Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Sunset of Our Lives



    If we are lucky enough to enjoy a long life, the chances are that our bodies and minds will gradually deteriorate. Just like any piece of machinery, no matter how well oiled or maintained, time will eventually have an impact on us. I just returned from a whirlwind trip south to assist in getting my mother moved into an assisted living facility. Several months ago she suffered a stroke. It required her going into a rehab program and sharing a room, much like a hospital room, where she could get the help she needed. Unfortunately, the stroke wasn't the worst of the problems she was facing. Over the course of the past year or so, it was becoming increasingly evident that Mom was having problems with her memory. Not just the common forgetting where you put your keys or not being able to pull a word out of your mind to complete a sentence. In the course of a conversation I would often answer the same question five, six, seven or more times. Every day knowledge that she should have known, escaped her. She had no recollection of having asked a question, nor did she remember the answer given. On occasion she would somewhat haltingly recollect that an answer to an inquiry had been given. I think it embarrassed her to think that she wasn't as sharp as she had been. My brother shared a conversation that she had with his wife. She was distressed and asked- "what's wrong with me? Why can't I remember?" It's a frightening place to find yourself in. While Mom was in the rehab facility, she saw a neurologist who confirmed that she was in the final stages of dementia. My family had to make the painful choice of moving her out of her home and into a permanent facility. I can't emphasize how difficult such a decision is. We are taking her basic freedoms from her, the ability to decide where she will live, what she will eat, when to get up or see a doctor. The fact is, she was unable or unwilling to cook anymore, and was living on largely on peanut butter and crackers or a bowl of soup, supplemented by a program that we set up for her to insure that she was eating something healthy at least three days a week. When I left her the other day, it was brought to my attention that Mom was down to a mere 99 pounds. She's under the impression that she weighs fifteen pounds more. On more than one occasion when I called, she would answer the phone upside down, and not hearing anyone, she'd hang up. She tried to make calls on her television remote control, and ended up calling her neighbor to come over this past winter because she had gotten up in the middle of the night to turn up the heat but had accidentally turned it down. In her mind, she believes she can still live on her own. She would hop in the car and drive if she could. but she confided in her neighbor that she had left for a trip to the store and ended up in a town some fourteen miles away without any recollection of how she got there. My mother was always a very sweet woman, and still is, but with many dementia patients, as the day wears on they become increasingly confused and combative. It's a condition called Sundowner's Syndrome. They are scared and tired and Lord knows what else. When I see her like this, I can only pray that God in all his goodness will spare me the same fate. I take a great deal of comfort knowing that we were able to place her in a facility that is the top of the line. She has her own room with two windows that look out on a courtyard, her favorite recliner is in the room, along with multitudes of family pictures, her CD player and favorite songs, TV, dresser full of clothes and many mementos. It's a very comfortable room and we've made it as much like home as we could. Her friends are free to visit, she gets three nutritious meals each day, there are activities to do and a lovely sitting room with beautiful furniture. They even have a soda fountain and popcorn machine. The bottom line is, she is being taken care of in a way that none of us could do. I pray that none of you have to face this situation, but if you do, I hope that you'll be as fortunate as we have been to have a first class facility for your loved one.

10 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you guys were all able to go down together. And I'm glad she's in a good place with people to help take care of her. Love you dad!

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  2. HI Autumn, It was a difficult situation to deal with, but unfortunately necessary. She's in the best place that I can think of to provide a comfortable safe environment. Love you too.

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  3. When it comes down to it, none of us knows what kind of end we'll face. We have to appreciate each day we have, no matter what physical ailments we have, and let people know how much we love them. Take comfort in knowing that your mom is safe and will be well-taken care of, and you all have done your best. I'm keeping you all in thoughts and prayers.

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  4. Thanks so much Jill. I do take comfort in the fact that she's in the best place she could be. We all left feeling that we had made the right decision. Thanks for your kindness.

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  5. It's a heart wrenching decision for sure, I see it all the time. I also see the other end where people are dropping their loved ones off and acting like they don't know them after that. It is a sad thing, I can't imagine what you all had to face. I know Grandma is in good hands though and that is the best thing you could have done for her. Find peace in knowing you had peace when you left her in their care. Love you dad.
    Liz

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  6. Thanks Liz- I can't imagine working in a facility with the dementia patients. I know it can be trying at best and everyone who works in such a place deserves the utmost respect and a generous compensation. Love you too.

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  7. I'm sorry you and your brothers and sister had to go through that, I'm glad you didn't have to do it alone. I love you

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  8. HI Camille,
    Thanks. It's not fun for sure, but we don't get to choose the trials we face in life. God says He won't give you more than you can handle, and I believe it. Love you too.

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  9. Tom- what a way with words you have. It is so very hard to experience this with a loved one. I have been blessed to be a part of these equations as a caregiver and healthcare worker, coordinating care in some cases, helping patients get into facilities and/or helping their families with transitions. The bottom line, that I have found is, we all have a story. We all have a life we've lived and experiences worth sharing and hearing. If we can just take the time to remember that everyone- dementia or no dementia- has something of value to their lives, even if they can't express it. We are so quick to react to our own frustrations because WE are the ones who are trying to control the situation. I pray for your mom, that she gets taken care of with compassion and tender care, the way she deserves. And to you and the family who made the difficult but loving choice to give her what she needs- kudos. I have no doubt that she has many angels watching over her, especially after you sharing this blog post. Much love to you.

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    1. Thank You Shannon. My hat is off to anyone who has the heart to take care of the elderly. There is an extra degree of patience needed and an extra dose of compassion. Obviously you possess both.

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