May 25, 2009

Hope you are all enjoying a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  Although, Chole cautioned Howard and I about wishing a wonderful Memorial Day weekend to someone who is terminal.  A little of Chole’s humour we get a taste of each day.

Each morning I asked Chole what she would like for breakfast.  Maybe some scrambled eggs, toast, cereal, fresh fruit or oatmeal?  The other morning she asked for pancakes.  I do not think we have made pancakes or waffles in this house in 15 years.  And of course we do not have any pancake mix. So the other day when I went to the store I picked up some Bisquick.  And this morning I attempted to make pancakes.  After about 3 flops I finally got one that looked decent.  She actually ate two of them plus some scrambled eggs and commented they tasted good.  Fortunately, she is easy to please.

We are having a memorable Memorial weekend in spite of Chole’s caution.  Gena is here from Hospice helping her with a Shower.  I did not think they would be coming on a holiday for the personal care.  But about an hour ago Gena called and asked if we wanted her to come today.  Chole is always game for her shower.

Isaac is bringing pizza for lunch.  Now I have to figure out what to do for dinner to go with pizza and pancakes.

Love to all !

Howard & Chole


A Good Week

May 23, 2009

Dallas Arboretum

Dallas Arboretum

What is a good week, you say?  This weeks top ten –

  1.  Chole smiling & cracking her jokes with her play on words.
  2. Talking with her sons a few times each day
  3. Spending special time with one of her sisters.
  4. The pain in her head is under control.
  5. Her nausea which is always there is liveable and under control.
  6. She can enjoy food and eat a few times each day –  even if it is some of my cooking.
  7. A hug from Emma and Sophia
  8. Making and taking phone calls from mom, family & friends
  9. Enjoying a few short visits from friends.
  10. Reading emails and cards from friends and family.
  11. I will make it eleven – a visit from her beautician who cut her hair and they talked their heads off for about an hour.  Someone needs to write a book about the relationship between beauticians and their women clients.  It is definitely more than business.  I believe Glenda has been cutting her hair for at least 10 years.

I am not sure I got the order right but the important thing is that Chole was able to experience all of the above this week –  pretty much everyday. 

There were 2 keys I believe to the “Good Week”.  The week always seems special when one of her sisters is able to be here for a few days.  Chole’s youngest sister, Lydia came on Wednesday and was very good medicine and wonderful help for the 2 of us.

Secondly, the folks from Hospice got into a good rhythm.  They made some changes in her medication which really seemed to help.  The pain medication was changed to a low dose morphine which really seemed to work magic.  And the nausea medication was changed to Haldol and has improved that area of her care which had been a real headache for us to manage.  They tried Restoril for sleep but that did not work and was a little scary in its side effects so we went back to the Xanax.  She is sleeping much better including blocks of 4 hours at a time.  I will tell you that makes life much easier for everyone.

Days such as these are quite special.

Our Love to You All !

Howard in Fresno

Back on track

May 19, 2009

We’ve had a better couple of days.

After a very long Saturday night, the nurse from Hinds Hospice came to the house on Sunday morning and helped us adjust mom’s medications. Since then, I think it’s fair to say that some of mom’s strength and mobility have returned (though we still rely on the wheelchair for backup support).

Hinds Hospice has been great. I was feeling a little overwhelmed on Sunday morning, and in a very indirect, round-about way tried to infer to the nurse that maybe we were “in a little over our heads”. The nurse seemed to know exactly what I was trying to say and replied very reassuringly that “families do this – you can do this”. Although “motivational sentiments” usually have the opposite effect on me, this was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.

Once again, it feels like we have it under control (though admittedly, that’s much easier for me to say as my dad has been taking the “night shift”).

Alicia, Sophia and I took care of my mom yesterday afternoon while my dad went to the office and took care of a few errands. Tomorrow (Wednesday), mom’s youngest sister, Lydia will do a u-turn and come back to Fresno for another visit – this time, she will be staying for a few days (I’ve already advised her to plan on watching a whole lot of “NCIS”).

I will go back to Dallas this afternoon. Although mom’s short-term memory isn’t the best, she definitely knows that I am leaving today. She asked me this morning if I enjoyed my visit – despite the circumstances, I did not need to hesitate when I replied “yes!”

I’ve been spending some time every day reading the many replies that have been accumulating on the blog to my mom. After listening to a recent post by Sandy and Chuck, my mom smiled and said “I picture all of these people reading these [replies] from afar who don’t even know each other…”…I agreed, that this blog has woven together many different  memories from different times and places that are all harmoniously linked together, just as a “quilt” should – whether you’re actively posting your replies or privately reading along, thank you.

It’s always something.

After finding what seemed to be the right combination of medications to control the nausea and pain, a new symptom seems to have developed. Mobility has now become the issue.

It’s been a couple of days now that mom has had more trouble than usual getting around. Up until then, she could pretty much walk through any room of the house with a little assistance. That has changed.

