The Old Man Turns 71!!!

Birthdays are special.

When the Old Man reaches another birthday it’s always the “whatever you want”

approach.

This time was no different. This year we went to lunch. I chose lunch because I knew that he would want to go right to sleep after walking and eating.  

A couple of days before his birthday I asked what meal he would like.  He replied “ox tails”.  I thought of the options to sit down and eat ox tails in my town and I could only think of a few.  

I called The Palace International Restaurant on Broad Street in Durham, NC and they were able to comply with my request to serve oxtails for lunch. Now that the easy part was out of the way, I said “you will have your ox tails” . He was overjoyed.  

Found some mini loaf cakes at The Kupcake Fairy on Chapel Hill Road in Morrisville so he could have a little birthday cake too. 

One thing that I have realized about watching my Dad age is that simple things are the key to happiness. All he wanted for his birthday was to eat oxtails have a double rum and coke, get out of the house and laugh a little. That is exactly what we did. 

Let setup part of the day for you. I called him in the morning so that he would know what time I was coming to pick him up, this was how the convo went: 

Old Man:Today I am wearing a tshirt and shorts.

Me: Ok, if that is what we are doing I will wear something similar. 

Old Man: Yep, it is all about comfort, today is my day. 

Me: U are right. See you in a little while. 

I  pick him up and he is ready.  We have a birthday song walk jam session on the way to the car. We sing along to Old school jams on the ride. Drive through 2 mini downpours and make it to the restaurant right on time. 

Some friends and family arrive and we laugh and talk. Order some great meals and talk some more. 

Surprisingly he ate his entire plate of food and even started eating the cake .That was a great sight to see! 

We ride back to his house drive back through some rainstorms and get him home during some light drizzle. 

The best part of the day was taking him home and him saying, 

“I had a great day, it was off the hook!”  

Now we are on the road to 72. Look out now.

(If this is your first time reading then I should let you know, “Old Man” is an affectionate term for my Dad. Just in case you were wondering)

20180908_154133

20180908_154134
mini cake action
20180909_111819
Oxtails with rice and collard greens.
20180908_161702
Me and The Old Man!

 

Adventures with The Old Man: The Old Man gets a Smart Phone

One of my rules about The Old Man living by himself is that he has to answer the phone when I call. If he doesn’t answer by the 4th call, then he knows I will call the police to go check on him.  I know that seems strange but The Old Man has requested to keep some of his freedom and live alone for a couple more years. Being that he is an amputee and very close to 70 it is real that he could fall or be hurt in there and so he has to keep the phone with him at all times.

So, yesterday we had an issue. I called literally all day and didn’t get an answer. So of course I was worried.  He mentioned the other day that his cell phone wasn’t picking up all phone calls and for some reason he could see the call and not answer.  So instead of calling the police I called one of his neighbors and asked if he could go check on The Old Man and tell him that I was on the way.

I jumped on the highway and rolled on down to his town.  Pulled up at his house walked in and he was chilling and “unbothered”.  Me: “I have called you probably 25 times today, where is your cell phone?” He hands it to me all nonchalant.  I looked at it and it said “searching”, I turned it off and back on and it was working again. I asked if he noticed that he hadn’t gotten any phone calls all day. He was like , “Well I wondered why you didn’t call me.” I laughed and said we need to get to the phone store so we can get you a new phone.

So he walks out to the car and we ride to the nearest phone store.  He has been talking about an iPhone for the longest time and I mentioned he may want to start with something else. So in the store he managed to pick a nice Samsung phone.

The representatives at the store were great and very attentive to his questions.  They even did a special tutorial just for him.  Before we left they gave him their cell phone numbers in case he has any questions and setup his phone just the way he wanted.  I couldn’t have been more proud of the T-mobile staff that assisted him in the store. It warmed my heart at how attentive to his needs they were.

