Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Afternoon of The Living Dead

TCG has been sick lately. Or, sicker. Not only is his COPD slowly smothering him and any resemblance he once bore to a normally functional adult, he now has a cold or something else to further compromise his pulmonary function, and my life. His breathing problems are compounded by a (probably quite reasonable given the circumstances) manifold increase in what we like to call panic attacks. In such episodes, his normally audible labored breathing - that normally sounds like an owl mourning the loss of her fledglings to a Chupacabra – increases in volume and pace and sounds more like a foghorn being used by a very nearby ship of fools in panic and disorder.

He used to do the grocery shopping. Now I have to go too, and follow him around in the motorized shopping cart taking things from shelves as he points to them. He used to bathe on his own. Now, I have to be there too so he doesn’t panic in the process of getting out of the tub, which has happened. He used to take the car for routine maintenance and it’s overdue. I’m with him and his audible breathing every breath of every day, except when he’s napping or panting for help, and more drugs. Plus, when we drive somewhere he insists on driving, albeit somewhat inattentatively, and I get to sit and watch the blinking “maintenance reqd” light nag me from the dashboard while pumping an invisible brake when he stops too short.

But about those drugs. He is on three tranquilizers: Zoloft that he routinely takes twice a day, loreazapan which was once occasional and is now routine about twice a day not counting visits to DOB, and recently alprazolam which is supposed to be a stronger dose and faster acting. He also drinks a bottle of wine most every evening, beginning increasingly earlier most every afternoon. With the cold, he’s been popping Sudafed morning and bedtime for a week too.  So, his once comparatively clear thinking and speaking processes are also compromised. And don’t get me started about minimal levels of situational awareness and personal hygiene.

To add to this fun, he was so sick that I had to go visit DOB alone the other day, which is a chore listed on my bucket list just below amputation of a limb with a chainsaw. 

Backstory: DOB was unable to use her regular cellphone, so TCG bought a “senior friendly” phone for her (because apparently the marketplace niche for a phone simple enough to be operated by someone with the cognitive powers of a shiny spoon remains sadly, unfilled).  So, you have to stop in to visit her a couple of times a week to turn her phone back on, or replace the battery, or clear the screen from menu mode or ringtone settings to standby. The phone also has a “panic button” on the back that sends ominous text messages about twice a week to each family member saying she’s having an emergency and please call. To remove any suspense, she never answers such calls, having no recollection of even pressing the panic button, and there is never an emergency.

UCC:  Let’s get you outside in some fresh air with the phone so we can see how to fix it.
DOB:  The people who work here love this phone. When they see it on my tray table, they ask me, what’s this and when I tell them it’s a phone they are amazed
WISIMH:  As, apparently, are you.
UCC:  Ok, do you know which button to press to answer a call? Show me.
DOB:  When the phone rings I sometimes can’t remember which button to press. Is it this green one with an icon of a person with a phone to their ear? (And no, she didn’t say icon. She pointed mutely.)
UCC:  Yes! Very good!  And when you press the button to answer the phone, then what do you do?
DOB:  (taking phone and holding it six inches in front of her mouth) Hello?
UCC:  This phone doesn’t have a speaker phone, so you hold it to your ear like an old fashioned phone. Like this (moving her arms very much like a department store dummy).
DOB:  (Putting phone to her ear, listening intently, then moving it to her mouth) Hello?
UCC:  Yeah, no. Let me show you…. See, you hold it to your ear like this. That way you can hear. Don’t move it to talk because then you can’t hear. The person on the phone can hear you when you keep the phone to your ear. Don’t move it to ta—
DOB: (To me) You know, the nurses always love my phone when they see it sitting on my tray table. They don’t believe it’s a phone. (To phone) Hello? Hello? (To me) There’s nobody there.
WISIMH:  Good job! The first thing you’ve gotten right today.
UCC:  Ok, now that we know how to answer a call, I’m going to take out my cellphone – here, see? – and I’m going to call you. So your phone will ring and you answer it like I showed you.
DOB?  (Hearing phone ring, puts it in front of her mouth without pressing the icon of the person answering the phone) Excuse me, I have to get this call. Hello?
UCC:  No. Press the green button… Now put the phone to your ear…
DOB: Hello?
UCC: (on phone and sitting next to DOB) Hello! See, that worked ok, didn’t it?
DOB:  (to phone) Hello?  I’m talking to UCC. How are you, dear?
UCC: It’s me mother, I’m on the phone and right here. See?
DOB: (to phone) I can’t talk now, UCC is visiting. Can you call me later?
UCC:  No mother, it’s not – it’s me both here beside you and on the phone. I’m calling you on this phone that I’m holding to my own ear. See? See?
DOB:  I’m hearing your voice twice dear. I’m with UCC right now. We’re here (gesturing) so I can’t talk right now…
WISIMH: Does anybody have a chainsaw?

