I don’t even know what to say….

I just got back from the nursing home, where they took my dad after the hospital.

Actually I stopped by Walmart to get a heating pad, two bottles of castor oil, a package of 5 cloth baby diapers, and a back brace I know won’t fit because of my curvy hips.  All this to treat the disc that’s bulging in my lower back.  I coughed it out a couple of days ago when I was still asthmatically getting over the mini-flu, the kind you get when you’ve had your flu shot and get the flu anyway.  But at least it was the mini-flu and not the whole thing.

So to treat the inflammation I am going to soak the baby diapers in warm castor oil, maybe mixed with eucalyptus or some other anti-inflammatory oil, maybe German chamomile, put a sheet of plastic wrap over that so it doesn’t stain the heating pad, slap the whole mess on my back, and listen to some soothing music while it works.

I got through yesterday by dosing myself up with the cannabis tincture I have been steeping for the past two weeks.  It got rid of the cough and relaxed the spasm in my back enough so I could get through the day without screaming in pain.  The stuff is miraculous.  Too bad it’s illegal in my state.  Actually it’s a Schedule IV substance in my state, which puts it in the same class as benzodiazepines; in other words, needs a prescription but considered low-risk for abuse.  But for some reason, the criminal code and the medical code don’t agree.  Figures.  I consider it medicine and use it as such.

My dad.  I can’t even wrap my head around it.  The brilliant thinker, the blazing torch of a teacher, the maker of achingly beautiful art: now unable to figure out how to use a pencil, unable to understand how to read a phone number, let alone use a phone–how could this happen?  Whose idea of a cruel joke is this?  It makes me want to run off and kill myself before I have a chance to get so badly off that I can’t even figure out how to do it.

I comfort myself by knowing that he’s much better off in the nursing home, where compassionate people take care of him.  They don’t belittle him for dropping crumbs on his clothes–they just put a bib on him and treat him like a normal human being.

They don’t scream at him for wetting the bed–they take it for granted that he will, and they check him every two hours at night and change the bed if it’s wet, and change his diaper if it’s wet, and treat him like a normal human being.

He doesn’t ask me who those two sisters are anymore–the nice one who helps him and takes care of him, and the one who gets upset all the time–those two sisters are my mother, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of her personalities.  The sweet one that everyone outside the home adores, and the control freak abuser that nobody sees but us–my father and I.

She is spending hours and hours at the nursing home, and making sure that my father and I are never alone together.  The look of hatred in her eyes, toward me, is more open than I’ve ever seen it before.  I’m sure that it’s because the love between my father and I is so apparent–he knows that each parting might be our last, and we tell each other we love each other and I give him a kiss on top of his bald head.

The last time I kissed my mother was several months ago.  She demanded it, saying she was jealous, so I kissed her on the cheek.  It’s not my fault that I treat her like a poisonous snake–with a long forked stick–because she is liable to strike without warning.  Has done, and does, and will do.

At least she finally admitted to letting her own mother die of lactose intolerance.  Did you know that people can die of lactose intolerance?  Yes, they can.  My grandmother had terrible diarrhea from it, and was losing weight.  The nursing home she was in did not have a doctor.  They had a Physician’s Assistant.  Pardon me, to any of you who may be P.A.s, but P.A.s do not have the level of education that an M.D. has.  Some are excellent clinicians and know when to consult their supervising physician, and some are full of themselves and think they know it all.  The one in that nursing home was the latter kind.

So they fed my Nana Ensure, a liquid food substitute that is milk-based.  It is full of lactose.  So she kept on having more and more diarrhea, and losing more and more weight, and they kept on feeding her more and more lactose-containing substance.

I begged my mother to put Nana in the car and take her to see a gastoententerologist.  “She’s old,” my mother said.  “What would they do anyway?”

“They would make a diagnosis and stop the diarrhea,” I said.  My mother made a face and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about.  I had only been in medical practice for ten years at the time.

So Nana died of diarrhea, like people die when they have cholera, only more slowly and in terrible pain.

And two weeks ago, before Dad fell again and broke his back and got yet another concussion, she suddenly started saying how guilty she feels that she didn’t do more for her mother.

And why this sudden bout of guilt?

My mother has become lactose intolerant herself, and got a little taste of what it feels like to have horrible cramps and have to run to the bathroom every ten minutes, and have your butt burn up because of the acid stools you pass.

