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Thursday 11 July 2024

Heat Stress

Hello, I'm back, I really didn't think I'd take this long to write another post, I will fill you in.

Immediately after my previous post, I had to have work done on my house. First it was the removal of my chimney due to long-term (as it turned out) leaking, then the wall abutting the chimney had to be repaired, outside and inside, and hardwood flooring had to be repaired, and then while the contractor was here, I had a half a dozen windows replaced (a job I had booked a year ago).

All of that took three weeks and the last of my reserves.

And in the middle of that, my mother suffered two compression fractures in her back, I resumed visiting (which felt like walking through an emotional minefield), I had to prepare for and attend a care conference at her nursing home (standard for new residents), and the hell of summer descended upon us in all its hot and humid glory.

Ah. Now we are getting to the point of the title.

I'm stressed by the actual heat and humidity. My new vinyl windows do not "take" the window air conditioners I have been relying on for many summers. They are not as robust as wood windows, and the air conditioners are large units. I do plan to have heat pumps installed, which will allow cooling in summer, but that is a few months away.

I am also stressed by worrying about how my mother is coping in this weather. It turns out the care home has enough cooling technology that Mom is not in danger of overheating; in fact, she doesn't realize it's summer because she is cool all the time. That does help my worried brain, but I didn't find out the home was cool until yesterday because I hadn't visited since the start of the heat wave.

I'm also stressed by the fact that a couple of streets away, on a route I drive every day, a family owns a Samoyed husky, who is tied at the front of the house almost all the time. There is a tree, so he does have shade, but the heat and humidity we get are beyond what he should and perhaps can tolerate. (I don't know. Any guesses from dog owners out there?) The dog has lived there for over a decade, but I think the owners of the house are different people now (I'm guessing a second generation of family that have taken ownership of both house and dog), and the dog doesn't seem to be cared for like he used to be. He always used to be pristine white whereas he is now stained and yellow; I never used to see him outside in the heat, and I often saw him out for walks with his people. It's rare to see the family walking him now. His age, maybe? Or the family being busy with two young children, perhaps.

The second day of the current heat wave, I was so disturbed I made a call to the SPCA, where I had to leave a message due to the volume of calls. Not fully trusting the messages to be monitored, I also left the same information on their online complaint page. In Nova Scotia, animal welfare officers are legally required to follow up within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. 

The next day the husky was not in the front yard of his house. The day after that, he was not in the front yard of his house. Yesterday, he was again tied out front. It was early evening when I drove past and it was starting to cool a bit but it was still 30C out (with a humidex of 37C). I didn't know what to do. So I did what I always do when I hit a wall, worry-wise: I came home and fretted until I could go to bed and escape into sleep-time oblivion.

I should follow up with the SPCA; there is provision for complainants to do that. I just feel so stressed by everything, I can barely function. I am trying to keep my two elderly cats cool using a portable air condition; they both have health problems including kidney disease and due to one's aggressive personality they can't be in the same room, so I have rigged up a sort of "half-door" between rooms and must use a fan to move the cool air into the second room. I am trying to keep myself reasonably cool, staying up late to keep the house opened up. I worry about my son who lives on the second floor of the house, where it's even hotter, and his two cats (although he tells me they are all fine). I am trying to find a new schedule of visiting my mother, which is a delicate balance of considering her loneliness versus my mental health caused by feeling like I have been at her beck and call for the last three years. 

So . . . heat stress. It's partly about the heat, but it's a LOT MORE about the stress.

I feel like a huge Whiney McWhiney Pants. I know there are lots of folks worse off than I am. I know there are lots of animals worse off than the husky on the next street. I know there are people who have no house and no portable air conditioner and no means to get one, and who also don't know where their next meal is coming from.

I am grateful for everything I do have, and especially grateful that I don't have the worry of my mother's daily care anymore. (I do worry about her daily, but about different things.)

But I wish there was a button on my forehead I could hit to turn my brain off now and then. Just for a little rest, you know? Just for a few hours while I am awake and conscious. Just to stop my mind from fretting over things, and allow me to get other things done.

Are you a worrier too? How do you cope when the worry hits the danger zone? Do you worry about animals you see under poor conditions? How do you handle that?

