Yes, healthy care giving for an elderly mother with dementia is a common problem as our parents are living longer. It is an honor and a challenge to take over their care while allowing them to keep their dignity as individuals yet we must recognize when more is too much!
There is much we get to learn as we travel this path of learning when more is too much when involved with the care giving of our loved one.
This article is the second part of Mom Moon’s story – “Dementia, Care Giving, Elderly Parent, and When More Is Too Much.”
Low and behold, a few days later, Mom was in her wheelchair looking at a family album when she dropped it on the floor. She tried to reach down to pick up the album and went head first onto the tiled floor. Her head had quite a gash. She had to be taken to ER for staples in her head. Despite the fall, the trip to ER, and 4 staples in her head she was still much improved for a few days after having the anti-depressant medication reduced back to the original amount.
Soon Mom started being less responsive and unable to speak clearly when we called her. When we went for a visit in a couple days, we found her sitting at the lunch table. She normally is happy to see us but this day she did not even acknowledge we were there. I told Larry, I thought she was drugged so I went to the nurse’s station to check on what she had been given.
Once again, a huge surprise as we found there was a standing order for a low dose anti-anxiety medicine to be given every 6 hours on top of a higher dose to be given as needed! Needless to say, Larry and I hit the ceiling. What was going on? Mom was trying to tell us she was hurting but she was so drugged and confused, she could not communicate. It was as though she hurt all over! Several times she mentioned her leg but was not consistent. She mainly was just saying “Help me!” Again more drugs were too much! She was too drugged and in too much pain to even express herself.
I asked that she be given Tylenol because I knew she was in pain. Our assumption was that she was coming down with an intestinal flu bug that had been going around yet she did not have those same symptoms?
The next morning, Larry called the nurse’s station to check on Mom. At that time she had a fever of over 100. They had given her some Tylenol and she was resting but restless. Larry called back in about 2 ½ hours. At that point, her fever had dropped but the nurse was going to re-evaluate her again. In about 1 ½ hours the nurse called telling us they were taking her to ER because her right leg was red, hot, and very tender to touch from knee to ankle.
We dropped everything, quickly leaving to be with her in ER. The ER doctor immediately had an IV put in so they could give her something for pain and as soon as they received the report from blood work, they got her started on an antibiotic. The diagnosis was ‘cellulites’ a bad infection in the lower leg. It appeared to be caused by a sore on her leg that had worsened over the past few months. Originally it was thought to be a patch of psoriasis?
Mom was admitted to the hospital after 6 hours of being stabilized in ER. A biopsy was done on the sore on her leg during her 3 day stay in the hospital. The report from the biopsy indicates ‘squamous cell carcinoma’ a non melanoma skin cancer. We were expecting the follow-up appointment with the surgeon to indicate a need to have the cancer surgically removed. The surgeon hesitated to prescribe surgery because of Mom’s age and the location of the cancer. It was on the front of her shin in an area that would be difficult to heal because of low blood flow so he prescribed a cancer ointment to be applied twice a day. A follow-up appointment in 4 weeks will determine if it is working!
Her leg is still somewhat inflamed and requires elevation several times a day to keep the redness, swelling, and pain under control.
The nursing home has worked with us in removing Mom from all the anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications. Even though she still has severe dementia, we once again can have good conversations with her and she can communicate when she is uncomfortable from pain.
More medication was too much for Mom and was making her life a nightmare!
We realize there may be times when those medications are helpful but not just because some psychiatrist or psychologist sees a 96 year old person for 2 minutes occasionally and decides they need to be medicated. Then later decides since they are agitated and confused, they need to double up on the meds and give her another medicine to relieve the side-effects of the first medicine!
When a close family member is in a nursing home facility, quality of life is the most important factor. This involves all levels of care from the administrator, doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, therapists, activity staff, food preparers, cleaning service, and family members. Everyone at every level needs to be responsible and compassionate as well as being observant, respectful, and use common sense in the care of our family member.
Every day Mom is in the nursing home facility is a learning experience for us. Hopefully sharing some of the things we are learning will lessen heartaches for others who have to make health care decisions for their elderly parents.
When making these health care decisions for Mom, more can be best but can often be too much!
To Love Is To Serve!
Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
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Pat has been married to the same man for over 50 years, is the mother of 3 adult children, and grandma to 7 grandchildren. Growing up in the country gave her a head start to living a healthy lifestyle. This grandma became interested in nutrition as a mother and the past 26 plus years she has specialized in teaching others the importance of good nutrition. Challenges along the road have been many; her father overcoming congestive heart failure with nutrition, her husband's battle with GERD and avoiding a major heart attack, her daughter's battle with a brain tumor, her grandson beating Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and others. Her goal is to help others have the BEST REAL HEALTH possible and slow the aging process. The products Pat personally uses are featured at www.bestrealhealth.gnld.net.
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