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Caring for Aging Parents
Many of “us” so called baby boomers are now facing something we never gave much thought too a few years back – care of an aging, perhaps disabled, parent.
But, before I get too far into the present, perhaps I should rewind at least 12 years.
Nancy’s mother, at the age of 80, came to live with us. She was alone in Bryant, Arkansas, living in a rent controlled apartment complex. Other than friends, which she had many from her Church, there was no one there to help her or assume responsibility. So, we prepared a “Mother in-law suite” in our home and moved her 1200 miles to Virginia.
“Grandma” was in good health and we still had one of our children at home. Her presence was actually an appreciated blessing as it gave us some freedom to travel on weekends and spend some time during the summer at the lake or beach. Grandma stayed at home and tended to the security and needs of our home, which often included out daughter and animals.
She enjoyed the garden and picked tomatoes, beans, peaches, plums and grapes canning the first two and making jellies and jams from the other. I even erected a small building out next to the garden so the tools she needed were handy. She named the building, “Grandma’s Hoe House”, a name she was somewhat embarrassed by once it occurred to her it could be interpreted in more than one way.
Life began to change about four years ago when grandma fell just as we were leaving for Myrtle Beach during Nancy’s spring break from school. She hit her head so hard and the bleeding was so severe we had to call the emergency crew to take her to the hospital. It turned out she had a severe concussion and bleeding around the brain that required immediate surgery. Thankfully, she recovered and was able to resume a somewhat subdued but normal life afterward. We were also thankful that if the accident had to happen, it was before we were away from home and we were here to respond. The thoughts of being away and such an accident occurring became scary to think about. What if we had left? When would have someone found her? Could she have eventually recovered enough to get to a phone and call 911? We set up a “check in” plan on future trips and called home three times a day. If a call went unanswered one of the three children living in the area immediately went to check on her. All phones were programed to dial 911 with speed dial #1 and she carried a cordless phone in her apron at all times.
Her knees gave out and required replacement with artificial joints. She fell again, several times, breaking a wrist, arm, and then a hip. The hip fracture required hospitalization and surgical placement of a pin. The risks of a blood clot were high and, unfortunately, she suffered a stroke while in the hospital that paralyzed her right arm.
When she was discharged from the hospital, we moved her to a health care and rehabilitation facility. There the physical therapists worked with her every day to help her regain mobility. But, sometime during the stay, she suffered a second stroke. Medicare and her supplemental insurance discontinued coverage after 90 days. Being unable to care for her at home, we applied for Medicaid in her name and received approval. She was able to remain in the health care facility, but there was no more physical therapy – only assisted health care.
I retired about a year after all of this happened. Nancy was still teaching. We visited her most every day during meal-time – often with Oscar, our little Dachshund that she dearly loved.
Grandma celebrated her 91st birthday in February.
In April “something” happened. We don’t really know for sure but suspect another stroke. Her condition worsened rapidly and she is now completely bedridden. Her speech is difficult to understand. She is extremely depressed and eats and drinks very little.
Despite our hopes of extensive RV traveling after Nancy’s retirement, we are staying home to provide what care we can to Grandma until God takes her home.
Now, please, understand that I am not complaining. We always have and always will take care of our family. What I am sharing is how quickly life can change and our need to do what we can to prepare – especially with aging parents, which many of us “Boomers” have. But, at the same time, I truthfully don’t know what we could or should do to prepare for such an event. It truthfully makes me feel inadequate and helpless not to be able to “fix it” so everything is OK again.
In the interim we will love, laugh and live life to the fullest.
HAPPY CAMPING TRAILS TO ALL!
(and a happy 4th of July – despite our current economic problems, we still live in the greatest country in the world!)