One Year In

 Looking Back.

The first symptoms began in late 2016, mostly little things, some unusual behavior, forgetting names, confusion. Cooking great meals, her specialty, became more challenging. Nothing all that alarming, but as the incidents increased, I suspected something might be going on.

 I scheduled a visit with a neurologist. He asked her questions from a prepared list. You may have seen something similar if you’ve ever checked the Internet for signs of early dementia. Who is the president of the United States? What day is this? What season is it? Count backwards from 100 by 7. He then names three ordinary objects and asks her to remember them. A few minutes later he asks her to repeat them. One of them was “dog”. I knew she’d nail that one. Another was “iceberg”. No matter how many hints he gave, she could not recall that one. The results didn’t sound too bad: Mild Cognitive Impairment. However, that “mild” didn’t last long.

It got worse. When she confessed to getting lost even in normally familiar locations, I put a GPS tracker on her car.  Traffic lights began to confuse her. “If I stop on red and nobody’s coming, I can go right?” That’s when I had to take her keys. An ugly scene.

She told me she was walking to the neighbor’s house, just around the corner, to play with her dogs. I called the neighbor and told her to watch for Ruth. Sometime later, the neighbor called to say Ruth Ann had not shown up. I jumped in the car and frantically started working the streets.  I found her on a very narrow road on the outskirts of the neighborhood, no shoulders, and very fast cars. She had no idea where she was or what I was doing there. On a later occasion, she disappeared while I was on the computer. I found her walking toward Highway 97, another scary road. I had installed video cameras so that if I had to run an errand somewhere, I could check on her, but even that didn’t solve the problem when I realized she could be out the door and gone in mere minutes. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

Not long after that, I watched from the kitchen as she went outside and removed all her clothing. If you know Ruth Ann, you know how totally shocking and out of character such an act would be. Right then, I knew the time was at hand for a life-altering change.  

And so, in early July of 2021, I and the rest of family made the difficult decision to find professional care for Ruth Ann. That decision did not come without deep anxiety along with considerable guilt. I found a facility only about a 25-minute drive from home. It was clean, well kept, and with no odor, the smell of urine being common in other such places I had been in. It would do quite nicely.

As move-in day approached, the collective family stress level hit the ceiling. How would she react? Would she be enraged? Would she yell and cry? Would she get physical and demand to go home? That didn’t happen, it was mostly major confusion, something we feared but anticipated. It was a little hard to drive home that day with so many tears blurring my vison. I wasn’t the only one.

As the weeks and months passed, we began to see more changes. Names were lost. Faces forgotten. Past events gone. Conversations became difficult. Then a new and unprecedented problem arose: COVID. Visitors were not allowed unless the visitation took place outside. Staff workers became infected, some quit. The quality of care began to slip downhill. Weeks later, the COVID restrictions eased, but the facility with the once clean floors and nearly odor free halls never recovered. Staff members came and went. Duties were unclear, even among themselves. It was time for a move.

The new place was further away from me, about 45-minutes and with traffic, but closer to the rest of the family. It was a good move. With four of us visiting at least once a week and usually more, we could keep a close eye on her and her needs.

 As expected with the move and new surroundings, Ruth Ann went through a long period of adjustment. She did not want to leave her room. As you know, Ruth Ann has always been a social person, but now, all group activities were shunned. The new place was much bigger with multiple halls and passageways. It was easy to get a little lost, even for me.

There were more residents as well, considerably more, and that worried me. Would Ruth Ann get the individual attention that she needed, medications, personal hygiene? Then we caught a break. The kindest lady you would ever meet, a staff member, took a liking to Ruth Ann and our family. I think we all sleep better at night knowing this lady is there daily and has our Ruth Ann under her watchful wing.

Her condition as of this writing? One year later? Her cognitive awareness is almost non-existent, short-term memory as well. Old photo albums sometimes jar a recollection, but even then, she seldom makes a connection. She might say “I remember him.” But that’s as far as it goes. On the other hand, some days are better than others. She might ask her sister, “How are your dogs?” or to me, “When are you coming back?” Almost everyone of my visits ends with the same question, “Why can’t I just go with you?” Insert tears here.