Now he is super excited that he has a new phone even if he doesn’t quite know how to use it yet. I told him with practice he will be doing everything. Even taking “selfies”. He laughed and said now he has a new toy to play with and get used to.

It was definitely a blessing to be able to get to his home and know that nothing was wrong and to be able to help him get a new cell phone.  I am sure that this story will continue on. I will share any updates.

 

20170816_174730
Tmobile reps giving a lesson to the Old Man

 

 

Adventures with the Old Man:Our First Veteran’s Amputee Picnic

The Old Man (affectionate term for my father) was invited to his first amputee picnic, so you know what that means.  We were going no matter what!  It was at the local VA Hospital, which has an amputee support group. The Old Man hasn’t had a chance to attend the group sessions yet, but he will in due time.

It was great to see the staff from the hospital setting up grills and such to get this picnic going.  As I sat there and looked around, you see different amputee levels and I was looking at The Old Man watching each person that came up and assessing what level they might be. It was like a cool networking event.  Everyone was a veteran so they all had that in common, which was an easy ice breaker.

I enjoyed watching The Old Man speak to everyone and watched as he said he was a little “jealous”, that some of them were walking without “anything”(meaning, walking with no walkers, canes or anything else to hold them up). However, he also talked to the gentlemen in the wheelchairs that had just had their surgeries maybe a month or two ago and he was able to identify with them as he remembered how it was in the beginning.  As I looked at his face while talking, I was very pleased knowing that he fell right in with all of them.  There was even a highlight when some of the amputees came over and were talking about the different legs that they had and said that his was impressive. I know that made him feel good, which was a goal of this outing.

I told him that it didn’t matter what level everyone else was on, he has been an amputee for less than a year and is already in a leg that has a microprocessor in it and it is going to help him walk really well, just like these other guys and gals.

He smiled and was like, ” I am ready.” 

He smiled and said, “I am ready , to be like them.”  I looked at him and said you will get there, just learn what you are supposed to and take your time. You will be doing what they can do in no time.

This picnic had some interesting highlights for me:

  1. AT the VA, much like on a military base “TAPS”, plays at sunset, or the time the sun is supposed to set. It was like all of these veterans had a quick flash back, but it was nice to see all of them at attention until the song was finished. It was a moment that instantly unified them all, no matter if you were an amputee or staff, as veterans all of them stood at attention.
  2. There was definitely some humor amongst all of the amputees, when the food was finished cooking, someone yelled out “Ok, all of the wheelchairs go first”, then everyone started laughing, it was cool to see everyone with a great sense of humor.
  3. There was a little talk about the Veteran Games, and how there is a competition amongst Vets. (I am going to have to look that up, the Old Man used to be athletic)
  4. Met one of the first Vets to have a leg with a microprocessor in it. (So, I am sure that you are wondering what this means.  It is a leg that has a computer chip in the knee and battery that has to be charged, much like a cell phone. It is a piece on the leg that allows for better control and it also prevents a lot of falls, due to “thinking technology”, which allows the leg to kinda stop you before you are going down to fall.)  It was cool to hear her talk about the different legs that she has and how she uses each one especially the “sport legs” for surfing, sailing, and all. So talking to the Old Man, he perked up when she was speaking to him talking about all the things that she can do as an amputee. He simply said to her “I want to be like you!” with a look of admiration on his face.  Then we found out she has been an amputee for about 25 years so she has had tons of practice.
  5. One of my favorite moments was when he was talking and was standing there in his spot straight up not holding on to anything.  One of the other vets came by and said “Look Ma, No Hands”.  I was sitting in amazement that he was just standing there and I was like, oh I need a photo of this, so I snapped one quickly.

So, in all today’s picnic was a hit.  Even after watching all of these guys and gals he was even walking better to the car.  I told him, hanging out with other amputees would be good, but I could also tell that he really wanted to be where they were and was pushing himself today.  The upside is there is nothing wrong with having drive and today gave The Old Man some extra pep and something to look forward to, if he keeps practicing.  Today was a great experience.

