Posted in Caretaker, Elderly, Hospice, Widow

Reading by Candlelight

Mom’s TV is on 24/7. My husband and I are not to blame for this. It started long before we started caring for her. When you enter the house, you can hear the mind-numbing chatter from the TV, and every once in a while, you’ll hear Mom laugh or gasp or call out to the character to “Be careful!”

Several months ago, as I was just getting ready to start preparing dinner, the power went out. I went outside to see if my neighbors were also without power, only to find several utility trucks on the street. One of the workers told me that we would be without power for 5 or 6 hours! I passed the word down the block, trying not to look as panicked as I felt. I knew I could go and grab some fast food for dinner, but what was I going to do with my mother-in-law for 6 hours without TV???  I know! Let’s read! Our shelves are full of books because I’ve been a literature teacher for 35 years, and my husband has more books than most libraries. We sat together that evening and read several stories from a short story book by candlelight. It was so much fun, and I haven’t see Mom so engaged in anything in a long time. Since that night, we’ve read 14 novels. I think we’re averaging one book every 2 weeks.

We both look so forward to our reading time. When we were reading the Chronicles of Narnia, Mom would ask, “Will you take me to Narnia?” After about 2 hours of reading, I would stop, and she would sigh happily.   One day I asked, “Do you want me to turn the TV on now?” She said, “No, keep it off. I just want to stay in Narnia for a while.”

Right now we’re in our 4th book of the “Little House on the Prairie” series. Mom and I have now learned how to build log cabins, make a fireplace, plant and harvest corn, wheat, potatoes, etc. We laugh and cry with Laura and her family, and many of their adventures jog Mom’s memory about her young life. Mom’s stories have gotten fewer and fewer as her memory slips away, but I think reading is really helping sharpen her mind. Often, I will stop and ask her if she knows what a word or phrase means, and she usually does.

For years I’ve told young parents how important it is to read to their children, and now I want to encourage everyone to read to the elderly. What a difference it makes!

 

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Posted in Caretaker, Elderly, Sickness, Widow

Time for a Change

I don’t usually need an alarm to wake up, but last night I stayed up way too late, and when my alarm went off at 6:55 am, I groaned, “Ugh, I don’t want to do this!” Hearing myself say that really caught me off guard. I know that’s a strange thing to say – how do you catch yourself “off guard,” but I can’t think of any other way to explain it. I used to love early mornings. Now, I get up, wash my face, and try to get one cup of tea in before I have to go in and change my mother-in-law. It’s really not that big of a deal…. we’ve been doing this for so long that it only takes a few minutes to change her nightie, her incontinence underwear, and the bed pad, but I can think of better ways to start my day.

This morning as I was fastening the snaps on Mom’s nightie, she said, “I bet you never thought, in your wildest dreams, that you would be changing your mother-in-law like a little baby.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond. I couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t embarrass her. “Well…..” I said, awkwardly. Then I saw a cloth sticking to the inside of her gown, and I pulled it out exclaiming, “There it is! I’ve been missing this cloth!” We both laughed, and that was all we needed to change the subject.

No, not in my wildest dreams did I think I would be changing this woman’s diapers, but actually our relationship has never been better. We both just treat it as matter-of-fact, and we find something else to talk about or laugh at. (sorry, grammar Nazis! I just ended a sentence with a preposition!)

I have 3 daughters and one daughter-in-law. Will one of them be changing me some day. I’ve joked with them that they should “shoot me” first if it ever comes to that. They don’t appreciate it when I say it, and I really shouldn’t because I’m making it sound like having to be a caregiver is a terrible thing. Sure, I wish I could start my days in a different way, and I wish I had more time to myself, but my husband and I are doing what we can to give his mom the best end-of-life we can. I know our children would do the same for us.

 

Posted in Caretaker, Elderly, Marriage, Recipes, Sickness, Widow

Recipes for Pressure Cooker

Recipes for Pressure Cooker

These recipes are for beginner cooks, and may come in handy for a young adult who has just moved out or the older adult who suddenly finds that his/her spouse can’t cook anymore.  The amounts can be adjusted according to taste. I tried to keep everything simple here, and this is just to get started. The pot I use is the “Farberware 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker”. I have also tried them in the “InstaPot” though I’m not as familiar with the settings on that pot. If something just doesn’t work for you, please let me know about it.

4 Favorite Simple Recipes

  • Chicken and Vegetables
  • Navy Bean with Bacon Soup
  • Beef Stew
  • Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Ingredients to have on hand:

  •         Canned Tomatoes (14.5 oz cans of fire roasted or regular)
  •         Chicken Broth and Beef Broth (get cans or 32 oz cartons of low-sodium. Most recipes call for about 2 cups, so you’ll have some leftover. Date the carton and put in fridge. Use within 1 week)
  •         Cream of Mushroom Soup – one can
  •         Can of Evaporated Milk
  •         Onion Soup Mix
  •         Navy Beans – 1 bag of dried beans
  •         Bacon
  •         Beef Stew Meat (1-2 pounds)
  •         Chicken Breasts – fresh, not frozen (it seems to make a difference)
  •         Pork Chops – boneless
  •         Potatoes – (bag of medium red potatoes)
  •         Carrots – fresh bunch or “baby carrots”
  •         Green Beans (whole, fresh or whole, frozen)
  •         Celery – 1 bunch
  •         Onions (2 -3 small to medium brown onions)
  •         Garlic – fresh
  •         Prepared Mashed Potatoes (Hormel has nice tubs of prepared potatoes – usually in the deli section.)