On the other end, the stuffed animals on her bed have become real animals to her. But instead of calling them dogs and cats, they are her “kids”. She keeps them covered up to stay warm and does not disturb them under any circumstances. The only time she uses the bed is to lie down on it for a nap. At night, she sleeps in her chair. No amount of coaxing can persuade her to move the “kids” to the floor and sleep in a bed like regular people.

She hates changing clothes. Anything new, a dress, a new summer top and pants, are automatically rejected. She still also hates showers, vehemently, seemingly a common symptom of Alzheimer’s patients.

I have reached the point where I no longer argue with her about what I think she needs. We both end up frustrated and a little angry. I know, I know it’s the disease talking, not the Ruth Ann I have loved for over sixty-two years. So now, I just let it pass and accept whatever happens. The time with her on this earth is growing shorter far too quickly. I want to enjoy every moment.

And now the days are short

We’re in the autumn of our years

But we look at our lives like vintage wine

From fine old kegs.

From the brim to the dregs,

It poured sweet and clear.

They were very good years.

(Apologies to songwriter Irvin Drake)

Published in: on June 28, 2022 at 4:17 pm  Comments (1)  

A Tribute to a Friend

He hated his given name, Rhonie. He had an older sister named Rhonda and mom thought it would be cute to name both her kids starting with an R-H. He preferred Ron or as in later years, R. Bubba, but most everyone including his wife simply called him Bennett.

Bennett and I not only worked together at Southwestern Bell, side by side, for at least 20 years, but were best friends for 20 more. He was one of those rare friends that you knew would get out of bed at three a.m. to bail you of jail should the need arise. I could fill pages writing of the experiences he and I shared, some funny, some a little crazy, and some sad. All will be remembered.

He loved music, motorcycles, and OU football. He once drove from Oklahoma to Minnesota to buy a rather expensive dog for his wife, but upon arrival, ending up buying two dogs as he could not bear to split up the siblings. With yet another dog at home, (Barry as in OU coach Barry Switzer), Bennett naturally named the two new ones, Boomer and Sooner.

We rode thousands of miles together in old, un-air-conditioned telephone trucks, sometimes with hundred-degree air blasting through the open windows. “Why aren’t you bitching about the heat like I am?” I asked. “Because I think cool thoughts,” Bennett replied. A little like Fonzie, Bennett was cool.

Once, when we were working out of town, Bennett talked me into going bar hopping in the telephone truck. “Bennett, we’ll get fired!” “Nah’ he said, “I’ll park in the alleys. Let’s go.”

The recent PGA golf tournament in Tulsa reminded me of the time Bennett and I were in a company sponsored golf outing. Bennet drove the golf cart while I made sure the beer stayed cold in the cooler. The cart had two signs on the dash, one the manufacturer’s logo, Harley-Davidson, and the other a warning: DO NOT DRIVE INTO ROUGH. In other words, keep the cart in the fairway. Bennett didn’t do that and in fact, drove it so far and fast into the weeds that the cart overturned. A course employee approached, red in the face, angry, “What does that sign say?” he stammered, pointing at the dash.

“Harley-Davidson?” Bennett asked.

I could go on…and on.

When his wife, Donna Jane, passed a couple years back, Bennett was never quite the same. There was depression of course, but it hit him hard. Then I noticed some signs; call it aging, senility, or cognitive impairment, but his memory was slipping, and he began to repeat himself more often.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got a call that Bennett had suffered a stroke. When I went to see him at home, he looked awful, like he had aged ten years overnight. His speech was barely understandable. I told him news about OU and their new coach, and the spring game and he perked up a little bit, but it did not look good.

Then another call. Bennett was in the hospital with pneumonia. On this visit I found his head in bandages as well as his hands. The nurse told me they couldn’t keep him in bed, and he kept ripping out his tubes and had to be monitored 24/7. The head injury was from a fall. But there was a small ray of hope, if he got past the pneumonia, they said, they would try to get him in physical therapy.