But Nana couldn’t run to the bathroom anymore.  She had her liquid stools in her diaper, and her whole bum burned up from soaking in the acid stools.

So now Dad is in the nursing home, and Mom is acting like a jealous bird protecting her nest.  She has always considered me an inconvenience, but now my presence is indispensable, as it has been ever since I flew here from my home in Israel three years ago.  She tolerates me only because she needs my help with Dad.

Tomorrow we take Dad to the cardiologist, an hour and a half away by car.  We will have to get him into the car, and out of the car.  It’s generally me who does the heavy lifting, but now I’ve got a bulging disc, so we will have to have help from others both at the nursing home and at the cardiologist.

I know the nursing home will help get him into the car: it’s their job.  I also know the cardiology office won’t help get him out of the car, for liability reasons.  If one of their staff accidentally injured him, the practice would be liable to be sued.  So this will be an interesting exercise, since Dad can no longer walk without help.

Things have gotten so out of hand, so out of control, that I don’t even know what to say anymore.  I just try to “keep it between the ditches,” as Dad used to say, when he knew how to talk.


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  1. annesspirit

     /  January 26, 2014

    Laura, Hang in there. Breathe deeply. Anne

    On Sun, Jan 26, 2014 at 7:33 PM, Bipolar For Life wrote:

    > Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA posted: “I just got back from the nursing > home, where they took my dad after the hospital. Actually I stopped by > Walmart to get a heating pad, two bottles of castor oil, a package of 5 > cloth baby diapers, and a back brace I know won’t fit because of my curvy > hi”

  2. Do you have one of those belts you can put around his waist to lift him up easily? Honestly, this is so sad, I feel so for you. Its really too bad the cardiologist doesn’t make nursing home calls.

    • Good idea, maybe I can borrow one from PT. This is the closest cardiologist to where we are. Also it’s the one who did Dad’s stent years ago and has followed him ever since. Dad’s got a left bundle branch block that’s accompanied by periods of asystole lasting 2-3 seconds! I don’t know what is possible to do with that, as he’s not a candidate for anesthesia to put in a pacer, which is what would fix that. Even an external pacer requires an electrode, which requires at least conscious sedation, which would probably finish off the few axons he’s still got left. His living will specifies no interventions if he is cognitively impaired anyway, so I guess this visit is for diagnostic/prognostic purposes. Better treatment than what Nana got, but not lifesaving. Sigh.

      • Anesthesia may have led to my cognitive issues in part so I understand the fear. Its a frustrating wall to hit in this day and age when one should be able to do something.

        • Yeah, anesthesia is hard on the ol’ squash, all right. Dad’s dementia visibly worsened three years ago when he had his shoulder replaced and was under for five hours. What idiot would operate on an 85 year old man with diabetes and documented dementia, I can’t imagine. Oh, yes I can–one who values his bank account more than an old man’s life. And has plenty of malpractice insurance to cover his greed.

          • I had 4 surgeries in 2 years and developed cognitive impairment, causes unknown, but it was shown the my last surgery caused my scores to dive, so anesthesia definitely does not benefit my brain cells. Do you know the mechanism for this?

            • See my comment below–for some reason my mobile refuses to behave consistently. In a nutshell, anesthetic substances have to cross the blood-brain barrier in order to work, and they have to be fat-soluble because our brains are made of fat (so if someone calls you a “fat-head,” say thank you). Most anesthetic agents are metabolized by the liver, but first they have to get out of all the fatty tissue in the whole body that they’ve permeated and been absorbed by. This is a very slow process, and repeated episodes of anesthesia over a relatively short period of time can cause buildup of mind-numbing substance that will probably go away eventually, but in the meantime could certainly knock a few points off the cognitive scale. Since my adventures with psych meds and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (lifesaving!), I have lost at least 15 I.Q. points. Not that I’m doing anything that particularly needs them at this point, but still 😦

  3. gimpet is right–a gait belt would probably make it so you could stand and pivot him from the car seat to the wheelchair, without help or with minimal help from good ole’ ma, maybe to steady the wheelchair. fyi, if you didn’t know, any pharmacy that carries medical supplies will have a gait belt. i found this out taking care of my friend after a stroke (another whole long story there, for another time). also would take the brunt of the lift off your back.

