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Posts Tagged ‘congestive heart failure’

Uncle C finally did it.  He took the plunge.  He jumped over the edge into the darkness, into the great unknown.  He had been talking about it for a couple of years, wanting it, yearning for it.  The “it” being death. But yet he was scared, scared of that unknown.

Uncle C talked about death often. Daily he’d tell us that this day would probably be his last. He talked about wanting to get his hands on some sleeping pills so he could just go to sleep and not wake up. Honestly, I don’t think he would have ever done it because of the fear that plagued him.

One second Uncle C was “waiting for the hearse” and the next he was trying to talk my hubby into bribing someone at the DMV so he could get his driver’s license back. Up until the very end Uncle C held out hope of driving again, traveling to those far away places that he and his beloved had seen and loved.

Uncle C’s heart and lungs were failing, but he never believed it. To him, he still had the heart of an 18-year-old. But when the end finally came for him, Uncle C went to sleep and didn’t wake up. It was a very peaceful death. He was surrounded by people who loved him to the end – me, my hubby, my daughter and a wonderful caregiver.

We will miss the old fellow. But he had 95 terrific years of life. What more can one ask for?

So…to Uncle C I say, it was an honor and a privilege seeing you through the last few years of your life. I have learned much from you. Go forth and join your beloved wife of 70 years and find peace. I love you Uncle C.

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After yet another stay in the hospital, Uncle C’s doctor informed my husband that short of a heart/lung transplant (which they would never perform on a 94 year old), Uncle C’s condition will only worsen. Uncle C has congestive heart failure and COPD. Uncle C, of course, doesn’t believe there’s a thing wrong with his heart or lungs. In fact, he continues to tell people that he has the heart of a 17 year old and only has the pacemaker for back-up.

After hubby had a heart-to-heart talk with Uncle C this week regarding his condition, Uncle C responded with, “Well, Dr. M doesn’t think I have much time left so we better hurry and get my driver’s license back!”

You gotta love him!

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Uncle C has been with us for almost a year. He arrived at our home on February 28, 2011, two days after the death of his beloved wife. At 93 years old he is a simple man, not wanting for much. He is kind. He is gentle. He doesn’t ask for a lot. We are very lucky in that aspect. If we had to have an elderly loved one living with us, he’s about as easy as it gets. But (here’s the but) – he is passive aggressive in his own sweet little way. Sometimes it’s kind of funny. Actually I kind of play with it a bit just cause it’s so cute. In the afternoon as 5:00 o’clock nears, if I am busy and haven’t brought Uncle C his “toddy”, I can hear his walker clanking down my hall as he makes his way to the kitchen, grin on his face. He doesn’t say a word, doesn’t ask for his drink, just circles – smiling. Just stands there – smiling, never giving up. “Are you ready for your toddy Uncle C?” I finally ask. Looking at his watch with a look of surprise on his face he exclaims, “Oh, I guess it is that time!” as he heads back down the hall to the living room, grin still on his face, in anticipation of the toddy that he loves so much. He does the same when it’s time for his breakfast – and his lunch. Just circles, smiling, waiting for someone to notice that it is time. That’s harmless enough. But there’s more.

He can be as stubborn as he is kind, in that same passive agressive way. Since he has been with us, Uncle C has seen almost every type of doctor around. There’s always something he wants to have checked out. “I think I need to see a foot doctor. My toes look like little blocks of wood. They don’t hurt, just look like wood”, or “I think I need to see the eye doctor again, my glasses have gone bad.” He has a lot of free time on his hands and plenty of it is spent thinking about his health or little things that are bothering him. He has been in and out of the hospital several times in the last year. Sometimes it is just a run to the emergency room. Sometimes they keep him for a few days or a week or two. It’s always the same – shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness. A couple of times pneumonia which goes along with the shortness of breath, weakness and dizziness. When he gets scared enough he pushes his magic little “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button in the middle of the night and away we go. Uncle C has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and has a pacemaker, but doesn’t believe there’s a thing wrong with his heart. “I have the heart of a 17 year old!” he likes to tell people. What? Are you kidding? And the troubles Uncle C keeps experiencing are mostly of his own doing. You see, he HATES taking his fluid pills. He HATES going to the bathroom all the time. He HATES the incontinence – “It’s gross!” he says. So, when he starts feeling good he simply refuses to take the pills, usually in his passive aggressive way. Sometimes he doesn’t tell us, just discretely slides it off of the table onto his lap then flushes it or down the drain it goes. Sometimes he crushes it in the little bit of oatmeal he has left in his bowl, proclaiming he is full and cannot eat another bite. And sometimes he just flat out says, “I’m not taking that pill today. Who wants to go to the bathroom all the time.” What are we to do? He’s a 93 year old adult. It’s not like I can hold him down and shove it down his throat or wrap it in a piece of weiner and give it to him like you would a dog. Oh, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows the consequences. When his breath gets too short, when he gets too weak and dizzy and his ankles look like fat sausages squeezed into his socks, he begins taking them again. Only sometimes it is too late, the damage is done and away we go, hospital bound.

