Another wake-up call

I flew out this morning to spend a long weekend with my mom. I arrived just after lunchtime to find her in bed, asleep. She’s been fighting a cold for the last few days and I guess it’s just beating her down. I had stopped at Walmart on my way into town to get her Mucinex and Alka Seltzer Plus cold medicine, since she told me on the phone Wednesday that she’d run out of the cold medicine we got her last time. I also picked up a heart shaped tin of Dove chocolates at half price. When I showed it to her, she propped herself up on one elbow and held out her hand, her expression as eager as a child’s. Mom always did have a sweet tooth. We each had a chocolate and then I got her a glass of water and gave her a Mucinex. She’s got a hacking cough that sounds painful and a lot of chest congestion. Her hair looked awful, like it hadn’t been washed or even combed in days. I asked her when her next appointment is with the hairstylist who comes to the assisted living, and she said “I don’t think I made one.”

Oh dear. Unbeknownst to Mom, a group of her friends from the old apartment complex have been planning a special luncheon in her honor and they scheduled it for this Monday so that I could join them. A dozen ladies at a fancy restaurant and Mom without her hair done? This will never do. I got right on the phone and made her an appointment for a wash and set tomorrow morning. Now I just hope she’ll be feeling up to it – or, for that matter, for the luncheon on Monday.

She barely touched her dinner. Before they’d even come around with dessert, she told me she wanted to go back to her room and lie down. Skipping dessert is a sure sign that she’s not feeling well. When we got back to the apartment, though, she settled into her easy chair and turned on the TV. I think she did doze a bit in the chair during Andy Griffith reruns on TV Land. Andy Griffith was followed by M*A*S*H, which I’ve always enjoyed.

In the middle of an episode, Mom shouted over the blaring TV something about her eye. I turned down the volume and asked her to repeat it. Her eye felt sticky, she said, and a little sore. Would I take a look? I crouched down by the chair and had her remove her glasses. Her eyelids looked red and there was a little mucus in the corner of her right eye. Oh crap, is that pinkeye? Anxious, I pulled out my iPhone to consult WebMD, which suggested washing the eyes with water (or a natural tears solution, which we didn’t have) and using warm compresses every few hours. I read that to her and she got up, forgetting her walker, and headed into the kitchen where she started banging around in the cupboards. What are you looking for, Mom? Something to rinse my eyes with, she answered. In the kitchen?? I gently redirected her to the bathroom, where we checked the medicine cabinet. No eye drops, but half a box of Mucinex and an unopened bottle of cough syrup. She didn’t run out, she just forgot where it was. I helped her bathe her eyes with warm water and then prepared a warm washcloth for a compress. Before I left for the night, we repeated the process and I gave her some cough medicine.

It’s a fresh wake-up call every time I see her. She needs so much. She’s rapidly losing the ability to take care of even simple things for herself. The one piece of good news today is that we met with a kind, wonderful woman who works for a company that provides personal care services. They offer what they call “concierge service” at my mom’s facility, which you can purchase in half hour increments for only ten dollars. She was warm and friendly and gave Mom a hug when she left. So the next time Mom needs someone to run to the drugstore for cough syrup or whatever and our friend is out of town, I have someone I can call.

First thing in the morning, I’m tracking down the nurse and asking her to check on Mom. I’m worried. But I’m sure glad I’m here.

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