My husband's cousin.

Posted Thu Feb 05, 2009, 09:43 AM by Tracy | |

Is an idiot. He or she (I’m being marginally discreet) regularly forwards emails warning of dire consequences of using some product or service. “Authorities” cited are of dubious credibility if not downright fictional. Many of these emails originate from the 80s or early 90s and were debunked ages ago.

  • Cell phones cause brain cancer
  • (Then candidate) Obama wasn’t born in the US, doesn’t have US birth certificate
  • Microwaving food in plastic containers releases dangerous toxins (okay, this has some validity, but nothing so drastic as the email suggested)
  • #77 connects you to the state highway patrol (this one came with a rapist scare story to make it more … scary)
  • Tampons and sanitary pads contain asbestos and cause Toxic Shock Syndrome

There’s more of course, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind.

This person is otherwise reasonably intelligent and is college-educated. But when it comes to alarmist emails, common sense just flies out the window. And clogs up my inbox.



Through the woods and out the other side.

Posted Thu May 01, 2008, 10:37 AM by Tracy | |

My Great-Uncle Harry died yesterday late afternoon at the age of 95. He was blessed with a sound mind right up to the end. Only his body has failed him, gradually and surely.

The long-legged man who spent his adulthood tramping through the woods as a timber cruiser for Crown Zellerbach could no longer move about without a wheelchair. His preternaturally brown hair turned slowly to gray only in the last ten years.

E and I alway made sure to visit Harry when we went to the coast. We took him to lunch at his favorite restaurant where he had one of his favorite meals: oyster stew and hot chocolate. This always brought out the story of the man who rented an oyster bed, borrowed a boat to check on them and ended up getting stuck in the mud.

Harry would tell us stories from when he was a boy, growing up on the farm when there was only the river for transportation. And he kept us up-to-date on the local controversy over the planned development of a liquid natural gas storage facility.

Afterwards we would take a drive through the country. Once we went all the way to Saddle Mountain. Harry couldn’t walk well at that time, but back in the day he could hike up and down the mountain without breaking a sweat. He told us about the spring at the top of the mountain. Scientists had no explanation for it, he said; it was evidence of God.

Harry was the most religious person we knew who did not go to church. He like the preaching of Rev. Billy Graham. One Christmas I gave Harry and Aunt Helen, who was still living then, a “boom box” so they could listen to a casette tape they had received in return for sending money to the Billy Graham ministry.

Harry was the last of his generation in my family. Even of my dad’s generation there are only a few members remaining. Not very many people to call with the news. I don’t know whether we’ll have a service, but if we do it will be small. Harry will be cremated and his ashes interred with Aunt Helen, in our family plot on the hill, looking out over the tidelands and the river.

Comment [2]


The prodigal black sheep.

Posted Wed Jan 09, 2008, 11:49 AM by Tracy | |

Several months after Mom died, I was finally able to locate my older brother Jay, in order to give him the sad news.

Jay is our family’s black sheep. He is a bum, a hobo, a tramp, although in recent years he has become more settled. He doesn’t ride the rails anymore.

It was weighing heavily on my mind that I had no way to let him know about my mother.

Going through my old papers over the Christmas holiday, I found an address of a friend of his. It was over a year old, but it was my only chance. I sent a letter to his friend, asking him to forward a letter to Jay.

Just yesterday I got a long letter back, from Jay. At last I will be able to discharge one of my remaining duties.



Doing for and doing with.

Posted Mon Nov 13, 2006, 07:29 AM by Tracy | |

E made an interesting observation yesterday, as we were raking leaves at his parent’s house. There was quite an accumulation. We wanted to get it cleared out before the next anticipated big blowdown.

E’s brother, E noted, does things with the parents. E himself does things for the parents. I pointed out that we do things with the parents, too. We do both.

That’s a distinction between my own brother and myself and how we relate to my mother. I do things for our mother. Jim does things with mom.

Mom doesn’t like people doing things for her. I think she resents the implication that she can’t do for herself. She certainly doesn’t accept help gracefully.



Three for three.

Posted Fri Jun 17, 2005, 16:39 PM by Tracy | |

That’s how many times Mom has been to the ER in as many weeks. Her residential care/assisted living facility is simply not able to care for her when she grows weak(er), can’t get out of bed, doesn’t drink and gets dehydrated.