As he goes about his content little life with everyone scurring around waiting on him, he doesn’t seem to realize how his actions, or lack of, affect those around him. Yes, he’s not going to the bathroom as much, good for him. But what he doesn’t realize is that every time he pushes that magic little button in the middle of the night my husband and I are startled out of a deep sleep to the sound of “Your Life Alert has been activated” screaming at us. We race to his room to check on him. With a 93 year old you just never know… Sometimes it’s just, “Can you get me a pain pill and by the way is the coffee ready?” at 4:00 in the morning. Other times he is in a panic, so filled with fluid that he can’t breath and off to the hospital we go. Whether it is simply that he needed something or we end up calling for an ambulance again, when it is all said and done, my husband and I have to continue with life as usual. We still have to go to work and be productive, I still have to tend to my parents daily, still have to come home and cook, clean, do laundry, etc., on very little sleep. It’s exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

And then there are the medical people, doctors and nurses, lecturing to us about the importance of him taking his fluid pills as prescribed. Oh really? Like we don’t know that. I’d just once like to tell them, “Hey, why don’t you come over every morning and force him to take it? And good luck with that.” It’s not like Uncle C is mentally incompetent. He’s really still very sharp. He sits all day, watching the financial channel, following his stocks, selling and trading. He just had me order him the newest Dell laptop computer to replace his old Toshiba so he can research his stocks easier. How many 93 year olds are doing that? So, yes, we do know the importance of the medication being taken as prescribed. And yes, we have stressed to Uncle C the importance of him taking his medication regularly. But beyond that, it is really out of our hands. I do, however, resent him a bit when his choices affect me and my husband so drastically. But what are we to do? We have made a commitment to care for him. But damn, Uncle C, just cooperate a bit!

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There are few things more difficult then watching the slow demise of a body and a mind.  And I am witnessing both.  It’s happening to two different loved ones and there’s nothing I can do to slow it, much less stop it. I feel so helpless, so hopeless.

My mother’s mind continues to grow cloudier. Granted, some days her eyes look clear, mind somewhat sharper, but the reality of the situation is always near, haunting us. I never know what I will face when I arrive, a mother who is aware and in the moment or a mother sitting quietly, lost in her own mind, seeing things that no one else sees. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for my father, never knowing from day to day which wife will wake up that morning.

And Uncle C’s health continues to deteriorate. He has congestive heart failure and his lungs refuse to clear. Mornings are torture as we never know what we will find. Some nights Uncle C can hardly breath, using his oxygen machine the majority of the night, certain it is the end for him. He will at times gain 5 pounds in a day, retaining more fluid than his poor 93 year old heart can eliminate. Emotionally it is very difficult, the ups and downs, the uncertainty of it all, never knowing each morning if we will find a cold dead body or hear Uncle C clanking his walker against my walls as he makes his way to the kitchen asking for his coffee.

Then there is the other issue. The issue of my selfishness, wanting to feel normal again, wanting my old life back, tired of the daily emotional ups and down, tired of never having any time for myself. Ever. Granted I was spoiled. Kids were grown and gone and hubby and I were able to just pick up and go whenever we wanted. We had dinner with friends often, entertained often, traveled. That has all changed and honestly I hate it. I hate being unable to drop everything and go when friends call. We now have to plan ahead, get a sitter. I hate the guilt I feel when I leave town for a few days, knowing mom will be looking for me, missing my visits, missing me. I hate the guilt I feel when we leave Uncle C with a sitter for more than one night, watching his sad, dejected face as we walk out the door. And the noise, oh God, the noise. Sometimes I just can’t take it. Uncle C will only wear one hearing aid. He thinks he doesn’t need one for his “good ear” (hate to tell you Uncle C but neither are good). The television is always loud, someone is always yelling at Uncle C so he can hear them and in the meantime I’m trying not to go crazy. My husband and I left the day after Christmas to visit his elderly parents who live 700 miles away. Our two daughters stayed with Uncle C and both called me commenting about how loud it is in the house. “Mom, I don’t know how you stand it around here. There is no quiet place,” was the comment of my youngest daughter. “Yes, I know. Why do you think I’m losing my mind,” was my response.

Perhaps if I could have one day to myself, one day when I do not have to take care of someone other than myself then maybe, just maybe I could feel normal again, even for just a short time. If I could have one day of quiet, one day to just do whatever I wanted – or do nothing at all – then maybe I would feel revitalized. Maybe. But I don’t have that luxury. Not now anyway. Maybe soon. I can only hope.

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