I hope you have a worry-free week ahead.

And if it can't be entirely worry-free, I hope it is a "worry-lite" version of your usual life. I hope you have found the magic solution that lets you park your worries for a bit, and relax deeply.

I wish that for us all, whatever our troubles may be.


THIS.
 THIS IS WHAT I NEED ON MY FOREHEAD.


Wednesday 5 June 2024

Update

 A lot has happened here since my last post in February.

Mom was admitted to a long-term care home (nursing home) last Friday.

It's hard for her, and she is still in the adjustment period.

Before that, it was hard for me. I'm exhausted mentally and physically. I feel like I need a year to recover from the stress of the last four years, of supporting my husband through cancer, losing him, and then becoming my mother's caregiver.

And I am finding that the mom-related stress hasn't stopped, it has just changed.

Instead of worrying constantly about whether she is off on a walk, or if she can find the food I left for her, or if she has fallen and can't get up, what I can make for meals that will appeal to her, and how I will get through the mind-numbing time spent listening to her repeat and repeat and repeat herself, now I am worrying about whether she is going to ever be contented at the nursing home. I am worrying about whether it was the right thing, and then feeling helpless because it was the ONLY thing I could do when she wasn't able to take care of herself but wouldn't accept any help except mine.

But for this week, at least, I am trying to take time off. It was recommended that I not visit my mother until further notice. So I am at home, not doing anything unless I feel like it. I am reading a book a day. I am looking after my elderly cats and eating what I feel like eating and sleeping when I want to sleep. I am trying to rest my mind and body.

I don't know if I have the energy to dip back into the past months to try to describe the life I had to lead, or whether I need to just leave it all behind.

I think there is value in writing about it, and hopefully value in reading about it, because many folks haven't had to deal with it yet, and the reality is grim and should be talked about more. The statistics suggest that many of us will have to face being caregivers. Knowledge can help prepare us for that..

But it is tiring to go into the details. (I tried, today, and gave up.)

For now, this is where I am. 

I'm still here. My life has changed again. I'm still trying to fit together the pieces that were left when my husband died. Now I am also trying to figure out what my life will be like without my mother's care as a central focus. I feel adrift and sad and worn out. 

But I'm optimistic that time will help, and the supports I have tried to put in place in my life will help.

One of those supports was the blogging world, and I would like to get back to reading and writing.

I'll take it one step at a time.







Sunday 25 February 2024

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Following an assessment ten days ago, my mother's geriatrician has finally agreed to sign a form stating that she no longer has the capacity to make her own health decisions. This is huge. I expected nothing from this assessment, like all the ones before it. But apparently the doctor heard what I was saying about my mother's recent decline.

This means:

- My brother and I can consent to her receiving assistance in her home without her agreement

- We can get her on a waiting list for placement in a nursing home

- We can make other health care decisions about treatment, decisions she might not be able to make because she can no longer absorb information or think logically

It's such a crippling weight off my shoulders.

I asked the geriatrician's assistant what to do if Mom "fires" the in-home help. She said that now the form has been signed, the workers who come to her home have to try very hard to keep their foot in the door. And she said many of them are very good at handling difficult clients.

There will still be work ahead for me, I know. The wait for a space in a care home is long, averaging about 18 months. But being relieved of some of the burden of medication management, daily hygiene, and meals will be a tremendous help to me. For the last three years, I have felt like my life was being consumed by tending to my mother, largely because she wouldn't accept other help that was available to her. When I read my journal from the summer of 2023 I am afraid for the person I was then. The only thing I could do was limit my time with Mom. Gradually, after many months, I was able to start to relax and try to repair my nerves.

Now I can see some light at the end of the tunnel, and contrary to the old joke, that light is not an oncoming train. With professional help, Mom will get to stay in her home for a while longer, and it won't be at the cost of my sanity. I know that saying my sanity was on the line may sound like an exaggeration, but, trust me, it's not. I have been barely treading water for a long time.

I am hoping that increased contact with people other than me will not just provide her with physical care that she requires, but will also help with her boredom and socialization needs.

As I mentioned above, she has declined quite a bit since the last assessment eight months ago.

