Mothering Mom and More(!) Honey

 

Mom

Mom Giving Her Opinion a Few Years Ago

On 28 August — four days after being released from the hospital into rehab and ten days after I found her on the floor of her bathroom — Mom turned 89.

We had a little party because it had been a rough couple of weeks for all of us.

The fall that ended with her being hospitalized was the third in a month, and second in a week.

She had fallen in the past, but there were always reasons.

She wasn’t using her walker (crushed elbow).
She tripped on a crack in the sidewalk (dented pride).
And — the one that made me most crazy — she was trying to get some plastic bags out of a tree so the birds wouldn’t get caught and ended up breaking both bones in her forearm.

You might think such a task wasn’t meant for an 88-year-old who used a cane, but Mom felt differently and paid a price for that opinion.

These last few times, it was different. She just … fell. And just like in that stupid commercial, she couldn’t get up.

Lest you think my brother’s and my negligence allowed the third fall, you should know we took her to the doctor after the second one and were considering her suggestion that it might be time to move to into an assisted living facility. But her GP believed fall prevention physical therapy would be better, allowing her to stay independent as long as possible, and ordered tests to make sure there was nothing else happening.

It turned out she had pneumonia and congestive heart failure, though in fairness to the doc, she wasn’t expressing symptoms when she saw him. Those came and went throughout the week, mostly her feeling tired and like she couldn’t get warm.

On Saturday night before the latest fall, she called me at work to say she was cold again. When I arrived, she had a slight fever, but said she wasn’t any worse than earlier in the week, so after talking to the nurse on call, I gave her a meal and acetaminophen, made her comfortable, and went home, knowing I’d be back in the morning. If she wasn’t better, I’d take her to emergency. If she was better, we’d be going back to to the doctor.

But, the next morning, she was on the bathroom floor, having lain there for two and a half hours, partly because her medical alert necklace was on the sink rather than her neck.

I covered her with a blanket and called the rescue squad.

The EMT on call found her blood pressure high and oxygen level low, certainly enough cause to transport her to the hospital.

It was five days before she was released, and then it was to go into rehab. I spent those five days visiting the hospital, looking after Mom’s cat, and researching assisted living and long-term care residences. I hoped to find a place where she could move seamlessly from one stage to the next.

For those who live outside the US, Medicare (which provides the bulk of medical insurance for the elderly) pays only for rehab. It doesn’t cover any type of long-term care or assisted living. To qualify for help with that (through Medicaid), you must considered destitute, defined as below a certain income level with less than $2,000 in savings.

What happens is most people who can no longer live independently will pay for some kind of assisted care in their own home or a facility until their money runs out. Then, they go on Medicaid, which generally pays for long-term care, but not assisted living.  At least not at any place I wanted my mother to live.

None of this happens without a lot of paperwork, a job I have inherited and only just begun.

We were fortunate. My brother and I found a facility that offers rehab, assisted living, and long-term care, all in the same building.

Though it’s a bit farther from her acquaintances than Mom would like, it’s a straight shot down the highway, with beautiful, large, private rooms, and — here’s where we cross our fingers — she should be able to segue from rehab to assisted living to long-term care pretty much seamlessly.

The rehab to assisted living transition went well, but the biggest leap is still ahead, and I’m doing everything within my power to make it so she doesn’t have to change addresses ever again.

This — my new part-time job — involves many steps.

First, Mom had to grant me Power-of-Attorney, allowing me to sign legal and financial documents on her behalf, so my brother and I visited the lawyer.

Then, I had to establish myself as Mom’s POA at her bank, a process that was more onerous than it should have been, requiring an extra form signed by her and notarized. Said form basically states if the bank honored my POA, Mom wouldn’t hold them responsible for my actions. Well, duh. That’s what a signed and notarized POA document says. There were other hold-ups too, which explains my new, but deeply felt, conviction that I will never, ever, use that bank on my own behalf and will be moving her accounts as soon as it’s feasible.

On a side note, surely it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to do everything online. In the bank and you want a copy of all the most recent transactions on an account? The employees can’t help, but you can do it online. Like to change the amount of a monthly transfer from one account at their bank to another (also at their bank)? Sorry. You have do it online or use their handy app, which is, of course, 100% secure. That’s what the teller said: 100%. Um, sorry, but I don’t believe anything is 100% secure, and I have three emails in my inbox about data breaches to back up that belief. Furthermore, I don’t want to bank online or use their app. I just want to be able to go into a bank and, you know, bank there? How crazy is that?

Okay, end of banking rant.

