Thursday, April 25, 2013

TMT: Too Much Time (Together)

Richard and his mom coined the term, “TMT.”

Since Richard is his mom’s primary caregiver, they spend a great deal of time together going to doctor appointments which are usually an hour away or during her hospitalizations for surgery or heart-related issues.  All this time together can get on their nerves and they both know when they are at their limit.  When that point comes, they look at each other and one of them will say, “TMT.” 
"My watch is excellent."

Too much time -- together. 

This simple phrase signals a time-out for both of them whether they are in the car or at the hospital or doctor appointments.  After their brief cooling off period, they are back to their usual joking, laughing and sharing ways. 

This weekend I called “TMT” with Robert.  A week-long hospital stay, much of it in ICU, stressed us both out and it showed the day after he came home from the hospital. 

We arrived home Friday before lunch and had a relaxing day.  Robert was pretty ripe from lying in a hospital bed without a bath for a week, so I got him cleaned up and dressed in some comfortable clothes.  At the doctor’s suggestion, we continued taking vitals and encouraging Robert to cough.

“Encouraging” could easily be interpreted as “nagging.” 

I’m pretty good at nagging (just ask anyone I work with or who I am married to).

It didn't help that his motor and personal care skills took a nosedive (but are getting better and closer to baseline each day).  It also didn't help that he and Taz had to get reacquainted with one another.

Do you need help changing, Robert?  Let me get you cleaned up, Robert. Taz is just being friendly, Robert.  Cough, Robert.  Get the congestion out.  Blow your nose, Robert.  You’re going to end up back in the hospital if you don’t, Robert.  How do you feel, Robert?

Sheesh, I was getting sick of hearing myself.  Plus, his balance was off so I was literally hovering to make sure I was nearby in case he fell.  By Saturday, Robert was sick of my hovering and my questions nagging and yelled at me, “I feel excellent whether you like it or not.” 

“I feel excellent.”  This was Robert’s answer throughout his hospital stay.  Never mind the pneumonia, hypoxia and septic shock.  Robert was convinced he felt excellent.  I love his positive attitude but being a terrible self-reporter is not helping his health any.  (Another good reason the doctors and nurses need to listen to caregivers). 

I continued to take vitals but I backed off on the questions.  Contributing to the stress, I had to take Robert’s watch away in the hospital because it was apparent it was way too tight.  It was an inexpensive watch with an expandable band but it couldn’t be adjusted to be any larger.  Robert was very irritated that I wouldn’t give him his watch and repeatedly asked when we could get a new one.  I promised to take him on Saturday if he was feeling up to it.

“I feel excellent.”  Of course he does.

I packed up the wheelchair since Robert was still trying to get his strength back and off we went to JC Penney where I knew he could sit and try on watches.  I repeatedly told him he would have to get one that fit better than the last one.  He was convinced it would fit perfectly.  I explained a perfect fit to him might actually be too tight.  I told him it had to be a little bit loose.  He gave me “the stare” which is what he does when I’m starting to get on his nerves and repeated his belief the new watch would fit perfectly.   

My crankiness was increasing and all I could do was hope we would be able to find a watch that would be tight enough to satisfy Robert without cutting off his circulation to satisfy me.

My afternoon was definitely not excellent. 

We got to Penney’s and looked at the watches.  Robert wanted a gold watch – a “14 karat gold” watch.  I don’t know why but that’s always what he wants.  I just looked for the gold color watches and told him it was 14 karat gold (yes, I lied.  Sorry but I was at the end of my ability to negotiate). 

The nice sales clerk showed us a watch with an expandable band that could be made smaller if needed.  Robert tried it on and it fit perfectly.  I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was slightly loose to satisfy me but tight enough that it didn’t move around a lot to satisfy Robert. 

How do you like the watch, Robert?

“It is excellent.”

Relief! The sales clerk cut off the tag, set the date and time and handed it to Robert to wear immediately. 

I took a minute to buy a couple of things for me and then wheeled Robert over to get him a few more casual sweat pants that he can wear while he continues to recover.  He laughed and joked and was generally in a much better mood. 

Once we were home, there were a few more instances of us getting on each other’s nerves but nothing some good sleep, getting back to baseline and a TMT time-out or two won't cure. 

Things really are starting to look a little more excellent. 

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