Tell me, has there been any diva behavior yet?")and ANYTHING about Gabby's hair.  (That last one is mostly a race issue, but I can't imagine a black male gymnast getting lambasted for not having done the right thing with his hair. It's a gender issue too.) I want to see male gymnasts loosen up on the floor-x and do more tumbly-jumpy-dancey stuff like the women do; I want to see women build in some of those strength elements men display in the floor-x that are so breathtaking.  Why do they always have to be flying? Why can't they stop a minute and show their awesome strength, too? My really serious complaints are these, however: why the hell are the men dressed in footie pajamas that they can accidentally grab hold of while they are on the pommel, thus causing them to mess up? Can't they get some nice shorties more akin to what the women get to sashay around in? And why those poor pixie gymnasts gotta perform gender soooo hard while they're out there working and sweating?  Ban the makeup!  Or else make the men wear it too. Thus speaks Zuska.
  • I get all my mother's mail, including the Senior Times of Southwestern PA.  The last issue had a story about the local Senior Olympics. It was so cool.  There was a ninety-something dude who's won a gold medal in some racing event in every year they've had it.  That's kind of vague. With a fey Lehrian stroke, I  confidently declare he was 91, the sport was a 100 m dash, and the Senior Olympics have been held for six years now.  You're never going to know the difference because how are you going to get hold of a copy of the Southwestern PA Senior Times? (90 years old, 1 mile walk, 16 years - Mr. James "Jiggs" Grubbs, July 2012 issue) What gets me is I am pretty sure that this nonagenarian could beat me in the Senior Olympics in a head-to-head match.  Mr. Grubbs reports that he was not very active until he was in his seventies, so there may still be some hope for me.  I have commenced a 30-min per day walking program (interrupted by days when I walk up with migraine and then it's too hot in the afternoon) and am eating healthy food and smaller portions.  Look out Michael Phelps!  As soon as I get that swimming cap technology worked out, I'm coming for you!

When I think of Mr. Grubbs, active into his nineties though he didn't really start till his seventies, and Z-mom, who nearly died but is now walking again and recovering nicely, I think there is no excuse for me not to get my foot out the door on the days I feel well.  There is no excuse for me not to eat well and not pig out.  There is no excuse for me not to take care of my body just because my body has not been very good to me with all these migraines.  There is more excuse to do so because of the migraines.  The care I give it will be given back to me.  It's not that I can control my migraines by exercising, or that if I just find "my food triggers" my migraines will go away.  Migraine disease is neurological and the cause is not well understood.  But exercising and eating well gives my body the best fighting chance.  So I have to say no to the depression and discouragement, not eat to comfort myself, and work at getting out there to exercise. Getting out of the house and moving, seeing something different, is rejuvenating.  Walking outdoors is more so than a half hour on a treadmill in a gym, but in a pinch, that's better than nothing.  I hate it when people tell me that I "should" be doing x or y, as if it is all my fault I am having migraines just because I am not doing x or y.  But I am going to be better to myself, and give myself a better chance.  I want to win the 1 mile walk in the Senior Games when I am 90.

5 responses so far

A Week Went By And Now It's July...er...August

Ain't this boogie a mess!

It sure has been, for two months.  I had that triumphant return to the blog at the end of May - had finally broken that evil six month headache, was feeling great, life was good! About a week later things came crashing down around me.  I don't feel like I can go into a lot of details right now, but there was a death in my family, Z-mom went into the hospital right after the funeral, and a member of Mr. Z's family went into the hospital on the same day.  Mr. Z's family member is doing well now.  Z-mom has had a horrible medical odyssey, from hospital to a rehab place that, in my opinion, almost killed her through a combination of neglect, misunderstanding, and direct incompetence. Thus back to the hospital to be saved, then to a second rehab place where she did not thrive through a combination of grief and not liking the facility.  We finally moved her to a third facility where she is much happier, the quality of care is extremely high, and the results in just one week are amazing.  We are daring to be hopeful and happy now.

It was fortunate for me that I had just come off the week of hospitalization for migraine, and thus was as well positioned as I could hope to be to go through these last two months of intense emotional and physical stress.  So yay for that.  But the entire experience with Z-mom has only more strongly reinforced some things I already knew.

When an elderly person is in the hospital, you cannot just assume that they are being taken care of and all their needs are being met.  The nursing staff is often excellent and gives excellent care; they see more than the doctors and can tell you a lot about how your family member is doing - how they fared during the night, if there's been a change in some functioning.  But you still need to be there a lot to see what is going on - how well they are able to feed themselves, how well they are able to work with PT and what the key issues are, just in general what their mood is like, what needs they have that you could meet.  Most importantly, you need to be there early in the morning when the doctors are doing rounds, so you can speak with the doctor yourself, even if it is just for a few minutes.  This is when you can ask questions and get information about what therapies are being prescribed, or should be prescribed.  You can ask, why is my family member doing x or y, looking like this or that, acting this way?  If you aren't satisfied with the answer, push for more.  Ask them to slow down so you can write things down, and to explain words or concepts you don't understand.  If your loved one is about to be transferred to another facility, you will usually have some interaction with a social worker. They are good sources of information and are there to help you so don't feel bad about asking questions.

