From The Twelfth Floor

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Reading between the blinds…

It has been a week of turmoil for our family, and of mixed emotions for me. Even as something wonderful happens, there is a crisis which more than counterbalances the happiness I feel. But as the old saying goes, when it rains, it pours.

I write this from room 1217 in our local teaching hospital, looking at a grey, drizzly and cool almost-autumn Saturday. My Bonus Mom was admitted a week ago tomorrow after an impacted wisdom tooth below the gums became abscessed, resulting in excruciating pain and a raging infection. (She’s had dentures for decades; who even knew there were unremoved teeth in there?!).

Because she suffers from Lewy Body dementia, sometimes she can’t quite articulate exactly what she wants to in the way she wants to. And because her and my father’s general practice doctor is WAY more general than practiced (another story for another blog), her initial complaint of jaw pain was diagnosed as a sinus infection weeks ago. A round of antibiotics seemed to help, but when that course was completed, the infection came back with a vengeance. So an issue that could have been addressed earlier with a little detective work and a scan of her head turned into this debacle of torment for her and my dad, a day in the emergency department/late night hospital admission and emergency oral surgery in the wee hours of Labor Day, a serious decline in her overall condition, and now, the prospect of placement in a 24/7 skilled nursing facility, at least for the the time being.

Yes, I am angry. And frustrated. And very sad. Infections like this can wreak havoc in dementia patients, and she has been no exception. Her personality and perception became so altered that for days she was in restraints, both for her protection and that of hospital staff. She was hostile, using language she never would utter in her right mind. While her personality and demeanor are much more “like her” now that her infection is clearing and the pain has been addressed, her mobility and spatial perception are markedly impaired. Some of that may never recover, and we are having to come to terms with some pretty heavy possible scenarios regarding her care and well being.

All of this comes just as I received a promotion at work, and the increased responsibilities that come with it. I will have time to be happy about it later. Right now there are more important things to attend to, like family issues and the actual responsibilities of both family and workplace.

Most of what is going on around me isn’t ABOUT me. But these circumstances do provide a chance for some perspective, serving as a lesson in humility. We are also living a cautionary tale on many fronts, hoping to take lessons from the choices made by our elders. In putting off making a decision, we are actually MAKING a decision. My father turned 85 this week with his second wife in the hospital and them looking at the need for possible very long long-term care for her. He has always been the one who preached to everyone else the importance of having finances and legal matters in order, even as he has neglected some of the most important of those items for him and my Bonus Mom. Forms were acquired and started, but not completed. That complicates matters.

I need to get my own affairs in order. My living will is done and my wishes are known to anyone and everyone who might need to know them. I have life insurance that is unconnected to a job so that, in the event that I predecease my husband, he will be protected financially, at least for a while. I need to finish my “dead will” also.

Forewarned is forearmed. Knowledge is power. Sooner is better than later. As I read between the blinds in this hospital room, I am making a list of all the loose ends I need to tie up so that my husband is not the one left dangling if something catastrophic happens to me, knock wood and Lord willing.

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