The weather was gorgeous this past week, as it usually is in the wake of a big storm like we just had up here in the Northeast. The sky was clear blue, the oppressive heat and humidity had broken and there was a comfortable breeze blowing the trees around. I was sitting with my grandmother in her garden enjoying the weather, sipping a cola and watching her add some sugar to her ice tea. Most of her flowers had already faded for the fall and the rest had been beaten down by the hurricane. Her garden was a great place to be that day.
I live about an hour away from my grandmother Eleanor, but I try to visit when I can. Nana Ellie is 89 and has lived alone for the last 13 years since her husband Michael died of a heart attack in 1998. She has a few health problems, but considering her age she’s doing very well.
The day started to cool and I had to get ready to leave, so regretfully we headed back to the house. I followed her, carrying the tray with our empty glasses and torn packets of sugar. I could smell her perfume drifting back to me, floral and powdery. I watched her walking slowly. I noticed how her shoulders were more hunched than I remembered. She stumbled on a loose stone on the walk but quickly caught herself. When did she get so old?
We got back to the kitchen and I started washing our dishes. I heard a little gasp and watched her hurry over to the sink to fill a glass of water. Soon after she started unloading bottle after bottle of pills from their corner cabinet.
I watched from the corner of my eye. I didn’t want to stare. I didn’t want her to notice that I was noticing the ever growing collection of bottles that was filling the counter. How many pills can a person take? How does she keep track of all that?
I said my goodbyes and gave her a big hug. I promised to come back as soon as I could and to bring her some of the tomatoes from my garden. (She misses her vegetables, but she only has energy for perennials nowadays). I pulled out of her drive, waving goodbye, and made my way to the highway.
My mind tends to wander once I hit 65mph. Not good, I know, but admit it, yours does too! I started thinking back to the 20-something amber colored bottles my Nana had in that cupboard. I remembered that little gasp that she had made. I wonder at what time she usually took her meds, and how off schedule she was that day.
Once I got home, I dumped my keys on the table and sat down at my trusty rusty computer. There has to be SOMETHING out there that could help Nana with her meds.
No, Nana does not have a Palm Pilot or a Tablet PC. Yes, there’s an app for that, but there isn’t an app for Nana’s rotary telephone. Ok, computer software. Nice in theory, but I’m still trying to teach Nana how to check her email. I don’t think any of this high tech stuff is going to work. Wrist watches with alarms. That thing would be beeping every 5 minutes and it won’t help if she can’t hear it. I don’t want to embarrass her or make her feel like I don’t think that she can take care of herself, but I also don’t want anything to happen to her, so I have to try something.
Wow! This looks perfect! A “Monitored Automatic Pill Dispenser” that dispenses medications on time with an alarm and will notify a caregiver if medications have been missed by phone, e-mail or text message. WHOAH, it’s $500… Maybe I can rally the family together to help Santa Claus with this one… but Christmas is still a ways away, and I am really worried that Nana is going to miss her medications… or worse, take them twice!
I’m going to visit Nana again this weekend. I have 3 or 4 late season tomatoes I’ve been eyeing in the garden for her, and a cucumber that looks like it might finally be ripe. I also have a LARGE segmented pill container that should help her keep track of all her pills each day. At least, I hope it helps. I worry about Nana living in that house all by herself. I am glad that it’s a ranch and not a two-story house, at least I don’t have to worry about her falling down the stairs. Oh no, there IS a basement!
Ok, deep breath, one thing at a time! Let’s see how this pill idea works out, then maybe we’ll try to sell her on one of those monitoring necklaces.
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