Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Being ‘In the Moment’ with Our Loved Ones as They Age

 

As some of you know, Mr. She isn’t very well, and he suffers from numerous comorbidities (one of the terms of 2020, along with “social distancing” and “an abundance of caution” that I’ll be glad to see the back of, hopefully soon) that make him especially vulnerable to infection and which have made it difficult to get him and our healthcare providers in the same room at the same time for the past few months. Nevertheless, I’m confident that our doctor, who I’ve known for 30 years as my doctor, as my co-worker in his role as the IT champion for his Family Medicine department, and as my friend, is on top of things.

As things have slowly started to ease up in PA, Mr. She’s declining health, in both the mental and physical senses, recently led our PCP to engage the services of the local visiting nurse agency, and for the next few weeks, we’re enjoying an onslaught (in the best possible sense) of nurses, PT and OT therapists, and personal care aides. It’s wonderful in that it takes some of the pressure off me to be the sole provider of such care, and it’s reassuring to have other “eyes on” the patient besides my own. I’m also viewing it as an instructional tool, as I’m learning some caring techniques myself. (Please consider such forms of help, if you’re caring for a loved one yourself. I wish I’d followed the good advice that some of you gave me in this regard, but I’m glad I’m finally coming to terms with the idea now.)

This morning, the young lady who helps to give Mr. She a bath a couple of times a week showed up right on schedule (they’re very efficient and reliable). She’s a country girl, raised on a farm (chickens and cows), so she fits right in. And he likes her (unlike the PT lady, who’s also very nice, but who asks him to do things he doesn’t want to do).

At some point, as he was toweling himself off, Mr. She confided to the young woman that he “never thought he’d live to be 289 years old.”

And she totally rolled with it. Expressed astonishment. Told him that he was her oldest patient. That he was lucky to have lived that long and must have seen some amazing things over the course of his long life. And he said that he had. And told her about some of them. Almost all of which were totally fictional. But he was happy. And I know he felt useful, and more importantly, respected and wanted.

Yes, it was bittersweet. And it did make me cry. But, mostly, it was a lovely moment.

And it reminded me of the day that Auntie Betty turned 100, and the nursing home where she was living staged a party for her.

Betty’s nose was severely out of joint because her imaginary boyfriend, John the King of China, didn’t respond to her invitation, and didn’t bother to show up for her big day.

Instead of responding to her by saying, “Betty, you’re a loon. There is no ‘John the King of China,’ and even if there were, he’s not your boyfriend. Get over yourself, why dont’cha,” the staff at the nursing home said, “Betty, he’s a rat. If he can’t even respond to your kind invitation and then doesn’t bother to show up on the day, don’t waste your time on him, he’s not worth it.”

Bravo!

I’ve always believed that the key to retaining one’s youth and beauty (in the case of women), and one’s honor (in the case of men) is to treat others who mean you no harm (and perhaps even a few who do) with kindness and dignity. I don’t have many “go to the wall” principles, but that might be one of them, and it’s one which is becoming ever more important to me as I, and those I love, face the inevitable consequences of growing older. And I find myself increasingly grateful for those who display such kindness, and treat us with dignity, and (I am afraid) I also find myself increasingly contemptuous of those who don’t.

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  1. Seawriter Contributor

    When my maternal grandfather was on his deathbed, he reverted back to his childhood in the Peloponnese. One day when my mother and her mother were sitting with Papouli (Greek for grandfather) he woke up, concerned about the family’s donkey. Had anyone fed and watered the donkey? (It was his responsibility as a child.) 

    My mom assured him that she had taken care of the donkey. It was in its stable and mom had seen to its care. Papouli went back to sleep, glad to have that concern relieved. 

    When my mom and grandmother left Papouli’s room, Yaya (Greek for grandmother) lit into my mom. “How could you lie to him that way?” (Yaya was a very literal woman of practical peasant stock from a Greek island.) “Ma,” my mom replied. “The donkey’s been gone for longer than I’ve been alive. It is taken care of. If it gives him peace of mind to be told the donkey was watered, let him have it.

    • #1
    • May 22, 2020, at 11:28 AM PDT
    • 25 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Lovely, and loving post. Those people who come through remind us, too, that we flow with the patient. At this point, as much as possible, we want to be loving and supportive. And with their example, it’s easier for us to be that way, too.

    • #2
    • May 22, 2020, at 11:30 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  3. RightAngles Member

    It’s good that you have help. Caregiver Burnout is a thing.

    • #3
    • May 22, 2020, at 11:35 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    She: “never thought he’d live to be 289 years old.”

    1731? It was a very good year. George II was on the throne. The Treaty of Vienna was signed. Well, there was that incident at White’s, of course, but no year is perfect. And Daniel Defoe died. But it was alright. He foreshadowed the event heavily. He always did.

    • #4
    • May 22, 2020, at 11:49 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  5. PHCheese Member

    I was down this road with my Mom.God bless And be with both of you.

