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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

An Earful

I often think that life in a seniors’ residence must be routine, maybe even boring. And perhaps it is. If you have Alzheimer’s, the schedule is probably soothing—a predictable morning, the same faces every day, the same walk to the dining room—despite not remembering what the schedule is. And yet, we miss so much of what happens to Mom on a daily basis, even though between my dad and me, we visit her every day.

For the past few days, Mom has had a bandage on her right ear. How did it happen? Was she nicked by accident when she got her hair cut? Did she bump something sharp? Did she scratch herself? Is it a bed pressure sore? It’s bandaged with gauze, so it’s hard to tell how prominent it is or if it’s been bleeding. Mom, of course, can't tell us. She doesn't know.

The nurses keep a daily record of everything that goes on in the ward: bowel movements; medicines; diaper changes; appointments with the manicurist and hair dresser; accidents; physiotherapy sessions. There doesn’t seem to be any explanation for Mom’s ear other than mention of it being bandaged.

I am worried that it could be a bed pressure sore. I know that Mom is a heavy sleeper at night. She used to get into bed and lie on her side almost the whole night, rarely changing position. I assume she still does. If I lie continuously on one side like that, I wake up with sore ears.

What are pressure sores? If there is constant pressure applied to the skin over a period of time, a sore can form. Older people tend to have thinner, more delicate skin, which means if they have prolonged stays in bed, they have an increased risk of developing pressure sores. These typically affect the back or sides of the head, rims of the ears, shoulders and shoulder blades, hipbones, tailbones, backs and sides of knees, and heels, toes and ankles. These sores are graded by severity from redness and slight bruising to skin loss and necrosis.

In terms of the ear, pressure sores occur on the most prominent parts, namely the upper rim or helix. There is a technical name for these sores: Chondrodermatitis Nodularis Helicis or CNH. As with all pressure sores, the main treatment is to remove the pressure being placed on the body in the affected area.

Luckily, there is a home-made remedy for CNH: Take a thin foam pillow, cut a hole in the middle where the ear generally lays, place the foam pillow on top of the existing pillow, and voila, when the individual goes to sleep, inserting her ear within the hole, most of the pressure is removed from the ear.

We’re still waiting to see what will become of Mom’s sore ear, whether it will heal by itself or continue to fester. If it doesn’t heal and we determine that it is indeed sleep related, we’ll be ready to take the next step.

It’s getting chilly in our corner of the world. We have been blessed with a few rainy, blustery days, and if our prayers for rain are answered, we’ll be expecting a few more. The best thing to eat on a chilly night is a hot bowl of soup. This recipe for corn chowder used to be my youngest child’s favorite soup. I started making it when we had left-over corn cobs to use up. But you don’t have to wait for that to inspire you to try this recipe.

Corn, Broccoli and Potato Chowder

A complete meal in one bowl. Serve this soup with hot corn or baking soda biscuits.

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, chopped

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried parsley

½ tsp mustard

2 cups milk

2 cups water

1 cup orange lentils

Salt and pepper to taste

1½ cups additional water

2 cups broccoli, chopped

Kernels from 3 cobs corn

Cheddar cheese for topping


Sauté onion and garlic in a large pot, adding potatoes when onions become translucent. Cook about 10 minutes. Stir in mustard and spices. Then add water, milk and lentils. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until potatoes and lentils are cooked through. Remove from heat. Using a hand blender, process soup until almost smooth. Meanwhile, chop broccoli into small florets. Using a sharp knife, slice corn kernels off the cob. Add remaining liquid, broccoli and corn kernels. Bring to a boil, then simmer until vegetables are cooked. Serve with a garnish of cheddar cheese.

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