Sunday, 13 April 2008

Back with the Oldies

Well, I made it. Through snow and sleet. At Manchester Airport I bought A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian on CD and listened to it for most of the journey. I know, I know. Harry Potter. But he wasn't available in WH Smith. And A Short History was, oddly, an appropriate choice, being about two sisters who are 10 years apart coping with an elderly parent.

My nephew was still here when I arrived and filled me in on the falls and doctors' trips. On my first night I got a baptism by fire when my 86-year-old stepfather fell out of bed at 2 a.m. My mother got my nephew up, who lifted my stepfather back into bed. I looked on in extreme consternation. How will I cope if this happens on my watch? I can't lift my stepfather. I can just about help him up from his chair (it takes him about 10-15 minutes to get out of a chair on his own). And how will my mother cope when I leave?

That is the big dilemma. Her doctor took her off her tremor medication because it can cause lung congestion problems and hasn't prescribed an alternative. The shaking is annoying at best, but dangerous too. Watching her try to drink a cup of coffee is frightening. She is to have a colonoscopy on Tuesday. We are trying to get her over her latest virus, which gives her violent coughing fits, before then. I'm doing all the cleaning and cooking so she can rest.

But I'm still not attuned to life with my stepfather. He has gone downhill since last summer. We now have to help him get undressed at night. This is more difficult than it sounds. He is frail and can hardly lift his arms to help. Last night I guess I was a bit too rough and he cried out in pain as I tried to take his shirt off.

Since I'm jetlagged and waking up at 5 a.m., I have lots of time to think about this situation. There are only three solutions that I can see: 1. Get some more home help in daily to help these two. My mother can't cope on her own anymore; 2. Put my stepfather in a nursing home and my mother remains in his house till he dies; 3. My mother moves to Florida and my stepfather goes to a nursing home because he can't live on his own.

My stepfather has two daughters who love him dearly, one who lives just a couple of blocks away. I have not seen or heard from these daughters since I've been here. I think they have got their heads deeply dug in the sand about this situation. I am going to visit the local one while I'm here and force her to talk about it. I think Option 1 is the best. My stepfather would be miserable in a nursing home, I'm quite sure. If he were my dad, I wouldn't want to put him there. But they can't expect my mother to be able to look after him anymore. Then I'm going to talk to my mother's cousin, who seems to know all there is to know about this town, the Home Health Care lady, and possibly my mother's minister about where to find the help they need.

Currently, they receive Meals on Wheels five days a week. A woman comes in to bathe my stepfather every couple of days (now I know why old men are so whiffy). They both wear those alarm necklaces to push if they should fall. I think they need someone daily to look after them, as I am doing now. My mother, when she is better, will be able to cope with herself, but the added burden of my stepfather will be too much.

They are watching Lawrence Welk as I write this. As long as they can sit in their chairs all day and sleep, which is what they've been doing, they are fine. Car journeys are a torturous affair, with my stepfather shuffling to the car at the speed of a snail. Getting him in and then out is a bit like a horror movie. You never know what's going to happen. I can only guess at what goes on in his mind. Trips to the bathroom are also scary. If he's in too long, does it mean he has fallen again?

It's hell getting old. I'm not going to let it happen to me, at least not like this.

13 comments:

laurie said...

we had to move my mother-in-law this year to a senior apartment. not assisted living, but there are services she gets--someone cleans, there are meals served on the second floor, someone helps with her meds and her bathing.

it took a crisis to move her; she had stubbornly refused to move out of her house for years, even though she was getting more frail. but she got sick after thanksgiving with pneumonia and spent more than two months in the hospital and in a nursing home.

we knew it wasn't safe to have her go home again.

it is too bad that it takes a crisis to get them where they are safe and well-cared for. but i also undersatnd it; it's awful for them to admit they're getting to the point where they can't do everything they used to do.

for my mother-in-law, it was particularly hard because in her apartment she cannot have her dog. oh, how she misses Pepper...

but we are relieved to have her in a place where there are lots of people around, she doesn't have to drive anywhere, and if she falls there is help just feet away--instead of miles.

jenny said...

I have never been around "old people" much in my life. They have all either died before I came along or we didn't visit much. Meeting my husband's family was a first for me, to see both of his grandmothers still living.

I cannot imagine having to care for someone so frail, to remember them as being so strong and now barely able to feed themselves. I hope a solution that makes everyone happy comes to pass, soon. Though I imagine not everyone will be 100 percent happy with whatever is decided.

