In late August, my mother was scheduled to have knee replacement surgery. She and my Dad live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Knowing that she would be out of commission for a while after the surgery, I decided to fly there and lend a hand. I planned to stay for 3 weeks.
I arrived in the evening on Friday, August 26th, the day of my mother's surgery. The procedure went well and the doctor and physical therapist said she was doing really well, so she was discharged from the hospital on Sunday, the 28th. She had a bunch of medications to take: for swelling, infection, pain, etc.
We had quite a regimen for home care and it was pretty hectic the first few days. The medications were causing a lot of problems, including dehydration and nausea, and resulted in a trip to the Emergency Room by ambulance on Wednesday. Adjustments were made again and again to her medications, to try to find a mix that worked. The biggest problem was the pain medication. At 85 years old, recuperation from a knee replacement is tough enough - when you can't find a pain medication you can tolerate, it makes the situation even worse.
After 5 more tough days, Mom was back in the ER again. It had been over a week since she got out of the hospital and she had yet to be able to start on her physical therapy - which the doctor wanted her to begin right after the surgery. It was coming down to a decision as to which she could best tolerate: nausea or pain. She chose pain. Using only Tylenol as pain relief, she started on the tough physical therapy - especially the dreaded CPM (Continuous Passive Motion) machine. The CPM machine is designed to help the patient regain knee flexibility by forcibly moving the knee through a defined range of motion (controlled by the user). The leg is strapped into the machine and to the patient it represents a medical torture device. It's no fun, even when you have pain killers; when you only have over-the-counter Tylenol, it's pretty brutal.
We still made numerous adjustments to her medication plan and got it to where she could be functional and pursue her physical therapy. As her physical therapy "coach," I had to keep pushing Mom to stretch the limits of her physical movement and pain tolerance. She sometimes pushed back but kept going and toughing it out. I was really proud of her. That hardy Midwestern spirit was alive and well.
She made progress but because of the setbacks early on in the process, she wasn't as far along as she had hoped and my return date was approaching. I decided to extend my stay another week. In addition to attending to my Mom's needs, I was also preparing meals (good thing I can cook), doing laundry and taking care of other things around the house, along with my Dad's help. It made for very busy days. I have 2 sisters who also live in the Bay Area and they were a HUGE help: handling much of the grocery shopping, bringing over main dishes for dinners, and assisting with personal care, such as showers and hair washing/styling. They also stayed at the house when I needed to get out to run errands or meet with people for other things I was handling. It really was a team effort - a "joint operation".
Soon, my Mom was able to go to outpatient physical therapy, at a new, large and impressive PT center, less than 10 minutes from the house. Her Physical Therapist was really great. The PT also pushed her to her limits but she was sweet and personable and they got along well. Mom continued to make good progress. She was even able to conquer the flight of stairs to the 2nd floor of their house - a place she hadn't been able to access for weeks. Yay!
At this point, I had been in CA for almost a month. Things were under control and Mom was getting around well. I decided I could go ahead and return to Panama. I was so happy I was in a position where I could take the time to be there and support my parents during this tough period. I also have an even higher respect for those who are full-time caregivers for family members or others in their care.