She has twice filled the house with smoke from overheating something in the microwave. When the smoke detector went off, she didn't know what it was or what she should do. We are lucky she never started a full-blown fire. (The microwave is gone now.) 

She is unable to understand how the furnace thermostat works, and tends to use it like an ON/OFF switch, resulting in a very cold or a very hot house. She had similar problems with the portable air conditioner last summer.

She's not understanding time, distance, and season. She has gotten ready to go outside in only a light jacket for a winter day because the air in the house was warm.

She has lost over ten pounds since last June, which was a particular red flag for the doctor. I keep her supplied with food meant to appeal to her even if it's not as healthy as it could be. She especially likes sweets lately, which I've read is common as the disease progresses. I also take her out twice a week to eat. But she just doesn't have much appetite anymore.

She has also been forgetting to take her morning pills, the ones I leave with her each evening when I take her bedtime pill to her. For nearly three years she has been able to manage the morning pills with the help of a note placed beside her pills. No longer.

The bottom line is that dementia is a progressive and fatal disease. As a person's brain dies, all the voluntary actions start to die, then the involuntary ones. People become unable to walk, control bladder and bowels, talk, interact, chew, swallow, smile. Dementia will eventually kill her, if she doesn't die of another cause first. The doctor made a point of telling me not to feel guilty and that I have been doing a good job of caring for her. That does help. I wish I could have taken better care of Mom but it's not been easy for a host of reasons.

And the grief counsellor I am seeing has also reminded me about the inevitability of decline and death due to the illness, and that I cannot stop or reverse the end result. That helped too.

I knew those things, but when you are in the middle of the situation that knowledge can be hard to remember.

Knowing that real, hands-on help is coming has helped me find my empathy again. That is also a huge relief. Stress is a horrible thing, and mine was affecting not just me but also my mother. I had so little patience with her over the last months. Even limiting our time together gave me only so much patience for the next visit. I dreaded the pill visit from mid-afternoon until the visit was completed in the evening. I don't like feeling that way and I don't like how I reacted to my mother because of it. But I felt helpless to change anything while the situation was getting worse and worse and Mom refused help. 

I hope that being honest about this process as it has played out with my mother and me might help someone else who is going through the same thing or may do so in the future. Even with the knowledge I had from observing dementia patients in my father's nursing home for eight years, I realize now I knew next to nothing about meeting the challenges myself.

(Update since I first drafted this post a week ago: The wheels of in-home care move slowly. So slowly they could be mistaken for standing still. I'm still waiting for action. This is one of the bumps in the road I was talking about. Stay tuned.)


The view from inside the tunnel hasn't changed yet, but I'm hoping . . .

Thanks for reading, my friends. I hope the week ahead is kind to you.


 

Friday 9 February 2024

All Bad in a Previous Life

My little corner of the world must be filled with sinners from previous lives. The weather gods have just smited us again.

Remember we had a hurricane eighteen months ago. Then we had wildfires nine months ago. And floods seven months ago.

Well, this time it's snow. Northeastern Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island were dealt a four-day, once-in-a-generation blizzard last week.

We got about a metre of snow where I live but the wind blew it into drifts five feet high in many places.. Those places were often the exact same places we puny little people had to shovel out in order to get to our vehicles and get our vehicles to the streets.

I just realized I mixed my metric and Imperial measurements in that last paragraph. That's what comes of growing up with one system of measurement and then having to learn the other system as an adult.

Onward. 

Some photos taken from my front porch:


Taken partway through the storm. Do you see the car to the left of the black SUV? By the end of the four days of snow, all that was visible of the car was the side view mirror. (In this shot, the SUV had been cleaned off and part of the driveway cleared out . . . temporarily.)





The snow was quite deep in front of our house because the wind was carrying it up and over the house and dumping it in the front yard and driveway. For context, there is a foot-high drop in front of that railing, so the snow is a foot higher than what you see next to the railing.





The front half of the car is freed from its snowy prison.



And this photo taken from the street in front of my house:


The towering mountain of snow piled at the end of our driveway by the machine that cleaned our street. (That bit of black on the left is the end of the driveway.) The kids next door love the mountain.