*Note: When I am at these events with The Old Man, I try to only get pics of him and not the others, just to be respectful. Maybe one day others will give permission to take pics with him. 🙂

 

VA Chronicles with The Old Man: Part II

Check out VA Chronicles with the Old Man part one for the beginning of the story.  I will start exactly where I left off.

We got the call that said The Old Man ( affectionate term for My Father) needed to come in and they may take him in through the emergency room.  So we get checked into the clinic area and are waiting for the Dr. to come and look at him.  We came with a bag packed to stay and we go into an exam room.

I look at The Old Man as he is limping and in pain, but trying to walk normal.  We walk into the exam room and he sits down. I start pacing because I now have realized that this is an actual appointment and not what we have prepared for.

Two doctors walk in the Room, one being a surgeon that The Old Man remembered from when he used to work in medicine.  He says, “This guy was a resident back when I was working many years ago”, now he is a top surgeon”. I looked at the gentleman and was like, “It sounds like he is the best, hopefully he will be on our team”.  The other doctor remembered The Old Man from the Emergency room visit.  She says, ” I saw you a few weeks ago, so lets check you out now”.  It turns out that they found that my father had a blockage in his leg, in the thigh area, so blood was not flowing to the rest of his leg.  She says, “Well, you didn’t get any worse, than the time I saw you last.” My blood started to boil and I was starting to feel my body temperature rise.  She then said “you are probably in quite a bit of pain, however because your blood isn’t flowing pain killers won’t work for you”.   At this moment I had to walk out of the room.  I am looking at My father in a great deal of pain, which I can tell he is masking and then hearing someone say nonchalantly that there is nothing that can be done to stop the pain temporarily.

As I returned to the room, the surgeon came in and explained that he wanted to do a bypass procedure in The Old Man’s leg to get the blood flowing again. I looked and said “Ok, when”, he then mentioned that they would have to schedule something, but someone would have to go to a computer to schedule it.  My temperature rose once again as I am looking at a computer in the room with us and trying to figure out why this isn’t urgent and why that computer wasn’t sufficient to use. I looked at My father and saw his face and realized that I won’t get too upset because he may get upset.

So I didn’t get too upset and decided to wait on this phone call from scheduling.  So they called and said that we needed to come in again to speak with some people.  For me this was the longest process ever, we went to another appointment and I am like is it time to fix this problem yet? This time there were nurses and all kinds of people present that said who they were and what they did.  This meeting was a prep to schedule the actual surgery.

So finally 26 days from the time that he was in Emergency and almost went into Emergency Surgery, we were finally scheduled for surgery.  That day was June 28, 2016.  I woke up early that morning and prepared to go pick my Dad up to go to surgery.  He had his bag packed and still walking with that painful limp, he was ready to go.  I let him out at the front of the hospital with the wheelchair people and I parked to enter the hospital.  They took him up to the surgery waiting room and I met him there.  There were some really nice nurses to do everything to get him ready.  He gave me some instructions, he said when I come out of surgery make sure to wash my face and prepare me for visitors.  As my anxiety rose, they were going to take him to the operating room.  I walked with him down the hall and they said Miss, you can’t  go past this point.  I looked at them and wrapped my arms around My Father and the entire hallway stopped moving as I began to Pray out loud for a successful surgery.

I was then escorted to a waiting room, they said that he would be going into ICU after he came out of surgery.  The good thing was another one of his old friend’s was the head of the ICU at this time so it was great.  I literally called in every favor that I could think of and happened to have eyes and ears on him for every moment of the surgery.

I waited and waited and a few hours later I saw a bed wheeling past me.  He was still unconcious, but I knew that he was alive.  I couldn’t hold it together.  Now I am not an overly religious person, but I started “shouting”, in the waiting room and praising God for making sure that my father made it out of that surgery alive.  A few minutes later I would go back to see him.

