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Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Water Gets Deeper

My apologies in advance for the lengthy post.

The week before Mom’s dilemma was filled with sad events.

On Wednesday the 13th, my close friend’s father died. On Thursday, Angel’s husband’s grandmother died. On Friday Two Feather’s uncle died, and we were told Two’s dad would be going in for heart surgery this past Friday. All of which we should have been there to show our respect and none of which we could be there for. All this while I was dealing with Mom scratching herself raw, it snowed and iced again and I couldn’t get off Mom’s hill. So excuse me if the later part of my post shows my intolerance of unthinking people and my post is a week later due to all that’s been going on. My rant is marked, so you may skip over that and get onto the other reading without hurting your eyes.

Well…just like I thought—it was not scabies!

When I got Mom up that Friday morning, the bumps were still there and Mom was still just as itchy as she had been. The Permethrin did nothing to take either the itch or bumps away. So we know for sure it wasn’t scabies. I got Mom in the shower, washed her thoroughly, and dowsed her and myself with the cream a second time, just to be on the safe side. One treatment is supposed to treat and eliminate the itching and bumps for scabies. Two treatments couldn’t hurt. I called the day care to talk with the nurse to make sure the note from the doctor was satisfactory for Mom to return on Monday, and she said yes because Mom was treated. She apologized for the inconvenience and said they had to be precautious. I told her I understood that. They did what they had to do and so did I. All worked out well.

I was sitting in the living room talking with Mom and noticed that she was moving her legs back and forth, unaware that she was moving them. I didn’t think much about it at the moment and chalked it off to yet another strange little habit Mom picked up—like the one where she runs her tongue across her teeth and it looks like she has something in her mouth. She and I sat and talked most of the day, mostly her asking what day it was and why she wasn’t at day care. By late afternoon Mom was still scratching, only now she was telling me, “I’m itchy all over. This itching is driving me crazy.”

That Saturday morning Mom woke up at 6:00 AM and I told her it was the weekend and she could go back to sleep for a while. She snuggled back under the covers and fell back to sleep almost instantly. When I turned to glance in her room before going back upstairs, I noticed the bed shaking. I walked closer and watched for a minute thinking she was just moving to get comfortable. The motion continued as she snored. Her legs were jerking back and forth under the covers. It was the same jerking movement of her legs that I noticed Friday while we were sitting in the living room.

As I watched Mom’s legs twitch under the covers, I thought about what might be causing her itch and rash.

The pharmacy always gives me an information sheet about new drugs Mom is prescribed. I read every one of them to make sure I know what to keep an eye out for when it comes to side effects or warnings. After watching Mom’s leg twitch while she was sleeping, I ran upstairs and grabbed the information sheet on Seroquel. I remembered reading that the doctor should be called immediately for certain side effects and one was if there is any unusual or uncontrolled movements of the face, lips, mouth, tongue, arms or legs. I reread the information and immediately realized Mom’s leg twitch was new since she began taking Seroquel. I continued to read the side effects and found that symptoms of a serious allergic reaction to Seroquel may include: rash, itching, etc., etc.

I immediately picked up the phone and called the pharmacy and explained about the day care sending her home, about her itching and rash, the treatment for scabies, and that the treatment did not help. I asked if Mom’s itching and rash could be an allergic reaction to the Seroquel and they said it could and to call the doctor to have him prescribe something.

Mom was back up by 8:00 and when I took her pajamas off to get her dressed I noticed the bumps by her clavicle were more pronounced and she was scratching just as much, if not more than she had been the day before treatment.

The next call was to the doctor’s answering service. He called back within 10 minutes. He said to take her off the Seroquel immediately and he was calling in an antihistamine for the itching and that I should use the same anti-itch Sarna cream I used when she had dermatitis.