Seasonings:

  •         Garlic Powder
  •         Smoked Paprika
  •         Onion Powder
  •         Maybe an Italian Seasoning or some other blend that looks good to you

Recipe for Beef Stew

  •         2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  •         Beef Stew Meat (approx. 1 lb.)
  •         4 potatoes peeled and quartered, unless they are red potatoes, then don’t peel.
  •         Carrots – peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces unless they are baby carrots – leave whole
  •         Celery – 1 or 2 stalks, cut according to taste
  •         Onion – 1/2 quartered or diced
  •         1 cup of Green Beans (whole fresh or frozen)
  •         1 package of Onion Soup Mix
  •         1/4 cup of flour
  •         Salt and Pepper (approx. 1 tsp. each)
  •         1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
  •         1 tsp. garlic powder
  •         2 Cups Beef Broth
  •         2 Cups Water

Heat oil in pot.

Put flour and salt and pepper into a ziplock bag and shake to mix. Add the beef, shake to coat. Add meat and onions to pot and brown (approx. 5 mins.)

Keep meet in pot and add all vegetables. Sprinkle onion soup mix on everything and stir. Stir in beef broth and water.

Cover and lock lid. Set Menu to Stew setting (02). The default time on that is 35 minutes. You might want to let it sit for a while to release the steam naturally, or just release it yourself!

Enjoy!

Pork Chops

This recipe works for 2 to 6 pork chops                                                                                            Brown meat, sliced onion and 1 cup of sliced mushrooms (optional) in 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

Mix together 1 can of mushroom soup and 1 cup of beef broth or can of condensed milk. Add 1 tsp. garlic powder and pepper.

Pour soup over pork chops and use “Meat” setting on pot.

Serve with mashed potatoes and vegetable

Chicken and Vegetables

2 – 4 half breasts                                                                                                                                               2 cups chicken broth                                                                                                                                         Potatoes (quartered)                                                                                                                                   Carrots (cut into bite sized pieces)                                                                                                    Green beans (fresh or frozen)                                                                                                         Smoked Paprika                                                                                                                                      Pepper                                                                                                                                                    Sprinkle paprika and pepper on both sides of chicken and brown chicken in 2 tablespoons of olive oil (3 mins per side)                                                                                                                     Pile vegetables on top of chicken

Pour chicken broth over all                                                                                                                Season with 1 tsp. of Italian seasoning

Use “Soup” setting

 

Navy Bean Soup

½ package of bacon or 1 ham hock

1 package navy beans

2 carrots chopped

32 oz. of vegetable or chicken broth

1 can of diced tomatoes (I like “fire-roasted” or “Italian seasoned”)

Thyme – fresh or 1 tsp. powder

4 cups water

If you use bacon, cut it into bite-sized pieces. I use kitchen shears – it’s easier. Cook bacon on highest setting. If using a ham hock, you don’t need to brown it first. Just throw it in with all the other ingredients and turn the pot on “bean” setting.

Posted in Uncategorized

Talking them down

Our oldest daughter, Bethany, is an excellent mother, so what I’m about to share may sound a little odd. Chalk it up to several nights in a row of very little sleep due to sick children, whacked out hormones due to pregnancy and a leaking roof.  Yesterday, I answered a call from Bethany. I could hear 5 year old Kayleigh and 3 year old Logan screaming in the background.

“Mom, you need to talk them down. I just took Logan to the doctor’s and was told that he has a really bad ear infection. The doctor is worried about his eardrum.”

“Oh, dear! Logan’s crying because his ear hurts so badly?”

“No, he’s crying because he doesn’t want to take his medicine.”

“And why’s Kayleigh crying?”

“Well,” yelled Bethany above the din, “I was trying to explain to Logan that if he didn’t take his medicine, his eardrum would burst, but all Kayleigh heard was that Logan’s ear would explode.”

Now I could hear Kayleigh’s words as she wailed, “Oh, my poor, poor baby brother Logan! His ear is going to explode, and he won’t be able to hear anymore! Poor, little Logan!  Ohhhhhhh!

“Let me talk with Kayleigh first,” I said.

“Grammy, sniff, I’m terrified that Logan’s ear is going to explode!”

“Kayleigh, Mommy didn’t really mean that Logan’s ear would explode, but she was trying to help him understand how important it is that he take his medicine. Will you do me a favor, Kayleigh? Will you pray for Logan and ask God to make his ear all better? God will take care of him, and then you won’t have to be afraid.”

“Okay, Grammy, sniff, I’ll pray for Logan in my forehead.”

Soon after Kayleigh talked with God, she felt better and told me she wasn’t terrified anymore. I was on a roll, so I asked to talk with Logan.

“Logan, when I was a little girl, I had an earache so bad that it made me cry too, but then I took the medicine that the doctor gave me, and it was all better! Will you be a good boy and take the medicine?”

“But, Dammy, it will make my EAR EXPLODE!”kayleigh-and-logan

I give up……

Posted in Uncategorized

Uptown Kitty

Suki’s departure day has finally arrived. I have been trying to get one of our daughters to take their kitty for years, and now that it’s happening, I have misgivings. Will she miss me too much? Will she get used to looking down at the busy Chicago streets 6 stories below, rather than watching the goings on of our suburban neighborhood through our front window? Suki has lived in our home for 12 years and this is the only home she’s ever known. When the girls were home, she was definitely their kitty, but for the last 4 years, I was the object of her affection. I’m fond of Suki, but both our mothers, one son-in-law, his mom, our daughter-in-law and maybe even our grandchildren are allergic to cats. When the odds started stacking against Suki staying in our home, Laura and Galen stepped up.

Laura and her husband Galen are “cat whisperers.” They will give her a good home, and she will now get to sit on their laps and lick their hands when they’re trying to type.  I’m looking forward to hearing that Suki (and Laura) survived the flight, and our “Uptown Kitty” is happily adjusting to her new digs.