“Oh, I’m so surprised I found you at home! I hate to bother you, but I need a ride. Can you come get me?”
Mom’s calls often start this way. She has someone at the home call me on my cell (so I could theoretically be anywhere; she just assumes I’m “home”) because she’s certain she’s been out on a merry jaunt and can’t find transportation back to wherever it is she’s supposed to be. And there are always others with her, stuck in the same predicament.
“Sure Mom. It’s OK. If you need me, I’ll come. How are you feeling? Are you still having to go to the bathroom a lot?’
“It’s better, but I’m still going more than usual.”
“OK. Can I talk to one of the girls?”
I get one of the nurses on the line. Mom has another urinary tract infection and she’s being treated with antibiotics, and encouraged to drink lots of water (which explains the excessive peeing). I always delve a little further to try to get a handle on what’s REALLY troubling her when she seems agitated. Since last summer’s misadventures, I’m on guard for any potential red flags.
According to the nurse, she’s been calm and fine all day. Mom likes to follow her favorites around and watch them work. She did this with me, too. Watching others work tires her out.
Fast forward a week and I have still not seen Mom. I’ve been sick. Today I have a low grade fever. A sore throat over the weekend convinced me to take it easy and rest, but it wasn’t enough. Now I’m coughing and achy. I need to see a medical doctor. But I already have an appointment with my eye doctor in Ramsey, and a visit with Mom is pending. I’m on the fence about it though. I don’t want to get anyone else sick, especially not a houseful of vulnerable elders. And then there was the “Selma” incident.
Last week, while I was on another call, an old friend of my parents, Selma* called. She had tried to call Mom at the place in Wayne (from whence Mom had made a hasty exit in July). I told her where Mom was and gave her the new number, assuring her that Mom would certainly still remember her. Within the hour, one of the nurses called to ask ‘Who’s Selma?” I told her it was OK, she was an old friend of Mom’s. The nurse understood, but told me Mom didn’t remember her and didn’t want to talk to her. I was shocked. This woman had gone to kindergarten with my father. Mom had known her for years. I expected short term memory loss, but this? I gave the nurse a few key prompts to jog Mom’s memory about this old friend and hoped she’d remember. Of all the people Mom might forget, I didn’t think Selma would be one of them.
Apparently, in the elder care game, this happens a lot and the nurse handled it well. She told Selma that Mom was napping and would call back later.
As I waited for a call back from my doctor, I decided to call Potomac. The nurse I’d spoken to over the “Selma” situation picked up. How did that go? Based on the prompts I’d given, Mom did remember and had a lovely conversation with Selma. When she got off the phone, she continued to share the retrieved flood of memories with the kind nurse. I felt better.
Then I explained that I was sick and didn’t want to infect Mom or anyone else there. I also didn’t want to panic Mom; in her condition, a sneeze can turn into a coma faster than you can say “Gesundheit.” (Last summer, when she was at the psychiatric hospital, she welled up when she saw me because she had been convinced I’d been in a serious accident). The nurse assured me that maintaining a distance would be wise under the circumstances and she’d let Mom know of my condition should she ask. Boy, am I glad I called.
Next, I called the eye doctor to reschedule. They too were grateful I’d decided to keep my germs to myself. By next Monday, I should be fine (or at least no longer contagious).
All I have left is the council meeting tonight at 8 pm. One of my jobs is to air, record and schedule rebroadcasts of our town’s governing body. For that, I stay in a room by myself. I will be seeing my doctor this afternoon and hope to have some cough medicine to help me through it. Even if I don’t have physical contact with anyone, the microphones could pick up my hacking through the walls. And no one else knows how to do this job.
This is my body telling me to rest, slow down, stop pushing. OK, body, you win. Let’s ride this out and evict these stupid germs. Meanwhile, tell Selma I’m taking a nap.
*Not her real name