I called my brother and asked him if he could pick up the prescription for me. He did. I appreciated it, and I thanked him. In conversation he mentioned a number of things that I know his wife read on my blog and I said, “if your wife is so interested in knowing what’s going on with Mom, maybe she and you should visit rather than read my blog to get information and see how she’s doing.” He responded with, “Yes, she reads it but she’s never commented on it.” Instant defense about a rude comment on my blog that I never mentioned to him. You know what they say about people who defend themselves before defense is needed. Immediately, he followed with bashing Two Feather—the person who does all the work around Mom’s house even though he’s “not accepted into this family” according to my brother. After that, the conversation went sour. There is no talking to him. He knows it all, he’s always right, and I’m always wrong.

Now I’m sorry I bothered asking him for anything.

The only reason I continue this blog is because it is my only outlet and there is a wonderful group of people here who know what dealing with Alzheimer’s is like. That group of caring people, who don’t know me from Adam, come here nearly every day to read, comment, show support, and treat me as if I were part of their family. One of the group had even offered warmth and shelter in her home during the furnace episode and offered to sit with Mom anytime I may need a break. Thank you, Betsy. You’re like the sister I never had. I appreciate you all so much, yet, I am sad to say that I have to admit that you understand and care more about my mom and me than some of our own family members. It’s sad that you can accept me for who I am and what I say; yet people who are supposed to be that support system, do nothing but lie and put me down.


Since they want to read. Let them read the truth!

My brother told me, “all you have to do is ask if you need anything.” Yeah right! When I asked for him to watch my mom for one day so I could get my uncle moved from his apartment and into a nursing home in April 2006, I didn’t get help. I was asked where my cousins were? Why can’t they move his stuff? Why? Because they have about as much to do with my uncle as my brother does—little to nothing.

Mom has stayed at his house twice in three years. Once in July 2006, when I asked for a weekend, and I was held up from leaving on time for the weekend because my brother didn’t pay enough attention when I showed him how to take Mom’s blood glucose test and I had to go up to his house and show him again just as we were pulling out of the driveway ready to leave. The second time was when Mom asked him to keep her for a night on November 2, 2006 because Two Feather had surgery and she felt I should be at my house with him. Three times since then, when I asked for him to take Mom for a weekend, I got told, “I can’t. I’m going away.” I quit asking. Oh yeah, that’s right, some people can take several vacations a year—every year.

Here I sit knowing that his wife has been reading my blog all this time, and she knew about the power being out, the furnace being broke, me being sick recently, and all the other things I’ve written about here—where was their phone call of concern or offer of help? There wasn’t any. Oh, that’s right, I’m supposed to ask.

Since my sister-in-law has been so “accepted into this family” as my brother says—if she’s so interested in sticking her nose in Mom’s business and mine and wanting to know what’s going on, maybe she should visit! She hasn’t been here since Easter last year. Sticking her nose here is one thing—nosing into other blog links from my site and doing a Google search on Two Feather just makes her that much more pathetic. What exactly is the purpose of either? Just to instigate more problems?

All I have to do is ask?

Taking Mom for Sunday dinner is out because when I asked them to move dinner up an hour so she can still be in bed at her normal time I was told, “Oh no, that’s too early.” God forbid I ask for a little flexibility or for someone to go out of the way just a tad to spend time with Mom.

And of course they can’t take Mom for a week because they "work for a living" and "don’t have time," yet when my sister-in-law’s mom got sick it was okay for her to stay at their house. What’s good for one mom should also be good for the other.

How about picking up Mom’s garbage at 4:30 on Wednesdays and taking it down to the bottom of the hill.

How about calling to make sure we can get off the hill when it snows six inches.

Or, how hard would it be to bring dinner a few times a week, even once a week, for both of us? It’s called “thinking” of little ways to help out. It should be really easy right now since the fish fries are taking place on Fridays for lent. All that would need done would be to pick them up and drop them off. No cooking involved.

I guess all this upsets me so much because they are not willing to bend their schedule to help out, and everything is expected at their convenience instead of working around Mom’s schedule. Why should I go out of my way when they can’t be the least bit flexible?

All I’m asking for is respect to be shown to Mom. This is about her—not me!