I walked into the ICU and followed the instructions to get him a washcloth for his face.  The residents came to check on him and said, “The surgery was a success, his blood is already flowing and he has a pulse in his foot. ” Me: “Thank you for the confirmation”.

(Just so that you know when a bypass like the one The Old Man had is done they cut the inside of the leg from ankle all the way up to the thigh.  That is something that I need you to remember.)

After a few days in ICU we moved to a regular room and started the recovery process. A resident came around on July 4th to say that maybe he could be discharged so that he could be home for the holiday.  I was very concerned as his wound was very extensive and I was not in agreement with that.  A couple of days later he was discharged to go home. I was uneasy about this too, but at this point I had to go with what they said.

Before discharge The Old Man was up walking with a walker and doing pretty good.  So we told the nurses goodbye and left the hospital on his trip home.

He was very happy to be home and walking even if it was with a walker.  That was to be a temporary thing, but as you know….the story continues…Part III coming up soon.

 

Misstakenid’s Caregiver Tips

I have heard the word “Caregiver” plenty of times and never did I think that the word would apply to me.  I used to think that people became caregivers later in life, however I am fortunate enough to be one at 33. Becoming a caregiver out of the blue at a time when you are not prepared can put you in a tough situation.  However, I figured out a few tips that can help out anyone that is faced with becoming a caregiver for their parent.  These things worked for me because even though My father doesn’t live too far away, he doesn’t live in the same town as me and running up and down the highway can burn you out.  We all know that burn out is real and not something that you want to experience as a caregiver.

Let me give you a little bit of a back story before I go on.   My Dad was the most independent person I knew and for the first time in 2016 we were placed in a situation that caused him to ask me for help. He was going into a major surgery and prior to everything when we were in preparation for surgery he says ” She is the boss”, before I knew it people were giving me all kinds of Power of Attorney forms and he was telling the people at the hospital “She can speak for me and handle my affairs”. After a few surgeries, (which will be discussed in “The VA Chronicles” posts) my independent Father, “The Old Man”(affectionate term for him) became an amputee and was in a wheelchair. I never saw this coming and it hit me pretty hard, but it has given me the opportunity to share some information with you.

Here is my list of caregiver tips (some may have a little extra info and explanation as they relate to me).

  1. Make sure to check your loved ones financial information, check the mail and make sure all bills are paid.  I think this is one of the most important things.  Upon becoming caregiver I found a couple of fraud companies/scammers were taking funds out of The Old Man’s account and he wouldn’t have known if I didn’t check and report them.  Also, if your loved one may be away from home (in a hospital/rest home), speak to the service providers such as cable or satellite to see if you can put the service on hold, so that they aren’t responsible for a bill while they are away.
  2. Make sure that the home is accessible for them for when they return home.  Check everything, if you need to have some work done to make sure that it is accessible do that.  We had to have a ramp put in, furniture moved around, and things such as shower chairs, accessible bars, and other things to help him around the house.
  3. Make sure that your loved one has resources in place so that they can eat everyday.  Food is very important.  Programs like Meals on Wheels can help make sure that your loved one can have at least one nutritious meal and snack daily to help supplement their eating.  I would say check to see if there is a meals on wheels program in your area or one that is similar. If not, get familiar with “meal prepping”.
  4. Arrange for transportation if you can.  I called the county where my Dad lives and found out about their service for people in wheelchairs.  He used to enjoy doing things on his own, so I knew that transportation would assist in getting him around in his town.
  5. Get outside help if you can.  I am an only child and so I know that I don’t have any brothers or sisters to help me, but there are programs and things that you can register for to help you with caring for your loved one. Thankfully, we were able to get an Aide to come in and help him with some things a few times a week.  We were also able to get in home therapy to come a couple of times a week too.
  6. Make Rules for your loved one to follow.This sounds funny I am sure because it’s like switching roles with your loved one, but I had to implement one major rule. My Dad decided that he wanted to go back to living alone, so the only rule that matters is this “HE MUST ANSWER HIS CELL PHONE ” and keep it near him. If I ever get to 4-5 calls back to back, I am going to assume the worst and call the police to come check on you and I am zooming down the highway at whatever speed to get to you.  This rule has helped us out greatly.  It helps him keep some independence.
  7. Make sure Doctor’s and Medical staff know who you are.  Get to know the people who are supposed to provide the care for your loved one.  Know them by name, just in case you ever need the information for something. Also, show up at appointments and show interest in care and treatment plans.  You would be surprised the number of people who don’t have anyone in their corner, you have to be an advocate for your parent too.
  8. Take care of You. Self Care is very important.  Take your vitamins, work out, eat healthy, go to therapy, do whatever you need to do to make you feel good.  When you are the caregiver for someone your health is important because you need to be there to help your loved one.
  9.  You will get frustrated at times.  Frustration is a part of the process. It is ok to be frustrated, just try not to let your loved one see it. You don’t want to ever bring them down if you can help it. If ever anyone came around me with a cold or sickness it would frustrate me to no end, thinking that if I catch a cold, I can’t be around my loved one until I got better.  Another thing that frustrated me was working with putting his wheelchair in my car.  This is something that can frustrate anyone, because my car is fairly small and the wheelchair can’t go into my trunk.  There were times when I wanted to cry, because I just couldn’t get it in the car by myself, but never wanted my Dad to see the tears so I would just take a moment and breathe and usually someone would appear to help me.
  10. Celebrate your victories. As you accomplish little things along the way celebrate them.  Pat yourself on the back, you are doing something that takes a different kind of strength.  It’s ok to celebrate by taking yourself to dinner or something when you accomplish something on your list, because no matter how small it may be, it is something to help out your loved one.

