Charles and Sally

Charles and Sally
en route to Le Diner en Blanc

Le Diner en Blanc New York

Le Diner en Blanc New York
Lincoln Center 2012

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

TALK TO THEM

Jane Brody, personal health columnist for The New York Times and a grandmother, wrote a really important article yesterday, September 29, headlined “From Birth, Engage Your Child with Talk.” This generation of mothers is different from ours in many ways – one being those ubiquitous cell phones. Yes, I know, we use them too – but when we’re with our grandkids? Rarely. In her column, Jane echoed a point I made in the introduction to SUPER GRANNY:

“I often see parents talking on their cell phones while they are out with their children—walking in the street, pushing them on playground swings, or riding a bus—being more involved with the phone conversation than with the child. But I never see a grandmother opting for cell phone over child. No matter how busy we are, when we take time out from our careers and our other activities to be with our grandchildren, we know that this is an event, a precious interlude, one that we want to experience as fully as we can. We know how fast children grow up.”

Jane quoted communication experts on the importance of talking, reading, and singing to young children right from infancy, and she gives a lot of good pointers on having the best conversations – pointers that we grannies can also use. Just a few of her good examples:
* Talk while doing things and going places and point out sights along the way.
* Use simple but grammatical speech – no baby talk.
* With a baby who’s not talking yet, guess what she or he wants, and then answer with words.

She doesn’t mention in this article teaching babies how to sign, which I described in SUPER GRANNY as another way to begin communication with preverbal children. I only wish I had an infant or toddler in the family that I could talk to these days!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

WHAT I LEARNED WHEN MY HUSBAND HAD SURGERY

This post isn’t about grandparenting – but it affects grandparents. Parents too. In fact everyone. Mark had had a hiatal hernia for some years, which he managed to keep in check with either prescription or over-the-counter medications. Recently, however, it became more troublesome, and his gastrointestinal doctor recommended that he have it surgically repaired. He had the operation two weeks ago, and he is recovering well. However, I want to pass on some of what I learned from the experience.

1) Don’t schedule elective surgery when your own doctor will be out of town. We didn’t learn until Mark tried to schedule his presurgical testing appointment that both his internist and his cardiologist would be out of town the week the surgery would take place. This created a little scheduling glitz, but the more important issue came up when the heart monitor he wore in the hospital seemed to show an arrhythmia. The question arose: Was this something he had had in the past that his doctor was either treating or didn’t consider a problem, or was it something new and therefore more problematic? There was no way we could get this information since both his doctors were away, and as a result the surgeon who was seeing him in the hospital (the doctor who had performed the surgery went away immediately afterwards so his associate whom we had never met was taking care of him) cautiously recommended that he stay in the hospital an extra night. By the following day, the heartbeat seemed normal, the hospital cardiologist said he could go home, and a follow-up visit after his own heart doctor returned reassured us that he was fine. The lesson: Even if surgery is scheduled, if you find out that your own doctors will not be reachable, postpone the surgery.

2) If anyone in your family (including you) needs to be in the hospital for any reason, it's very important to have someone with you, from morning to night if possible, and sometimes even overnight. During a previous stay when Mark received a knee replacement, I was able to keep a nurse from administering a medication that the nurse on the previous shift had already given but had not written down. Also, while patients are recovering from anesthesia they may be a little disoriented and it’s important to have someone to help them be comfortable. The nurses are too busy to be in the patient’s room all the time, and sometimes too busy to come quickly when needed. If the patient’s advocate is there, she or he can go out to get the nurse when necessary.

3) Ask for specific written instructions upon discharge. Mark’s surgeon told me while Mark was in the recovery room (still under anesthesia) that he should first be on a liquid diet and then move to a soft diet. I heard him, but I have to confess that I was distracted by my concern for my husband, and didn’t ask for specifics, like when he could switch from liquid to soft, what constitutes a soft diet, how long he should be on this, and so forth. We also didn’t establish what activities he could do, and how soon. We were confused, since the surgeon’s stand-in gave us some instructions for a low-residue diet (no rice, no bread or rolls), and the hospital meals included those items. When we got home I downloaded a low-residue diet from the Mayo Clinic website, and then asked Mark’s gastrointestinal specialist who had recommended the surgery for a written diet. Between the two, we worked out something that seemed to work, but I should have asked for something before the surgeon left town.

I hope I won't have to use this hard-won knowledge, but if there is another hospital stay in the offing, I think I'll be better prepared.