Next up was cleaning out a lifetime of possessions from Mom’s apartment, while furnishing her new room. Cue much furniture moving, many trips to Goodwill and the recycling center, and hours and hours of cleaning and packing.

I can’t express just how grateful I am to my brother for cleaning out the fridge and taking charge of the cat, Darling Daughter and The Engineer for two full weekends of cleaning, sorting, and packing, and my friends Flo and Regina for helping with the final packing day.

We also had a little house/estate sale, giving Mom a chance to visit with her friends, sell some of her stuff, and see her old place one last time. I felt she should be the one to set prices, and both Darling Daughter and I thought she’d be giving everything away.

In fact, it was quite the opposite. Though a veteran of many garage sales, Mom wanted top dollar for everything, which led to me hissing in her ear that I would be the one packing up and taking everything that didn’t sell to Goodwill to donate.

Again, thanks to Flo, for being there to remind me of the humor of the situation.

I’m not completely heartless. I understand it must have been wrenching for Mom to say goodbye to so many of her possessions. But I’d already spent most of three weeks cleaning out the place, so I wasn’t as sympathetic as I might have been otherwise.

On 24 September — four weeks and two days after the bathroom fall — I turned in the keys.

I thought I’d feel like celebrating, but I just felt tired.

To her credit, for the most part, Mom has taken these changes in her stride. Perhaps it helps that she was the one who intitiated the conversation about making the move. Despite this, there have been a few wobbles — see above paragraphs on the house sale — some rather strong statements about her coffee table being hers, and a recent wondering aloud if perhaps we’d made the decision too hastily.

I was emphatic that we had not, reminding her of the many times she’d missed her daily phone call from me (usually because she’d somehow turned off the ringer). This would result in my driving over, preparing myself for the worst, only to find her tootling around her apartment or watching television.

“You didn’t have to come,” she would say.

“Yes, Mom, I kind of do,” I’d reply.

Now, if she misses a phone call, I know she’s busy and not laying on her bathroom floor.

This is a great relief.

Also, on her follow-up visit to the cardiologist, we learned her heart function has decreased about 50% since it was last measured two years ago.

Her heart is failing.
She has atrial fibrillation.
And she’s beginning to have problems with her short-term memory.

She’s in the right place, and will be fine.

The employees there are so nice to her, which is easy, I think, because she’s funny and grateful for the help and easy to be around. There are also card games and Bingo, which Mom has always enjoyed, and I still deliver her books.

As for me, I now need to navigate the Medicaid and Veteran’s Administration mazes, sort through two large boxes of photos and documents, and turn my attention back to my own life, which has fallen into disrepair.

Until last week, I hadn’t exercised for six weeks, and my house is embarrassingly messy, a state very much at odds with my newly developed intention to pare down my own belongings. I’ve made a few small dents (mostly t-shirts and kitchenware), but I’m determined to get rid of more than I keep.

Then, there’s the bees.

Long story much shortened: We’ve done some abbreviated checks, limiting ourselves to quick looks under the hood because the yellow jackets are actively looking to score easy food before winter.

During one of those checks, we discovered Buzzers’ Roost had enough honey to harvest, and used the escape board to remove the honey super.

We extracted on Saturday,  and at The Engineer’s (wise) suggestion, before we cleaned the extractor, we re-checked FreeBees, finding eight more frames to extract. If you recall from my last post, we’d just emptied all the frames in that hive’s supers in early August, and yet, they’d managed to refill most of one.

Since this was a last-minute decision, we hadn’t put in the escape board, and had to rely on the “bang-the-frame-to-knock-off-the-bees-and-brush-off-any-that-cling” process — not a method I’d recommend.

There were many deeply unhappy bees that day, although the hive was back to normal within a couple of hours. I guess when you’re that small, you don’t have much of a memory.

Anyway, just look at this frame — full of beautiful, glistening honey. It’s being held over our uncapping tank. (Ignore the red bit on the bottom, which I’ve only just noticed. It’s probably one of the cards in the holder on that back of my phone.)

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Here’s picture of the inside of one side of the extractor. When we crank, the center part spins, forcing the honey out against the walls. You can see the honey at the bottom and bits of wax and propolis stuck to the walls.

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And this is a little clip of the honey draining from the capping tank into our new double-mesh filter. It cost about $35 at Queen Right Colonies, but works much better than our previous method of two colanders and cheese cloth. This filter has two strainers, a removable, coarser top one, and a finely meshed bottom one, which catch the bits of wax and bees that inadvertently end up in the uncapped honey.

Lastly, below is our guesstimated calculations on how much honey we put into jars. There will be a little more — maybe a few pounds —  once I do a final drain of the uncapping tank. In addition, I did put some cappings to strain through cheesecloth and colanders because there were so many I didn’t think they’d drain otherwise.

