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I'm at home, and while home does not quite look like a bomb went off, it's still chaos.  My mother, who had her flu shot last October, has caught this latest strain, and is now taking bed rest, Guaifenex, hot tea, and Hall's cough drops.  What was just the flu last Saturday is now a full-blown assault on her body, complete with chest congestion, vomiting spells, fever, and a complete lack of appetite.

I've just given her some hot chicken soup, dry toast, and tea.  I've set up the humidifier in her room, changed the blankets and sheets, and rubbed her chest down with Mentholatum.  She has a heating pad for her back; her lungs ache.  She's now sleeping off the meal and medication.

Meanwhile, I've got a ton to do.  I have projects from work to finish.  I haven't even made my own meal, and I've eaten soup all week; I'm sick of soup, and it's my favorite--chicken noodle.  I have to run a couple of loads of laundry, wash out my nylons, pay my bills, and try to finagle the budget to cover the $300 shortfall I'll have this month.

Damn, I'm tired.  I'm so tired of running around to cover all the bases, but there's nothing I can do.  I'm the one in charge.  My mother is 79, healthy enough to be independent, but still prone to occasional illnesses.  When she gets sick, she goes down.  I remember how she took care of me on the occasions when I got sick, and I don't mind taking care of her at all.  But when she gets sick, I can't help but think that, some day, we're going to replay this scene in a hospital room, surrounded by respirators and monitoring machines, and instead of tending to her in the hopes of her recover, I'll be preparing for her death.

As I look over my budget, I know that this is just a temporary setback.  I've had some big bills to pay, and once I get over this hump, I'll be on my way to clearing up my debts.  But right now, that hump looks like a mountain, and I don't know how I'll get past this.  I have some friends I could contact; I hope they'll considering helping me out.  Unfortunately, my sibs aren't able to help.  My younger sib is having financial difficulties on the personal and business front; the older one is just at the starting gate of what promises to be a bitter and expensive divorce.

But once again, I wonder:  how did I end up the one in this position?  Is it just that I'm the youngest, a woman, and single?  A good friend called this the "leave it to the girls" phenomenon, after what she witnessed in her own family.  At any family gathering, no matter how large the meal, how widespread the mess, the men would go watch TV in the living room or head out to the yard to chat, and the women got to clean it all up.  She said her husband, astonished at how her brothers and cousins acted, joined her and her sisters in the kitchen one Thanksgiving.  Her own father cornered her and said, "C'mon back in here and watch the game.  Leave this to the girls."  And it does feel that way at times:  I'm the "girl," so I get to clean up the mess.  The boys got multiple marriages and kids, and didn't want to have Mom hanging around; I had nobody, so I got her, and all the attendant medical difficulties that come with her advancing age.

That means trying, and failing, to budget for a Medicare supplement plan to take care of the expenses Medicare won't cover.  That means paying for a lot of what she needs out of my own pocket, because my own insurance doesn't consider an elderly parent a dependent.  (The cutoff age is 65.  65?!  Are they fucking shitting me?!  What the hell do they think, your parents should shrivel up and blow away before daring to reach the incredibly decrepit age of 66?)  It means watching her carefully for any signs of dementia (thank God, none), failing faculties (her hearing is going, and she had cataract surgery in October), lack of mobility (arthritis), and weakening immune system.  Which brings us to this current bout of flu.

And yet I wouldn't give up my mother for the world.  She's been my idol since I was old enough to be aware.  She's worked in machine shops, as a welder, as a circuit board solderer, a plating line supervisor, a cook, and a housecleaner.  She made me skirts to wear in school when the money didn't stretch far enough to cover new clothes, but would buy a bolt of cloth.  When depression led me to overeat and take far too much Vicodin for my own good, she would talk to me, either for long spells on the phone, or in person, over coffee, over tea, and always over my issues.  She has always encouraged me to go for the things I want, and never listen to the voice in my head that's often said I'm not smart enough, good enough, or popular enough to succeed.

