Jan 102012

Jutta Engelhardt and Karen Goff meeting for lunch in Phoenix, Arizona

After a quiet day yesterday; there has to be some time to recover from jet lag, Jutta and I met my mother, Karen Goff, for lunch today. During Jutta’s 2009 visit, between remaining busy with so many activities and travels and my mother’s occasionally demanding work schedule, we missed the opportunity to meet up with my mom. That won’t happen during this vacation, as we make sure that these two have plenty of chances to get together between now and February 18 when Jutta returns to Frankfurt, Germany.

Oct 272008

Prescription drugs - a small selection of the many being taken by an elderly relative

This ain’t no entry about disco. It will not be an homage to the Bee Gees nor the dancing of John Travolta. This is about an old man trying to stay alive. It may in fact be true that what does not kill you makes you stronger. Take my uncle, as a boy he was scalded by boiling water, survived pneumonia, was struck by a train. As a young man he landed on the beaches of France part of the first wave of American men to start fighting Germans as part of World War II. A mortar lifted him out of a foxhole giving him a view of the countryside; while two other men died that moment, he was left unscathed. He walked across France to join the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium before returning home to the U.S, unharmed. Over the years he has developed diabetes, required back surgery for constant back pain, had a triple bypass performed on his heart, broke bones, has glaucoma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, gastro-intestinal problems, depression, anxiety, and most recently a broken hip.

At 84 years old, life could be better, it could be worse, or it could just as easily not be at all. I don’t know if I’m more impressed with his tenacity or if I’m more bewildered at how many doctors and drugs are required to prop him up. At this time in his life he is seen by no less than nine doctors. Dr. Trautwein is his internal medicine guy, Berger tends to his diabetes, Boyatt for heart, Ortega diabetes too, Omlid for his care at the nursing center, Gorin for pulmonary, Enna performed the hip surgery, Thiene looks after his eyes. Kay Smith the podiatrist cares for his fragile diabetes wrecked feet. Dr. Rolfe tries to keep what teeth he has left where they belong.

Then there are the drugs; Actos for diabetes, Advair for COPD, Alphagan for glaucoma, Altace for blood pressure, Avodart for prostate, Azopt for glaucoma, Clonazepam for anxiety, Coreg is a beta blocker, Fentanyl for pain, Ferrous Sulfate for iron, Flomax for urination, Hydrocodone for pain, Metformin for diabetes, Nexium for heartburn, Niaspam for blood thinning, Senna for bowel, Theophylline for respiratory, Travatan for glaucoma, Trazodone as anti-depressant, Zetia for cholesterol, Spiriva for COPD, Miralax for bowel, Humulin for diabetes, Lantus for diabetes, and Maalox, Milk of Magnesia, and Tums as needed and finally the topical ointments for psoriasis.

And you must know he doesn’t take the meds all at once, they are staggered throughout the day. He typically has no less than two or three doctor appointments per month, sometimes more. Has anyone really looked at the issues of polypharmacy regarding this vast selection of drugs he takes? Of course not, it would appear that not one of the doctors knows the entirety of my uncle’s situation.

My brain is squashed flat and my emotions left raw as I try to help care for a man with a multitude of physcial, emotional, and mental differences from the man I knew thirty years prior. I watch this elderly man limp through rage, mistrust, self-destructive tendencies, frustration, hurt, fear, anxiety, depression, physical failure, loss of mobility, loss of control, inability to care for him self, sobbing, agression, pain, breathing difficulties, constipation, difficulty with urination, neuropathy, and the all too frequent thoughts of imminent death.

Through it all he clings to life so as to be by his wife’s side. Sixty-two years and counting they have been married. It may well be his fear of her being left alone that has him still walking this earth. This also makes me think that if burns, illness, trains hitting you, war, smoking, motorcycles, heart attacks, disease, and depression don’t kill you, just what is it we are so afraid of as we try to live our lives?

Sep 262008

Xray of my great uncle's hip now held together with a titanium pin after a fall which broke his 84 year old hip

It’s been fifteen days since my uncle broke his hip and scheduled for today is his appointment with the surgeon who performed the repair. The doctor showed us the x-ray’s of my uncle’s new titanium rod permanently attached to the thighbone and screwed into the broken head also known as the ball, that is held in the hips socket joint. He told us the hip was healing slowly and that my uncle would continue to be restricted to 50% weight bearing to ensure the bone securely heals around the screw, since if that screw were to break through the ball my uncle would feel pain that would make the break seem minor. So it was now obvious that I would be staying on in Santa Barbara for an indeterminate amount of time before my uncle would regain his mobility and once again live at home independently.

Feb 012008

Jutta Engelhardt with Woody and Annie Burns in Santa Barbara, California

This is the main reason for going to Santa Barbara, to visit my uncle Woody and Aunt Ann. Jutta first met them about four years ago and ever since has enjoyed visiting Santa Barbara and getting to know my aunt and uncle a little more. Before she returns to Germany in April, we will go back at least once more for another long weekend binge of eating too much pizza, cookies, cake, drinking wine, and shopping at Costco.

Dec 222007

Woody Burns

Caroline and I have gone to Santa Barbara, California for a few days to visit with family over the Christmas holiday. My aunt and uncle’s backyard has been thoroughly renovated and is now a charming place to sit back in the sun and watch the birds at the new bird feeder and their bird bath. Behind my uncle are two orange trees and a lemon tree. This being winter on the coast the skies are bright blue, the air crisp, even clean from recent high winds. Originally the plans were to stay a few days in Santa Barbara and then meander up the coast but we decided to return to Arizona early and spend a week at home, take in some movies and catch up on some quality time together.