Thursday, 14 January 2010

Swings and roundabouts

I was sad to hear that the spasms in my mother's neck had been more frequent, but I understand she is eating rather than not (how much?) and she did put it down to her not having been able to get to the osteopath because it was just too icy, rather than just feeling horribly negative about it. She was expecting her German class to come yesterday and concerned that she wouldn't be able to speak much. What has happened since I do not know, as I always forget to ring when it's appropriate and remember at some awkward time (when she is likely to be eating or sleeping!).

We need a little light relief among all this concern, and we got it .... in a way ... with the mystery of the disappearing puddings

Last Friday, my sister had made some baked custard in ramekins and a dish of rice pudding for my mother. On Sunday she found the empty dishes, but my mother said she hadn't eaten it. James and Liz, who were visiting, hadn't had it either .... so where had it gone??

My brother in law had spent most of Friday with my mother and remarked to the carer that there was a fox in the garden that was looking a bit hungry. The carer said to my sister one evening that she was just going downstairs for a moment .... and, given that the carer had said things that suggested a sentimental approach to animals .... we wonder if she took the puddings down to the fox!!

I regard urban foxes as a nuisance only one step removed from rodents and think it a dreadful waste to feed such good food to them, especially as my sister is so busy and my mother so much in need of it! However we only have circumstantial evidence ...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

How come?

How come the chefs on TV are seen doing marvellous things to food, undoubtedly using a number of utensils in the process .... which all seem to disappear without any sign of washing up??

That fairy doesn't live in my house!

Definition of reality TV: one shot per cookery programme of the resultant washing up.

The end of last week saw considerable confusion as to my mother's health. Someone was obviously trying to contact me fairly urgently, which would suggest a turn for the worse (which I already know has happened, so what was so important?). Eventually got through, to find that the doctor had had a word with my sister to say that my mother had heart failure, and that was what she was wanting to tell me. We already know she has; she has had it for decades and the hospital said her heart was consistent with someone her age. It will undoubtedly, fail more as time passes, as will mine. The doctor also said there had been no fundamental change since she was in hospital in September: that is good news because she was recovering quite well after that; opinion was that she could recover fully, but it will take time, quite some time, because she is an old lady.

The bad news is that she cannot sustain other threats to her health in the way, particularly, of stomach upsets: that is the point at which it becomes dangerously critical, the more so as she stops eating (when she doesn't, anyway, eat enough to have any reserves to keep her alive when she doesn't). The tactic she has always adopted, and which she taught us, of fasting or eating very little until the infection has run its course, is not appropriate any longer. Now the thing to do is to take something for it and keep on eating while taking some care not to have anything that is too taxing on the system. It it these additional factors which will have changed the prospects of recovery. I no longer keep to the old habits: infection leaves my muscles weak, as I discovered when I was ill a while back, and I need all the strength I have got! Added to which, I live alone so do not have anyone to look after me if I am ill and need to stay strong enough to do it myself (and make sure I have food I can microwave quickly available!).

Where she is concerned just now there is a glimmer of light: she is beginning to remark on things other than her state of health, like the fact that she missed the chance to have a chat with me at Christmass due to being so ill. She still has the spasms, though not so badly. She still needs to relax: that would add so much to her life and health.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Colder still and colder .. (with apologies to Elgar)

I have decided I am not going to try to get to Mass this week, about which I feel a little guilty .... but it probably wouldn't be wise. It was just about possible last week (even if cold) but this week we have snow forecast (so no point in getting the path cleared beforehand) together with a considerable wind chill factor, so it will be more than icy sharp.

My mother is no better as far as I know - I didn't ring today. My landline phone is somewhere in the house ... I usually ring it on my mobile and the pager leads me to it, but the battery must have run down, because I got no response. I'd like to make her a card, but can't think how I could get it to her, given that the weather is not letting up for the forseeable future. It might be good to have one ready, just in case someone comes by.

I am distracted from studying because I can't quite convince myself that there is no point putting my own life on hold for fear of hers ending: I will more than likely end up intercalating (again!). Added to which, I don't yet have the essay titles ... not that I have the study done for them by a long chalk. I still feel very cut off from Maryvale: I NEED to get to a residential soon so that I feel part of it again (and in this weather I'm not sure it would be wise to travel; the inevitable hanging around waiting for taxis or trains would be a very chilly business.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Plus ca change ..... (again - what an exciting life I lead!)

Haven't updated for a day or two, so thought progess report on mother may be needed. She has those darn spasms back in her neck (again!) though not as badly, and still has a cough: the osteopath said her neck was better than it had been, so let's hope it isn't as bad this time. We are all encouraging her to eat and drink and she has maybe got a little more appetite than she had. She had a visit from German friends whose daughter is studying in London, so that will have been something a little different to cheer her. I sent Fiona with some miniature daffs in a pot and a bowl of narcissi to plant; as she has always loved to garden, I hope watching them grow will give her something to look forward to: as I can't do the practical stuff, I have made it my mission to do the extras - shame I can't help with things more necessary, because it means Fiona has to do it all.