At first it seemed as if it was just a side effect of some of the new medications that she’s been taking to control the nausea and pain. That still may be the case and we met with her hospice nurse this morning who helped us with a few adjustments that will hopefully help. For now though, she can’t take more than a few, very shaky steps at a time. Mom is now dependent upon the wheelchair to get around.

On a positive note, mom’s appetite has returned and Isaac is in the kitchen making some soft tacos for lunch.

I will remain in Fresno an extra two days so that we can make some arrangements in response to this latest development.

It’s been a very special visit to Fresno, spending my days at home with my mom. Although she hates to ask me for help, just assisting her out of her chair or even refilling her water glass makes me feel good. There is no way that I can repay her for all of the sleepless nights she’s spent helping me get over colds, earaches, and all of th0se crises of childhood. But if it’s possible to bring her a little comfort now, it’s truly a privilege.

In terms of her memory and her mobility, I haven’t noticed any change – for the better or worse, since I arrived last Sunday. The greatest challenge has been managing her pain (headaches) and nausea, which I would say, unfortunately, became much worse.

My dad has become very creative, tracking patterns (when the pain starts, how to offset the nausea with a few Saltine crackers, etc.) and exploring new options with my mom’s hospice team. He’s even rigged a motion detection system to alert us when my mom needs some help getting out of bed – though, it now sounds like someone entering a 7 Eleven every time my mom pushes back the covers. And after a very rough night last night, my mom finally received some relief today (Friday). Hopefully, we’ve found a combination that works.

This has certainly been a week for moms. Spending Mother’s Day with my family in Fresno was all that I could have asked for. Watching my mom celebrate with my grandmother on her 89th birthday here in Fresno was also a very special day. And for a special mom who is no longer with us – Sonny, there are no words. My heart goes out to you and your family.

On Saturday, my aunts Irene, Lydia and Mague will arrive for a visit. On top of all that excitement, we will also be celebrating my brother’s birthday, who becomes yet another year older on Monday.

My flight back to Dallas departs on Sunday. It’s going to be very difficult to get on that plane.

My plan right now is to go back to Dallas for a few days to make some arrangements and to get the house in order. If I can, I hope to return to Fresno by next weekend.

Dear Chole’s Quilt, I talked to Howard at some length yesterday, and as you can see from Howard Joseph’s post, a lot of family are visiting and there is a lot of cooking going on!  Howard says that they can’t fit any more food into their refrigerator 😉

Since there are so many family members available to help right now,  please be sure to call Howard on his cell phone before visiting or bringing over food.  All our good wishes and willingness to help are very appreciated, but sometimes can be a little overwhelming.   We will certainly keep you posted whenever the family needs anything.

On Mother’s Day, Isaac, Alicia and my two nieces picked me up at the Fresno Air Terminal and drove me to the house on that semi-cul-de-sac that will always be home. When I walked in the door, my mom was sitting in her favorite chair. Although I had seen her just a few weeks earlier on Easter weekend, a lot had happened since that visit…but my mom’s smile when we all walked into the room hadn’t changed and we spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening just “hanging out” as a family. 

As an homage to my mother’s talents in the kitchen, my brother had recreated one of her famous recipes: caramel banana pie. The texture of the caramel wasn’t quite the same as mom’s, but you can’t really go wrong with caramel and bananas. Send him an email if you’d like the recipe.

On Monday morning we met with the hospice nurse. I think that we were all nervous about this visit as the concept of hospice is inherent with a certain outcome that seems irrelevant and remote. For our immediate purposes, the hospice services are all about keeping mom comfortable and safe here in the house – and the nurse seemed to understand that. The motto around here is “if something bad is gonna happen, it’s not happening today”.

Maybe I am just a little too used to living alone, but my parent’s house is a center of constant activity. On Monday after the hospice visit, Kelly and Jill extended their lunch hour from EPU to come by for a visit, and later in the afternoon Margo from the neighborhood came by to deliver a homemade cheesecake. Today my Aunt Judy brought us the pleasure of her company along with a nice lunch all the way from Santa Maria, and on Thursday my Aunt Rebecca, Uncle Dave and my grandmother are planning to drive up from Los Angeles. Another wave of Aviñas will be [affectionately] hitting us on Saturday (namely, my aunts, Irene, Lydia & Mague).

Dad is constantly in motion. If he is not coordinating my mom’s medications, he is out building a ramp in the garage so that my mom doesn’t have to traverse any steps, figuring out what the next meal will be, answering business/Kiwanis calls, laundry, and a whole list of other activities that do not involve “sitting down”.

Although she may need a little help getting around…my mom seems to still be very upbeat. The nausea that had afflicted her last week seems to be under control right now and the headaches seem to be manageable with medication. We’re sitting here watching TV together and it seems that mom’s main complaint this afternoon is that she’s bored. Curiously, even though I am just sitting here with my mom watching “Oprah” on a sunny afternoon, I am not bored at all.