The last week of February wasn’t much better. On to more important people and things--my daughter Angel, her husband and Katie came over for nearly two hours last Sunday before they went to Tim’s grandmother’s viewing. Angel brought lunch for all of us. Thank you, honey. I really appreciate you bringing lunch and visiting at the same time.

Mom did go back to day care last Monday with no problem. She still had the rash and we set up another appointment with the doctor for Wednesday afternoon. We had another snowstorm with ice rain overnight on Monday and we stayed in on Tuesday. Tuesday night we got more snow and we stayed in again on Wednesday. I had to call to have Mom’s driveway plowed and salted so I could get her out for the doctor’s appointment. We were back to Mom being up and down all night long after four nights without meds.

The doc said the rash didn’t look like an allergic reaction to meds but to keep her off the Seroquel just in case. He referred her to a dermatologist. She’s back on a light dose of Risperdal before bed.

Thursday and Friday she went back to day care. Friday after I dropped her off I went straight home. The weather report said we were expected to get another 2-4 inches of snow starting in late afternoon. The lower half of Mom’s driveway was solid ice, so I called for someone to spread anti-skid to give us traction. Between that and the new snow expected, I figured we’d be able to get up and down.

When I did get home, Two told me there was water coming in the basement. We couldn’t figure out at first how or why since there hasn’t been any melting with the low temperatures. He was shoveling the sidewalk and called me outside because he heard running water. I walked over to the side of our deck where the sound was coming from and found water flowing out of the top of our well. I called the well-drilling outfit to have him come and check it. In the meantime the water was getting deeper and the 30-year-old retaining wall beneath our deck collapsed and is blocking our basement door.

Two’s dad went in for heart surgery Friday and we sat at home waiting to hear how the surgery went since we couldn’t make the trip to be there. The snow was coming down harder, like a whiteout, and by 3:00 we had 4 inches. Two Feather rode with me to pick up Mom early knowing the roads would be bad. As we pulled up to the day care, I received the call back from the well guy. He told me to have Two call him when he got home and he’d tell him how to shut the well off until he got there on Saturday morning.

Had Mom at home by 4:00, Two walked back up to our house, called the well guy, and had the well shut off by 4:30. Two got a call at 11:00 PM telling him his dad made it through surgery okay. That’s a big load off our minds.

Saturday morning the well was fixed and Two Feather had all the water cleaned up in the basement and the dehumidifier was starting to dry it out. He walked down to visit after.
Stacey called and we talked for a while. Since Two was here she got to talk to him too. It’s always good talking to her. I miss being able to talk to her and Angel like I used to. Saturday was also my son-in-law’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Tim! Hope you got your card and had a great birthday.

Sunday was a quiet day. The lady from church came to give Mom communion. Two visited for a while. Angel called to say she was helping Tim’s family move his grandmother’s things so she didn’t think she’d be able to visit.

Mom and I spent the afternoon talking. Two saw a robin in the front yard. Maybe that’s a sign that better things are coming. I sure hope so, cause I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

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Blogger rilera said...

Hugs Joanne. You've had it tough lately and I'm glad things are getting better for both you and your Mom. When you mentioned the shaking and the tongue thing I thought of Seroquel side effects right away. Bummer. Take care, you and your Mom are in my thoughts and prayers.

3/05/2008 9:37 PM  
Blogger nancy said...

i'm glad you were able to figure out the side effects of seraquel yet sad to hear it was that since it seemed to help. i hope the risperdal will help. you both need your sleep.

please don't apologize about your rant. we understand and are here for you. most of us can unfortunately relate. you really find out what your siblings and their spouses are made of when chronic illness hits. i learned the hard way too; selfishness can be so ugly.

i so glad two's father came through his surgery. my sympathies to you on the deaths. many ((((hugs))))) to you my friend.

3/05/2008 11:53 PM  
Blogger flintysooner said...

Yes, we do know. We know too well and too much. I remember times when I felt I was being crushed in a vice that had jaws made of things I could not do one thing about.

Praying for you and your family Joanne. Peace and grace to you.

