Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Nope

I spoke too soon, she's dying. Her GP is amazed she made it through the night (last night); I don't know if she'll be with us tomorrow morning. I went to see her this afternoon, it was very bad. She's only semi-lucid. She recognized me, but only just. At least her doctor, not the Emerge doctor who admitted her but her GP, realizes she's not demented. But it doesn't matter anymore. She has been living with a few serious chronic conditions but now the diagnosis is congestive heart failure. She's on oxygen but it really doesn't make much difference now. She's quite miserable and uncomfortable, she wants to go home. Nobody has told her that she is dying.

I showed her some pictures of Hapi, she liked that. She wished I could bring Hapi in but of course that's out of the question. She's by a window but it faces onto a courtyard that I can't get into with a dog. F said he had me on the list of people the nurses will talk to on the phone about her but he wouldn't put B's sister or brother on the list because he said they were mean to her and didn't deserve it.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Relief in sight

B's son F came by yesterday to do a minor repair on my car. I asked after his mother and he told me she was in the hospital. F spoke to the doctor who admitted her and asked him to please not allow her to sign herself out. The doctor assured F that wouldn't happen, that she was too sick to go home anymore. They plan to keep her there until a nursing home bed comes available.

F is relieved: "Now I can get some sleep!" Not only is B unable to sleep but anyone taking care of her cannot sleep either. After getting her admitted F went home to bed, but the hospital called him in the middle of the night for B's CPAP machine. F got up and delivered it; he said he didn't mind being woken up for that, knowing he could go back to bed afterward and sleep the rest of the night and into the morning without interruption. I feel relief too, I have been rather stressed by the whole situation.

The doctor said they were going to run a lot of tests on her to find out what is wrong and how to treat it. They are even going to test for dementia. That worries me a bit, if they decide she is demented what exactly will they do? I am pretty sure that is not her problem. The main symptom the doctor and nurses are seeing is extreme grumpiness. I think after months of difficult breathing and little sleep, coupled with financial difficulties and inability to get help from Social Services or our healthcare system, I'd be pretty darn grumpy too.

But overall I am glad she is in the hospital and not coming out until they get her into a nursing home. I think that is where she needs to be, let's hope the next available nursing home is not too far away (the rules say up to 100 km away is allowable). If you go to the hospital in an ambulance you jump to the head of the queue in Emerge; and if you are already in the hospital when you need a nursing home bed then you jump to the head of that queue too.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Hurrah for January

Yippee! It's January! I know I am supposed to make some new year's resolutions, or goals for the coming year or something like that, but I am so happy that December is now A Thing Of The Past that all I really want to do is wallow in that pleasure. It's over. I am happy. I just had a cup of tea reclined in my lounger reading The New Yorker. I am way behind in my reading so this is only the December 2nd issue, but it is rather nice to read about what made headlines in December knowing that they are now a thing of the past.

Last night I went for supper and card games at a neighbour's place. The weather was truly crappy but knowing that I did not have far to travel to get home made me feel quite secure. Of the seven women—myself included—I knew only three others and I think that was true for most of us, except our host who presumably knew us all otherwise why did she invite us? It was interesting to engage in conversation with women you knew and didn't know. When the conversation turned to cats I was bored (not a cat lover), and when it went to dogs no doubt the cat lovers were bored. But we all put on interested faces. None of us were born here and two of the women currently live in Alberta and the NWT. A bunch of us grew up in Ontario and one woman hails from Switzerland. Three women were sisters living in different parts of the country and enjoying an annual reunion. None of the sisters ever married or had children, they are known in their family as The Three Aunts and are apparently quite popular amongst the nieces and nephews.

One woman came in the throes of a cold, which I didn't realize until some time after I sat down beside her at the dinner table. At first I hoped it was just an allergy but eventually she confessed to feeling rotten and left the party muttering about wishing she were dead. Oh joy. But the food was excellent, and the rest of us managed to hang in there until midnight when the champagne was poured and we toasted the new year. These days staying awake that long is an accomplishment! Today I am dosing myself with vitamin C and Oil of Oregano (my go-to respiratory infection preventative).

A couple of days ago I got an email from my walking group saying that we would be walking at the Reservoir on New Year's Day. I wrote to our leader advising that the trails there were icy and maybe he could suggest to the group to bring ice grippers. He did not. This morning Hapi and I went early and walked a bit on the ravine bike trails before meeting the group near the ponds. Half of them did not have ice grippers, including the leader. 

