Mother in Law

Last week, my mother in law had the PICC removed from her arm and yesterday she returned to her home.

She is the one who wanted to get back to her home and I understand that feeling. However, I do miss her being around. Unlike the stereotypical mother in law – son in law relationship, I very much enjoy her being at the house

One thing I did notice is her mental acuity and mood seems far better than it has been in the past several years and I think it has to do with her interacting with people. She is 84 and lives alone in her house. All of her friends are now dead, or have been “taken” be dementia and are now in a nursing home. Add the COVID-19 precautions and, to me, she has been merely existing.

My wife plays bluegrass music with 3 other people…a 60 year old man, the 90 year old father of the 60 year old man, and an 80 year old man. Myself, the wife of the 60 year old man and the wife of the 80 year old man come along to listen. The 90 year old man is a widower and is mentally *very* sharp–talking about everything from history and current events to politics.

We would always try to get my mother in law to come along with us, but it was always, “No. It’s too far out of your way and I don’t wan to be a bother”. This was despite our assurances that it was no bother to drive the 3 miles out of our way to go get her.

When she was here, the “3 miles” was not an available ‘excuse’, so she would come along with us.

Now, even with her being back at her home, she has said, “I hope you can come get me for the next jam. I enjoy them a lot.” My wife and I are thrilled.

PICC

Since my mother-in-law is home from hospital, some aspects of her continuing treatment fall upon my wife (her daughter) and myself (her son-in-law).

She gets 2 grams of an antibiotic each day through a PICC. A PICC is a long thin tube that is inserted into a vein in the left arm and the tube is pushed in far enough to end just above the heart. The other end of this tube is outside the skin and has valve on it. This valve closes automatically when there is no syringe attached…this prevents blood from coming out the PICC. There is also a clamp that gets closed unless the PICC is actively being used. The clamp is a backup in case the automatic valve fails.

In case you want to see what this whole thing looks like, searching for PICC with any of the internet search engines will show all sorts of descriptions and images.

The PICC has several things that need to be checked; no sign of infection where the tube exits her body, ensuring the tube doesn’t start to come out, that the end of the tube inside the body doesn’t become clogged by clotted blood.

The daily noon-time process takes about 15 minutes and is the same each day except for Monday. On Monday there is additionally a blood sample taken and the sample is sent to the medical testing lab.

The results of the lab analysis are sent to the physician so the physician can decide “what’s next”.

Hospital

It is happening again. This time, my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law called to tell my wife that she was having severe back pain and then asked we take her to the emergency department at the nearby hospital.

The doctors have determined the cause of her pain to be multiple compression fractures in her lower spine and she has been admitted to hospital for treatment.

….Sigh….

Mom April 1918 – November 9, 2016

My mom died today.  She was 98-1/2 and her mind wasn’t fully there anymore.  I knew this was coming, but I will still miss her.

She had been part of a brain study for the past 20 years and very much wanted to remain part of it, so she will continue to contribute.

After the funeral home folks left with her, I went to the ships bell hanging out side (she was a Navy veteran) and gently struck 8 bells.

 

 

 

The Phone Call, Part 6

Wow.

It is all consuming.  I’m basically taking over my mother’s 78 years of adulthood (back then, adulthood happened at age 21) in just a few hours.

My parents lived through the Great Depression and they told me that they saw banks close without paying their depositors.  Now, if a bank closes without paying the depositors, the deposits are insured by the US Government’s FDIC. I think my parents thought it would take a long time for the FDIC to make the payments and to protect themselves against having to wait a long time, they opened accounts in many different banks.

I have finished this at two banks and I have started the process at two other banks.  There are twelve more banks on my list. Then there are the investment companies, utility companies, taxing authorities, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.  Fortunately mom kept reasonably good records, so I don’t have to search around for the information.

The process is not hard but it is mind numbing.

So far, it has been taking about 3 hours to complete the process at each place…three hours of being forced to face the fact that my proud, amazing, capable and intelligent mom is now “only” proud and amazing.  It’s all I can do to not tear up while I am meeting with the bank managers.

The Phone Call, Part 5

I now have all the necessary documents signed and notarized so I can start signing documents on my mom’s behalf.

It will make things easier for me, but I don’t like it.  Over the years, she has had many “jobs” and many roles..and has, in my mind, always been Supermom.

Before World War II, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Organic Chemistry.  This was a testament to her and to her parents.  Back then, a woman going to college to be other than a teacher or a nurse was unusual.

