We are experiencing the first winter blast after the holidays- sub zero temps, snow and ice. Yesterday, I was looking forward to a day at home – taking down the last of the Christmas decorations, cleaning out a closet, doing some work on a new work related project, preparing for an upcoming speaking engagement. Then I received the text that Mother’s private care giver wouldn’t be able to make it to the assisted living. Drat! Mother had been without them for several days due to weather and other personal issues. She gets so lonely and even more grouchy when she does not have someone with her for a few hours each day. I called to let her know…and in the conversation, my “gut” told me all was not quite right. So, out in the cold, down the snow and ice covered driveway I went, to check on Mother.
When I arrived, I saw the nurse on duty. She indicated also, that things were not quite right. ” I think she may be developing another UTI,” she said.
Aw, man! We just HAD ONE a few weeks ago!
Those of you who care for an older adult know about the dreaded Urinary Tract Infection. It is quite common in the elderly and can wreak havoc. Often the person does not exhibit the common symptoms of fever, pain or burning when urinating. Mother never does. Ah, but the difficulty with movement, agitation, confusion, paranoia that is common , Oh YES, we have that!
I walked in and as is typical with Mother when she has a UTI, she looks stiff and bent over to one side. Don’t ask me why this happens when she has a UTI, but we have had them often enough now to know it is part of the drill. As I began to talk with her, there was the confusion and all the rest.
The typical protocol at the assisted living is to then take a urine sample, send it off, wait a few days and then if the results come back positive, call the doc and have her order appropriate meds. But we have done this often enough, that I purchased the “dip sticks” that can show instant results, and the last time this happened I had asked the doc if we could write the RX with refills since this has been happening so often. But the dip sticks were at home! Down the hill, several miles to my house, up my snow covered driveway ( I have four wheel drive) back down…..and back at Mother’s with the dip sticks and we go pee-pee and we dip and guess what? Yep, it’s officially a UTI. The drugstore is called and the RX will be ready in an hour. I notice Mom is short on a few other supplies so I will get those as well. First, I help her to the dining room for lunch.
As I said, Mother gets “crooked” and develops even more confusion and paranoia when she has a UTI. The tomato soup for lunch was difficult. As she tried to get the spoon to her mouth, while leaning sideways, she had lots of spills. She refused to let me help her. Then she proceeded to try to use her straw to pick up the pieces of her sandwich. I gently suggested that she switch to a fork. ” I know what I am doing!” she snapped.
“Not today,Mom, not today. So here, let me have that straw and you take this fork. It really will make it easier for you” I responded.
It was comforting to see I was not the only car in the snow covered grocery store parking lot. But the store was not very busy so I gathered the Depends, cranberry juice ( can’t hurt with a UTI), her favorite snacks, and a few other essentials quickly, then to the drugstore and back to the assisted living.
Needless to say, I got nothing done from my list of things to do. This morning, I had a new list that is a bit longer than yesterday’s. I decided to go and check on Mom first thing. One of her private caregivers will be coming today, just a couple of hours later than normal.
Mother looked much better today. She is sitting up straight and has some color in her cheeks. She balks at drinking some cranberry juice, but I explained that it is simply to try and help keep her healthy – not meant to punish her! Then the caregiver arrives and we discuss the frequency of these UTI’s and ways we might help prevent them. We discuss the typical – drinking more fluids and of course, the cranberry juice. But then we move on to other precautions I had researched. Maybe we should cut back on the powder we use on Mom’s backside to help prevent sores ( we had a rash of those last year) . I had learned that powder could contribute to UTI’s. We also discussed making sure that Mom was “thoroughly cleaned” each time she went to the bathroom. The caregiver shared that often Mom “fussed” when she thought too much toilet tissue was being used. I glanced at Mom and she rolled her eyes in disgust. Then she said ” I don’t like it when you all talk about what you are going to do to me. I don’t need anyone to do anything for me”.
I sighed, and then I gently said, as I leaned over to look in her eyes, “Mom, you have a urinary tract infection. That is not a good thing. We had to get an antibiotic for you. A UTI makes you very confused and not yourself. We are trying to find ways to keep you from getting another one. We are not trying to be mean, or aggravate you. We just want you to be healthy.” I nervously tug on my bangs as I talk.
Mom looked at me and said, ” You know, you are going to pull your hair out doing that.”
Yes, Mom, I am.