That didn’t happen. Last Saturday morning I learned that my old pal, Ron, Rhonie, R. Bubba Bennett, had passed on. Knowing him as I did, I think he probably was good with that.

Gonna miss you, Bubba.

Published in: on May 23, 2022 at 11:46 am  Comments (2)  

No Changes. Please?

Remember awhile back when we talked about our routines and how important they were and how any deviation from said routines was enough to throw us into a tailspin for a day at two, at minimum? Let me tell you how my most important routine, the happy hour routine with the daily spooker, has been so disrupted that I’m now in not just a simple, recoverable tailspin, but a possible death spiral.

It’s the ice maker’s fault. It’s failed me before. Or so I thought. The actual problem was the water line, the feed for the ice, had failed. I don’t know how that happened, one of the mysteries of the universe, but my friendly plumber ran a new line and all was well…until yesterday.

I approached the fridge in the normal manner; a short glass with a shot of bourbon in hand, pushed the button labeled ICE and waited for the frozen cubes to clunk, anticipating the spillage on the tile. Every time! Why is it that we can send a rover to Mars, a marvel of engineering, but we can’t design an ice dispenser that can fill a glass without spraying errant projectiles over the entire expanse of a kitchen floor? But I digress.

I had no ice! Mashed the button again. No sound. No ice. Uh oh.

Now, I’m no expert on ice makers, but I have dealt with them in past. Two possibilities. Either you don’t have water to fill the ice maker, or the ice maker has just gone belly up. How to tell? Not rocket science. If there is no water or ice in the ice maker tray, fill the tray manually with whatever means you have, in my case a rubber squeeze bulb, then wait. If the ice maker is working, a thermocouple detects when the ice is formed, closes a switch, activates a heating element which loosens the ice in the tray and at the same time turns on a small motor that rotates a cogged wheel with lobes that activate other switches, one of which is the part that that sweeps the now loose ice out of the tray and into the bin. As the wheel continues to turn, yet another switch opens the water valve for a few seconds allowing the tray to re-fill with water and the cycle is complete. My cycle was not complete. Far from it. My cycle never made it past stage one. Ice had formed from the man-made injection of water, there was that, but then it just sat there, waiting in the dark and the cold for the sequence that never came.

The fridge is twelve-years old. Not all that elderly in my world, but maybe refrigerators are like dog years and the actual age is more like eighty-four. Holy crap, that’s about the same age as I am! No wonder it’s showing signs of breaking down. My parts are failing on a regular basis. Why would a fridge be any different? What to do?

Maybe it’s like a knee replacement. You just call a guy, a doctor or a pro, and he puts in some new parts. Good to go. One little minor problem, the part is no longer available. I call the manufacturer. A lady with a pleasant voice tells me, “I’m sorry, but we only make spare parts for seven years. When that supply runs out, you’re f**cked.” She didn’t actually say “f**cked” but that’s what she meant.

As I see it, my choices are A: Buy a new fridge. Or B: Go old school with, ugh, ice trays. ICE TRAYS! How degrading. How primitive. By now you see the problem, don’t you? The routine, the evening spooker routine? Shattered. Never to be the same. Depression? Anxiety attacks? It’s all out there, lurking.

Drive a man to drink. (If he had ice).

Published in: on February 18, 2022 at 9:37 pm  Comments (1)  

TV by Candlelight?

With the beginning of the winter Olympics, I can’t help but marvel at the technology involved in getting the television picture from so many sporting sites and venues all the way from China to our living rooms. It boggles the mind when you think about it (as I’m sure you have). An image, captured first by a camera and transformed into a complex conglomeration of frequencies, or ones and zeros if digital as everything is these days, and somehow, almost magically, transmitted halfway around the world, all in the blink of an eye. (Well, possibly two blinks as China is quite far away.)

As it happens, yours truly was involved in such magic back in the day, but on a much simpler scale. Few people knew that Southwestern Bell, along with AT&T, was a vital link in getting an event from A to B. I’ll use the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Lewis Field in Stillwater, Oklahoma as an example.