I asked him if he got my email and he looked stunned. Yes, he got it but he didn't recognize my (new) name so he disregarded it! I stared at him. You ignored it because you didn't recognize my name? He said that he didn't recognize the name and thought whoever it was probably didn't know what they were talking about. If he had known it was me of course he would have relayed the information to everyone else. I rolled my eyes at him and suggested that perhaps next time he ought not to be so judgmental. 

The walk was cut off early because half the walkers were having a lot of difficulty with the ice without ice grippers. Hapi and I stayed on to walk with our eldest dogwalker (93 years old) who was fully equipped with ice grippers and ski poles. We laughed about it.

On the sad news front, one of the regular dogs has been diagnosed with what Hiro died of. His owner will bring him to the Reservoir as long as he is able, but his days are numbered. Already he is refusing to eat. He is one of my favourites, I tell people he is a cross between Ferdinand the Bull and Eeyore. Very sweet dog.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Magic


All day yesterday I was thinking about Magic. I get all nostalgic for the Christmas of my childhood but usually not until Christmas Eve. The realities of the commercial celebration of Christmas drown out any thoughts or feelings about Magic, but on Christmas Eve things have settled down—relatively speaking—and it's a lot easier to let other thoughts in.

For many people—myself included—Christmas is a travesty. Some turn to Solstice celebrations as an alternative but I have never warmed up to that one, somehow celebrating the return of the sun at the beginning of winter just seems wrong. In this latitude we have several months of very long cold nights ahead of us before the return of the sun becomes noticeable. Winter in the Maritimes can be quite horrible, what with blizzards, power outages, and bitter winds. The return of the sun just seems like a nasty joke at this time of year. Maybe in March...

On Christmas Eve I remember how I felt about Christmas as a child. When you are really young and gullible you believe in Santa Claus bringing you the toys and gifts you long for, in the whole Nativity story with its angels and bright stars guiding wise men to the birth of a Holy Child. The Holy Child.

The Santa Claus story gets dropped first, at some point you realize it is just make-belief perpetrated by adults. You pretend you believe anyways because there are hoped-for gifts involved. But the Nativity story stays with you longer because even adults seem to believe in that one. And it is a magical event full of joy and wonder. 

The only other Christian Holy Day that comes anywhere close is Easter, but that is tinged with betrayal, horror and despair. Adults give you the story of the Easter Bunny to make up for all that but like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny is exposed as a fraud pretty early. The gifts that the Easter Bunny brings pale in comparison to the gifts of Santa Claus. 

For me, Christmas and Easter are the only times that Magic becomes real, the bright and dark sides of Magic. I think of it as a whole other world that briefly touches our world of reality and cold hard facts at those times. So on Christmas Eve, I think about and feel the bright joyful side of Magic. It is close enough to touch. On Christmas Day it spins out and away, not to return until Good Friday in its darkest form of death and sadness, but Christmas Eve is a time of awe and deepfelt joy. 

Last night I kept going outside to listen for the harness bells of Santa's magical reindeer-drawn sleigh. As a child I convinced myself that I really could hear Santa's sleigh, so I continue to listen for that even in old age. I looked for Betelgeuse but it was a cloudy night and I didn't see it. I have heard that Betelgeuse has dimmed in preparation for going supernova and I would like to see that for myself.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Pre-Christmas newsletter...


It's been a good news/bad news kind of week, but I guess that's normal for this time of year. Going shopping for the necessaries is torturous due to all of the seasonal gift shoppers out and about. I have kept my own gift shopping minimal; in one short hour I went on Amazon to pick out five gifts—four for grandchildren and one for a distant terminally ill long time friend—and had them gift wrapped and shipped to various parts of the country. Sons and their wives will get Amazon gift certificates on the 24th. Easy-peasy if a little ethically compromised. I'd just as soon skip the whole thing but right now might not be the time for it. Maybe next year…

Hapi is cruising along uneventfully, her limp comes and goes. She has discovered garbage which I suspect is deliberately being left out for her, someone out there likes to see her snooping around their back yard and is encouraging her illicit activities (the garbage was not only not in a bin but carefully placed in what looks like a dogfood bowl!). Now that there is a bit of snow on the ground I can track her and managed to catch her in the act, so now she is locked into my back yard. The picture above is her looking morose about her captivity.

After years of sending unreciprocated Xmas cards I decided to give it up this year, and then two of my dogwalking buddies gave me cards at the Reservoir. Now I am considering rushing out to buy cards to give back. Who knew we would become a little community of card-exchanging friends?

The ponds are now at their most dangerous, covered in ice that looks thick enough to walk on but really is not. Hapi learned her lesson long ago and avoids ice-covered bodies of water like the plague, but many younger dogs don't know any better. Then dog owners attempt to rescue their dogs with the not unexpected results, soaking wet and freezing cold humans and dogs.

