Friday, June 19, 2009
Excuse My Absence, Please
Over the past several months, I have been helping to care for my now eighty-eight year old grandmother. Most frequently, I had the morning through afternoon shift and either one of my aunts or my mother would be my replacement later in the day. It has been a very stressful time blended with many blessings. I am blessed that I have most of my days available to help a woman who would have gladly come to my aide if it were needed - and she did too many times to count over the forty years of my life.
I have been wanting to share so many things I have learned over the last season or two spending day after day with my grandmother but haven't really had the time or strength. It started with mild confusion slowly increasing in intensity. Then came horrible waves of anxiety as she felt the world as she knew it slipping from her grasp. I would get a call in the night because she pressed the medical alert button and was unresponsive. I entered her apartment only to find her sitting in a chair wondering what I was doing out so late at night. She began to see people who were clearly not there and insisted that she could not get them to awaken. Though still living 'on her own', she was alone only during the night and was accompanied by one of her daughters or myself during the day. That changed when I arrived an hour earlier than usual because I felt something was wrong. I found her walking the hallway of the apartment building emotionally distraught, trying to find her way out. Then her daughters began taking turns spending the night with her. She was accompanied 24 hours a day and it was clear that something more drastic had to be done. Everyone was growing weary and we began looking into local nursing homes.
Certainly a nursing home is no one's dream situation but it is one of necessity for so many people suffering with health problems due to advanced age. Some family members were reluctant to face the reality which was dawning, and I don't blame them. It has progressed over the past several months and finally, this past week, she didn't know I was her granddaughter. She recognized me and assured me that she "had heard good things about" me. The worst of it was really the increased emotional swings she was experiencing. As the anxiety and tearful bouts were becoming overwhelming for all of us, the call came that they had a room available at one of the local nursing homes. They could take her in just three days.
We did not tell her that they had a placement for her as it would have only caused more anxiety for her. She had known for several weeks that we were on two different waiting lists and that it was the only option left. Thankfully, she was in support of the move. I was to be with her in the morning and afternoon of her last day in her apartment and only my mother and I were emotionally able to take her to the nursing home.
We told her about an hour before we were to take her and she accepted the news quite well. She followed us into her bedroom and we asked for her help in choosing a few outfits to take. My mother and I packed some belongings for her and assured her that we would bring the rest up later for her. They had arranged for her to have a roommate familiar to her which helped to sweeten the bitter pill she had to swallow; the cross she knew she must carry as there was no alternative. Her eighty-eighth birthday had been the previous day so we packed a booklet of family pictures I had given her along with the many cards and boxes of chocolates she received. She left her apartment without hesitation as we took the long walk to the waiting car. I drove and she asked why I was going down the street I chose; she knew where she was going and also knew that we were not on the street the nursing home is located. I knew Jesus was with us that day because I had asked Him to please help us get through the day. None of us could get through it alone.
Not a week has passed since we moved my dear grandmother and there have been some big challenges for each of us in the family. I took a Crucifix up to her yesterday and hung it on the wall after letting her look it over. She was so appreciative. We spent a couple of hours with her, some of it in the present; some of it in an obscure world that doesn't exist; the rest in the past. We left as dinner time was approaching for her and she was sure to let us know that the food was really quite good. "Just like something you'd have at home," she said. She was sitting in her new recliner and wanted to catch a nap before they came to get her for dinner. I gave her a hug and kiss and promised to see her again real soon. She had a pretty good day yesterday, considering. +Deo gratias+