I can't change a baby's diaper without throwing up; yet Mom's occasional bouts of stomach flu (complete with runaway diarrhea) haven't turned a hair on me.  I don't know why--although I heartily recommend Vicks-coated silicon earplugs to keep the smell away while cleaning.  Her blindness was much less messy, but infinitely more disturbing; there's something heartbreaking about reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to the woman who used to read me The Five Chinese Brothers three times before bedtime.  Her hearing isn't so good either; my oldest sib made a barbed remark about how annoying it was to have to repeat himself, because Mom didn't have a hearing aid.  (Medicare also will not cover hearing aids.)  It's clear that the pattern of our lives together are going to involve more episodes like now, more sickness than health, more worse than better.

What is the alternative?

There's only one, as far as I'm concerned:  the hospital room, with its monitoring machines.  Or else the morgue.

So I guess I'm going to get up now, take the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer, put the soup away and warm up some old pasta, and call a couple of friends to see if they can possibly loan me $300 until April.  And as I do it, I'll check in periodically on Mom, to make sure she's sleeping peacefully.  You know, once she starts throwing up, she usually shakes off the flu in one to two days.  So it's a good sign.  Maybe around 9:00, I'll try to feed her a little more toast.

And before she goes back to sleep, I'll tell her I love her, and maybe read a little bit of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows before I tuck her in.

Originally posted to Gemina13 on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 07:36 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Off to get that laundry finished now.

    I want to hear nothing from George W. Bush but breathing, and very little of that.

    by Gemina13 on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 07:37:20 PM PDT

  •  my mom's recent bout turned into pneumonia (5+ / 0-)

    my prayers are with you

    "In a time of hype, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." ~George Orwell

    by erin r on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 07:40:58 PM PDT

    •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bumblebums, PaintyKat

      I'm hoping it won't turn into pneumonia, but the Guaifenex is really working on her.  I took the same thing last year for an ear infection, and the infection nearly killed itself laughing. :S

      I want to hear nothing from George W. Bush but breathing, and very little of that.

      by Gemina13 on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 08:05:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  darn (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, lamzdotes, Gemina13

      wish I could give you a tip... but its too late.

      But - just want you to know that you have my sympathies, and you are not alone.

      In my case, I was once going to write a book called No time to pee

      It was the story of my life as a single parent, with a disabled (ex) husband (who is still family).

      By the way, garlic is a great natural antibiotic. that, together with plenty of vitamins (b and c especially) and salt & water nasal irrigation really helped my sinusitis immeasurably.

      kudos to you for living your love for your mother.

      •  Thanks (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        biscobosco, ladybug53, lamzdotes

        A disabled spouse?  Oh, geez, that's rough. ::wince::  Have you been able to get help?  I sure hope so.

        I've heard some really hard stories from putting up this diary.  You're all in my prayers for everything you've done and are still doing.  (And you really should write that book, with that title.  I'd buy it!)

        Urg--a friend recommended a neti pot.  I went instead for double doses of B complex along with the Guaifenex and DayQuil.  My mother views nasal irrigation the way a medieval heretic would view the rack.

        Your sig is a great way to hang the chicken 'round McCain's neck.

        I want to hear nothing from George W. Bush but breathing, and very little of that.

        by Gemina13 on Fri Mar 21, 2008 at 10:47:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yeah (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladybug53, lamzdotes

          well, we were already separated when he got sick, but I did help him quite a bit over many years, helped him through hospitalizations, etc. and I still am in touch with him, though not doing daily care at all.

          Now he is in assisted living apartment. - I did get alot of help - He got on Social security disability, which then could pay for his apartment.

          my son views the nasal thing the same way as your mom- but I just have to say, in my case after 3 infections, and nothing antibiotics could do, it was that or surgery. and it started to look real good :)

          Anyway TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! that is the first mantra for someone giving care to others. do whatever you can to find time for yourself.  it is so important not to burn out.

  •  Seriously... (3+ / 0-)


    If you find this intrusive, please let me know, and I promise not to disturb you again.

    I can totally relate to what you're going through. I'm currently the sole caretaker for my 78-year-old mom, who has rheumatoid arthritis, 2 artificial hips and 2 artificial knees.  She can neither wash, dress, nor feed herslf. And I also have a full-time job and my own household to take care of.

    Is your mom eligible for Medicaid?  Has anyone offered senior case management services to your mom? It sounds as if you could use someone with a really good knowledge of benefits and eligibility to take a look at her assets and see what's available to her.  

