Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Administrators & Caregivers

This is what a visiting nurse said to me when I said a ratio of 1 caregiver to 15 residents is not adequate: "If we hired more caregivers, they would just stand around visiting with each other."

Caregivers work so hard for low pay; they put up with all kinds of crap - not just the bodily kind. Instead of assuming responsibility for complaints about administrative and corporate issues, management blames the caregivers. It's like a trope.

Yesterday I checked a nursing home where the ratio of staff to resident is 1 to 8. Doctors are around all day, nurses, social workers --a medical (non-profit) model as opposed to a corporate one. So, do I put him in a place that looks like a hospital and is worse than grim in appearance or do I keep him with the corporation? Last night I accepted the "we have one male bed available" offer. By this morning I knew I'd turn it down.

That visiting nurse also said: You're missing a lot when you don't have fun with us. Excuse me? When I come to see my husband, I say, I'm there to cuddle with him, not to participate in a group activity, unless he wants to.

When I talked to the regional director the other day, he said, Well you wouldn't want to move him to go to a place with linoleum.

I'm not moving him at all. Who knows what it would be like for him in another place. I'm going to leave it alone for now.

NY son's here. He has an academic/corporate job, gives me some pointers on how to survive. "You can do it, Mom. You're doing great. Just keep your distance." I'm gonna try. "Thank you, Sweetheart."

Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Doctor Day

I was scared about taking Abe to the doctor. I didn't think I'd find the energy, but I did and he did. We even got shakes at Jack in the Box.

The disease is progressing, as I have known. I'll probably move him soon. A ratio of one to fifteen is just not enough, or even one and a half to fifteen, as has been explained to me. Somehow I don't get the "half" business; but I guess there's a way of moving a half of person around on paper.

Lauren Kessler's Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's (Viking, 2007) describes people with Alzheimer's as those of us who really know how to live in the moment. I want Abe to have a chance to do that most comfortably. A move will be strenuous for both of us but I think it's time.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ohhh, I was a dahctor?

I didn't go to see Abe today. I can't believe I held out and listened to myself. I knew if I went I'd never get back to my work. I called and left a message for the nurse that I'm taking him to the doc for a check-up Monday. I'll call to talk with him later.

I don't think I've been aware of how consumed I've been by this particular illness. I've probably been, and still may be, in denial. I know Alzheimer's is a brain disease, but I can't help admitting that I've been (in a child-like state?) thinking I was somehow responsible.

How could this brilliant man who was, as a pathologist, at the heart of a hospital, not remember the names of the bones in the body, much less that he was a doctor. He remembers that sometimes, but not too long ago he asked me: "What kind of business was I in?"

I said, "You were a doctor."

"Ohhh, a dahhhctor? Hmmm."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or to ask him if he was in the Bronx again, working in his father's grocery store perhaps. Or holding onto his mother as she peddled garments on the street. I just sat there next to him and held his hand.

Instead of going to see him today, I drove to Group Health to get my flu shot. On the way, NPR: David Sederis was reading his Great Dane/mother story (from Me Talk Pretty). I laughed so hard, I cried. God he's funny.

I didn't know today was the start of flu shot day at that clinic. It was mobbed but a lot of fun - generations of sleeves rolled up waiting for a stick. Amazing how fast medical people work. I was in and out in 10 minutes.

On the way back, more NPR. Another story. This time Brady Udall reading his armadillo story (Story Magazine, Autumn 1999)for This American Life.

Abe said once he retired all he wanted to do was read the stacked up New Yorkers and listen to NPR.

from An Alzheimer's Marriage

Who would have thought
that Alzheimer’s
could knit
the warmest
and best parts
of our struggle
into a blanket
and, like a prayer,
hold it over us
-Esther Altshul Helfgott

Written after reading Margaret Atwood's poem "Habitation"
in last week's Poeming the Silence class.


Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire
- Margaret Atwood

"Habitation" by Margaret Atwood,
from Selected Poems II. © Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987.

Friday, October 26, 2007

On Alzheimer's, Poetry, & Such

Now that I'm understanding Alzheimer's, I have to learn to put up with institutional management that speaks a corporateeze that I'm not much good with. One way to get away from it is to go to a poetry reading.

Last night's reading at Ballard Library was lovely--laid back and comfortable, a place where one can be new and scared or experienced and still scared (or not). Thanks to librarians, Lynne and Elizabeth, who set the stage for the lot of us who read one poem each.

I forgot how long it's been since reading. What a wonderful poetry community we have here in Seattle. (Well, not always). I feel the sense of caring and community more as a reader than as a series host. Lynne read one of her poems - I love her cadences and repetitions - and it was good to see a host feel comfortable reading her own work, which I haven't felt. Last week when she read at It's About Time, she said she writes her poems to read in community, and it shows. She's a happy reader. I write as an internal need, to get things said that I feel need to be said, and to understand, but I'm certainly not a happy reader.

Brian is. When a few of us were talking - mostly I was talking - about writing depressing poems, he said "I can do happy. I can do fun." I laughed and invited him to read for It's About Time.

I had no idea what I was going to read last night until yesterday afternoon when I received an email from a Provincetown director. She wanted to use The Homeless One to help support a homeless shelter that couldn't keep up. Then I knew what I'd read: At the Back of the Laundromat, which I revised six times before the reading and am still revising; here's the original.

Now I'll take the dog for a walk and go buy a battery for my chirping smoke alarm, which is driving me nuts.

I've decided not to go see Abe today because I was so upset with the management of the place Wed. When I walked in, there was a staff party going on and no caregiver in Abe's section. I was livid. This is not the first time the party scenario's happened, but saying anything only serves to get me and everyone else upset.

Abe was happy. When I asked somebody to clean the bathroom, he said: Good for you! He's still Abe. LOL. I don't know how they will have staff enough to take care of him as the disease progesses - which they promised - but I'm staying away for another twenty-four hours, at least.

Well, I guess I'm into blogging again. It's Peter's fault. I find his blog, which includes much on poetry and medicine, helpful; and it's inspired me to write outside my room again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

25 poets read 1 poem each

Tonight, Thurs. Oct 25th
6:30 pm

Ballard Library
5614 22nd Ave NW
6:30 pm.

Bring a poet, bring a friend.