My Blog

November 13, 2017

Elderly Mothers and the Blessings of Good Caregivers

It’s been a rough few days out here at the Rancho.

Moving a patient with any kind of dementia is always hard. Moving Mom from Carriage Inn where there was attentive staff, cooked meals and instant response has been a challenge. She is now in a home she doesn’t remember, where there is just us, my cousin, my sister and me.

She struggled mightily with where she was and who we were and what was happening. We struggled with what to do about surgeries and gangrene and dementia.

At first we tried to care for Mom ourselves. I didn’t realize there was so much to it. Since we no longer had to “dress for dinner” we could happily leave her in her pajamas. We put her in sweatpants. We thought they would be cozy and comfortable. Turns out, that was not such a good idea.

She couldn’t get out of them when she needed to go to the bathroom. When the “caregivers” arrived back on the scene she was covered in poop from waist to ankles and a trail of it on the floor. Lesson learned. Back to short pajama shirts.

The next big question was what to do about the blood flow in her legs. Go through a surgery that might or might not help? Start amputating toes, then feet, then legs? Could we do that to her? Or go the homeopathic route and use old home remedies, tried and true for generations? And at 98, how effective would any of it be in giving her a comfortable life?

And how bad was the dementia? After a big conclave with the nurses from Home Health Care – for which, thank you Lord and the government—and with a representative from Hospice, we realized we didn’t know. Hospice would come help if she was severely demented. We would have to find out.

Mom was weak and no longer able to walk easily, but we somehow got her to the doctor’s office. Thank goodness, he had time to administer a dementia test. It is a fascinating test that includes simple things like her name, the date, the town, county and state, remembering a set of 3 words, spelling a word backward, drawing the face of a clock. Then it got challenging. Can you count backwards from 100 by 7s?  I would have a hard time doing that. I’m glad they didn’t get into quadratic equations!

We watched in amazement as Mom couldn’t answer. Several times for random questions about the date, she would say, “Let’s see, that would be September.” Then the next answer about where she lived was also September. But three words in a row, she could remember. So strange what the mind can or can’t do. The results – severe dementia. The doctor could order Hospice.

We got home and I called for the caregiver that I hadn’t thought I was going to need. It turns out there is a HUGE difference in having someone with training. Blessings once again on my beloved friend Dalia who has given of her time and effort for years to train these caregivers. Not all are Hispanic, but many are. She has taught them everything they need to know to care for elderly or sickly patients. She has made angels of them. I’m sure that not all of them have a caring and giving nature, but those that do are a joy and a blessing.

Veronica is one of those. Let’s call her my “virgencita,” a real saint. She is a quiet, slender Mexican woman in her mid-forties with a kind husband, and two teenage children. She is one of 14 brothers and sisters from Zacatecas in Mexico. Several of them live in the US but her parents still live in Mexico. They are all hard working and have made good lives for themselves, evidence of the blessings of immigrants to our country.

V is amazing. She whispers in Mom’s ear! She doesn’t raise her voice, she leans over and speaks slowly and clearly. They laugh together! She makes “licuados” of veggies and soup in the blender and then spoon feeds it to Mom so she doesn’t spill. She gives Mom bed baths and helps her go to the bathroom and cleans her up. She keeps track of pills and writes it all down. She changes sheets and washes and dries and folds everything and puts it away.

She even reads to Mom — in Spanish from the poems by Pablo Neruda in the book that a dear friend from Mexico, Martha Gottfried, gave Mom. Mom responds so well to the Spanish, I guess it brings back the memory of some of the maids she had in Mexico. Somehow, V stays constantly busy.

Regrettably, she only comes Monday through Friday. Saturday is now going to be entrusted to another caregiver who is a little more demanding. She tells Mom what to do and won’t put up with any disobedience. We’ll see how she works out and whether Mom likes her.

Who knew caregivers came in so many varieties?  But for now, Mom is happy. I am happy. And life is good.


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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