Stay strong and don't push yourself to do more than you can handle.

ChrisB said...

I did a lot of geriatric nursing when I was younger and my mother lives with us so I understand your dilemma.
I do hope you manage to get them the help they need (and that your stepfather's family take some responsibility).
BTW I quite enjoyed that book when I read it.

Pixie said...

It is so sad watching the people who brought us up being so fragile and needy, and at the same time so aggravating. It'as a tough call whichever way we feel. I'm glad you are going to mobilise the local resources, maybe getting you over will make them aware of how serious the picture really is.
And as for you, you will no doubt be so sad and angry that you can only do what you can do and will have to walk away in a few days leaving your mum.
That bit stays with me from when my mum asked me to stay and I had to put my husband and baby first. Still don't think I've forgiven myself.
Loads of hugs
pxx

DJ Kirkby said...

Ah it's shit getting old...

Flowerpot said...

It's so difficult to know what to do isnt it? I do feel for you. I would hate to get like that too. It's something that's been o n my mind a lot recently.

softinthehead said...

That was a good book, especially as I had no idea what it was going to be about.
I don't envy you your options, it must be very tough when it comes to this point in life of having to make decisions for someone else. Like you say you don't want to be in that position yourself so take very good care of yourself now! Thinking of you :)

Queen Vixen said...

I cant imagine what it must be like - they sound so frail. I agree about getting old in a way that leaves us so dependant as human beings. So little dignity seems to remain. My Grandma was reduced to a shell by the time she died. It is one of the saddest sights I will ever see. I cant even bear to remember her like that. She always wanted to go quickly but they kept her alive. It seems so cruel. Your mum is obviously doing her best - and she must be so pleased to see you xxx

Mean Mom said...

My thoughts are with you. I am slowly approaching that situation with my own parents. I am an only child and moved away about 28 years ago, because of my husband's job. I had previously lived within walking distance of my parents' house. My parents are very independent and do not take kindly to me trying to do things, which I know they can no longer cope with. I hope that you are able to sort something out. Extra help at home sounds good, if possible.

Expatmum said...

Crikey - what a situation. I would definitely make sure his daughters are involved. It's not fair if they aren't. Is there a possibility of getting your ma and stepdad into the same nursing home?

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

laurie: I feel for you and your mother-in-law. If I could find an affordable solution like the one you did, I would urge them to make the move. I'm afraid a major crisis is what it will take for all of them to wake up to reality.

jenny: This isn't exactly new territory for me. I watched my grandparents grow frail and elderly and dependent. But I wasn't closely involved.

chrisb: I think patience is the virtue most needed when dealing with the elderly. They can't hear or move very well. They get confused quite easily. They are set in their ways and don't want to change how they do things. And they still see themselves as they were 10 or even 5 years ago.

pixie: That must have been a hard choice for you: mum or hubby and baby. It's not fair that people have to make those choices in life.

DJ: Ain't that the truth.

softinthehead: This experience has made me even more determined to take care of my emotional and physical life.

QV: I think there's a legitimate argument for assisted suicide in some cases.

flowerpot: Keep fit, keep hip is my new motto. If you keep your mind open and your body functional, it won't be so bad. I hope.

mean mom: That's the hardest part, isn't it? They don't want to admit they can't do things anymore.

expatmum: My mother isn't ready for a nursing home. And I think going to a nursing home would kill my stepfather. So what to do? I must find another solution.

Beth Skove, Publisher said...

Good luck getting the local daughters to help. My experience with my in-laws ..... nothing will change. Lots of talk, about woulda shoulda coulda..
My father-in-law died two years ago, leaving an 81 year old widow behind. her daughter moved in, with lots of talk of fixing things up and moving on out. Still nothing is fixed and no one has moved. My husband drives 7 hours 4 times a year on his own for home and yard maintenance. then we go as a family twice a year. It is hell to get old. Take some notes now, and read them when you get there.

Beth Skove, Publisher said...

Good luck getting the local daughters to help. My experience with my in-laws ..... nothing will change. Lots of talk, about woulda shoulda coulda..
My father-in-law died two years ago, leaving an 81 year old widow behind. her daughter moved in, with lots of talk of fixing things up and moving on out. Still nothing is fixed and no one has moved. My husband drives 7 hours 4 times a year on his own for home and yard maintenance. then we go as a family twice a year. It is hell to get old. Take some notes now, and read them when you get there.