    • #5
    • May 22, 2020, at 12:08 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. EODmom Coolidge

    I too am glad you have sought support and company on this part of your path together. The help of people several steps detached from your sweetie will give you more time and energy to give him what only you can give. He’s a handsome fella. Every day may be different but they will be your days. You might learn things even now when you have time to listen and be present as you say. In the months before my father died he began to speak only French for long stretches at a time – sometimes days. He was born in the US but his mother was born Marseilles and he and his sisters spoke French from birth. But he never, not ever, spoke a word the entire time I was growing up. Not even when my sister took it in high school. We had no idea. We couldn’t talk to him about it but did with his remaining sister and learned more about previously cloudy family dynamics. 

    • #6
    • May 22, 2020, at 1:04 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  7. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank you.

    My mother, who had fronto-temporal dementia, was in a nursing home for the last few years of her life (the same one as Auntie Betty, but they had to be kept separate because in their old age they fought like cats). Mum believed she was at a lovely hotel. She’d direct people to go where she told them, she’d pass (sometimes scathing) comments on the other “guests,” and she kept tabs on absolutely everyone. The staff (the same one that advised Betty to give King John the heave-ho) all said that they could be sure that nothing would fall through the cracks because Katie was in charge. There was also a delightful old gentleman, Patrick, who spent most of his days sitting just inside the main door, interrogating the visitors about who they were, where they were from, and who they’d come to see. He used to be in military intelligence. You could tell.

    But the thing I remember most was an elderly lady resident who, in her younger days, was a cook in a manor somewhere, who really wanted to make an apple pie. One of the staff put an apron on her, took her outside, grabbing Patrick’s walking stick on her way out the door. Once in the garden, she knocked about a dozen apples out of the tree, put them in the old lady’s apron, and they found their way back to the kitchen, where they started to make pastry. It’s a really remarkable place. I hope they’re OK.

    • #7
    • May 22, 2020, at 1:41 PM PDT
    • 17 likes
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    She:

    Betty’s nose was severely out of joint because her imaginary boyfriend, John the King of China, didn’t respond to her invitation, and didn’t bother to show up for her big day.

    Instead of responding to her by saying, “Betty, you’re a loon. There is no ‘John the King of China,’ and even if there were, he’s not your boyfriend. Get over yourself, why dont’cha,” the staff at the nursing home said, “Betty, he’s a rat. If he can’t even respond to your kind invitation and then doesn’t bother to show up on the day, don’t waste your time on him, he’s not worth it.”

    Prester John, mebbe? Same general vicinity. He’s a rotten correspondent, though. One letter in the 1160s, then nada.

    • #8
    • May 22, 2020, at 3:09 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  9. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    She:

    Betty’s nose was severely out of joint because her imaginary boyfriend, John the King of China, didn’t respond to her invitation, and didn’t bother to show up for her big day.

    Instead of responding to her by saying, “Betty, you’re a loon. There is no ‘John the King of China,’ and even if there were, he’s not your boyfriend. Get over yourself, why dont’cha,” the staff at the nursing home said, “Betty, he’s a rat. If he can’t even respond to your kind invitation and then doesn’t bother to show up on the day, don’t waste your time on him, he’s not worth it.”

    Prester John, mebbe? Same general vicinity. He’s a rotten correspondent, though. One letter in the 1160s, then nada.

    Very possibly! And the rotten correspondent business fits.

    • #9
    • May 22, 2020, at 3:32 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  10. Doug Watt Moderator

    Taking care of someone who is losing their memory puts you on a strange road. They are lost, and you feel lost. God Bless you.

    • #10
    • May 22, 2020, at 4:12 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  11. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge

    This is surprisingly beautiful and, in its way, comforting.

    Because she lived a thousand miles away, I didn’t get to see my grandmother during the last decade or so of her life. But I heard stories about her decline. The mental image I have of her toward the end is based on what I heard: she had regressed to early childhood, was no longer verbal, but seemed happy. She would stand at the window of her room and sing songs to herself.

    Glen Campbell’s last song was the strangely poignant “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” written as Campbell’s mind had already begun to succumb to Alzheimer’s. From the point of view of the listener, the song is sad, because Campbell is telling his loved ones that he will soon forget them. But there is also comfort there, because having forgotten his loved ones, he will feel no loss, no grief, no bereavement.

    It’s hard for me to imagine anything more difficult than being a family member watching a loved one disappear mentally. (My father had only just begun his decline into dementia when he died unexpectedly, which I frankly regarded as a mercy to all of us.) On the other hand, though, there is something very comforting in the thought of reaching the end in a state of happiness, even if it is delusional happiness. Is it better to face the end lucid and afraid, or happy in a fantasy world? I think there is an argument to be made for the latter, and I see no reason for caregivers to fight that.