OU vs. OSU football. Bedlam. A must see for any red-blooded Okie football fan. So how do we get that game of the year from the field to your TV set in living color? It wasn’t as easy then as now when the TV truck parks next to the field and simply shoots the signal to a satellite in space. The word “simply” being a massive understatement.  Back in olden times, somebody had to take that signal and get it to what, in ATT terms, was known as the “backbone”, a network of repeaters and amplifiers that spanned the country via microwave frequencies. And before you ask, no, not the same kind of microwaves used to heat your morning biscuit.

Back in Stillwater, our first job was to secure press passes, a little card you hung around your neck to allow entry to all parts of the stadium. I remember one occasion where the Athletic Director decided that we, lowly peon scum telephone men that we were, didn’t need press passes. I politely pointed out how he would have to explain to a few million people why there was no Bedlam broadcast because Southwestern Bell was not allowed access to the stadium. He changed his mind.

Next, we set up the Ma Bell portable microwave system. It was usually a three-day process. Haul and set up, test and alignment, game day, and tear down. In this example, the transmitter was at the top of the press box at Lewis Field. The receiver was at the AT&T tower near the little town of Glencoe, OK, a distance of about 15 miles if memory serves. Glencoe then connected to the “backbone”.

The transmitter and dish, a parabola about four feet in diameter, connected to the control equipment in our specially-designed-by-us truck. That truck would be parked near the TV production vehicle from which we got the signal to be fed back to the local station and beyond. The TV truck might be from local stations such as KTUL or KOTV or sometimes if it was a national feed, a network truck such as NBC or CBS.

While you might think, what a job! Getting to watch a game at the stadium for free? In fact, there was little time to relax. We seldom saw any live action. Our eyes were glued to the monitors and the oscilloscopes that showed the electronic components of the signal, watching for any irregularities, signs of a problem. We had voice communication up and down the “backbone”.

An exchange might go like this: “New York to St. Louis. We got excessive tilt on the second equalizing pulse. You see it?”

 “We do. Hello, Tulsa. You see that?”

 “Yes, hello Stillwater. You got a problem!”

Stillwater was ME. To have a problem on a national feed with the entire country watching and millions of advertising dollars on the line, you better know what the hell you’re doing or be prepared to look for another job.

On this day, our boss volunteered to stand guard up at the dish to make sure no one got in the signal path and disrupt the feed. I suspect he volunteered mostly to have a great view of the game. The press box was packed, barely a place to stand. Reporters and staff everywhere. We had a warning rope adorned with red flags, marking the critical area around our transmitter, but this didn’t stop a sportswriter from somewhere. He stepped over the rope. Our boss told him to get back, to get out of there. The writer said, “Oh relax, I’m not going to get in front of your dish.” You didn’t talk to our boss like that.

“Young man, you WILL cross back over that rope immediately or I will personally throw your ass off the top of this stadium.” He crossed. Don’t mess with Ma Bell during a telecast.

I take a little pride in saying that in all the 20 some years of doing TV feeds (pre-satellite) we never lost a shot. Came close once when a receiver went up in smoke only moments after signoff, but that was it. Yes, it was quite a job. I loved it.

A typical TV signal presentation on an oscilloscope similar to the ones we used.

Published in: on February 4, 2022 at 1:32 pm  Comments (3)  

Routines, our fragile hold on sanity.

A friend of mine once declared that he hated anything that deprived him of his “precious” daily routines; an unwanted visitor, an unexpected phone call, a last minute change of plans, anything disturbing the time frame of the routine. I must agree. We all have our routines be it morning, noon, or night. Coffee with a bagel, a noon nap, or a quiet relaxing moment long about sundown. Sundown, last light, the golden hour, that’s my time to kick back, relax, and settle in.

My nightly routine has evolved over the years, but since the latest developments in the humble abode with the missus no longer around during that time, the routine looks something like this:

 Keeping in mind that it’s always five o’clock somewhere, I’ve adopted the Eastern Time Zone for the beginning rituals. If I wait till five, local time, to start happy hour, then cook, that means I won’t be eating till six or so, probably later. My body rebels at this in the form of a growling stomach, indigestion, and the occasional spit up, especially when spices are involved.

