Saturday, February 09, 2008

Paging Cleopatra, Queen of Denial...

I've been holding things in for months now about an issue, but it's time to talk about it. This is something that has been driving Ed and I crazy (and yes, they are my words, but know that Ed's opinion is the same). This is frank, serious and has not one funny thing about it. If you are not a relative or close friend, feel free to skip this one today.

In the time that we've lived in Florida, we've had one damn issue after another. Last week, Ed's mom had a minor stroke. The good news is that she's okay-some minor issues. She spent a week in the hospital and then was transferred to a rehabilitation facility a couple of days ago.

In her 81 years, until she moved to Florida, the last time she spent the night in a hospital was when Ed was born. Since then, she's on day 14 in two years. Again, she's 81 years old-I'd say that's a pretty darn good average-1 day per 3 years?

As with anyone her age, she's got her problems. Arthritis, a little forgetfulness, and she tires easier. She fell a week after moving here and fractured her cheekbone and collarbone. It didn't do any major damage, thank God. She's a strong woman and will do whatever is needed to get OUT of that rehab center.

On the other hand, Ed's sister allows her health issues to conquer her. When Ed's mom went into the hospital, both of us asked how long it would be before she, too was in the damn hospital. You know what? He got the call Friday morning that we KNEW would come-she had called an ambulance. An infection had pushed her diabetes out of control.

I don't have patience or sympathy anymore. If I felt that she was doing something to improve her situation, I would. She has multiple issues that require several specialists. Since moving here, I think the only doctors she has seen are as a direct result of a hospital stay. Oncologist? Rheumatologist? Allergist? Nutritionist? Nephrologist? I'm sorry, meeting a doctor from a hospital bed does not reflect favorably on a patient. It says "I don't care enough about myself to seek treatment for my health until I have no choice in the matter." The doctors are thinking that if you don't give a shit, why should I?

Thanks to the lovely chronic health issues of my own, I can only watch the same shit go down a couple of times before I lose it. If you have something happen to you once or twice, you should then know enough to see the signs of it happening again. Okay, the infection that caused the diabetic shock was new, but how many times do you have to have high sugar and then bottom out before the "A HA" moment arrives? The diabetic body responds to infection in the same manner, whether it is a sinus infection, cellulitis, or bladder infection.

When you have MAJOR health issues, you need to keep on top of things before you earn a ride in an ambulance. If it's too hard for you to remember, then get a notebook, for Pete's sake. Write down what you eat AND when. General health notes. If you're not feeling well, note what you are experiencing.

Then go over it regularly. Look for patterns emerging. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out "If I eat as soon as I get up, I have a good day. If I wait until 2pm, I can't get my ass in gear."

There have been two incidents that I know of where she has gotten behind the wheel of a car that I frankly wonder how she (and Ed's mom) arrived alive. Thanksgiving day, we met for lunch-at 1:30. (We met halfway between the two houses because frankly, it pisses us off that we have to drive over there-it's been almost two years since they've been to our house) She had not eaten all day and bottomed out as soon as we were seated at the table. I ask this-what if we hadn't been seated as soon as we got to the restaurant? What if you'd had to wait an hour for a meal? What if you'd bottomed out twenty minutes sooner?

Last week, there was another one that finally caused Ed to lose it. He was called and asked if he was busy. Why? Because he was told "I need you to come get me kitty litter." For real? The trip there and back costs 14 bucks in gas and the Jeep should not be driven any great distances right now-it needs major work. It came out that she was in the car and having an episode due to low sugar and had pulled over.

