The foot doctor

The social worker at the Alz center called me last week to tell me the podiatrist was scheduled to be at the center on Tuesday of this week. She had seen in my blog that I thought it might be helpful for me to be with Mom during that appointment to see if I could distract her while the doctor worked on her calluses. I had been told by an aide recently that Mom resisted when the doctor had tried to work on her feet during his last visit. I was grateful to the social worker for noticing that and giving me a call. It’s hard for the staff to keep track of the wishes of 100 patients’ families, so I really appreciated her effort.

I arrived at the center at around 9:15. The staff has a list of names of residents to be seen by the podiatrist, and I let an aide know I was there to accompany Mom whenever it was her turn. I found Mom at the end of a hallway, talking to herself. She turned around to look at me and I was stunned by what I saw. “Mom, it looks like you’re having an allergic reaction to something,” I said. A nurse was standing nearby and she said, “Oh, she has pinkeye. She’s on antibiotics.” This also stunned me. The center is usually quite diligent about informing me of anything like that – especially if it involves the addition of a new medication. I had just been to the center on the Thursday before to check on Mom and there was no sign of a problem. But on Tuesday, she looked like this.

I've never had pinkeye, so I don't know what it's supposed to look like. But this strikes me as a severe case. Poor Mom doesn't know not to scratch, so she just rubbed and rubbed at her eyes repeatedly. Poor honey.

I sat with her at a table and chatted with her until it was her turn. She had food all over her pants – it kind of looked as if she had spilled milk into her lap. The aide stopped by to tell me she’d be changing Mom soon. A nurse came to give Mom her antibiotic drops. Mom resisted, and the nurse asked me to hold onto her hands so Mom couldn’t pull at the nurse’s hands. Mom didn’t like it, but she did OK. Soon, an aide told me I could bring Mom back to see the podiatrist. He introduced Mom to one of the two health care workers who had come along with the visiting doctor. One of them confirmed that I was the daughter – she had a note that I was supposed to be there. I love it when the proper messages get communicated.

Mom sat to face the doctor and put both of her feet up for him to examine. He clipped her toenails. I told him I was there to see if I could assist if Mom squirmed as he worked on the calluses. “Oh, I remember these,” he said as he took a closer look at the bottom of Mom’s feet. She had one on her left foot and two on her right. The skin was really tough. He tried to work on them a little bit with a surgical blade, but he thought it would be easier to cut away the tissue if it were softer, so he asked for a pan of water to soak Mom’s feet for awhile. I told her it was a spa day. She did a great job of keeping her feet in the tub. She crossed her legs a time or two, which is a very natural position for her, but I would just coax her leg back down and put her foot back in the water. She really was very cooperative and sweet.

Warm water and a little bit of soap. I hope it felt good. Mom was ambivalent but agreeable to keeping her feet still.

While Mom and I waited and her feet soaked, another resident was treated for a very sore toe. I couldn’t get all the details, but he was given a shot of a numbing agent and he did not like it. He called the doctor a “dumb fuck” and yelled “goddammit!!” about four times. The doctor was expressing concern about the condition of the toe, and the resident was able to articulate how sore that toe had been. But he also was able to strongly protest the treatment. Mom sort of glanced his way with a worried look. “He’s having a bad day,” I said. I hoped Mom wasn’t going to have a similarly tough time.

When it was her turn, she willingly placed her foot on the towel in front of the doctor. I started rubbing her back and talking to her, and one of the health care workers held her leg still. She was talking off and on, and the third health care worker was asking me questions about Mom. I was talking about Mom and to Mom at the same time, trying to keep the mood light. She was happy, and then she would wince if something hurt. “Ow!” she said once or twice. The first foot was easy. The second foot required a little more attention. Mom squirmed and complained. “I want my foot,” she said. We told her it would be over soon and it was. The doctor rubbed some lotion on her feet to finish. Mom stood up and shook his hand. He seemed to go with the flow of the unusual behaviors he encountered. I was beaming with happiness that Mom had done just great, and I thanked them all for their work.

I walked her back to the program area. She had had only one sock on since my arrival. I went to her room and found another, unmatching, sock, and put it on her other foot. I looked at what was left and the callus spots had been reduced to red patches. I guess you could call what he did a debridement of the calluses, but I’m not sure. It didn’t seem to bother Mom to walk. She should wear socks, at least, until they heal. That might be a tall order if she’s not in the mood.

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4 comments so far

  1. Jeff on

    I’m a little stunned by those pictures too. It’s an interesting situation that one caregiver remembered your offer to be with mom during the podiatrist’s visit, and yet somewhere along the way someone failed to inform you about the pinkeye and antibiotics. I guess it’s a lot of patients and families, but her situation looks extreme. I’m sure she’s already feeling better today. It’s almost like a Halloween picture. I was sorry to read about your meltdown, but also get that the release was probably necessary. I’m watching the Hurricane Irene predictions now. So hoping that BHI isn’t devastated, and NYC has terrible predictions. I hope not to be evacuated. YIKES!!

  2. momsbrain on

    Jeff-There is definitely some inconsistency in how staff members work with families. I have been hearing that the pinkeye is going around. Some staff had it, too. So maybe they thought the word was out that the risk was there. Hard to tell. I am very hopeful that the next time I see Mom, her eyes are a lot better. I just feel sad that she must be so uncomfortable.

    I certainly hope Irene spares New York. So weird. First an earthquake and now this! Be safe!

  3. patwhite67 on

    Emily,
    So sorry your mom has the eye infection. Our moms are so vulnerable, not being able to let others know exactly what’s wrong and being dependent on others. I too am disturbed by the fact that no one contacted you to let you know what was going on.
    I understand about meltdowns. Sometimes it all is too much. I remember on one of my trips back from Virginia in the car alone, I cried most of the way home.

  4. momsbrain on

    Hi, Pat. I was a little sick this weekend so I haven’t been able to check on Mom. I’ll be getting over to see her tomorrow – I certainly hope her eyes are cleared up by then.

    Crying on the drive home from Virginia…I imagine those drives were very difficult for a variety of reasons. It can feel like too much, for sure… Thanks for commenting.


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