First, the lights must be adjusted for the right ambiance. The lamp in the corner across the room? On. My reading light by the easy chair? On. The ceiling light over the fireplace? On, but at the dimmest setting. Somewhat interesting thing about that particular light; I’ve never changed the bulb in over 20 years. Every other light in the house has gone ka-blooey many times, but not that one. Kind of spooky.

I have a fake log burner in the fireplace. It’s an optical illusion of logs on fire, but only if you squint with your glasses off. Real log burning was a pain in the butt. Fake log burner? On.

I’m almost ready to plop in the easy chair, but there is one not so small detail that always needs attention first, the feeding of the cats. Omit this step and the routine will never have a chance. They will stare at me like I’m the guy on the evening news that was discovered with four-hundred starving cats in his living room.

That done, I check the cupboard for something to put in my own feeding bowl, snacks of some sort. Peanuts, rye crisps, or my latest favorite, Beer Nuts Bar Mix, found on the bottom shelf of most Walmart stores. Addictive.

For entertainment, I call on Alexa to play some music. I’m fond of Soft Jazz, Easy Listening, or hits from the 70’s. I ask her to set the volume to two.

And last, but certainly not far from least, is the choice of “spookers” an alcoholic beverage. The term “spooker” is one I stole from a novel about a character who used “spookers” to scare away his inner demons, not that I confess to actually having inner demons, I just like the descriptor. I seldom do beer for this routine. Beer is for football games and hot wings. No, this is lay back time. Something warm to sooth the tummy.

I have three drinks I favor. The good old Bloody Mary, but I tend to reserve this specialty for the weekends, particularly those featuring a good NFL game with the Chiefs or the Dallas Cowboys. Gin with limes and tonic is another favorite. I like that limes help prevent scurvy. But I can’t seem to keep a supply of it on hand when I need it. That and the fact that if you leave the lid off, the tonic goes flat before the next routine.

Which brings us to my old standby, bourbon and branch water, better known in my house as rot gut and tap water. I prefer the Canadian blends, although some say that Canadian whisky is best suited for stripping paint. I like the smooth and slightly sweet taste from the rye mash. You can choose from Canadian Mist, Canadian Club, Crown Royal Deluxe Canadian Whisky, or my current rot gut, Northern Light.

Add to this mix, the daily crossword puzzle from the Tulsa World, or a good book.

Here’s the picture; a fire (even if it’s fake), dim lights, contented cats, soft music, a book, a spooker…or two. What a routine! Please don’t mess with it.

But remember this, I always hold the beverage intake to two shots, two ounces, , no more, no less, unless…unless it’s a special occasion such as…when I’m alone or with somebody.

Published in: on January 28, 2022 at 6:40 pm  Comments (1)  

A Major Change

Today we moved Ruth Ann to a new facility. I was apprehensive about the change, new surroundings and all, wondering how she would adjust, but we spent a lot of time prepping her, talking it up, telling her how she would have a bigger room, and more ladies like herself to talk to. The location is a longer drive for me, but shorter for the rest of the family so I think it will all work out. There are more residents, all with dementia, but in various stages. I got the impression that there were several ladies more lucid than in the previous facility and that Ruth Ann could actually have a conversation with a few of them. In addition, I saw a lot of activities going on: sing-alongs, coloring rooms, and some just sitting around together listening to music. There are nice big courtyards with plenty of chairs, two or three community TV rooms, and even a library with picture books. I am quite impressed at this point.

The move went well. Lynette and Judy kept her entertained while Mark, Kaigen, and I did the grunt work. Mark found a Carol Burnett channel on the TV and she loved that. She was laughing when I left today, a good sign.

And the best part? It’s considerably cheaper than where she was. This means I won’t have to live in my car or under a bridge quite as soon as I thought.

Published in: on January 14, 2022 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)  

In Sickness and in Health: Six months in.

Sixty-one years today. That’s how long Ruth Ann and I have been married. But there will be no celebrating. How can you celebrate what you can’t remember? Alzheimer’s’ has stolen that from us.