  4. You’re in my heart, my thoughts, my prayers and so is your family!! I missed you yesterday, since you’ve been so good about posting, and worried. No, I shouldn’t worry but sometimes I do. You’re all going through such trauma, such stress, such pain.

    Sending you ((())) and ❤

    • Thank you, love. I was just too burnt out to post last night….might happen again here, I don’t know…but you know I’ll keep on truckin’ as long as I got the fuel to do it with. Your love and concern mean a lot to me….be well….

  5. Minus the viper-mother, I really feel for you. My grandfather passed away in April and we were very close. He’d had Alzheimer’s for years and had had a couple of strokes, but then in a matter of months went from a man I knew and loved to a stranger who didn’t know me, couldn’t walk or talk or feed himself…it is very, very hard, and I admire you greatly for what you are doing. It is exhausting and often thankless, especially when they don’t recognize you or even become suspicious and angry with you. I’m rambling, but this just hits so close to home. You and your father will be in my thoughts.

    • Thank you so much for your words of comfort and support! I’m so sorry your grandpa had to go that way. Why can’t they all just go peacefully in their sleep when their time on earth is up? At least mine still remembers me and is still his sweet old self, just a lot more disabled globally.
      Take care, I will def be visiting your blog soon, with a name like that!

  6. Laura, thinking of you and praying for you. I hear you, re the mother tsuris – I’m sorry that you have to manage that sort of heart-pain along with everything else.

    Do what you need to do to care for yourself.

    • Thanks, Rav. What I need is a long soak in a hot tub, followed by a 90 minute massage with hot rocks, a warm bathrobe, and a nearby bed with plenty of soft down pillows. Not likely in the foreseeable future, but could happen… Then I’d have to deal with the jealousy from Mommie Dearest, who could easily afford to do something like that for herself, but prefers to whine that she can’t. If I were a person who threw up easily, I would.

  7. Hi, May you get the strength to go through all this and I hope you find the angles who are ready to help you as and when you require.

    (Just reminds me of my dad who was also a heart patient. I always got the right people who could help me in the way I needed at that time. )

  8. Thank you so much for sharing what you are going through – I hear you on many fronts. Take care of yourself and keep enjoying the small things with your dad xx

  9. Laura, through your blog, I feel I know you so well. Please be positive and kind to all others, including your Father of course and your Mother. Remember, most of us have only one of each. Both of mine have now “passed on”, but I still talk to them every day! John (:-))

  10. You are in my thoughts, Laura, as you navigate this journey with your dad. I hope you can find some comfort in knowing you are doing the best you possibly can for him….kind of the opposite of the “Nana Treatment.” Try to take care of yourself too…….I know it’s easier said then done.

    • Thank you so much, Janet. Yes, I am doing just that–the “anti-Nana Treatment.” Taking care of myself has never been one of my talents, but I will work harder at it 🙂

  11. Hi Dr. S.,
    I am sorry you are going through all of this. You’ve probably already considered this but, does your dad tolerate THC/CBD? Perhaps 1-2 drops of your tincture SL would help to ease any MS pain and help with any dementia-related anxiety.
    I made my first batch of tincture this morning after being less than impressed with my last attempt with an edible product(brownies).
    I also have back issues from lugging too much firewood lately and I find a microwaveable rice bag to be very helpful. 1 cup of rice sewn into a tube sock and heated on high 90-120 secs. Much better heat penetration and very moldable. Just be careful not to burn yourself.
    Wishing the best, Doc.

    • Thanks, Doc. My dad has a philosophical opposition to cannabinoids having to do with having been a university professor during the 60’s 🙂 Oh well. But he does love Scotch, so we have our “L’Chaim” ritual every afternoon, which I have permission from the nursing home to continue there. So that is a sweet thing for both of us to look forward to. I have to find out if his roommate, Lyle, likes Scotch too. If so we can make it a “Room 110 Cocktail Hour.” If not we’ll go somewhere else in the building, like co-conspirators, and he will like that too.