The park maintenance guys have been busy doing post-Dorion clean-up and over the past few weeks have come to know all the regular dogs. They stop their chipping machine when we walk by to chat and pet the dogs; the dogs have come to look forward to these little encounters. The other day one of the guys was asking after one dog in particular who they hadn't seen in a while and we realized that we hadn't either. The dog's health has been iffy lately so we wondered if something bad had happened. But that very same morning the dog showed up with his owner, who explained their absence as a happy event. They were off in PEI celebrating her 65th birthday.

The bad news is two-fold. One is finding out about the terminally ill friend mentioned previously. That was shocking. I have been debating going to see her (she lives on the opposite coast), but leaving Hapi behind is problematic and taking her with me is out of the question. So for now our relationship will be confined to the telephone.

The other is regular visits with B, who is in terrible shape. Can't move, can't breathe, can't sleep. All efforts to get her help have either failed, been put on hold due to the holiday season (!!!) or been sabotaged by B herself. It is so depressing and makes me so angry that I am almost beside myself after such visits. I fantasize about angry calls to various authorities but am afraid I will only make matters worse if I follow through on such fantasies. Three times in the past few weeks her son has called an ambulance to take her to Emerge because he can't move her himself. At $140 a pop it's an expensive proposition and they have no money. I said to him, well, they can't get blood from a turnip so keep those bills coming. Maybe someone will take notice of her if she becomes a regular ambulance user. He agrees.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

December howls

Almost everyone I know around here was bleary-eyed with exhaustion yesterday, none of us could sleep with the wind howling through the night. After two days it finally died in the wee hours of this morning.

Can't speak for anyone else but I lay awake listening and imagining worst case scenarios with all that noise outside. Last night I did manage to go to sleep in confidence that the wind was slightly less howly.

The hot the cold the rain the snow, I can live with all that, but the wind, oh the wind...

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Story tails

It was an unseasonably warm day, rain was forecast but was minimal. I turned off the heat pump and opened all the doors and windows to get some fresh air into the house, something that is in short supply in the wintertime. I puttered around getting some winterizing chores done. Then I noticed that Hapi was nowhere around and I had left the gate (and the front door) open. So I set out to find her. I headed in the direction that she had last been sighted a couple of weeks ago, a small row house complex up the street and across the field. There were a couple of older men loading junk into a pickup there. I asked one of them if he had seen a large grey wolf-like dog around.

"Oh, I've seen that dog, beautiful! But not today, sorry."

I was about to turn away and head in another direction but he asked for my phone number in case he did spot her. So I gave it to him. One thing led to another and in less than ten minutes we had exchanged the broad details of our past lives, our children, what it's like to live in this town. I'm guessing he was a few years younger than me, but not much. Another younger man with long black hair and tattoos all over bare arms (it was warm out!) came by and the older man asked him if he'd seen my dog. The young man said no he hadn't but he could text his wife to see if she'd seen her.

"That's okay, she only just got out, I'm pretty sure she's still close by," I said.

The young man nodded and continued on his way with a bag of garbage for the outdoor garbage bin.

I went back to chatting with the older man, now we were on to where our children lived and what they were doing there. Eventually though I had to call a halt to the conversation, I was expecting company and I should probably be at home when they arrived. Besides, I had left all the doors and windows open. As I left, the man said he wanted to know more about my son who had recently bought a house in town, he himself made his living as a landlord of over thirty units and was curious about someone just starting out on that career path.

"I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger, I'm not sure I would do it over again," he said.

When I got home Hapi was in the basement, sleeping. I think she was there all along.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Good advice

These days I am not taking a lot of photos, so pictures for my posts are going to be scarce.

Last night I ushered at the Jeremy Dutcher show. Wow. Powerful music. I'd never heard of him before, but last night was amazing. We ushers were invited to a reception for Dutcher after the show but I had already agreed to meet another usher at a local pub so I didn't go to the reception. Some nights the last thing I want to do is usher but I go anyway and sometimes it is really worth it. Dutcher and the previous show, Between Breaths, were spectacularly worth it.

Dutcher talked about his (and his parents') efforts to preserve their language, Wolastoqey (Maliseet). He said that there are only a hundred native speakers left now. He said that it was not just about the words lost but the unique worldview lost. Every language expresses a worldview, when you speak that language you participate in that worldview. When a language goes extinct, so does that worldview. I think this is true.

* * * * *

The usher that I met at the pub is francophone, from Montreal. At 77 years old she is one of the most beautiful women I have met. I love the sound of her voice and her laugh as well. Mostly I spent the evening just listening. Our server recognized her as someone who had participated in a panel on women aging in her sociology class. The server said she really appreciated my usher friend's advice. After the server took our order I asked my friend what her advice had been.