The kitty litter was needed since they hadn't been to the supermarket since Ed took his mom on New Year's Day. Since, late September, the only time groceries have made it into their home is because Ed has gone grocery shopping. Before that, the Sunday before Christmas, before that, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Before that, right after Veteran's day, before that, October 30th. (and those of you wondering-yes, that is from memory) If you are too tired to venture out and even do basic errands, get your ass to a doctor and get some help. If you can't perform basic daily tasks, what in the world are you doing booking a cruise? (Yes, I saw the confirmation sitting on the kitchen table)


I'll be blunt, I don't think she'll make it to see 60. My reasons are many:
-Her heart has suffered too much permanent damage and I see no signs of her changing her ways
-Each time she bottoms out, she makes the heart problem and related problems worse
-If any of her vital organs would need to be replaced, no doctor would perform the surgery because of all the trips to the hospital for diabetes related issues that are COMPLETELY CONTROLLABLE.
-Her body would not survive major surgery
-She views the insulin pump as a device that should control her insulin, not as a tool by which SHE controls her insulin
-A trip to the mall or the store taxes her so much that she needs a couple of days to recuperate.
-She's resigned herself to using an electric wheelchair instead of getting excercise that will improve her condition. The less she moves, the worse things get.

Mom's stroke? The doctors say it was brought on completely by stress. Who wouldn't be stressed when each night, they go to bed wondering if they were going to sleep through their ADULT CHILD's congestive heart failure episode and be too late to save her? The lack of sleep and stress would make me forgetful, too. So now, Ed's mom is sitting in the Rehabilitation center, worried that this will happen again. Nice way to spend your convalescence, right?

Call me a bitch, call me mean and horrible, but this is long over due. I love my sister in law and want her to be here for years to come. Something tells me that she thinks it is just too much work to take care of herself. She probably stopped reading as soon as the words got the slightest bit harsh. I cannot sit by and say nothing-that's pretty much telling her that I don't give a shit if she dies.

Jane, If you are still reading this, I applaud you. What's it going to be? Are you going to let your health conquer you, or are you going to pick up the phone in the morning and start making phone calls to the doctors I mentioned? Are you going to make the changes, or are you going to say "it's too hard". Do you want to live to see your nephews graduate high school, get married and have babies of their own?

Do you want to do what you moved here for, to visit Walt Disney World nearly every day? Most importantly, do you love yourself enough to do the hard thing and CHANGE?

We're here to help you, but YOU have to do the hard work...

3 People talked back:

Grandy said...

Wow...did you feel better after typing this? When I was 28, I never thought I would live to see 40. I'm not there yet, but am trying. As someone who struggles with diabetes, I know how hard it can be. Good luck to your sister-in-law.

Suzanne said...

Suzanne,

First, bravo to you for finally saying what you think.

Second, keep it up, and maybe even transfer some of it to coming out of your mouth instead of the tips of your fingers. We do not serve those we love by silently watching them destroy or neglect themselves. Nor do we serve them by screaming at them, belittling them, or shaming them. I think you will be able to find that sweet spot in the middle (particularly now that this post is out in the open) that allows you to reflect back to your SIL (and MIL, too) what you're seeing and what concerns you and not buy into her excuses without destroying the relationship.

If any of what you suspect is true (she's decided it's 'too hard', or whatever) then maybe being a little vocal about things (along with a good dose of 'yes, you CAN' reminders) will help her begin to hold herself accountable to herself.

You don't have to become the bitch merely because you speak your mind. There's a whale of a difference between not biting your tongue about the pink elephant you see on the table and verbal abuse. One is useful, the other destructive.

Good for you, and hopefully Jane will read your post and decide enough is enough and begin to turn things around for herself.

Thanks for joining Fed Up Friday, even a day later. :)

klasieprof said...

a couple suggestions if you are open to it...
Most Commissions on aging, (despite her age) have "meals on wheels" that delivers noon meals REAL cheap, and they can get additional meal for night some places...
They also have Visiting friend...that could help with the 8 pounds of cat poop that accumulates (Why oh why does a Cat think it has to IMMEDIATELY poop after you change it's box?) ...
and...
has she checked with Social Services? If her diabetes (because SHE chooses it to be so) is so out of control, she may be eligible for SS, and with it, nursing at home services.
She sounds severely depressed and a good dose of prozac may go a long way.