Friday, August 26, 2016

Swollen Ankles

While bathing and dressing my mom on Monday, I noticed swelling around her ankles and feet. We've had some home assessments this summer from nurses and one of the things they always checked was her ankles. So when I noticed the swelling, it was a red flag for me. The swelling goes around the perimeter of her feet, but that part is minimal. What concerned me most is that on the front part of her feet (between the ankle and center of her foot) there is a round "pocket" of swelling. It's hard to describe, but it resembles somewhat of a golf ball, except instead of being hard to the touch, it is soft and gel-like. As Murphy's Law would have it, a social worker from a home health company came out to the house last week, assessed mom and closed the case since physically, there is nothing wrong with her. So I put a call in to her doctor, hoping he might call me back and discuss the swelling before we were tackled the difficult task of taking her in to the office. I was hoping to bypass a doctor visit and instead, have a house call from a nurse again. We have not had great communication and call backs from the doctor in the past; I was afraid I would be sitting around waiting for 3 weeks before we made contact so I decided to call the home care company and see if they could reopen the case. Unfortunately, they said we would have to start the process all over again at ground zero (referral, assessment, etc). Fortunately, the man I spoke with was able to call the doctor's office and received a call back quickly. Within two hours of his call, he had an order for a home nurse to come and assess mom.

To make a long story short, the nurse came by yesterday and agreed that the swelling looked very odd, and then admitted that she'd never seen anything like it. She said that it looked like a fatty tumor but she'd never seen it on an ankle before. So...there wasn't much resolution to the visit, other than the nurse reporting her findings to the doctor (we're waiting to hear back from him on whether or not he wants to see her, based on the findings) and the nurse is going to put in a referral for physical therapy for Mom, due to the fact that she's had a couple of falls (and couldn't get up) over the past two months. We'll see if that referral goes anywhere and if Mom would even mentally be able to participate in physical therapy. In the meantime, we are waiting to hear from the doctor on whether or not we need to take her in. Honestly, I'm not sure what he will be able to do if we took her in. A biopsy? Fat chance in getting her to cooperate with that. And anesthesia isn't a risk we want to take at this point.

I know some of you reading might ask:

Could she have twisted her ankle? It's possible, but unlikely that is the cause because it's in the same place on both ankles.

Could it be her medication? The nurse checked the interactions of each medication and no red flags showed up. She did start taking a new medication beginning of July (trazadone), but you would think side effects would've shown up sooner. The only medications she takes are trazadone, Ativan, and methyl-something-with-a-long-name (a hormone to stop her menstrual cycles).

Is she drinking enough water? She seems to be drinking at least 32 oz. a day. It's been the same for a long sudden drop in her intake of fluids.

Is her blood pressure okay? Last week it was slightly elevated, but she was also very agitated with the cuff around her arm. Yesterday, it was in the normal range (110/80).

Maybe it's the socks? My Aunt (who is a nurse) suggested it might be the socks creating a tourniquet effect. I changed her socks right away; that was on Monday and today is Friday and there is no change.

Sooooo....I guess we wait for a call from the doctor and go from there!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Neighborhood Watch

Last night Mom gave us a good scare.

I was sitting on my couch with my husband around 9:00 pm, watching a TV show in my jammies and unwinding from the day. My phone rang; it was my sister. I answered the phone and when she hesitated for a second before answering, I had the sense that something was wrong. Her response confirmed it,

"Has Dad called you?" she asked, a slight panic in her voice.

"No, why? What happened?" I asked, sitting up straight, on alert.

"Mom is missing," she replied.

I nearly jumped out of my seat, exclaiming, "What do you mean she is missing??"

My sister quickly filled me in on what had transpired. She and her son had been at the house while Dad was looking at a job. When they saw Dad's truck pulling into the driveway, they gathered their things to leave. They unlocked the front door and let themselves out, but didn't lock the door behind them because Dad was getting out of his truck and coming up right then. It didn't seem likely that Mom would get out without someone noticing or crossing paths with her. Yet, it happened.