"I told them to get an education, it would set them free."

She said that living free is the most important thing; and maybe a university education these days doesn't get you as far as it used to, but it is still important enough to help young women be free in their lives. Apparently our server took that to heart.

* * * * *

I gave myself a good scare this week, really silly of me. It started out consulting Doctor Google about some signs (symptoms?) that Hapi was displaying. I came to the conclusion that she had Cushing's Disease. Among other things, one sign of this disease is increased appetite, so one day I let Hapi eat as much as she wanted to see just how far she would go. She used to be very picky about what, how much and when she ate but that seemed to be changing. So that day I just kept refilling her bowl to see how far she would go. She ate twice as much as usual. In my mind that kind of confirmed the Cushing's diagnosis. However the next day she didn't eat a single thing and she seemed to be in pain. All she really wanted to do was hide in the basement. So I made an appointment for Friday with the vet to discuss, by which time Hapi had recovered from her day of overeating.

The vet darn near laughed in my face. She waved the results of Hapi's recent bloodwork at me and said, "She's healthy! Old, but healthy!"

I got myself all worked up for nothing. Hapi might have Cushing's, but it's kind of irrelevant. The tests are expensive, there is no cure, and dogs can live for years with it. I'll try not to overfeed her again.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

My knee versus Hapi

What ElizabethAnn saw on a recent trip to the big city

My knee gave out last week. I have a longterm issue with my left knee, stemming from an injury in 1975 now turned arthritic. During the summer the pain gradually increased but I ignored it, figuring it would go away on its own. Not so. Last week it became almost intolerable climbing stairs and then driving my car. Since my car has a standard transmission and clutch and the problem is in my left knee, that proved to be an unfortunate combination. These days they don't make standard transmissions any more but my car is old. I know I have to replace it but was hoping to keep it going at least as long as I have Hapi because it accommodates her quite nicely.

Now it's a race to the finish, my knee versus Hapi. A couple of months ago I would have said my knee was going to last much longer but Hapi has perked up so much with the onset of cold weather that I think she will outlast my knee. With a knee brace and some knee exercises and a slight adjustment of the seat in my car I can get by. I've signed up for physiotherapy as well. We have a free physio clinic in town but of course there is a waitlist for that. I spoke to one of the physiotherapists there and she thought I had a good chance of getting in before Christmas.

One of my dog walking friends at the Reservoir cautioned me against getting knee surgery. She has had numerous surgeries on her knees and back and says that in retrospect she never would have had the knee surgeries; it was a downhill run right from the get-go. The back surgeries are another story, although they were high risk she felt she had no alternative if she wanted to save her mobility for a few more years.

My friend B was checked into the hospital last week by her doctor (good news: B has a doctor now!!). She can't breathe and I guess he was quite horrified by her condition. I went to visit her in the hospital in the next town over and was amazed at her improvement. They had her on an oxygen tank and she was her old self again. Not exactly mobile but in good spirits and joking about everything. I think the nurses were quite enjoying her rough good humour. However she was quite bored and the hospital charged almost fifty dollars a week for watching TV, which is B's main activity during the day. She doesn't read, she rarely knits and she was in a room by herself. So after a few days she checked herself out.

Her son came to drive her home and her breathing problem immediately resumed. I came to visit her a few days later and she was in a far worse mood than she had been before the hospital stay: depressed, angry, spiteful, self-pitying. I commented on how being able to breathe while in the hospital had enormously improved her mood, her son seemed relieved that someone besides himself was telling her that.

B said that she couldn't get an oxygen tank at home until she was assessed and that they wanted to keep her in the hospital for another four days to do the assessment, but she refused to do that because it was too boring. She had been given a bunch of forms by the Housing Authority to get her doctor to sign but he would only sign one of them. She showed me the forms he refused to sign and frankly, I can't say that I blame him. In order to jump the housing waitlist queue she has to prove that she is in dire need and although it is plain as day to anyone familiar with her situation that that is the case, the form is so bureaucratic and convoluted that the doctor would be forced to sign his name to things that he could not prove.

I can certainly understand B's mood in the face of her ill health and all the barriers to getting help, the problem is that she is lashing out at the people who are trying to help her and that is not furthering her cause. But I'd be mad and spiteful in her shoes too.

Another friend suggested that perhaps B would be better off in a nursing home. I am now inclined to agree, but as near as I can tell the process of getting her into one is almost as bad as getting her into decent subsidized housing. Never mind that she will fight tooth and nail against being consigned to a nursing home.