Mom is now back in the same facility I placed her originally in January for skilled nursing care. I don’t know how long she will need to stay. I don’t know whether she will be able to keep her apartment (I doubt it).

One thing I know for certain is we are not going to continue this game of Mom moving into and out of assisted living every few months. If I can manage it at all I am going to insist that she not move out of rehab until she can maintain a good level of strength, stamina and general health for at least three months. And get a doctor’s approval. I will not stand for her turning our lives into a series of emergencies because of her impatience and inability to face the reality of her own condition.

Problem is as she gets stronger her mental acuity returns and she wants to take control of her life back. But she’s never quite strong enough to actually maintain the control she understandably wants. Things go wonky and I end up having to sweep up the pieces. What’s more she resents the help that I do for her when she is ill.

I’m in a no-win situation.

Comments [1]


We’re in ER, but where’s Noah Wylie?

Posted Mon Jun 06, 2005, 15:38 PM by Tracy | |

The Company has installed a Net Nanny variant, so no blogging from work.
Actually we are entertained by seeing which sites are blocked and which
aren’t. It seems almost arbitrary.

The weekend got hijacked by a trip to the ER. Saturday morning I got a call
from Mom’s residential facility that she was weak and lethargic, not eating.
They thought she should go to the ER. Sounds fine to me. Apparently she was
being treated for an infection and had been to the ER on Wednesday as well.
Something I did not know about.

What we have here is … a failure to co-mu-ni-cate.

Mom had been doing fine in the rehab facility, though bored out of her
skull. She was getting stronger, eating well and walking or participating in
exercise class every day. Some days she felt weaker and some days she felt
stronger. But overall she was improving.

With improved physical health came improved mental health and Mom was
determined to take back charge of her own life, to make and carry out her
own decisions. Unfortunately her own estimation of her capabilities was

If I had my way, Mom would have stayed in rehab for another month or so. But
no, she just had to get out as soon as she possibly could. Physical therapy
ok’d her for assisted living and that was all she needed to hear.

I did some research and visited some ALFs (Assisted Living Facilities), but
Mom didn’t want anything to do with anything I came up with. She refused to
even consider them and contacted the residential facility connected with the
rehab facility.

The RF did their assessment and (of course) found her to be perfectly suited
to living there. In looking at ALFs I learned to be skeptical. They are in
business to make money and their community coordinators are first and
foremost salespeople. They want to fill spaces and they’re not the ones who
take care of the residents. When E and I checked out the place for ourselves
and started asking questions, the marketing coordinator admitted that they
are not an assisted living facility but rather a residential facility. Mom
was assessed near their highest level of care.

Mom moved (without our help, thank you very much – another story) the second
week in May. About the first week in her new home she did pretty well,
eating in the dining room with the other ladies every day. Then she started
feeling weak again and started taking her meals in her room, not getting up,
not walking. In other words, she regressed to her previous state of poor
health in which she was susceptible to infections.

That’s how we ended up in the ER on Saturday. ER wanted to keep her
overnight for observation and to give antibiotics by IV. When they found out
she lived in an RF, they insisted she be discharged to skilled nursing,
which required another overnight stay because there’s no admittance on

So begins another round of the same thing we went through in California. At
least this time I don’t have to deal with it from long distance.

Update: Mom is spending another night in ER Obs. She’s getting a couple units of blood, which should perk her up. The discharge planner clarified for me that Mom can be discharged to her own residence, but that she will need more care from the facility.


Oregon is home.

Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005, 08:40 AM by Tracy | |

The origin of the name “Oregon” is obscure, but to me it means home. Now it is home for my mother as well.

I arrived in California amidst torrential rains on Sunday. I got a couple boxes packed before I packed it in myself. Monday was the big packing and shipping day. Three trips to Mailboxes Etc., bless their little hearts. Twelve boxes of varying sizes and weights. Even going low and slow everything arrived this last Thursday.

Mom was doing much better than I had been lead to expect. Probably because she had something to look forward to, springing her from the rehab facility, her spirits were up, her color was good and she was eating by herself. That last one was a big relief to me.