And the best part is . . . (drum roll) . . . there's another eight inches of snow in the forecast for early next week . . .

I'm so glad my son is living here again. I'd never be able to move all that snow myself, especially as I had my mother here with me for three of the four days of the storm. Her dementia is progressing, and I had to keep eyes on her most of the time she was awake. I couldn't give my son much help in the snow shovelling department.

I'm trying to be very, very good in my current life so maybe in my next one there will be no apocalypses of the weather kind.

How's the weather in your neck of the woods?

And would you rather have a hurricane, a wildfire, a flood, or a blizzard?

I'm just thankful we don't tend to have earthquakes, tornadoes, or volcanoes here. Hopefully I haven't jinxed us with that statement. 😁



 


Sunday 19 November 2023

Finding My Way

I feel rusty trying to write a post after being fairly absent in Blogland for a while.

When life is overwhelming, it's hard for me to write for public consumption.

It feels like I'm either being too open for my comfort, or too whiny, or, at the other extreme, omitting things that really affect me and I'd really like to talk about.

So I just don't post, for the most part.

But it feels like life is easing a bit lately. Here's why.

The things dragging me down were, in a nutshell, the care of my mom who has dementia, and grief.

For my own sanity, I had to stop taking Mom out so much. I already visit once a day to take her pills to her, so I reduced other outings with her to twice a week. It took a while to feel the benefits, but I am noticing I am less tense now. Also, I count appointments as outings, which may or may not be fair to Mom, but it is the only way I can cope. And if I can't cope, Mom will suffer anyway. I also signed up for Mom to go to an Adult Day Program for dementia patients. We went for a trial run, and she enjoyed it so much, it made me cry. We are waiting for a spot to open up now so she can go several times a week.

I also started going to Alzheimer Support Group for caregivers once a month, which has been helpful far beyond my hopes and expectations. I had hoped to find someone in a similar situation to me so I could get some tips on dealing with my mom's particular situation. That didn't happen, but I received so much more. It is a chance to talk about my feelings, but it's also a chance to hear about other folks' struggles and gets me out of my own head. It's also a chance to socialize, as weird as that sounds. Because I'm introverted, I don't go out much socially, but I still enjoy people in small doses, and this group is one way I can do that.

As for the grief, I'm not sure if I've posted about this before or not, but I lost three people important to me within one year. One of those people was, as you know, my husband, which was a major loss as you can imagine. I felt I was just starting to cope with those losses when we had the hurricane last fall. The stress of the storm itself, which I thought of at the time as hair-raising, actually resulted in me losing a huge amount of hair, which is rather funny in a dark way. I'm lucky to have thick hair so it's not a problem, but I lost so much (at least one quarter) over an extended time (six months), I ended up having some medical tests to be sure nothing else was going on. Thankfully, the hair fall stopped shortly after the tests were complete (of course). The other fallout (see what I did there) of the hurricane was what followed the storm: caring for Mom in my home for a week and a half, while trying to clean up and make major decisions related to damage. A week and a half doesn't sound like much but it was incredibly stressful as she was agitated and restless and talked non-stop, easily understood because she wasn't in her usual environment, but hard to manage. The insurance wasn't settled until months later, and then I still had to arrange to have the repairs done, a difficult process when so many folks here needed the same resources. All without having my husband to share in the decisions. I did have help from my brother and son, which I'm so grateful for, but the stress was constant and unrelenting.

I find that I still need to do something to cope with my losses, so I've signed up for grief counselling by telephone. I would like to be able to recall the good memories, not just those of the period when my husband was sick and dying, and not just of the shock and sadness of the other losses.

In the meantime, my son and I decided that he would move into half of my large house, as I was rattling around like a BB pellet in a tin can and he was looking for a way to move back to this area and reduce expenses. That was a very positive decision and is helping my mental health immensely, but on the flip side, it brought more work and decisions as I had to downsize my belongings and make some hard decisions about emotionally-charged items. He is finally moved in now, and I need to go through everything I put aside the first time around and make more decisions.