During World War II she was a Lieutenant in the US Navy, helping to develop synthetic rubber and also working on improving submarine batteries.

After World War II, she met my dad, a US Marine and they were married in 1946.  So she became a wife.  Often times, dad would be sent across country on short notice. He would fly, and mom would drive.  In the early 1950s, a woman driving a car across the country, by herself was, like her college degree, unusual.

She became a mom, twice, when my brother and I were born.  This is the role I most cherish and remember.

When dad retired from the marines, I was 4.  We settled down in one place and mom studied and practiced a lot and became a midwife.  When the role of nurse practitioner was created, mom studied, passed the test and did a lot more work.  She was then a nurse practitioner-midwife.

I just realized this sounds like an obituary, but it’s not.  It’s to tell about my amazing mom and why I call her Supermom.

Dementia has crept into her mind, and my life. Thinking of her, her personality and her skills, capabilities and accomplishments is like looking at a faded photograph.  The image is there to remind me of what was, but the brilliance of the image is gone and that reminds me of what is.

 

The Phone Call, Part 4

Today was a day off from work.  Work calls it vacation.  I call it sadness.

Everything  mom owns is in a trust and the trust specifies the process for stepping in to manage her affairs.

The process starts with my brother and I asking mom’s family doctor his opinion about my mom’s ability to manage her affairs.  If her family doctor agrees mom needs help, he recommends a doctor specializing in cognitive disorders.  My brother and I have to agree with the family doctor’s choice of a specialist.   If the specialist agrees, then the two doctors send a letter to the attorney.  My brother and I then sign some paperwork and take copies of the documents around to every place that needs to know we are now managing mom’s affairs.

The family doctor agreed mom needs our help and recommended a cognitive neurologist as the specialist doctor.

Today was the appointment with the cognitive neurologist.

The specialist doctor “strongly agreed” that our mom needs our help.  As she (the doctor) administered the tests….What is 12 plus 9?….Who is the president of the United States?  Where are you right now?  Can you draw a clock?…and I watched mom struggle, I started to tear up.

The doctor…she had to comfort me.

The Phone Call, Part 3

I finally found an attorney willing to work with an already existing trust document.  The advice from the other attorneys, “You need to go back to the attorney who set it up” was not possible because that attorney died unexpectedly and did not have a succession plan in place….an odd thing for an estate planning attorney.

I think I’m going to like this attorney.  She is smart and confident without being obnoxious.

The process to assume control of mom’s assets is laid out in the trust and is easy from a implementation standpoint.  Emotionally, following the process is a whole different matter.

By starting and following this process, I’m proclaiming that I no longer believe my 98 year old mom is the strong, smart, intelligent, confident and capable woman that I remember and admired so much.

 

 

The Phone Call

I’ve been putting off confronting the problem.  I kept hiding from it and hoping it would go away.  But, this problem can’t, won’t and didn’t (go away).

My mom’s mental status has been declining as of late.  Most likely it’s due to complications of her age (almost 98).  I’ve been, with her approval and signature, taking care of paying her bills and taking care of her other affairs.  It’s getting to the point where I don’t feel right taking her to the bank and saying, “Mom.  Please sign here.” and her responding “Can I put my feet down?” or “Did I do something wrong?”

My parents, before my dad died, retained a very capable attorney and set up a trust.  In the close to 900 pages of the trust document is a section dealing with what to do when mom’s age, mental status or other things prevent her from taking care of her own affairs.

I could just have her sign a document saying she wishes my brother and I to become the active (or whatever it’s called) trustees.  I know she would do it, but if I don’t feel comfortable having her sign checks any longer, then I don’t think it would be right to have her sign something giving up control of her affairs.

Basically, two medical doctors, my brother, and I need to agree that it’s time, or a court needs to determine the same thing.

I called my brother today.  Next week he’s flying in to see for himself.

My mom, in my heart, is supposed to be an invincible Superwoman, just like she was when I was five or six years old.  Her need for a 24 hour a day caretaker challenged my heart’s view of mom.  This new development is an even bigger challenge to my heart’s view…a challenge that I intensely dislike having to confront.

Maybe if I say it enough, it will make it true.

“My mom is still an invincible Superwoman.”

Home again

My mom is home from the hospital.  She’s not very strong, but hopefully she will regain her strength.

Her hand, where they placed an IV catheter, is swollen.  Her primary care doctor examined her today and we showed him the hand.   Since she just started antibiotics, we are watching.  If it gets worse….call.  If it remains the same after a couple of days….call.