We are not snowed in here, though I am hibernating (it was cold enough going to Mass last week!) It's not worth getting anybody to clear the path as we have more snow forecast. The next thing on the agenda is LOTS of study - I hope I might get the essay titles in the post and if so I will need to get on with it!!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Shiny new ....

(and very chilly!) Monday morning, first of the new year, shiny new coursebook, ditto textbook (embarrassing at this stage in the year ... LOTS of catch-up to do!!), shiny new essay titles to follow when Maryvale term starts (today or Thursday?), shiny new, accusing icons on desktop in due course!!

Two shiny new commandments, specially for me:

Thou shalt not spend the whole morning on facebook;

Thou shalt not eat like a horse.

Next stop: the sitting room (where I can put my little heater on and keep warm :-) )

Saturday, 2 January 2010

winter chill

The bathroom has been cold in the morning, despite the heating being on - must be all those cold tiles ...

Have used new casserole dish to make tasty stew: as I had a nibble yesterday and enjoyed it, I was so conscious of my mother who just doesn't enjoy food at the moment, worse, does not eat. Even if you have no appetite (and I have, believe it or not, been depressed enough, and anxious about eating to an extent that nothing I ate tasted good) you HAVE TO EAT. I most worried that I would be unable to eat because of the overbearing anxiety - I knew I had to. For some reason we cannot get this over to our mother.

I must get on with some study. It's not good to be worrying about my mother, especially as there's so little we can do. I need something else in my life (and it is urgent to study, or I'll have a serious case of exam nerves come the summer .... and that is one thing I am NOT inflicting on myself again!).

Rang Fiona (with some trepidation) to find that the news is better: mum had a decent supper last night and a good night's sleep. Both will, I hope, have broken the anxiety a little, enough to get her out of the vicious circle of being down because not eating and not eating because down: but, as Fiona said, she is not out of the woods yet. She needs to get used to eating properly and do so for long enough to get beyond the stage where she is in danger of collapse. She will always be an old lady who needs looking after, and will probably need encouragement, but that we can do; when care and encouragement seem to have no effect we can do nothing. It may be significant that she asked Fiona "Have I eaten enough?", rather than complaining she doesn't feel like eating and we were filling her up. She has failed to eat enough for over 25 years, and now that she is old she is vulnerable to the effects. When she is relaxed she is much more able to eat, so it is important that she doesn't worry, but it is so difficult for someone who is a born worrier to relax. It would be such a special gift of God if she could let go of the worry and relax for the last lap of her life - not just so that she could eat well, but so that she would live as the person fully alive that is the glory of God. Another positive, and a very important one, is that the person who is caring for her at the moment is someone who cares: practical things done with love and warmth can make a real difference.

Friday, 1 January 2010


Long time no blog ... things got busy (as they do). Had pressies wrapped for usual visit to sister and hoped to give mum a day to remember as she has been under the weather and down, so needed a boost. Also hoped to catch up with other family as we were only the immediate family, hence might have a chance to chat more than in a room full of various people.

A day to remember it was, but NOT the way we hoped. Mum has been weak ever since she was ill in the Autumn (not surprising: it takes time when you are coming up for 90 ... ) but was getting better. Unfortunately she again developed the spasms in her neck which had plagued her last time she was ill. So she spent the day inert and non-participant (those of you who know her will realise just how far away from her usual self that was, and therefore seriously worrying). Fiona did what she could to calm her, but she spent the day frightened of the next spasm. As they come on more when she is tense, come on they did, and so she got tense ...

Several events had combined to bring this about. She is tired of feeling weak (but I know from when I was seriously ill that it does take a LONG time) and I'm sure feels she will never recover (we are assured she will but it will take time). She has full-time care at the moment: inevitably it varies somewhat in quality and compatibility with her - some people are doing a job, the best really care and are on the same wavelength; just recently we had one of the "lesser breed" who had possibly gone back to work too soon after an operation herself. Added to that everybody was, inevitably, busy (apologies to the person at her church who thought I was being critical about the lack of visits: I didn't mean it to come over that way, only to say she needed visits.) She also has an infection which is giving her a cough (fortunately not in the chest, but higher up) and got the runs through taking syrup of figs to counteract the codeine she was taking for her neck. Not surprisingly, it is ages since she had a decent night's sleep ....

What a catalogue of ills! It's not surprising she is a more than little depressed ... but she needs to eat, so she can regain strength, and she just doesn't realise how little she eats even when she is not under the weather. She most needs love and warmth and companionship to encourage her to keep going. (Unfortuanately I cannot get into her place.) There is a little light at the end of the tunnel: the osteopath says her neck is easing up, and she now has antibiotics for the cough which should start working soon.

Rang Fiona, who has borne the brunt of this, to find she is at her wits' end as our mother will not eat. She apparently feels nauseous (lack of food would be enough to cause that, ditto anxiety) and tends to the runs (possibly antibiotics, though the doctor did go for the ones that don't?) ... so she worries before she eats and after she eats ... in case she sets either off. She HAS to eat, otherwise she will die just as surely as those who starved to death under the Nazis or the Japs and she so much deserves better than that. I hate throwing up myself, so I can understand how hard it is, but her digestion will go up the creek by reason of starvation in its own right and then she will genuinely be unable to eat.

Not the best start to the New Year! Let's hope it gets better!