When I saw Mom on Friday, I came home sad and depressed. Mom had a bad cold, and it was clearly affecting her abilities. When we pulled her up from her chair to walk with us, her legs were visibly shaking, and she was shuffling along like Tim Conway in the Carol Burnett Show. If it weren’t so wretched, I’d be laughing.
As younger people, we don’t appreciate the truth of the adage, “use it or lose it.” What may feel to us like burdensome repetitive chores—doing laundry, shopping, washing dishes, cooking—are really blessings in disguise. They keep us active, our limbs fluid, our hearts pumping. When we watch someone we love sit all day in a chair, fall asleep in that chair and barely move her legs let alone the rest of her body, it is disheartening. The minute Mom can’t walk, she will be defined as fully dependent and will have to move from her ward into a nursing facility.
Rather than fret over the situation, I decided to make some waves. I arrived at Mom’s ward on Sunday just as they were finishing lunch. Mom’s plate was untouched. The head nurse told me that they often aren’t successful in getting her to eat. Mom plays with the food, making strange combinations of liquids and solids, and she won’t allow anyone to feed her, preferring to talk rather than eat. I focused on the soup and managed to get her to drink most of it out of the bowl. Then, with the help of one of the staff, we supported her as she walked shakily to her room. She barely made it to the bed before collapsing and closing her eyes.
In general, Mom has also refused to nap in her bed. Instead, she sleeps in her chair, bowing her head forward and slumping her shoulders. She’s developing a hunched posture. Getting her into bed for a nap was a great accomplishment.
As I left the ward, I told the nurse on duty that I wanted them to put her to bed each afternoon, and I wanted to increase her physiotherapy. Give us a schedule, I suggested, and either my dad or I will be there to help in her treatment. This is important to us.
Taking care of Mom is a family effort. Yes, she is in a ward where she has constant supervision, but no one loves her like we do. With my dad out for the count with his own cold and my scheduled day out of the city, I asked my husband Jeff to visit her on Monday at exactly the same time as I had done—as they were finishing lunch. Jeff helped Mom eat most of her meal then got her to lay down for a nap. Mom was not as tired as she had been the day before, so Jeff’s experience was more positive than mine. (Though it could also be because Mom warms especially to Jeff, her handsome son-in-law whom she has asked to marry.)
I returned to visit Mom today at 1:00 p.m., and again found her sitting with a full plate of food before her. She’d apparently thrown her baked apple on the floor and had mixed soup into her chicken and rice. (It is traditional in Israel, as it is in Europe, to eat the main meal of the day for lunch.) I sat with her for about 20 minutes and managed to feed her about a third of her lunch. Walking her back to her bed again showed me how badly her walking has become. She was less tired today, less under the weather, and I can only hope she fell asleep without much difficulty.
I stopped to talk to the head nurse and raised my two main points: 1) Mom needs to nap in bed rather than in her chair; and 2) we’d like to meet with the physiotherapist to determine what exercises would be beneficial to increase Mom’s leg strength. How the staff will get her to eat is a separate issue, but apparently many of the residents eat poorly at lunchtime, possibly because there is a 10:00 a.m., snack two hours before lunch.
Message delivered and understood. We are not only here to shower Mom with love and attention. It is also our duty to serve as her advocate on all matters relating to her care. I pray that she’s regaining her strength and that with our renewed advocacy, we will help her achieve better physical health.
What better way to build up body strength than to exercise and eat right. This recipe for quinoa lentil salad is from my niece Tzippora, who is amazingly talented at juggling the demands of her five children and her job as a kindergarten teacher. It highlights smart carbohydrates that are health-promoting, slow-digesting, and nutrient-rich.
Quinoa Lentil Salad
I love the colors in this salad. They are hopeful, bright colors. I can’t always find red quinoa in my grocery store, but when I do, I add it to my shopping cart.
1 cup quinoa, white, red or a combination
¾ cup black lentils
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
½ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup craisins
Water for boiling quinoa, lentils, and potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp vinegar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ Tbsp honey or date honey (silan)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring quinoa to boil in a saucepan with two cups water then simmer until water is absorbed. In a separate pan, bring lentils to boil in two cups water then simmer until lentils are cooked through. Drain thoroughly. Toss sweet potato cubes into boiling water and cook until soft. Drain thoroughly. Mix oil, vinegar, lemon juice and other dressing ingredients in a small closed-lidded container. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, lentils, potato, parsley and craisins. Pour on dressing. Serve.