All along, my two older cats' health has been a concern as well. Meredith cat was given a few months to live. . . about fourteen months ago. I don't think her diagnosis was correct, but she definitely has something going on. She was diagnosed with cancer in the vicinity of her heart, which appeared on the x-ray as a mass pressing her heart out and upwards. I think she has something wrong in her intestinal tract, however. She has been having bouts of vomiting and lack of appetite. In between, she is feisty as ever, but she is getting thin and I hate to see her feeling unwell so much. Lucy cat has had sneezing and oral odour for a while, and finally - finally! - had dental work done last week. Her teeth were in bad shape, which makes me feel horrible that she was suffering even more than I thought she might be.

So it's been a time here, as they say. I am hoping to get Meredith in for another vet visit soon, and then hopefully things will gradually return to some kind of quiet normal.

Life's a beach, as my husband used to say. (Of course, he meant something else, not exactly "beach". lol)

But I feel less like I'm drowning now. Hopefully I'll be around more.

Thanks for reading. To celebrate getting to the end, here are a couple of memes that make me smile. I hope they make you smile too.



















But things are improving!



I hope that if you are having an unusual amount of stress, you too are finding your way, or will do so soon. Just keep swimming.

Have a good week, my people.


Thursday 16 November 2023

Things I Don't Understand

This is a list I made after reading yet another news article about someone who had something bad happen because that person was doing something stupid (this news article was about someone who had a medical emergency at #1 below).

The article got me thinking about all the other things I wonder about, usually with my face screwed up into a position reminiscent of smelling something weird and not liking it.

THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND:

1. eating contests

2. bull-fighting

3. stunts that can only end badly

4. rock climbing

5. skiing on closed trails

6. keeping dangerous animals as "pets"

7. "practical jokes"

8. leaving pets in a vehicle on a hot day (I make a different face with this one. It's a very angry face and you wouldn't want to see it.) 





What would be on your list of things you don't understand? 

Saturday 23 September 2023

Teenagers

The other night, I was heading home from work around midnight. The town streets were dark and quiet - no cars, no people.

Until I rounded a corner. On the street ahead, I saw them - three gangly adolescents standing in the middle of the street, long legs shifting as they jostled each other. I slowed, but they made no effort to move, just looked over their shoulders at me and continued their teenaged conference.

I wondered if I should honk the horn once, just to remind them I was there and needed through, but I didn't know how they would react. Would I give them a fright? Would they turn on me? There was no one else around to help me if I made the wrong choice.

As I pondered my next move, they gathered their collective wisdom and with a bit of shoving and bumbling, began to slowly move ahead. They proceeded through the stop sign and down the next street at an amble. I followed slowly so they wouldn't feel threatened, smiling at their awkward gait, those long limbs and tiny hoofs so deceptively frail-looking beneath white tails . . .

Yep, those were adolescent deer wandering through town in late evening. They're not just in peoples' back yards, they're everywhere. 

And just like people, they travel in preferred groups, the older males together, the moms and babies born this year together, and the adolescents together. The last group always make me smile, they're so much like their human counterparts - unsure of what their goals are or how to get there, apt to stand around shuffling their feet, and slow to react to cars with the right-of-way.

I only wish I had a video, or even a photo, to share with you.

A meme will have to do instead.






I hope your week brings you some smiles too.



Sunday 17 September 2023

Lee Has Moved On

I am feeling very fortunate today; the storm has passed and is heading to Quebec. My roof is no worse than it was two days ago, my trees are still standing, and I had no interruption of power. As far as I'm concerned, that's a trifecta of good luck.

Other parts of Nova Scotia have had downed trees and loss of electricity, but overall our province was spared. New Brunswick was hit harder, and I can't find any news reports on how Prince Edward Island was affected but significant damage was not expected. (Maybe Marie, our blogging friend in PEI, will have a report on this later.) 

The storm is heading for Quebec now. It took a westward turn and that is what helped us here in NS and also those in Newfoundland.

I know that our good fortune is someone else's misfortune, however. I hope the storm wears itself out quickly.

For now, I will not have to worry about my hair falling out like it did after last year's Fiona.

This guy is my spirit animal:



I hope you have a good week, people. Thank you for all your comments and good thoughts on my last post.