This is all taking a toll on me, I feel quite helpless to do anything for her and visiting her when she is in such a foul mood is not fun at all. Besides her son, I am the only person who sets foot in her apartment, and the main purpose of the visit is for B to feed treats to Hapi. They adore each other. I am thinking that my next visit will be at a time of day when her son is not around and I am going to have a hard talk with her about hospitals and nursing homes. She is very hard on her son but inclined to be gentle with me since I am her only friend now, so I might be able to get through to her if he is not around.

On the positive side of the ledger, I have been invited for Christmas dinner with a bunch of fun people, and am considering joining a committee to bring another refugee family to town. This committee has already successfully settled four Syrian families and is looking to take on a fifth. Apparently there are a million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey and the Turkish government is looking to send them all back to Syria as soon as their push to end the Syrian war is done. Many Syrians are desperate to get out of Turkey before that happens, they do not think their chances of survival in a war-torn Syria are great. I think that for all our problems one of the big pluses of living in this country is our attitude towards refugees and immigrants. It would be nice to be actively involved in that.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Sleep

Hapi at the Reservoir after the snow
The cold snap we are having fueled an energy burst in Hapi, she is enjoying the weather a lot. She still limps but it doesn't seem to bother her, we are doing a lot more walking than I thought she was capable of.

I had an appointment with my doctor this week, I was hoping to convince her to give me a prescription for sleeping pills. Not that I want to be on sleeping pills but I don't know what else to do, I've tried everything else. It took six weeks to get the appointment, and then the day prior to the appointment the clinic called me to say the doctor was sick and would I mind rescheduling with a substitute doctor the same day. I didn't know whether that was a good thing or a bad thing but I sure wasn't going to say no.

The substitute doctor was a locum, a young woman who does not have her own practice but just substitutes for other doctors as necessary. She scheduled extra time because she didn't know any of the patients she would be seeing, and it became immediately obvious that she had done her homework. She knew why I was there, my medical history and recent bloodwork results, and was very engaging. I quite enjoyed the meeting with her and she was very informative and helpful.

I asked a question about my hearing. I know it is going and I am trying to put off hearing aids as long as possible. I can hear better if I can clear my Eustachian tubes, but the one on the left is difficult to clear. She said she had the same problem and had been told she should blow balloons. She had never tried it but hoped that I would so she could find out if it really works. She said I could also try decongestants but they don't work well on Eustachian tubes and the side effects are not good.

In the end she gave me the prescription for sleeping pills, saying that my regular doctor was probably going to kill her for that but she wasn't going to be around then so I will have to deal with that in three months time. She also told me that my bloodwork was fine, and not only that but she said that it was reasonable to expect that it would stay that way more or less indefinitely. She saw no warning signs of impending trouble. Of course all that can change on a dime but it's nice to know that for now everything is fine.

Interestingly, doctors (in this province anyway) are being strongly advised not to prescribe sleeping pills to seniors. There is currently no recommended treatment for chronic or longterm insomnia with the exception of cognitive behaviour therapy, which is essentially not available due to lack of certified therapists. But provincial Pharmacare for seniors subsidizes sleeping pills at the highest strengths available (formerly they only subsidized lower strengths). I guess the right hand does not talk to the left hand. Not only did I get my prescription but it cost me less than ten dollars for a three month supply, which is a lot cheaper than any over-the-counter medication.

I spent some time on the internet following up on some of the stuff the locum had referred to. I found an interesting article about a sleep clinic in the UK that apparently is very successful and popular, with a years-long wait list of patients. They do cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) and apparently have a 50% cure rate, with around 80% of patients experiencing significant improvement. That means half of patients who come to this clinic are not cured, and 20% see little or no improvement. The head doctor of the clinic is rightly proud of their record, nevertheless he says that doctors should be prescribing sleep medication because chronic insomnia is a severe malady and there are simply not enough therapists to provide CBT-I for everyone who needs it.

Also, not everyone responds to CBT-I. I have read that seniors are less likely to see significant improvement because of age-related changes, although some studies seem to show that seniors are especially benefitted by CBT-I. I tried to do it on my own last winter and had some success, but could not break through a limit of six hours a night. Months of six hours a night left me exhausted. Non-prescription medications—including herbal remedies and cannabis—have been unreliable, ineffective, and/or left me groggy during the day. My one experience of sleeping pills for about one month of daily use a couple of years ago was effective, reliable and did not leave me groggy during the day. But they were hell getting off of when the supply ran out.

I haven't used my new pills yet. The bottle sits in my bedside table drawer, a kind of talisman against sleeplessness.