I jumped out of my seat and dialed my dad's number, trying to decide if I should leave the house in my jammies to go look for her or change into real clothes first (okay, let's be honest here...the issue was more about a bra than it was the jammies, ha ha). Dad answered his phone after the first ring and I asked him if he had found Mom. Thankfully, he said that he had found her. I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to calm my racing heart as Dad gave his side of what happened. Like Christina had said, he had just pulled up and Chris and Jeremy were walking down the driveway. Somehow in that time, Mom must have snuck behind Chris and walked down alongside Dad's huge work van as he was on the other side (hiding her from his view) and made her escape. By the time Dad had made his way up the porch, she was already gone and he had no idea that she had even step foot out of the house. He came inside the house and got settled in when, a short time later, he heard his doorbell ring. He answered to find a man standing there, who said, in a thick, Spanish accent,

"Your wife is out."

It took Dad a moment to understand what the man was saying, but then he followed him outside and walked up and down the street, finding no sign of Mom. Dad was a little suspicious of the man, wondering if he was trying to scam him or something, but the man told him to go check in his house. Dad walked through the house and the panic set in when he couldn't find Mom. He went back outside and-I can't remember if he said he walked or got in his car, but I think he said he happened to walk out at just the right time-he found Mom crossing a street in the neighborhood. My guess from Dad's description is that the man who showed up at the door was the husband of Mom's friend, Maria, who lives up the street. They often see me walking with her and they always try to engage Mom and say hi; they know the situation. Thank goodness that he happened to be outside at 9:00 at night and recognized that my mom was wandering alone. I am so grateful for neighbors who keep an eye out for us. I hate to think of how it could've ended had he not been out!

As I was on the phone with Dad, he found her ID bracelet that we'd had made for her a few years ago (that she would never leave on). I told him that she is to the point now where I don't think she can get the bracelet undone. After struggling himself with the clasp, Dad finally got the bracelet on Mom and as of this morning, when I checked in with the caregiver, it is still on her wrist. Even with our lock system, Mom is sneaky...we never know when she might get past us!

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Little Respite

On Monday, I returned from a 10 day family vacation. Our friends let us borrow their RV and we drove through Utah and Idaho to visit family, attend a special event for my daughter, Maurina, and enjoy the great outdoors. One of the best parts of this was that my dad was able to join us in his fifth wheel (travel trailer) as well! We rarely get to vacation together these days because somebody has to be home with mom. But it was important to Maurina (and me) that we both be there, so my sister stepped up to the plate and took care of mom while we were gone. I'm so grateful to her and to our other caregivers for making this trip possible and taking care of mom while we were gone.

For the first time all summer, I was able to really relax and enjoy myself. Even while I was in Arizona, I was busy answering phone calls, regarding mom, every single day. Mom is constantly on my mind and I worry about her when I'm way. The days leading up to vacation were filled with stress and sadness for me (I've had a hard time shaking off this "down" feeling lately) but I was determined to relax and enjoy time away with my hubby and kids. As much as I worry, I know my dad worries even more being away, but the time away was good for both of us. For the first time in a long time, I saw my dad happy and enjoying himself. We talked, we laughed, we played games, we went was almost like old times. Except we were missing Mom.

There were moments of reminiscing, remembering the trips we used to take when Mom was well. Sometimes I let myself daydream about what Mom would be saying or doing if she was still with us; things we did when she was with us. I imagine her playing with the kids or taking them on walks around the campground. I think about how she and I would've gone off to the scrapbook store while the guys were shopping at Cabela's or Camping World, like in times past. I picture her scolding us for not wiping our feet before walking inside the trailer. Times have changed and she is surely missed, but thankfully I was able to still have a good time and not dwell on the sadness that has been consuming me for the past few years. I kept my mind busy fishing and paddle boarding and laughing and making memories with my children.

For the first time that I can remember, I didn't want to come home from vacation. Usually, by the end of a long trip I'm ready to go home and sleep in my own bed and get back into a routine. This time, I really didn't want to come back home. It's hard to put it all into words, but coming home meant that it was back to reality; back to my routine of running here and there, of bathing Mom and watching her decline each day, wondering how much time we have left; the sadness envelopes me again. When I was away, I felt carefree and happy. Now, I get my daily reminder of what I've lost; what I am losing. It's a complicated thing to grieve for someone who is still living. I don't think it's something you can truly understand until you've experienced it firsthand.

Hard as it was to come back to reality, I was happy to see Mom again, to hug her and to kiss her and tell her that I've missed her. But seeing her also reminds me of just how much I miss her. This vacation was something I really needed, to refresh and reflect and to give me a new surge of energy to get through the next little bit with Mom.

Here are some pictures of our trip, for your viewing pleasure ;)