Who are the Grands?

They are 90 and 93, and they live each day like there is no tomorrow. Because there may not be. Their minds are not what they used to be and their bodies are breaking down bit by bit, but inside those old minds and bodies they are the same independent-minded young people that forged their own way in this world and made a good life for themselves. This is both a blessing and a challenge, as you'll see in the posts below. Welcome to our journey!

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Day on the Dark Side with the Grands - I Think I Need a Tylenol

For New Years Day, I brought Grandma and Grandpa over to our house. It has been snowing for the last 24 hours, but I didn't let that stop me. I took the Subaru, picked them up, wheeled Grandpa's chair through drifting snow, and struggled with Grandma to take her outdoor walker. We had a nice day, watching the Rose Bowl parade (Grandma's idea), watching the hockey game in Michigan, making homemade pizza. I got them home by 4:30.

The dark side of this is that Grandpa wasn't feeling well today. It's really the reason Grandpa wasn't feeling well that speaks of the dark side. Grandpa has sores on his head that are non-fatal cancer. They are being treated, but they are painful. So the wound care specialist told Grandma to give Grandpa Tylenol. She started doing this, but then she thought it wasn't strong enough and gave him trama-dol, a strong painkiller. I dissuaded her from doing that, but then she started giving him more and more Tylenol. So Grandpa began not feeling well. His stomach hurt, he was woozy. Well, yeah, if you're taking 4000 milligrams of Tylenol, it's going to start eating up your stomach.

She's not even supposed to give him medications because we turned his meds over to the nurses. Two weeks ago, Grandma had a fit when I suggested talking to the nurses, telling me not to tell them. I decided not to tell because she agreed to stop giving him the Trama-dol. But now she has been giving him too much Tylenol. The fun never stops.

In reality, this is scary stuff. She's not supposed to be giving him medication because when we asked the nurses to handle his meds, they take that responsibility and they have to handle all of it because of liability issues. The wound care specialist doesn't know that, but that confused Grandma. Understandably so.

But the tough part is that Grandma really doesn't understand any of this. All she knows is that she's been giving him medications for years and all she remembers is that she has been competent and intelligent for most of her life. It's impossible to explain to her now that she's not. She can't see it.

So two hours after I drop them off, I get a phone call from her. She is screaming at me that I have no right to take the Tylenol and she doesn't care if she ever sees me again. She says I'm taking all of her control away from her, that I'm taking over her whole life because I took the Tylenol, and I can't do that. She starts talking to me like I'm five years old, saying, "We're going to have to have a talk, young lady!"

No, we're not. Because we've already talked about this. She didn't understand it the first time. She couldn't accept it the first time. So why would she accept it now? This is all her fight for control, but I'm not going to participate. I would love for her to be in control. I would like nothing better than for her to take care of everything herself for Grandpa's and her care, but that isn't possible. At least, it's not possible if we're going to avoid accidents, injuries, and unnecessary illnesses.

But I've told her all of this. And in the heat of the moment, with her going on and on angrily, I said, "You know what, I'll talk to you in a few days." She told me she didn't care if she ever talked to me again. So I said that if she really felt that Tylenol was more important than her relationship with me, so be it. And I hung up.

Ugh. Why can't I be more patient? Why can't I be more gentle? I pray every day for more gentleness and more patience. I don't know if I'm improving or not. I just don't know. And in times like this, I feel like I'm not improving at all.

The thing is, I have told them repeatedly, I will not compromise on health or safety. I will compromise on anything else, but if it's related to health or safety, it's going to be done right. I took the Tylenol because the nurses said it had to go. I said I would take it because I thought it would be less jarring and upsetting for her.

I should add that there were six bottles of Tylenol in their one-bedroom apartment. I'm left wondering, where in the world did she get all that Tylenol? Has she been buying it on our weekly shopping trips to Walmart? She toodles around the store on her own and I come and pick her up, so it's entirely possible.

In retrospect, I have no idea if there is anything I could have done to avoid this angry scene. She was yelling at me two weeks ago not to tell the nurses that she was giving him medication. I acquiesced, but now I think I shouldn't have. Then today she's constantly bringing up the Tylenol while she was at my house. She also claimed that the head nurse was mean to her, that she talked mean to her when she was talking with her about the meds. I was there. She didn't talk mean to Grandma. She was very gentle. But in Grandma's mind, she was mean. Mainly because the nurse talked to her like she was an old person. What does Grandma think she is?

I can truly empathize that it must be really hard to be 90. Especially when your mind doesn't work as well as it used to so you don't realize all of the changes that are happening. I wish I could make it easier for her, but I don't think I can. In this continued second guessing of myself, maybe I could have let the nurses take out the Tylenol. But she would still have been mad.

In the end, I couldn't leave her stewing about this all night. I called the staff's number to talk to the nurse. Fortunately, it was their favorite nurse Sara. All of the nurses are wonderful, but Sara has really won Grandma's and Grandpa's hearts so I knew she could help. I told her what had happened and she said she'd talk to them.

An hour after that, Sara called back and told me that Grandma said to her right away that she shouldn't have called me and lost her temper. She felt bad, but she thought she'd let Sara call me instead of her. Sara explained again to Grandma that anything with medication has to legally go through the nurses. In other words, no one is targeting Grandma. Least of all, me.

Sara said Grandma kind of understood, but she also said Grandma kind of didn't understand. She defiantly said that she could just go out and buy another bottle of Tylenol if she wanted. In the next sentence, she said that she knew she had to let the nurses take care of the medication. She wants Sara and I to keep this secret from Lydia, the head nurse. No way, Grandma. Forget it. No more secrets.

So what will she do next? Will she go out and buy another bottle of Tylenol? Well, she'll probably adjust to the change and let the staff take care of the pain relievers. She'll complain that no one trusts her, but she'll do as she's asked. And she'll still be my sweetie. I'll call her in the morning and see how they're doing. I'll try harder to be patient and gentle, but I'll maintain reasonable boundaries and common sense. I'll brave whatever mood they're in. I'll hope it's a good one.

Pass the Tylenol. My head is killing me.

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