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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cataractical Chaos

Aaauuggh! How could something so relatively straightforward, medically speaking, be so logistically confounding? I’m talking about having cataract surgery. Even as a nurse, I find the process daunting, so I know other people are challenged.

Oh! I forgot to mention I also have glaucoma, so I’m on two different eye drops because one didn’t reduce my pressure enough. I’m a really healthy person, but apparently a good lifestyle and prevention only go so far. Because I have glaucoma and cataracts!

So my glaucoma regimen is one drop in each eye twice a day and one drop once a day. I do the twice a day in the morning before I get up. No prob. The once and twice a day are done at night, but have to be administered at least five minutes apart, so I put in one drop, rest for a couple of minutes, then go wash my face, brush my teeth, etc., go back to bed and put in the second one. Mission accomplished.

So here comes cataract surgery and THREE more kinds of drops, but just for the eye being operated on. One of them is four times a day, and the other two, three times a day. Again, at least five minutes apart. When I outline the regimen I’ve figured out, my husband just rolls his eyes and says he hopes he never has cataracts.

One reason he says that is because my machinations will affect him and his ability to get fed or to sleep at night. AND---once this process calms down, we start over with THE OTHER EYE. So here goes:

Before rising: glaucoma twice-a-day drop both eyes
Breakfast time: drop (5 minutes) drop (5 minutes) drop. Then get up and fix breakfast
Lunch: drop (5 minutes) drop (5 minutes) drop. Then get up and do whatever
Dinner: drop (5 minutes) drop (5 minutes) drop. Then get up and make dinner, after a stiff drink!
Bedtime: drop (one eye) (5 minutes) drop both eyes (5 minutes) drop both eyes, bed!

The three extra ones start a couple days before surgery and then go for one-to-two weeks after, encompassing travel and time-zone changes. I know this isn’t serious, just something akin to a Keystone Kops routine. I am truly blessed with good health. It was just too funny not to write about!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Caring for My Parents: Things I Learned from my Sister

Our parents are now 90 and 88 with some significant health issues, but more difficult to deal with, political and control issues. During a recent visit, my dad excoriated me about not understanding the horrible shape this country is in, courtesy of the Democrats, our president, yadda, yadda. We don’t share the same political beliefs, but more importantly, he has never told us what he wants us to do about it. So going to visit is like walking on eggs. I want them to be as independent as they can be, but have the resources they need to stay that way. When we try to help, it is often greeted with a resounding: “No! Back off. I don’t need help.” And yet they do.

While we made some strides during my visit, I left feeling exhausted and like I was fleeing the scene of a crime. A few days later, enter one of my three sisters, the one who has been taking care of her equally difficult, but thankfully local, mother-in-law. She is also the one with the active listening skills honed from years in special education. And boy, does she use them, and well! In the few days she was with my parents, she made major strides in making them safer and starting a dialogue about “what if”. They visited a multi-level senior care center with independent living apartments, assisted living, skilled and dementia care. And they kind of liked it.

Because of my sister’s listening skills, Mom was able to say that she didn’t feel safe in the shower, something I had talked with her about and she insisted was fine. My sister went shopping with them and got them a shower chair with a back and arms. What they had tried before had neither, and my mom couldn’t get down or back up, making falling an even greater possibility. After they got it, my sister helped her take her first shower, making small adjustments, lowering the hand-held shower holder, so everything was well within reach. Now Mom feels safer and we breathe easier. Her success with our parents got me to thinking back about every encounter during my visit and I could see where I could have handled those situations differently.

What they both need is to feel heard without having someone volunteer solutions all the time. As my sister found, they come up with their own solutions if they have someone to bounce their thoughts off, and it has the added benefit of keeping them in control and feeling validated. For now, I can practice my active listening skills with them over the phone and next time I visit, since I can’t undo. Luckily, I had my sister for that. And I’m keeping her close by as my personal consultant so I can learn from the best.