3/06/2008 8:32 AM  
Blogger cornbread hell said...

keep those rants a comin', joanne. you're amazing.

3/06/2008 3:20 PM  
Blogger rainbowheart said...

The tears are flowing. I started crying when I was reading Rick's blog and as I read your blog, I can't stop them. I know exactly how you feel when one of my brothers or sisters tell me, "if you need me call me." Okay like that is going to happen. They all know what is going on with our parents and I should not have to call and "ask" them to do anything for them. They should just do it because they want to, not because they were called. Like I tell them..."one day they will not have the chance to come and see them because they will be gone" and when that time has come, they will not have anyone to point the finger at but themselves. I am going to do what I can for them while they are here. And when it is all over and done with, I can say that I done all that I could do for them, and I done it because I love them. It is still snowing? The weather is crazy here...rain one day and then 70 to 80 degrees the next day. I am hoping to get the garden going in the next few days, but we are suppose to get rain tomorrow. I hope that everything works out with the meds that your Mom. Meds are really tricky with my Moma too. I'm happy to hear that Two's father is doing well after his heart surgery. I hope that he is home soon and feeling better. Take care and keep us posted on how Two's father and your Mom is doing. Gentle hugs to you my friend..

3/06/2008 3:42 PM  
Blogger Cinnamin said...

Keeping you (and your family members) in prayer, Joanne!! Sending ((HUGS)) to you as you really have been "through it" these past few weeks! I too hope that Mom is able to find the right medications to make her feel her best, minus those pesky side effects. Trial and error just stinks! Wishing you brighter, warmer days ahead!

3/06/2008 6:05 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

Joanne, rant away. We understand because we've been there. Hugs to you.

3/06/2008 7:11 PM  
Blogger ~Betsy said...

Oh my, Joanne. Your last several days reminds me of a period of time I had shortly before my mom died - the electric went out, the well was on the fritz and Dave was out of town. I remember sitting down on the floor, tears trickling down my cheeks, and feeling like I just couldn't do this one more day. I'm so sorry you are having such a time of it.

Now for the positive - you are treating your mom's itch, the well is fixed and the basement is drying out. Two's dad is on his way to recovery, your mom is back to day care and the robin Two spotted is surely a sign of spring. Am I making you smile? Probably not and believe me, I understand. I guess I can just offer you my ear, a ((hug)) and my understanding.

As for your brother and his wife - words escape me. I don't know how anyone can sit at the bottom of the hill and know full well you and your mom are freezing (Pittsburgh winters are notoriously nasty) because of the furnace. Some people just don't get it and probably never will. I know it's hard to accept, but I had to come to that conclusion about my own brother. Ironically, now that our parents are both dead, he has guilt. A little late, huh?

Stay strong, Joanne. You're a good woman. PS - my offer still stands. Just say the word! :)

3/06/2008 7:55 PM  
Blogger ღ.·´`·Ĉђřĭš⊰ said...

What a time you have had. And yes, we have all been there, done that. So yes, we understand. Rant away sweetie. You have every right!

Sending hugs your way and hoping that robin sticks around for a while!

3/06/2008 11:52 PM  
Blogger Lori1955 said...

Oh sweetie, I am so sorry for all you have gone through. You have every right to rant and yes we all do understand. I'm glad that you have Two and that you have the wonderful thoughtful daughters that you have. As for your brother and SIL all I can say is Shame on them. They will have their day of regret. What goes around comes around.

3/07/2008 2:02 PM  
Blogger nancy said...

just wanted you to know i am checking in on you, many ((((hugs))))). still looking for that robin here.

how much snow did you get. i think this was the first storm that we missed!

3/10/2008 3:14 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Thank you all for your thoughts, hugs, and prayers. I knew each and every one of you would understand. :)

Betsy, you're a sweetheart. Thank you again for the offer. You know that means the world to me. ((HUGS))

Nancy, we ended up with about 4 inches of snow. We didn't get the higher amount they predicted. Thank goodness!

3/11/2008 6:42 PM