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Caring for Aging Parents

July 1, 2011 by · 6 Comments 

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This blog is one that is rather difficult to write.  There is a considerable amount of emotion and anxiety – perhaps guilt, within these words.

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.

Getting help from grand daughter and great grandson blowing out candles on 80th birthday

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.

Over 100 stiches after surgery from the head injury due to a fall.

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.

Blowing out candles on her 91st birthday. Grand dog Ella stands ready to help.

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!)

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Comments

6 Responses to “Caring for Aging Parents”
  1. Bill says:

    Happy 4th of July from a frequent Canadian visitor. You are quite correct when you use this story as an example of the uncertatinty of our future and how it may affect our plans. We widh you well and happy trails.

  2. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy Randy,
    Thank you, for a needful reminder.. We are in our mid 70s and losing strength rapidly. 75 is NOT OLD,
    it’s just starting to deteriorate a little.. We live on a ranch, away from all of our family and have NO close friends.. Just us..

    Smooth roads, clear skies & balmy breezes !!!!!!!!!!

  3. Janet says:

    Sadly we can’t prepare because you don’t have to be a “senior” senior for life to change suddenly. You just believe that you’ll know what to do when it is time to do it and the strength to put it into action…

  4. Coach Connye says:

    Thank you for your poignant story. I am currently in the midst of a sudden deterioration. My mother’s own mother and aunts lived many of their last years with Alzheimer’s. Mother fought to stave off the disease by exercising both body and mind. She is now extremely healthy, but her mind has not kept pace with her body. Speech aphasia was the first terrible sign that drove people away–unless, of course, they had always done all the talking and none of the listening in the first place. Then mother could no longer make telephone calls or manage bills and money. Now, in just 60 days, her short-term memory and capacity to learn anything new is almost gone, and her body has begun to rebel. She cannot follow directions such as: Place this dish in the microwave for 3 minutes. Mom can’t program the control panel; she has no idea how to enter 3-0-0 and push start. Yet she is spunky and wants desperately to remain at home. Quite recently we have hired companions (as I live 2 1/2 hours away; my younger sister 30-45 minutes away but, as Mother put it some years ago, “she’s flighty”). You have my heartfelt empathy, and I welcome any insights you have to offer. Thanks for telling your story. I am telling mine at http://rememberingformother.blogspot.com.

  5. Bob Reising says:

    Is it just me or does everyone notice something about this everywhere they look? We are going through this with my parent, my wife’s dad and most of my friends parents. We can not complain, because this is because everyone is living longer. Their parents usually died years younger and fairly quickly. Is this the price to pay for better cardiac, cancer and healthy living research? What will it be for the “boomers” as they age? My dad died at 59, but I know why – smoking. I do all I can to stay healthy. I don’t want to live longer, I want to live better.

  6. Carmen says:

    Thank you for sharing this, I’ve just lost my mom (6/14/11) and on July 2, 2011 we lost my brother in law, it shows us just how rapidly things change, I am glad that you are there for her.

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