Archive for the 'Totally Freaked' category

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

Red Bull: A Brief Review

Mar 14 2011 Published by under Geekalicious, Totally Freaked

A brash moment; a foolhardy soul brims with zeal; the frothy swell of good intentions plashes over the brain; and it is done. A vow is enacted; a solemn oath is sworn.

I won't have sex until I'm married.

I won't upgrade my dog for an iPup, even if they fix the bug on the Auto PoopScoop.

I won't have sex with my iPup, even if there's an app for that.

Alas, such vows were made to be broken.  And so it was with my sworn oath to never, ever drink Red Bull.

Recent events conspired to place me in a situation where it was absolutely necessary that I remain alert for several hours, and yet I was quite sleepy.  The coffee shops were closed, and not a Wawa was in sight.  It was then that a devil's minion offered me a can of Red Bull.  Desperate - and, I'll admit, a little curious - I succumbed. Popped the tab, and took my first cautious sip.

Ewwwwww!  Well, thinks I to myself, this here product represents the triumph of marketing over taste. Extremely sweet, and a flavor vaguely reminiscent of a somewhat flat can of off-brand cherry soda at the family reunion.  Nevertheless, I persisted for the sake of the caffeine and downed the can. Because I normally do not consume any caffeine (save for the bit you get in decaf coffee), a bolus like that has quite an effect on me.  A little head rush, a little euphoria, a little you make me feel like dancing, I wanna dance the night away desire to move around. Well, I was certainly feeling awake now, although not in an entirely pleasant sort of way.  And I wondered how anyone could possibly stand to do cocaine, for surely, as Charlie Sheen has cautioned, your face would melt off.  Oh wait, that's only if you are on a delusionogen.

12 responses so far

Oil and the "Chance Fate of the Unfortunate Individual"

The last week or so I've been reading that classic of naturalist writing, The Outermost House by Henry Beston, as the last of this year's selections for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Book Club.
The book is a delight to read for those who love language - it is essentially one long prose poem. But at the same time, it is sweetly painful, as one takes the measure of all the glory that must have been lost in the time since Beston wrote.
Nothing quite prepared me, however, for encountering the following passage about halfway through the book, in the chapter titled "Winter Visitors". Beston is described the birds that come to the Cape in winter - "a region which is to them a Florida".

A new danger...now threatens the birds at sea. An irreducible residue of crude oil, called by refiners "slop," remains in stills after oil distillation, and this is pumped into southbound tankers and emptied far offshore. This wretched pollution floats over large areas, and the birds alight in it and get it on their feathers. They inevitably die. Just how they perish is still something of a question. Some die of cold, for the gluey oil so mats and swabs the thick arctic feathering that creases open through it to the skin above the vitals; others die of hunger as well. Captain George Nickerson of Nauset tells me that he saw an oil-covered eider trying to dive for food off Monomoy, and that the bird was unable to plunge. I am glad to be able to write that the situation is better than it was. Five years ago, the shores of Monomoy peninsula were strewn with hundreds, even thousands, of dead sea fowl, for the tankers pumped out slop as they were passing the shoals - into the very waters, indeed, on which the birds have lived since time began! Today oil is more the chance fate of the unfortunate individual. But let us hope that all such pollution will presently end.

Oh, unfortunate individuals of the Gulf Coast, how I mourn for you and your "chance fate". I suppose we can take heart that we are no longer purposefully discharging "slop" into the ocean - we aren't, are we? - but it's slim comfort.
But no matter. I heard a story on NPR the other day about how the oil slicks haven't made it to the beaches of the Gulf Coast yet, so the white sands are still sparkly. And the state tourist bureaus are hard at work on ad development to reassure you that your vacation need not be ruined or delayed by any distressing sights on the beach; all is well! Out of sight, out of mind! The only oil you need to worry about is the tanning oil on the shapely young lass on the beach towel in this tourist ad! (There's nothing female flesh can't sell!) Come relax, spend your dollars, support our local tourist industry, and forget about the environment for awhile! It's all good! Till it's not.

7 responses so far

How Do You Prepare For The Unimaginable?

Jan 14 2010 Published by under Totally Freaked

I've been reading a lot of Casaubon's Book lately. I usually come away from it feeling like I ought to convince Mr. Z to move back to southwestern PA with me so the two of us can become gentleman farmers and live sustainably after peak oil - maybe we can live out our days in mom's house and garden in the backyard, as my grandfather used to, or buy some nice cheap land out in the countryside in Greene County, and I'll raise chickens, and maybe we'll even have goats, or...

Continue Reading »

37 responses so far

Plant Anyway

Oct 15 2007 Published by under Daily Struggles, Totally Freaked

So, it's Blog Action Day, and we're all supposed to post something related to the environment. Science Woman has a very hopeful post about how "having a daughter has brought the idea of intergenerational responsibility into much sharper focus" for her.
What shall I tell you? I spent a good part of this afternoon clearing out a neglected, overgrown flower bed in the backyard. It was a beautiful day to be out working in the yard, warm and sunny. We're going to be in the low to mid-70s the rest of the week. That's 15 to 20 degrees warmer than average for this time of year.

Continue Reading »

One response so far

The Permafrost Is Releasing Methane Now?

I read this article in the LA Times about Russians racing to claim the seabed under the Arctic ice as their territory, other nations fussing that it's really theirs, and everybody ignoring that the only way they can even have this argument is because the damn ice is melting away. Only it's even worse than I realized. Because it isn't just the ice melting away.

Now the permafrost is thawing on land and along the seabeds. If it occurs in the presence of oxygen on land, the decomposing of organic matter leads to the production of CO2. If the permafrost thaws along lake shelves, in the absence of oxygen, the decomposing matter releases methane. Methane is the most potent of the greenhouse gases, with a greenhouse effect 23 times that of CO2.
Katey Walter of the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks wrote in the journal Nature last year, and in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in May, that the melting of the permafrost and subsequent release of methane is a "ticking time bomb."
Walter and her researchers warned of a tipping point sometime within this century, when the release of methane could create an uncontrollable feedback effect, dramatically warming the atmosphere, which would in turn warm the land, lakes and seabed, further melting the permafrost and releasing more methane. Once that threshold is reached, there will be nothing humans can do. Scientists suspect that similar events have occurred in the ancient past, between glacial periods...A global tragedy of monumental proportions is unfolding at the top of the world, and the human race is all but oblivious to what's happening.

Well, I'm not oblivious anymore, but I am whimpering and wanting to curl up in the fetal position under my blanket. I know I'm supposed to react to news about climate change and global warming with a positive, can-do attitude and go out there and reduce my carbon footprint and lobby for better energy policy and long for the day when Dubya is just a bad memory and we can get down to some serious work on saving the earth, but every freaking day I read some horrifying thing like this on the internet or in my local paper, and frankly, I'm feeling a little bit hopeless.
Cheerful thoughts, anyone?

7 responses so far