      Speaking of brownies, I thought it would be fun to make a batch of the ol’ Alice B. Toklas, since chocolate is also antidepressant etc. I put them in the freezer for future use. So Saturday morning I ate two small ones for breakfast and woke up six hours later quite refreshed and pain-free. So now I know that if I am really hurting, I have some general anesthetic in the freezer 😀

  12. Wow. Anesthesia involves saturating your brain with a substance that by definition causes loss of consciousness. It’s fat soluble so it crosses the blood-brain barrier. It takes months to leach out of your fatty tissues. If the anesthesiologist is not careful there can be hypoxia. I lost a four month pregnancy due to a leak in the anesthesia machine, got saturated with halothane. Not benign stuff.

  13. You and your family have been in my thoughts while you are going through this rough time. I am sure it is easy to feel all alone when dealing with such stress, a sick father, and a nightmare of a mother. Just know that there are many out there on the Internet thinking of you and praying for you, even if we don’t always comment. I hope for some peace in your life, if even just for a few moments, sometime soon. Best, Rose

  14. Lori, the above anesthesia comment was for you. I’ve been on the mobile all day and it doesn’t seem to want to pick up comment threads……

  15. PsiFiGal

     /  January 31, 2014

    Laura, My thoughts and prayers are with you. I see it’s been a few days since you posted this, I hope you and your father are OK. It sounds like the nursing home is taking good care of him, I know that is a worry because you hear horror stories about ones that treat their patients terribly. I didn’t know about the problems you had with your mother, I hope you are able to interact with her without too much stress. Keep us posted, you have a lot of people here on WP who care about you. Take care of yourself, I hope you’re feeling better now.


  16. I’m so sorry your family has to suffer through this. Some day soon it will be over, and then hopefully you’ll all find more peace.

  17. Maybe I should try that for my back too. hmmmm. I’ve got the heating pad and have been using tons of that walgreens muscle rub…

    • Yah, just be careful you don’t get the castor oil in your mouth or you’ll be cussing me out good! Unless you’re constipated, of course, in which case the opposite is true. But yes, castor oil is a very good muscle relaxant!

  18. cannabis tincture. I must make this. How did you make it? I need to buy the pot first lol… Gaaaaaah. I can’t sleep. Damn pain. I don’t think it’s my ribs anymore, seems to be part of my shoulder blade. A rib shouldn’t hurt this much Laura.

    • ow ow ow ow have you seen your bone dr. lately? Ribs have nerves attached to them, and maybe the broken place is rubbing or pulling on something, or maybe indeed you have something going on with your shoulder blade. Sounds like a new x-ray is needed. You probably have your own room in the radiology department that says “PAZ” on the door! No, no, Laura, don’t make her laugh!!!!!

      My first attempt at this pot tincture was a failure. It’s a good thing somebody gave me the stuff, otherwise I’d be more pissed.

      The first thing I did was to grind some up really fine and soak it in Everclear for a week, shaking it twice a day. I make a lot of medicinal tinctures and this is how I do all of them.

      Then I poured off the beautiful deep green liquid into brown dropper bottles, and tried a few drops, waited a few hours. Nothing. Tried more. Nothing. Arrgh.

      So then I went back to the science drawing board and studied a little cannabis chemistry, and discovered that the stuff has to be heat activated, which is what happens when you smoke it. Like, you could eat a whole bunch of the herb and it wouldn’t do anything, but if you burn just a tiny bit, ka-zowie! So I poured my tincture into a rigged-up mini-double boiler contraption and heated it just below the boiling point of water for a whole day. This evaporated most of the alcohol, reduced the volume by 2/3, and resulted in a brownish-green liquid with a blackish crystalline precipitate on the bottom of the jar, wonder what that is. I tried a dropperful = 30 drops = 1ml, and was unpleasantly over-wrecked for about 10 hours but my back didn’t hurt. Hmmm. It’s the next day and I’m still a little stoned. My back still feels better, too. I have made some medicine! There’s only a few tablespoons now, after all the processing, but I think ten drops should be about the right dose so it should last for a while.

      That’s it for Better Living Through Chemistry. I’m sending very gentle Mouse Hugs because I know you’re hurting so much….besitos, querida, wish I could send you some Magic Medicine!

  19. Oh Laura This post was so sad. I am so sorry for your dad. I am way behind on blog posts. I will be catching up over the weekend. I hope your ok. If you want to view our blog its gone private just click the link below to request access http://manyofus1980.com/

    hugs xo ❤ ❤


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