If your loved one is transferred to a rehab hospital, again you can't afford to take your eye off things.  You can't, of course, be there every minute they are doing therapy, nor should you, but you can sit in on some therapy sessions and interact with them and the therapist to aid in the therapy and learn what you might need to do with your loved one after the time at rehab is over.  You can get a sense of how your loved one is being treated.  After therapy is over you can see how gently (or not) staff help your loved one with activities of daily living, and how quick they are to respond to calls for assistance.  You may or may not be required to do laundry for your loved one, if the facility does not provide that service.  Sometimes this is better if you do it yourself, because things are less likely to get lost that way.  Your being there can help with your loved one's mood.  But most importantly, you can be there to monitor and catch errors or neglect.

In Z-mom's case, she had been progressing quite well and then suddenly started to decline, day by day.  No one could give me an explanation as to why.  They wrote it off to her grieving and being "too weak for the level of rehab here - she can't recover and keep up for the next day."  I would point out that she had been doing quite well and then started to decline and they would shrug their shoulders and go back to the grief excuse and say she wasn't trying.  But she was, she was trying as hard as she could.  In the end it turned out that she had a UTI and was severely dehydrated (which didn't happen overnight), to the point where she nearly died.  Neither rehab staff, nurses, nor the doctor monitoring her case noticed any of this.  I am not sure why.  And I wish I had pushed harder on all of them in the last week she was there.  A friend of ours who worked in hospice came to see mom and in fifteen minutes diagnosed what was wrong. She helped us get her moved back to the hospital, and saved her life.  Moral of the story:  pay attention, keep pushing, and call on every resource you know to help you figure out what is going on. Many people who are good at what they do are not so good at understanding how even slight imbalances can have tremendous effects on the elderly.  I did not know, but do now, that many times the only way that UTIs are diagnosed in the elderly is by display of confusion and a delirium-like state.

What this country's health care system needs (among a kazillion other things) is a good many more doctors and nurses trained in gerontology (especially to help with the death panels, amirite?).  I can't say all the things I've been watching and learning as I go along with Z-mom makes me feel good about my own approaching old age.  And don't even get me started on the insurance paperwork fallout from all of this.  I just wanna go hide.

But Z-mom, and Mr. Z, and me, and the rest of our families have made it through this far.  We are hoping for a less turbulent August and as things cool into fall, a chance to reflect, recover, and hold on dearly to those we love.

6 responses so far

Personal Care Robots Are The Last Thing We Need

I just heard a story on NPR's All Things Considered that made me want to rip my hair out.  Personal robots!  You know you want one!  You don't need one, but that doesn't matter.  They will be made, you will learn to want them, and you'll be getting them and upgrading them just like your smart phone or iPad.  (Side note: If anyone can explain to me why the new robot thingies always have to be called "Rosie" I will be grateful.  Don't blame it on the Jetsons.  Where did the Jetsons come up with Rosie? Is it all just to mock the real Rosies, the riveters of WWII?)

We don't need robots to walk our dogs or wash our windows.  We don't need them to "fold towels, help elderly and disabled people with home care, and even fetch a beer".  For one thing, there's plenty enough beer-fetching going on in America's households as it is.  For another, if you can't be bothered to walk you own dog, or pay another human to do it for you when you are too busy, you shouldn't have a dog.  Robot dog walkers just take away one more job from young people.

But what REALLY hacks me off is the idea of robots designed to help the elderly and disabled with home care.  What the elderly and disabled need is more contact with other human beings, not less.  They don't need to be even more isolated in their homes than they already are.  They need people they can talk to and interact with and tell their stories to.  We need to pay decent living wages for this kind of care, to value it for the real importance it actually has, not sluff it off on the fantasy product of robotics researchers.

In any case, that bla bla about robots helping the elderly and disabled is just robotics engineers blowing smoke up your ass to keep their projects running.  Do you think something that currently costs $400,000 to build is being designed to help one of the most despised and neglected segments of our population? Where else is money and effort on this scale being poured into improving the lives of the elderly and the disabled?

Robots are going to be a hip thing for the youth culture, just like smart phones and iPads.  Things you could live without but are so cool to have, things that are always being upgraded.  Things that are costly.  The elderly and disabled, by and large, don't have extra cash to lay out on costly toys.  They aren't going to buy dog-walking, beer-fetching robots.

Redesigning existing home stock to be universally accessible, or making sure your local government buildings and restaurants really are accessible as they claim to be, or lobbying for better care for returning disabled veterans - none of this sounds as sexy as beer-toting personal robots, I am sure.  But all of it would be a a helluva lot more useful than one more fancy toy for your neighbor to envy.

14 responses so far

« Newer posts Older posts »