Tuesday we flew first class to Oregon. Snazzy! You get real glassware in first class. Mom held up pretty well for the whole trip, better than me in fact. I counted ten transfers she had to make to get to her new home at West Hills Health & Rehab:

bed => wheelchair; wheelchair => car; car => airport wheelchair; airport wheelchair => aisle chair; aisle chair => airplane seat; airplane seat => aisle chair; aisle chair => airport wheelchair; airport wheelchair => wheelchair; wheelchair => taxi; taxi => wheelchair.

Add two more transfers at West Hills to weigh her in.

65-1/2 lbs.

That is not a typo. Mom is five pounds away from a child carseat.

But we’re here and it will be all better now. I can visit frequently, monitor her health, we can communicate better with doctors. I don’t have to get everything accomplished in a limited time.

It will all be better now.

Comments [2]


Commencing countdown, engines on.

Posted Sat Jan 08, 2005, 16:00 PM by Tracy | |

It’s really happening. We are making it happen.

We’re moving Mom to Oregon. On Tuesday. This Tuesday. January 11 2005.

Christmas night (Boxing Day morning, to be accurate) we got the 3am phone call. These kinds of calls only come at 3am. Mom had fallen out of bed, was complaining of pain and wanted to go to the hospital. Would I come get her?

Um, no, I am in Oregon. (Mom was at the time in Assisted Living in California.) Call 911.

Since then Mom has been in a nursing home where she has received full care and physical therapy. Unfortunately, she is so unmotivated, most of the time she just tells the physical therapist to go away. So it’s really not doing her any good.

The doctor says she has dementia with an overlay of depression. Her dosage was just increased, but it will take a few weeks for it to show any effect.

Most of the time she sleeps.

She can’t go back to Assisted Living; she needs a higher level of care.

We thought we’d have until spring to move Mom up to Oregon. But with this new development, we decided to accelerate our plans.

In less than two weeks we selected a care facility 10 minutes from our house, found a doctor to take her as a patient, narrowed down options for Medicare supplemental insurance.

I didn’t get a discharge date until just this Friday (yesterday). But we had already planned our logistics for getting her up here. It was just a matter of buying plane tickets, requesting wheelchair assist, booking a motel room for myself and reserving a shuttle ride from LAX to the Assisted Living Facility where Mom’s car is.

Sunday I fly to LAX. Monday I will pack up Mom’s belongings. I’ll bring what I can in her suitcase, but most of it will be shipped. Tuesday cousin Barb will drive us to LAX and we’ll be in Oregon in a few hours.

E will go back for the large items and Mom’s car later this month.

On top of all that, E’s 99-year old grandmother died last week. The family is flying to Chicago on Sunday for the funeral on Monday, back on Tuesday. Our departing flights are about an hour apart.


Rumors of snow.

Posted Fri Jan 07, 2005, 08:05 AM by Tracy | |

Earlier this week I heard a wild rumor of 12” of snow by this Friday.

It’s Friday, but no snow. It’s cold all right, but our precipitation is liquid and transparent.

I’ve been talking with the people at Driftwood, the care facility where Mom is getting rehab & PT. We’re trying to figure out when she will be discharged so I can retrieve her and bring her home to Oregon. Just yesterday I signed papers at West Hills, an Intermediate Care Facility where she will receive 24-hour care.

Mom seems to be at a plateau. She is very weak and remains dangerously underweight. She will not participate in her own recovery, which is frustrating to everyone. She can walk 8 ft assisted, when she tries. But more often than not, she tells the physical therapist to go away. She will not feed herself. She eats very little and only when someone feeds her.

Unless Mom herself decides to try to build up her strength and stamina, there’s very little that anyone can do. What nobody wants to bring up is she may have decided, on a sub-conscious level, to die. She certainly seems to have given up. She lacks will and motivation.

A friend told me of her husband’s grandmother who decided it was time to go and stopped eating. It took her months to die. She (the grandmother) was mad that it took so long.

Comments [3]


Adventures in eldercare.

Posted Sun Nov 07, 2004, 22:00 PM by Tracy | |

When we last left off in early October, Mom was in a care center in Torrance CA. She landed there after Cousin Barbara brought her to hospital to be treated for dehydration. E and I had moved Mom from her OC condo to Barbara’s house where she was to stay for a few days before moving into an assisted living facility. Subsequently she became even more withdrawn, declining to eat or drink adequately, refusing her medication. I contacted the assisted living facility to inform them that she would not be moving in as planned.

