A quick recap: My aunt (my mom's older sister) became sick in mid-November 2011 (possibly even a month before that - hard to say). Back and stomach pain were the main symptoms, but it took us a while to get her in to see a doctor. Just before Christmas my aunt was diagnosed with stomach cancer (sarcoma, with several large masses). She was told operating was too risky and chemo may not even work and has been given months to live.
Meanwhile, in the beginning of December the furnace in our house quit working and were told we need to call in an electrician to fix it. My mom & I moved into my aunt's house (just one house down the street from us). We soon started taking care of her and now are full-time caregivers: making sure she takes her meds, helping her up out of her chair and down to the bathroom, etc. So for now, we're living together for our mutual benefit. She needs us to care for her and we need a warm place to live in the current winter weather. For the time being there are no plans for us to get our furnace fixed. We're simply too busy here at my aunt's place.
Note: I'm not using a filter for these posts. I figure if you see the subject line "Tales From Auntie's House" and aren't interested you can simply move on and not read. No harm, no foul if you don't wanna read them.
MY GOAL WITH THESE POSTS: Kind of inspired by Jim Beaver's emails that became his inspiring book, "Life's That Way", I thought I'd start posting about what goes on here on a daily, or near-daily basis. I must admit, this is more for me than anyone else. I sometimes feel the need to talk about what all is going on here. My life has changed so much, down to the most common things which were once so simple and now...aren't.
So where does one begin?
Let's go over what my mom & I do to care for my aunt. She's taking 3 medications: 2 for pain and one for nausea. One of the pain pills she takes twice daily and with the other she takes 2 pills every 3 hours. The nausea medication she takes every 6 hours. We record when she takes each pill on a pad of paper and then use a small whiteboard to write down when to give her next doses of meds.
We also take care of any food she wants to eat, which is getting to be less and less all the time. She can eat whatever she wants (no more low-sodium diet to worry about), but she only eats 2 or 3 bites of something and then she's full. We were giving her a lot of soup, but I think she's getting tired of that. We also have a stock of: beef and chicken stock, jello, cottage cheese & peaches, and various other foods. We're learning to buy stuff that we'll also eat that we think she might like so we can finish what she doesn't eat. But it's tough to know what she'll want because a lot of the time even she doesn't know. Plus, the cancer is effecting how things taste for her. Some foods are too sweet or too salty.
She can't get up out of her chair on her own anymore, so one of us always has to be there to pull her up. She then uses a walker to get down the hall to her bedroom and bathroom. The only time she gets up is when she has to use the toilet. Again, we have to get her up off of there, too. It takes her a long time to go (usually almost an hour), so we wait until we hear her 3 knocks which is our signal to come to lift her off the toilet. We also follow her to and from the toilet just in case the walker isn't enough to hold her up as she walks. We get her back to her chair out in the living room and position her pillow behind her, fix the heating pad on her lower back, and cover her up with one of her 2 coats.
As for my mom & I...since we're now living here, we're kinda moved in like gypsies. Things are in plastic bags and kinda all over the place. We've made numerous trips back to our house (aka "The Ice Box" as I call it) to get things, but of course, you always forget something. Sometimes I have to drive mom over in our car because of course, with her arthritic knees she can't walk that far. I, of course, can easily walk back and forth between the 2 houses to get things from our house as we think of them.
I've moved into my cousin, K's old bedroom. Since our house and my aunt's house are the same model and look exactly alike floor-plan-wise, it's like I'm in my own room at home. It's even painted pink like mine is. This is because when my cousin and I were kids, I wanted my room to look like her's. Since K moved out years ago, my aunt has used the bedroom as a storage room, so there's various things in there: Boxes of stuff, an exercise machine, files, and such. There's a twin bed, like I have at home. While it's against the same wall as my bed at home though, it's facing a different direction. Takes a little getting used to. There's a big dresser in the room, but it's full of things and blocked off by a stack of boxes anyway. I have a little bit of room in the closet to hang up some clothes, but not much. Most of my clothes are folded up and stacked up on top of a box. I do have the 3 SPN calendars now hanging on a wall -- my little bit of "decorating" that I simply HAD to have. Otherwise the walls in the room are pretty bare. I'm only in the room for sleeping anyway, so decor isn't a priority.
Mainly, I'm out in the living room with my mom and my aunt. We each have our own chair, facing the TV, and our own little "area" around our chairs. It's in the living room where I sit and watch TV, nap, and in the evenings - get online via my laptop (my MacBook Pro which is getting a good workout again). My aunt and my mom do all their sleeping in their respective chairs. It's where they're the most comfortable. Even at our house my mom slept in a big LazyBoy chair.
Of course, there's the usual household chores to do: laundry, dishes, putting out the garbage & recycling, weekly grocery shopping (my cousin K comes down to stay w/my aunt while we do any shopping).
So there you have it, our life in a nutshell at the moment. *sigh*
TODAY: I got up late. Actually, my mom woke me up and told me what had occurred overnight and in the morning (this is becoming our normal thing). She'd fallen asleep and missed some med times...something else that is becoming all too common. My aunt was on the toilet and in pain. Great. So I got up and dressed and helped with toilet duty.
Got my aunt to eat something...a few bites of a raisin english muffin and I ate the other half. That's all I'd have to eat the rest of the day until supper time. No wonder I'm losing weight - not that that's a bad thing. :P I walked over to our house to pick up our daily newspaper and our mail and my aunt's mail. Soon, my cousin, K arrived. She was coming today to fill out some papers for the attorney that will be here on Thursday to fill out my aunt's will. K stayed for several hours, filling out the paperwork with my aunt, and staying with her for a bit while mom & I went over to our house to pick up a few more things. Then K went home and I picked up some supper for the 3 of us. My aunt managed to eat a few bites of a beef taco.
Sadly, it seems the pain meds aren't helping her much anymore. I just had to give her 2 Tylenol even though she took her regular pain meds only an hour ago. We're also starting to run out of the meds, which the pharmacy filled with no refills despite the doctor writing them WITH refills...*sigh* My cousin, K is going to see about all that tomorrow. She's got a lot of phone calls to make.
After another night of my mom falling asleep and missing med times, I'm convinced I need to stay up myself and just nap in the chair here. Something has to change. K wants to get some nurses in here to help us out, but I'm not sure how that's going to work, especially when my aunt and my mom don't want strangers in the house. *sigh* Anyway, my mom always wants me to at least go to bed and get some decent sleep, but what good is that if things are chaos while I'm sleeping? Problem is...if I'm sitting in a chair too long my knees ache. I need to stretch out and relax my legs every now and then. But if I go to bed then I'm committing to deep sleep and it's hard for me to wake up. I rarely hear my alarm, which is why my mom usually gets me up. So many complications...
I think I've bent all your ears enough for now, possibly even too much by the length of this post. Thanks for reading if you made it all the way through.
Until the next time...thanks for all your support, messages, and hugs. They're much appreciated. *HUGS FLIST*