Comforts of home

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”  ~Jane Austen

My mother was discharged from the Woodward Hills nursing center on Friday. It’s hard to believe it’s been over a month since she was admitted to the hospital for congestive heart failure. Not surprisingly, she missed her familiar surroundings at home, and was often confused during her weeks of recovery at the hospital and nursing center.

She’s very happy to be back home in her condo, needless to add. But now that she is, my hard work begins.

I’m back to dispensing and monitoring her meds, making her follow-up doctor appointments, and driving her to all of her medical visits. Not to mention overseeing a parade of home-care nurses and therapists.

So I’ll be spending a lot more time at my mother’s place until I can determine whether it’s really OK to leave her alone for the long run. While part of me tires out at the very thought of this responsibility, I also remember how glad I was that I’d spent more time with my father in the months before he died. Caring for loved ones helps redefine my priorities.

Yesterday, the visiting nurse discovered that Mom’s blood pressure was dangerously low, prompting an emergency call to the doctor. We were told to change the dosage of Mom’s blood pressure medications. (I cut 14 tiny pills in half.) I’m hoping that the sudden drop in blood pressure explains why my mother’s dementia seemed worse than usual. She kept forgetting what day it was, and the nurse and I suspected that Mom may have overdosed on her morning medications. Earlier that morning, I had noticed an open bottle of pills on the counter, which she’d apparently retrieved from a cupboard. I’ve been advised to hide any pills that I haven’t placed in her weekly pill organizer.

She’d much rather live on coney dogs, ice cream, and chocolate-covered cherries.

Another ongoing challenge is helping her shop for heart-healthy food. After unpacking her belongings back at the condo, I took her to shop for groceries at Hollywood Market, our nearest grocery store. I’ve been trying to show Mom how to make healthy choices, but it’s not easy. Oatmeal and low-sodium foods, unfortunately, are not on her list of favorites. She’d much rather live on coney dogs, ice cream, and chocolate-covered cherries. Not exactly what Dr. Dean Ornish recommends for patients with heart disease.

For Mom’s first meal home, I made a large pot of vegetarian chili — enough to stretch for several meals and to share with a neighbor. Which brings me to the topic of this week’s Royal Oak Patch column. “Cooking for Comfort” is my tribute to simple home-cooked meals. The column recounts how I learned to appreciate kitchen work after years of avoiding it. I hope it will inspire you to make a soul-filling pot of soup or stew to warm your winter night.  Please click here to read it. –CL

10 thoughts on “Comforts of home

  1. It must be difficult on many levels to be responsible for your mom with especially with things like having to convince her to make healthy food choices at this stage of her life.

    I think it would be hard for me especially with dementia lurking in the background and not knowing how long she will be able to recognize and appreciate the taste and memories involved with eating certain favorites.

    I just talked with my husband about it, quizzing him as I often do since we are still so newly married and he said he would want to be left to eat the foods he enjoyed. Of course, he would rather die of heart failure than cancer or a dementia related illness so I could have guessed that would be his response.

    I hope you know that I am certainly not suggesting you do it any other way, but it was just a thought I had which is more likely about me and the incidence of Alzheimer’s in my family than it is about you and your mom.

  2. Cindy – I so agree with Elizabeth. Find the balance of serving the healthy and fun foods. Too many “no’s” will only cause friction in this stage of your relationship. Then only battles result.

    And, I so agree with Elizabeth’s husband – my dad died of a heart attack and was dead before he hit the ground. My mom lived 8 tormented years with Alzheimer’s.

    Many tedious tasks lie before you now – pill cutting, laundry, cooking, cleaning, doctor appt’s – you are on a different journey now. It is your turn to care for the mother who cared for you in the beginning of your life.

    Cindy, I too am not suggesting how you handle this “long good-bye” – but God will reveal the depths of his love and compassion to sustain and carry you through this journey. You are not alone. Be at peace so your mother can have peace. Perhaps that’s the greatest gift you can give her now.

  3. Cindy, I’m sending warm thoughts your way this day. Take it one day at a time, which is something I’m learning through the life lessons with my children.

  4. Oh my goodness, how well I remember those days with my own Mom.
    I have a different spin on her diet however. She is now at the point when she should be able to enjoy what time she has, so if she incorporates some healthy choices with her favorites, then so be it.
    So much of what she has known and loved are no longer accessible, if she dies by her beloved coney dog, then so be it.
    You’re doing a good thing Cindy, we’re all this journey together:)

  5. Hi Cindy, I am glad your mother is on the mend enough to be discharged and I hope the blood pressure is resolved with a meds change.

    You know I’ve been down this road before and I’m sending you love and strength. You’re going a wonderful thing for your mother.

    xo jj

  6. Cindy, I see so many children of my elderly patients completely exhausted when they come in. Take care of yourself. Perhaps you can find someone to share some of those responsibilities with. Sending hugs your way.

  7. I appreciate all of these good suggestions and comments, especially those about diets vs “fun foods.” And a special thanks to Angie for acknowledging the hard work in all of this … it is exhausting to care for elderly folks, even when the relationships are good and our hearts are in the right place. Sometimes we need permission to “gripe” a little … It takes energy and stamina — not always easy to come by on a day-to-day basis when you’re in your 50s. 🙂

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