    Best wishes to you and to Mr. She, and may there be more happy times, in whatever form they come.

    • #11
    • May 22, 2020, at 5:33 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  12. Arahant Member

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    Glen Campbell’s last song was the strangely poignant “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” written as Campbell’s mind had already begun to succumb to Alzheimer’s. From the point of view of the listener, the song is sad, because Campbell is telling his loved ones that he will soon forget them.

    I saw him near the end of his touring life. He had a computer to read the words off so he could remember the songs.

    • #12
    • May 22, 2020, at 5:38 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    When my maternal grandfather was on his deathbed, he reverted back to his childhood in the Peloponnese. One day when my mother and her mother were sitting with Papouli (Greek for grandfather) he woke up, concerned about the family’s donkey. Had anyone fed and watered the donkey? (It was his responsibility as a child.)

    My mom assured him that she had taken care of the donkey. It was in its stable and mom had seen to its care. Papouli went back to sleep, glad to have that concern relieved.

    When my mom and grandmother left Papouli’s room, Yaya (Greek for grandmother) lit into my mom. “How could you lie to him that way?” (Yaya was a very literal woman of practical peasant stock from a Greek island.) “Ma,” my mom replied. “The donkey’s been gone for longer than I’ve been alive. It is taken care of. If it gives him peace of mind to be told the donkey was watered, let him have it.

    When my mothers parents were mutually in the throes of dementia, my mother (also a very literal woman) argued with her parents every step of the way. She would go up to Toledo about every other weekend to alternate care and visits with her sisters (both of whom lived locally to their parents and so were “on duty” more or less at all times), and could never just roll with it. She came home after each of these visits an emotional and physical wreck. She was needlessly hard on herself for several years, until they had to be moved into a 24/7 nursing home.

    • #13
    • May 22, 2020, at 6:44 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  14. JennaStocker Member

    This is beautifully done. A tribute to your husband, marriage, and your compassionate heart. Thank you for reminding us of the power of kindness. It’s one of the simplest things that can make a profound difference in life, for both the giver and receiver.

    • #14
    • May 22, 2020, at 9:39 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  15. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Taking care of someone who is losing their memory puts you on a strange road. They are lost, and you feel lost. God Bless you.

    Thanks, Doug. Also lost and much missed at the moment is much of a sense of community and society. Going on little shopping outings together (the local nursery (plants not kids) is a favorite), or to a local attraction, going to the weekly “geezer breakfast bar special” at the local Eat ‘n Park, where we’d occasionally run into people we know. Even just going out for a drive in the car, when the ability to duck into a restaurant for a piece of pie and a cup of tea, and to use its facilities if we need to, is out of bounds. His Church, at which he’s an irregular, but valued attendee. We’ve not seen our granddaughter since Christmas, nor her mother since early March. We’re luckier than many in that we have lovely pastoral views, birds singing, and pretty flowers, and can open the windows and let in lots of fresh air, but there are many outlets denied at the moment that just make it seem even more closed in than it normally would. Ricochet is a window to the outside world and to community for me; and I try to bring Mr. She along for the ride when there’s a post I think he’d enjoy. So thank you all.

    • #15
    • May 22, 2020, at 10:18 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  16. Quinnie Member

    It appears Mr. She has a wonderful wife.

    • #16
    • May 23, 2020, at 11:02 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  17. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Quinnie (View Comment):

    It appears Mr. She has a wonderful wife.

    Not sure. Although I am pretty sure he has one who’s doing her best. My (rather lengthy) experience with ovine obstetrical issues, caprine hoof issues, and lagamorphic dental issues (most of which I’ve written about here-heretofore) are useless in this instance.

    Making it up as I go along. Aren’t we all.

    Thank you. God Bless.

    • #17
    • May 23, 2020, at 4:38 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  18. JustmeinAZ Member

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    Is it better to face the end lucid and afraid, or happy in a fantasy world? I think there is an argument to be made for the latter, and I see no reason for caregivers to fight that.

    I would argue for the latter. My mother, who died last year at age 92, spent her last three years of life in a nursing home. She was a total invalid but she remained lucid til the end. There were five of us siblings left (one died some time ago) but two of us were too old and physically unable to provide the 24 hr per day care she needed. The three others are still full time working but even among the five of us we could not have been able to contribute enough to pay a full time nurse.

    Even though the nursing home was close to my two youngest sisters so that they could visit several times a week she was desperately unhappy and would send us all pathetic emails begging to come live with us (especially me, the oldest and least able to care for her). If I have that to look forward to I would prefer for my mind to be elsewhere and for my body to still be able to make it’s way to the bathroom.

    • #18
    • May 23, 2020, at 5:50 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Boss Mongo Member

    Quinnie (View Comment):

    It appears Mr. She has a wonderful wife.

    I second the motion.

    • #19
    • May 25, 2020, at 7:48 AM PDT
    • 5 likes