    Again, I don't intend to be intrusive.  I just eant to help. I know the emotional and physical exhaustion that comes with caretaking.  You don't need to add the financial stress. Let me know if I can help.

    "I run the kitchen, so I can stand the heat" - Nikki Giovanni

    by sistermoon on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 07:52:58 PM PDT

    •  Thank you. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bumblebums, PaintyKat

      I'm going to talk to a counselor at work tomorrow.  My supervisor noticed I was drowsing over work, asked, and got an earful. :)  A little help would go a LONG way right now, believe me.

      Do you have any help with your mom?  WHat an awful situation for you both, and I'm sure she hates losing her independence too.

      ::hugs::  Take care.

      I want to hear nothing from George W. Bush but breathing, and very little of that.

      by Gemina13 on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 08:08:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're welcome (0+ / 0-)

        What a kind and thoughtful supervisor!!! I'm so glad you're going to have someone to reach out to!!!

        When you talk to the counselor, ask him/her about senior services - Medicaid insurance(that's what we call it in NY. Your state may have a different name), in-home care, adaptive equipment (hearing aids, visual aids, lift chairs, tub rails, walkers, canes) physical therapy, adult social programs (that can get her out of the house to socialize with other seniors). Ask lots of questions, and get everything that she's eligible for and wants ;-) Just getting help with the medical expenses and some of the practical things will really take a load off your mind and nerves.

        And ask about caregiver resources. We have care giver support groups that meet in person bi-weekly and online 24/7. Find a good therapist to help you cope with the stress in a healthy way. Take a nice long bubble bath once a week

        And thank you for the hugs.  Much love to you and your mom.  You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.

        "I run the kitchen, so I can stand the heat" - Nikki Giovanni

        by sistermoon on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 08:47:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Gemina (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PaintyKat, Gemina13

    I've been there. I know.

    Let me thank you for putting your story here, and for letting us express our hopes for you - that your mom recovers quickly, that you find plenty of strength and resources to surmount that hump and that you take good care of your good self.

    Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

    by bumblebums on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 07:57:18 PM PDT

  •  You need to talk to your mom's doctor (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trashablanca, AntKat, Gemina13

    Doctor's can prescribe home health care to monitor her situation, instead of hospital.  this will allow a nurse to come in and an aide to assist, and can also provide someone to clean for her.  As long as the doctor orders it, and Medicare will pay for it.

    My mom, who is 76, had and still maintains some of it now, when her blood pressure shot up.  Her doctor ordered it, it has made a big difference, and provided alot of support for me.  I, like you am the only one to see after my mom.  Of course, my mom lives in her own home, I'm not sure if that has any bearing.  He has to recertify her need about every thirty days.

    I hope that this helps

  •  I am exhausted just reading about your day BUT (6+ / 0-)

    it fills my heart to hear how you so lovingly care for your mother in spit of the pitfalls of Medicare.

    I have just moved my 83-yr old mother in with me and she was ill the first week.  Normally she is very spry and seems like she can work me into the ground but the hearing loss is so very challenging and the handling so important.

    I realize how much mother elects to just act like she hears because she gets so tired of saying something about repeating or acknowledging that she didn't hear.  I see her attempts to read my facial expressions and lips and this is all very new to both of us.

    Last year is the first year that she invested in a medicare supplement and it is a lifesaver but to budget it would be challenging.  Hers was $1500 annually but I think it could have been paid monthly but cost more so she just paid it with her last savings dollars.  It will be up to me to pay for it this year.  And I plan to get her to an audiologist for testing so we can get a hearing aid.

    A hearing aid seems essential for safety purposes.  I teased her and said she could still turn it off if she didn't want to listen to someone.  But the irritant of the television decibel level is stressful when one isn't a television watcher.

    But it is challenging and I admire your efforts and the heart and compassion you invest in caring so lovingly for someone who cared for you when you couldn't.

    Hopefully there will be some meaningful changes in Medicare that mean care for the elderly and not for the drug companies and other medical corporations who get the benefits now.