I find myself getting more misty-eyed than usual during this Christmas season. It’s different than any before, a lot different. On a recent visit, I tried to jar her memory of any particular Christmas in her past, one she might remember when she was a kid. What toys did you get? Doll? Bicycle?  A new dress?

 Nothing. Erased. Vanished.

Alzheimer’s memory is an odd thing. On most days Ruth Ann can’t remember the names of her kids and yet, during yesterday’s Christmas celebration party at the memory care center, she was singing along with the music as if she knew every word. How long before she loses even that? Watching her and thinking of the next Christmas and the ones to come, however many that may be, what will they be like? That made me misty-eyed.

I knew going into yesterday’s events, it was going to be a little bit rough. Ruth Ann has become almost violently opposed to taking showers and almost never wants to change clothes. That’s another thing I thought I would never see. The staff tells me they tried everything they could think of to get her to bathe, but to no avail. I bought her a new lounging outfit for the party; one she had given prior approval after showing her a picture of it. She refused to even try it on. “TAKE IT BACK!” It was gonna be a long day.

Eventually, I won her over by telling her she needed to wash her hair. “I’ll dry it, comb it, and style it (as if actually knew how to style hair).  You’ll look great for the party. But to do that, you have to get in the shower.” It followed that her old clothes went to the laundry basket. “You might as well try on your new outfit, just to see how it fits. You don’t have to wear it if it doesn’t fit right.”

Thankfully, it did. She admitted she liked the color, and it was very soft. “You know Santa and Elvis are coming to the party, right? Elvis will think you’re beautiful.” I got one of those “looks” with that statement.

So “Elvis” did come. He spotted Ruth Ann right off and started singing to her, even had her dancing. Again, she knew the words.

It was a good day. Ruth Ann enjoyed it. That’s what’s important. Good days are not so frequent anymore.

As I was leaving to go home and giving her a hug, she raised up and whispered in my ear so the other old gals wouldn’t hear. “That wasn’t the real Elvis.”

That made me smile.

Published in: on December 23, 2021 at 10:56 am  Comments (1)  

Cat Update

The three-legged cat known as Tripod, aka Snowy, has found a new home. Once it got around that I was threatening to send Tripod to the big litterbox in the sky, cooler heads prevailed and now S**t Head, I mean Tripod, is a happy cat with much more loving care and attention than she was getting around here. She’s happy, I’m happy, and the two remaining cats are ecstatic. Seriously, only days after the not-so-fond farewell, the whole dynamic of the household changed. It was like the storm had passed and the sun came out. The daily upchucks from upset stomachs and shaky nervous systems ended practically overnight. The little stinky surprises on the carpet that the other cats left for me when territorial disputes broke out on whose litter box was whose? That stopped too. However, other issues remain.

If you remember, Ruth Ann never let Minnie out of her sight. Minnie was either in Ruth Ann’s bed or on her lap. With the lady of the house no longer here, Minnie decided my lap would do just fine, thank you very much. Given free rein, Minnie would sit on my lap 24/7. It’s become compulsive with her. It’s like OCD, Obsessive Cat Disorder. Push her off? Yeah, but be prepared deal with what I would call passive aggression. She’ll circle the chair, looking for an opening, probing here, probing there. Shift one leg and plop, back in the lap. It doesn’t end there.

Same scenario at bedtime. Minnie has her place, the nook between my ribs and my left arm. No other spot will do. The front paws go on the shoulder, her head practically on my cheek. That’s when the double purr kicks in. You’ve heard it, the inhale purr and the exhale purr with nary a pause in between. It’s starts out at high speed, about 50 PPM, (purrs per minute) but after a brief time, shifts down to a less frantic idle. Turn over and you hear this little errr, errr, sound like no, no, that won’t work. Keep that position and she’ll concede, but only a little, and now curls up next to your backside. This works until you decide to roll over in the middle of the night. MEEOOWWWW! Your sound sleep now shattered, you’re flailing the air going, “WHAT? WHAT? Is there a bobcat in my bed?”