The next day, I insisted TCH visit his mother to fix her phone which she hadn’t been answering. I had to push him in a wheelchair because he was so sick. Except when I was pushing her in her wheelchair. Out to the patio. So we could check her phone and show her how to use it.  

The people who work with her notice her phone when they see it on her tray table and they love it. Nobody can believe it's a cellphone. 

Seriously, does anybody have a chainsaw?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A New Version of Phone Tag

DOB was moved to a nursing home 2 weeks ago after falling twice in four days. When she goes down, she goes down so hard she bounces, and the following days she is sore and bruised like, say, a victim of senior abuse, which I hasten to add, is not what is happening, mainly because it’s completely unnecessary when she’s doing such a good job of that on her own.

It was either a nursing home or rent a forklift so we could return her to her vertical position without calling the EMT service for what is graciously called “lift assist” every time she uses her walker without watching and catches the edge of an area rug and keeps lumbering forward unknowingly, gradually bending the rug it up until her next step lands on it, toppling the whole edifice over like an unbalanced crate of rocks and spilling all over a loading dock. 

I should also mention that she is now also too stupid to figure out how to answer the cell phone she’s had for about 5 years. So, it’s always entertaining when TCG phones her to check in because he’s too lazy to drive the 1.5 miles from our door to hers and actually visit her.

TCG: Hello?
DOB:  Hello?
TCG:  I’m not coming today be—
DOB:  Hello? Is anybody there?
TCG:  Push the speaker button, it’s the one with a picture of a little green sp---
DOB:  Hello…. I can’t hear you yet… (Electronic beeps as random buttons are pushed)… hello?
TCG:  Can you hear me now?
DOB:  Hello?
TCG:  Press the little green speaker button, and then turn up the volume by using the little button on the side near the t—
DOB:  I thought the phone rang but nobody is here. Hello?  I’m not he—(phone cuts off as she finds the disconnect button).

Repeat this same conversation twice, but turn up the volume on TCG’s end in the vain hope she’ll figure out how to put the phone to her ear and hear his step-by-step instructions about using the speaker. I should mention she has to use the speaker function because she’s forgotten how to hold the phone to her ear.

Then TCH calls his Senior Deadbeat Sister in PA who calls DOB multiple times daily, sometimes even connecting and having what passes for conversation with her mother. I get to hear the entire conversation because TCG thoughtfully puts all his calls on speaker and mutes the volume on the news program I’m trying to watch.

TCG:  Have you talked to mother today?
SDS:  It took five attempts before she discovered the speaker button…
WISIMH:  Surprisingly, exactly where she’d left it.
SDS:  …but yeah. She’s too sore to get up today.
WISIMH:  Surprisingly, exactly like every other day.
TCG:  The new “senior friendly” phone I ordered her should arrive today or tomorrow. Then I go to AT&T to get the sim cards switched, and she should be up and running with her new phone the same afternoon.
WISIMH:  Which should be a laugh riot because a new learning curve is always something that DOB responds well to. Think how well she has mastered the procedure to disconnect calls on her current phone.
SDS:  I’ve asked them to put a landline in her room by her bed and they just don’t do it.
WISIMH:  Possibly because your whinging and argumentative attempts to care for your mother via nagging disrespectful phone calls to “the help” somehow always fail to win over the people you try to abuse into doing what you mistakenly think is their job. But I could be wrong. Maybe they just don’t give a crap either.

TCG:  (To me) And this is easier how, than having her in the back room?
UCC:  Certainly, because I don’t give a crap what happens any more. (Which is perfectly safe to say out loud because TCG is chronically unable to listen, particularly after he asks a question for me to answer. He is usually too busy interrupting whatever I’ve started to say.)
WISIMH: And, plus I don’t get bothered by her son who is too lazy to walk back to see her in person when she doesn’t answer by the third call, and thus don’t have to don my Hazmat suit to go to her room and check in person to see what entertainment she has planned for my day. (Note: it always takes at least two calls for her to find the phone and begin the fumbling/answering process. His general rule is only to become concerned when the third, fourth, or fifth call is missed. I shit you not.)