Mary Heath Sweet


Following are the reports posted in 2000-2001, preserved here for the record.

Friday 4 February 2000 — Since writing the Christmas Letter, which actually went out in late January, Mother has continued to decline. We believe she has had a couple of small strokes, which have impaired her speech and motor control to some degree. She is also increasingly confused about where she is and what is going on. She still likes to hear from folks. If you write we will see that your letters are read to her whenever she is able. If you want to phone, her best time is early morning, say 8 to 9. Even then there is a some chance she will be unable to talk sensibly. She cannot answer the phone herself. Just tell whoever is there who you are and she will take the call if she is able. Keep it brief! Her address is Box 493, Monterey, VA 24465, 540-468-2807.

Sunday 6 Feb 2000 — Mother woke up this morning totally coherent and stronger than she had been for several days. She ate a good breakfast without assistance, carried on a normal conversation, and was quite cheerful, all in contrast to the past three days. By mid-afternoon, however, she had fallen apart quite thoroughly. We learned from this experience. She takes Ativan several times a day to control her anxiety. When she was doing so well I did not give it to her in the morning, which meant that when her mood shifted there was no medication there to help and she crashed. We now see to it that she gets her morning meds regardless of apparent need and then followup doses during the day as necessary. She still has her ups and downs but (we think) not as wildly.

Monday 21 Feb 2000 — Not much has changed for two weeks. She continues to go along with ups and downs. We have been forced to increase the meds to control her anxiety and this leaves her somewhat dopey part of the time. It is an unpleasant side effect but preferable to being frantic, which seems to be the alternative. Despite all the meds, about every third night she is restless, trying to get up and then lying down, such that neither she nor her attendant can get any sleep. Nothing we have tried seems to help with this behaviour.

Sunday 27 Feb 2000 — Problems were getting worse during the past week and more Ativan was not helping. Dr. Billingsley consulted with a geriatrician at the University of Virginia and they decided on yet another change. We started her on BuSpar, and while it is too soon to be sure, we have some hope that it is helping. She had an up-and-down night Saturday but Sunday was much better. She seems much less confused and her speech is quite coherent. Her anxiety is somewhat under control too. She still tires easily and her attention span is short, so the earlier suggestions about phone calls still apply, but the chances of finding her able to talk briefly seem, for the moment, to be improved.

Saturday 29 April 2000 — I cannot believe that two months have passed since I updated this page! The old adage no news is good news clearly applies here. Mother has been much better since she started on BuSpar. She is taking a very low dose of 20 mg per day but it has been very effective. She has been a worrier all her life and that continues but the state of high anxiety that she was in for much of the winter has evaporated. Her confusion and disorientation have also largely gone. Most of the time her voice is strong and clear. She is somewhat stronger physically as well, though she still needs assistance to get around. Her helpers take her out for rides every few days to watch the progress of spring. She has been out to the farm several times. We talked with yet another geriatrician and he concurred with the BuSpar and felt that Ativan had been a bad choice, probably contributing to her confusion. She is now much better able to hear from her friends and relatives so please call. She rarely answers the phone herself but a helper is always nearby. The time to call is no longer of much importance. She gets up about 7 most mornings and goes to bed between 7 and 9 in the evening. If you happen to call while she is napping or having a meal her helper will tell you. She will not want to talk for long but even brief calls will help to cheer up her day.

Tuesday 29 August 2000 — There has been almost no news since the April report. Mother continues to get along pretty well. She has been up and dressed most days and often goes for a short walk outside, with assistance. She enjoys working crossword puzzles and visiting with folks who stop in and friends from far away who call. Please Call! She often answers the phone herself now but don't be surprised if you get one of her helpers.

23 February 2001 — Last Sunday Mother developed a sudden pain in her back. Dr. Billingsley felt it was likely to be a result of advancing osteoporosis. She has had fairly extreme curvature of the spine for some time and I thought it was getting worse of late, so that seemed a logical diagnosis. He gave her hydrocodone for a few days to fight the pain. It has some nasty side effects so we have moved her to ibuprofen, hoping it is strong enough to give relief. Meanwhile, she has started taking Fosamax, which is supposed to strengthen bone to fight osteoporosis. She has a long history of adverse reactions to drugs, including her severe problems just over a year ago, so I hope this will not be another page in that book. We are watching things carefully this time and will change therapies as necessary.

8 March 2001 — Mom’s back is somewhat better. Ibuprofen was not quite doing it so Dr. B. got her onto Darvicet N, which did seem to help. It left her a little woozy but no other ill effects and she is now largely off that too. I hope she continues to recover....

18 May 2001 — Well, no news is good news as usual. Mom is getting along fine now, no special pains or troubles, just the overall weakness that comes with her age and general health. I stay with her every Saturday night and Char comes in on Sunday morning to make waffles [and maple syrup, of course!] for a mid-morning second breakfast. A couple of Sundays ago I borrowed a lap-top computer to show her her own web page, which she quite enjoyed, and then we surfed the net. I was surprised she was so interested and she was quite amazed at how much was there to be seen. She looked at the phone line and asked, “Where is all of this coming from and who can see it?” to which I replied, “Everywhere and everyone.” Welcome to the twenty-first century! This week marked the end of her first decade in Monterey.