My Blog

December 6, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Down Time

           Wait! Where’d the peace and quiet go?

Gone are the halcyon days of getting to sit with the Hospice nurse calmly watching Mom sleep and waiting for the end. Nope. That’s definitely not happening. Now that the Witchdoctor is here, we are scrambling to keep up with the new routine.

Mom doesn’t get to sleep in until 9 or 10. Once Veronica arrives (you just have to assume I am saying Blessed every time I say Veronica), she goes in and whispers to Mom to get her roused. She laughs and jokes and discusses breakfast with her, tempting Mom with delicious meals, even if some of it has eyes. Apologies to the Vegans, but WD, (that’s the witchdoctor), says once a week eyes, or rather eggs, are okay.  Mom suggested Huevos Rancheros yesterday.

While I strip the bed and start the first load of laundry for the day, Vero gets Mom into the Walker and gives her a quick soap and water once-all-over chair bath. Then out to the recliner in the living room. I cover the chair with large sheets and lay out the towels for the first treatment of the day.

Mom is fed her first ten “supplement” pills with carrot juice, mixed with water. Oh,yes, two more pills have been added, although I’m not sure what for. Vero hurries to fix Mom’s breakfast, whether a bowl of grits and fruit, or pancakes, or a scrambled egg mixed with salsa, refried beans and tortillas or the green “licuado” smoothie. I’d opt for the Huevos, frankly. Me and the WD got to enjoy pancakes today, too.

WD and I drain the Marsh mallow root (hereinafter MMR) concoction and put it on the stove to warm, careful not to get it too hot. We start another gallon pot of water with two cups of MMR in it. We keep two pots going all the time since it has to simmer for half an hour and then boil down to thicken.

Mom eats her breakfast while Vero fixes the pan of MMR liquid. Warmed, it is put into a foot-sized pan and towels soaked in the “decoction” are wrapped around Mom’s leg. Breakfast makes a great distraction while we add a heating pad to keep it warm. Mom seems to tolerate this pretty well and her leg is looking less purple.

Invariably, no sooner do we have her soaking than she starts squirming and has to stop and use the commode. I haul it in from the bedroom and we hoist her up, down with the pants, and onto the seat. We wait until we think she is done. White plastic gloves to wipe her. Mom was lucid enough to ask why we were using “all that white.” “Am I septic?” she wanted to know.

Back to the soak. Half an hour of soaking then the salves come out. More white gloves. Towels under the leg.  Don’t contaminate the container. Dig some yellow salve out with first finger of the left hand, transfer it to the right hand, spread it on the sores. Dig out more with the second finger, transfer, spread. Again with the third finger, etc, etc, etc. I ran out of fingers before I got done.

Then begin again with the red salve. I think it’s red from the Cayenne pepper which supposedly helps blood flow. Soon all the blackened sores and toes are covered in the stuff. Wrap her leg in yet another a towel. If the salves looks runny, wrap non-stick bandages all over her leg.

Stand up and stretch for a breather. Wash the dishes. Dry them and put away. Change the beds. Finish moving the laundry from washer to dryer. Start another load with the towels. Clean up the bathroom from the night shift. Collect half a dozen cut diapers that I had taken off of Mom during the night and replaced with fresh ones, now in the trash too. Haul a trash bag back over to the big house.

Time to start lunch. Move the MMR to the back of the stove. Steam veggies, add whatever Vero thinks would appeal to Mom. I can’t think of a thing. Ten more pills with apple juice or aloe vera juice. Feed her lunch. Up to use the commode, again.

Wait, did Vero and WD and I forget to eat? Stop for a quick bite while we are folding dried sheets and towels. We are now up to four sets of bed sheets, plus draw sheets, since they frequently get wet in the night, and cover sheets for the recliner. And piles of towels.

Let Mom sleep a little in the recliner, although she usually starts to sag off to one side. Prop her up again and start second soak. Half an hour while Mom wiggles then back at it with the salves.

Supper time comes before we even realize it. Vero fixes Mom something “tasty” for supper, then leaves her with me and the WD to keep Mom up in the recliner watching TV in hopes that she will sleep through the night. I maintain it does no good. In the first place, she doesn’t know what she is watching, and in the second place she can’t hear it anyway.

I assure the WD that Mom never, ever sleeps through the night. She is up to use the commode every two or three hours. Usually with her diapers on since she doesn’t know she has them on. Hence, I have to cut them off and replace them with new ones each time. It is a balancing act to hold her upright while I pull them on before she flops over into bed.

When we lost our water supply yesterday (yes, the well that we depend on for water out here in the country died a spectacular death), I had to run to town to get bottled water to keep us going. The WD, who panics at not being able to wash her hands after each turn with Mom, was boiling water at a mad rate.

Also, she learned not ever to throw water down the sink. Rinse water becomes soapy wash water which becomes bathing water which then becomes flushing water to be poured down the commodes. We don’t realize how much water we use in a day. Can you imagine what it was like for our ancestors who had to haul water in buckets?

And Blessed V offered to take the two huge bags of laundry back to her house to finish washing so we would have sheets and towels for today. She’s just arrived with all the folded, clean laundry. Is it any wonder I value her? So, back to work for the day’s routine.

Ah, for those happy days when we thought Mom was at death’s door and we just sat and watched her sleep. No longer.

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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