Oh, I can hear you now. “Kick her out and shut the door!” Not so fast my friend. That loud meow you heard before was nothing compared to the caterwauling of a panther in heat that has now taken up residence just outside your bedroom wall.

Then there’s the Brat Cat, the nervous one. Of the two, Brat, in all her nine lives, has never enjoyed the peace and quiet that now prevails in the newly restructured humble abode as she does now. No more threats lying behind every corner. No flash of white fur and fangs and claws at the first sign of a newly opened can of Friskies Chicken Chunks. In fact, the Brat is now so relaxed, that she will occasionally share a couch with the other feline resident as long as Minnie lies very, very still.

 Brat has always claimed me as her human. I don’t know why. As a result, she is so jealous of Minnie that her eyes have turned green. (They may have been green before, I don’t know). All to often, when Brat decides that she too deserves a little lap time only to find that prime spot already taken by Minnie. You can almost hear her say, “Well, son of a bitch,” as she turns away to go to her next favorite spot, my office chair where she will leave cat dander and loose hair, just so I’ll know she still cares.

Published in: on November 22, 2021 at 4:09 pm  Comments (2)  

Four Months

Next Wednesday will make four months that Ruth Ann has been in long term memory care. It has been tough on everyone involved. My deepest thanks to #1 son, Mark, daughter dearest Lynette, and Saint Judy Bracken for helping me in this difficult time.

We all visit Ruth Ann frequently and although she doesn’t remember exactly who came when, she does appreciate the visits. However, all of us are seeing what I would consider a consistent decline in cognitive ability. Rarely can she convey what she wants to say to you. Mostly, she just listens and smiles.

Occasionally she will say, “I remember that.” But usually, she doesn’t. This past week, I was trying to tell her something about her shoes and a towel in the bathroom and she acted like she had no idea what I was talking about. Breaks your heart.

So, if any of you out there want to pay her a visit, now would be the time. She probably won’t remember your name, but she quite often remembers faces. Bring a mask and check in at the front office in the big building, 4402 S. 129th. west avenue. They will sign you in and take your temperature. She is in room #14 in the smaller building to the south. Ring the doorbell for entry. If she’s not there, one of the staff will find her. Visiting hours end at 3 p.m. on the weekends, but longer than that through the week.

Don’t wait too long.

Published in: on November 1, 2021 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  

The Cost of Care

At a typical Motel 6 in Tulsa, you get your room cleaned every day, fresh linens, toilet paper, Kleenex, shampoo, bath soap, towels, a coffee pot with free coffee, usually a hair dryer, a clock radio, a waste can, a TV, a bed, a dresser, a table, and a chair or two. Cost? Somewhere between $65 and $70 bucks a day.

The long-term memory care facility where my wife currently resides gets meals, her meds administered, her room cleaned, laundry done, and a secure place to sleep with nursing care on standby. As far as I can see, that’s it! As for all those other amenities listed above, none. Not even toilet paper. Cost? From $206 to $277 a day.  

Is there something wrong with this picture?

And while I’m at it, here’s another little rant about another problem. Ruth Ann used to be the most cheerful, fun-loving, person you would ever want to meet. Stubborn? Absolutely, but her heart was pure. Clean mind, clean body. These days, the mind doesn’t work very well and the clean body part is becoming a huge concern. She refuses to take showers at the request of the staff. I can get her in there most of the time, but only after coaxing and pleading. Sometimes, I can walk in and say, “Today’s shower day.” and she just says okay, and that’s it. She definitely needs help once in the shower though. Even though she bitches at me the whole time, the job gets done. but it certainly takes away from our quality time together.

I have learned that, by law, the staff cannot force a resident to do anything they refuse to do including showers. But what if a resident has no family to watch over them? Are they allowed to wallow in their own sweat and germs and body odor until it becomes a medical problem? The staff is supposed to be trained on how to handle problems like this, but so far, nothing is working.

If any of you out there have experienced such a condition with your loved ones, please let me know how and if it was resolved.  

Thank you.

Published in: on September 24, 2021 at 2:12 pm  Comments (1)