    WWYTR? Voting, contributing, supporting, and electing Democrats

    by PaintyKat on Fri Mar 21, 2008 at 05:10:52 PM PDT

    •  Thank you. (6+ / 0-)

      I'm in tears now, just reading this.  Part of my job is to pay the bills for our clients, many of whom are in their 80s, 90s, and even early 100s.  The cost of their medical supplies staggers me, and makes me wonder how on earth I could handle any of it if Mom got worse.

      I salute you for caring for your mother.  You're right--it's not easy at all.  Medicare's costs increase every year, and it seems to cover less and less with time.  Trying to get them to cover a decent hearing aid is like trying to get a cow to fly.  That your mother had to exhaust her savings just on the supplement shows just how broken this system is.

      I don't want to say that it's not supposed to be this way.  But I do feel that there has to be a better way.

      I want to hear nothing from George W. Bush but breathing, and very little of that.

      by Gemina13 on Fri Mar 21, 2008 at 07:11:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for sharing your story..... (6+ / 0-)

    My Mom is 76 and lives in a nearby senior apartment complex.

    She's had both knees replaced, cataract surgery  on both eyes, has been an insulate dependent diabetes sufferer for more than a decade and has an enlarged heart.

    That said, the most amazing thing is she is, at the moment just like that energizer bunny, she just keeps going and going, and I might add pretty much runs rings around me.

    It seems that lately all I can accomplish is get through my week at work and then feel huge amounts of guilt for not spending more time with her when I'm not at work just trying to recharge to start it all over again...... btw, when I'm not with her, I miss her company, she is my best friend, and talk about unconditional love......

    I'm blessed with a sister that sort of takes up my slack and vice a versa.

    Here in PA there is a lottery supported program for low income seniors for medications, without that I don't know how she would manage.

    I applaud you for bringing your Mom into your home and am considering making the offer to my Mother. She has never indicated that she would want that, but I keep thinking that making the move now would be better that waiting until she has to.

    Anyway, thanks to the rescue rangers for pointing me to your diary, I love this site for lots of reasons, but personal diaries like yours, are chief among them.

    Wanted: A Dem who can win PA-18 in 2008!

    by AntKat on Fri Mar 21, 2008 at 08:47:36 PM PDT

    •  Good for you. :) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, lamzdotes

      I'm so glad you and your sister have something worked out--and I'm chuckling because I SO know the feeling of being wiped out and watching your 70-something mother kick ass. :)

      It's a great thing to have a parent you love and who loves you in return.  I've seen so little of it that it really makes me happy when I find someone whose mom or dad means as much to them as mine does.  It's not about not cutting the apron strings; it's about maintaining a lifelong relationship with someone who has always been there for you.  It's a great thing.

      I want to hear nothing from George W. Bush but breathing, and very little of that.

      by Gemina13 on Fri Mar 21, 2008 at 10:51:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hey, Gem. It's a tough row to hoe when you're (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, va dare, AntKat, lamzdotes, Gemina13

    a caretaker.  I can tell how much your Mom is loved.  Good job.

    Damn the neo-cons! Full speed ahead!

    by Aaa T Tudeattack on Fri Mar 21, 2008 at 08:59:11 PM PDT

  •  Gemina13, to late to rec or tip, but kudos for (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, lamzdotes, Gemina13

    your love and effort.

    Liked the tips offered for medicaid and for prescription required nursing care.

    Out of curiosity, because I know state benefits vary widely from each other, just what state are you in?

    I know the question is a double entendre.

    •  ::snort:: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, lamzdotes

      Ahh, double entendres. :)  I'm too wiped to answer in kind, so I'll get to the chase.

      I live in Arizona. :S  Not a great state for family-oriented benefits, but at least the workers are pleasant, helpful, and won't roll their eyes like you're asking for the moon when all you want is a medical referral.  As for the state I'm in . . . meh. :)  See above.

      I want to hear nothing from George W. Bush but breathing, and very little of that.

      by Gemina13 on Fri Mar 21, 2008 at 10:54:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Lost and Found Dept. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Ma'am, we think we've got a large sack of karma here that might belong to you.  It's making loud purring noises, and we thought it was kittens.

    Someone will bring it right over.

    •  Wow! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ::grins::  This made my day.

      Although I wouldn't say no to a sack of kittens, either!

      I want to hear nothing from George W. Bush but breathing, and very little of that.

      by Gemina13 on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 09:13:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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