I will admit being a caregiver, especially from a short distance isn’t the easiest of things.  Even with all of the ups and downs I wouldn’t have it any other way.  With my checklist and some positive energy you can do it too.

If you have some tips to share, please do…comments are welcome.

The Old Man Tales:Falling…It’s OK if you can get up. “

When your parent reaches a certain age, like 69,  you start to wonder about their health and well being.  Well due some events in the past year my Dad, I affectionately refer to as “The Old Man”, had a life changing event take place. He became an amputee.

So, let me tell you…when someone becomes an amputee the number one thing that you are always thinking about is if they are going to fall and or when are they going to fall and how will you react.  While they are going through therapy the hospital and rehabilitation staff will try to simulate drills where they have a controlled fall to make sure that the amputee knows how to get up.

This is all well and good until you think of your parent falling and possibly hurting themselves.

My Dad started wearing his prosthetic leg at the end of last year and I saw him walk for the first time on Christmas Day, with a walker.  So each new improvement, from a stationary walker to a rolling walker is a mini victory. Until you hear these words….

“I was walking into the hospital for my appointment and I fell on the floor”

Immediately, I went into “Mommy mode” as if this wasn’t my parent. (Thinking about how hospital floors are hard and an injury may have occured) “Are you ok? Did you hurt yourself? Did anyone help you up?”  Literally I grabbed my shoes, and was headed to the door.

Then I stopped and listened to him.  He didn’t sound in pain, he didn’t change the tone of his voice and he was saying it like it was a matter of fact thing. So I calmed down, sat down and listened to the rest of his story.  He says, ” I got up by myself, noticed I wasn’t hurt and kept on going”.

So I sat back down in my chair with the phone and had to think of how parents are when they see their children fall.  If you make a big fuss, then the kid gets upset.  So I treated this like that situation, he probably knew that I was on edge though.

So I said, “You were able to get back up on your own, without help,  GOOD JOB!!” I also realized that if he could fall and get up all by himself that we are definitely making some major improvements.  He also said it with confidence, so I won’t be afraid if I hear this again, unless he is injured.

Moral of the story: If you fall down and you can  get back up then you are in good Shape.

I am thankful for the lessons I am learning while going through this process.