It took us six hours this time, including the interlude spent annoying FreeBees. Extracting honey is hard, but rewarding work, and was a nice break from the emotionally draining work of settling Mom  in her new home.

14 thoughts on “Mothering Mom and More(!) Honey

  1. Sorry to hear “Aunt Helen” has moved into assisted living. My Aunt (Dad’s sister) has lived in Jennings For Older Adults for many years. She and my Uncle moved there many years ago, first in an apartment, then into the medical section. It eased her mind after he died in 2012. I told Natalie I want to live there if the time comes. In July, Dad gave us a scare. He wasn’t getting up in the morning, staying in bed longer than usual. Renee (my stepbrother Mike’s wife) asked him if he was ok. He started crying and said no. He had lots of fluid on his lungs from heart failure. She called the ambulance because she couldn’t maneuver him by herself. He ended up having a bacterial infection from a wound on his toe. He spent a week in the hospital. Most of it was waiting for the doctors to decide if he should go for rehab or just go home. He went home. He’s 91. He has really aged the last couple years. I feel for you. The emotional part is very hard. Went through that with my husband, but that’s another story. Hang in there! Love reading about your bees!

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    • Thanks, Sue. Mom actually is adjusting pretty well. She also had fluid on her lungs. When I look at pictures like the one I shared, and then look at her now, the only word I can think of is “diminished.” I think it must be hard to watch your world shrink. And since I’m tasked with the practical stuff, I admit I sometimes don’t pay as much attention as I should to the emotional losses. It must be hard having your dad still at home at 91. I had hopes Mom would be able to be like her mom – completely independent to the end. But her mom died in her 70s. I think it is an accomplishment that Mom was able to be independent til 89. But I feel she’s safer now. Just too much going on. Thanks for writing. So glad to hear from you and hope you are well.

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      • Living in Columbus the past two years has been really nice, but I’m starting to miss the Cleveland area. I moved here so Natalie could finish at OSU, after they told her “you’re on your own” for housing her final year. It has always been odd that my Dad doesn’t live with his “biological” kids. After Mom died, he met Mildred. Mike was 10 when we met him. She was an alcoholic and poor Mike was left to raise himself and watch out for her. When Dad entered the picture, he at least had someone on his side. I won’t say it was all rainbows and roses, but I look at it as Dad stepping in for Mike because we at least had Grandma and Grandpa and my Aunt and Uncle. Mike had no one. Mike and Renee have been saints taking care of him. They even built his in-law suite when they built their home in Medina. I know it was hard for them as he got older, hearing loss, forgetting stuff, but we all stop and visit and still gather on holidays. How your outlook on life changes as you yourself get older. I’m lucky to be able to stay home and just enjoy each day. Oh, and take care of the dog! Hope your days get easier and less stressful. You and Sam are good “kids!”

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      • Families are just weird. And it’s always been that way. I see it in my genealogy research all the time. We have both been lucky to have people who cared for us.

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  2. I’m glad there was a taste of sweetness after your Herculean labours. Does it sound crazy to say I wish I had some of your problems…? I am watching helplessly and from afar the deterioration of my 96 year old father from active, incisive and with a biting wit to weak, emaciated and unable to communicate due to near blindness, deafness, increasing dementia and a TIA affecting his swallowing and speech. I’m 11,000 miles away and unable to fly that distance due to my back. My brother has taken on the role you’re filling, not always as I’d have liked, but he’s the man on the spot and I must respect his decisions. I can’t decide whether it’s worse to have to do these things, or to want to, but be unable…

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    • I’m not sure which is worse. I know we’ve been fortunate with Mom staying as healthy as she has, but it’s hard to watch her world diminish. But it’s very important that you are not second guessing your brother. I have had friends who were the ones doing the day-to-day care and had it made more difficult by siblings who were not there but felt they should be able to say what needed done. Kudos to you for not doing that. There is no easy way through. As Mom says, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.”

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  3. There is no easy way to navigate this stage of life for the parent or the child. Every path leads to some sort of heartbreak. I can only hope that through it all, my father knows he is loved, and I’m doing my best. And I hope that I remember these lessons when my health fails, and grant my own children the same grace. Remember me to Helen, and take care of yourself, Kym.

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  4. Gosh, Kym – you should have let me help! I’m glad you’ve got your Mom settled. It sounds like she’s in a good place. Such a hard thing to go through though, and she is absolutely right about getting old not being for sissies.

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  5. Pingback: Keeping Me Honest | The Byrd and the Bees

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