After a couple weeks in rehab, Mom’s insurance approved extra time in the care center for respite care. This bought me some time in which to locate a more permanent home. I discussed the matter with her attending doctor. He suggested boarding care, a home setting in which six residents are cared for by two caretakers.

Tuesday October 26 I flew into LAX.

Barb took me to see my mom at the care center. Such a tiny fragile thing she is. Mom was very happy to see me, but somewhat confused about what was happening around her.

My plan was to stay with Cousin Barb while I scouted out boarding care homes, then present Mom with a couple, at most three, choices. However, Barb’s freeloading-jerk-ex-boyfriend-slash-father-of-her-child was so hostile and verbally aggressive toward me that I almost immediately moved into a motel.

The next day, Wednesday, I began visiting boarding care homes. I had already looked at a few back in September so I had a good idea of what to expect. Every place I visited was clean and the residents seemed well cared for, but mentally not all there. Mom’s not that far gone yet. Sometimes she’s close, but I just couldn’t see her happy in that setting.

Thursday was her last day of respite coverage. I couldn’t keep her at the care center even as a private pay patient because they had already assigned her bed to someone else. I had to find a place quick!

Luckily, a few days before when Barb had taken Mom out for lunch and a drive, they popped into the Spring Senior Assisted Living facility next to the care center just to check it out. There was a room available and Mom liked it!

I took Mom to lunch at Spring where we had tomato soup and egg salad sandwich. We just started talking as if it were a done deal that she would move in. After lunch we walked down to the administrator’s office, signed a bunch of papers, wrote out a check and problem solved!

E and my brother Jim got into LAX late Thursday night. The next day, Friday, we took Mom to Redondo Beach. She gets so tired just from being awake for a few hours. Although she’s eating better now, thanks to an appetite stimulant, she has a long way to go in terms of building up her strength and stamina.

Saturday we rented a minivan with the seats removed and hauled all of Mom’s stuff from Barb’s to Mom’s new home. While E assembled a computer desk we had bought at Target the night before, Jim and I attempted to dispose of the single bed E and I had hauled from OC.

How do you get rid of a bed? Simple, just haul it to Salvation Army, no problem, right? Wrong. They would take the headboard & frame, but not the mattress & boxsprings. Where can we take it? SA suggested Goodwill.

Off to the Goodwill, off into unknown territory where I had never driven and had to guide my brother in the minivan. Amazingly we find the Goodwill in Lomita.
They’re not taking mattresses at all. They direct us to a trash dump in San Pedro. Way way far away. What choice do we have? Off to San Pedro.

San Pedro where a trash dump does not exist. Now we’re really lost, but at least we’re together because I left my car at GW. Turn around. New plan is to locate a phone book and look up trash dumps in the yellow pages.

Oh look theres a Home Depot, let’s pull in there. I’ll ask at Customer Service to look at a yellow pages.

They don’t have a yellow pages at the customer service desk at Home Depot. I am about to lose it at this point. In a last act of desperation I call my uncle to ask for his help.

No problem, says Uncle Bill. You can dump it in the dumpster where I work. Problem solved!

So we got Mom moved into a decent assisted living facility where she is receiving an appropriate level of care in a setting that will maximize her quality of life and provide a social atmosphere where she has the best chance of improving her health, both physical and mental.

E and Jim flew back to Oregon Monday night. I spent the rest of my time finishing the unpacking, organizing, surreptitiously removing items Mom would not need but had been unwilling to leave when she moved out of OC.

The thing I’m most proud of accomplishing is the little touches. I found a phone with a super-light hand set (hint: AT&T) that she was comfortable using. I got all her pictures up on the wall. I even got a silk flower swag for her door – and the door hanger to hang it on.

The last thing I had accomplished was getting her computer set up with a cable modem from Time-Warner and getting her email set up. I honestly don’t expect her to use the computer without some help from Barb. But she has her computer and if that gives her comfort, that’s good enough for me.

It was a heck of job, but with the heroic efforts of Cousin Barb and E, we got it done. Mom is happy with her room and she seems to be getting along with the other residents. She’s still confused much of the time, but she is aware that she is confused.

My hope is that she will gain weight, gain strength and stamina, and regain some of her mental acuity.

I hope because at this point it’s all I can do.

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