Friday, January 9, 2015

Serving a Purpose

I's been a while since my last post.  Frankly, I have wondered just what I am supposed to say here, now that my Mam-ma Polly has passed.  And yet, it seems that we are still very much in the middle of the "Sandwich Generation" as my mother-in-law nears her 9th decade of life.  Each week brings a new ailment of sorts...nothing all that significant at this point, thank goodness...but little aggravations (for her) all the same.

The children have come to understand that on any given Sunday, "Grandma E" may not be able to attend church with us.  At first, this upset Timothy...and he was very concerned about "Grandma E" (who is very much a beloved "great-grandmother" to these children)and why she didn't come with us.  But as time has passed, he has seemed to accept that there are good Sundays - and those that are not so good - and he and Zola appear to be more readily accepting of the latter.

At the same time, one of our sisters-in-law, Laney, is dealing with the challenges of her 95-year-old mother's placement in a skilled care nursing facility (3+ hours away in another city) after she suffered a stroke and a fall.  One evening shortly before Christmas, Laney e-mailed me to describe what she felt was a very disturbing incident.  Laney's mother cannot see, but she persuaded someone at the facility to call her daughter.  When Laney answered, her mother went on a rampage...she could not stay at this facility any longer...she could most certainly not be there for Christmas...she just would not have any of this...Laney absolutely HAD to do something.  Laney mostly listened...and when she hung up, she was totally rattled and upset by the call.

As I read the message and heard what Laney's mother had said, a sense of familiarity washed over me.  I quickly replied to my sister-in-law and told her, "I am no doctor, but I am fairly certain that you have just described a TIA (mini-stroke).  I am betting that things will be totally different tomorrow...and your mom might not even remember that she called you. At the very least, I'm betting she will be subdued...and possibly even very tired.  Mam-ma Polly did this same thing SEVERAL times."  I offered some advice about how to respond to these rants...and I shared with her some wonderful advice that a dear elderly friend of mine once gave my mother..."One day, all of the 'bad stuff' will fade away, and you will be left with only good memories."  I also told Laney that I miss my grandmother terribly...that I would even settle for one of her rants - just to hear her voice again.  Quite literally...this, too, shall pass.

Laney responded quickly and thanked me.  She expressed how much it helped to hear from someone who had "been there, done that".  She had not considered a TIA, but once I mentioned it, she felt I was probably right...and knowledge is power.  Understanding that this might be the culprit helped to answer her question of "Why would Mother do this?" - and that seemed to set everything in the proper perspective...and prepare her for any future "surprise" phone calls.  And just as predicted, her mother has not mentioned the phone call at all.

It felt good to share what I had learned in a positive way...and to reassure someone else that "you are not alone in this." And while Greg was with me every step of the way in my journey with Mam-ma Polly, there have been times recently when I have reminded him of incidents in connection to situations with his own mother.  We have found it helpful - and somewhat comforting - to remember these things and say, "Oh, yeah...that's not so unique after all.  It may be screwy and frustrating - but not so unusual!"

Today, I spent some time talking with one of our dearest friends, whose mother is rapidly declining and in need of skilled care of some sort. We have known and loved this person since childhood.  So he feels comfortable sharing his concerns and frustrations with us about his mom's situation. 

My heart breaks for anyone going through these tough experiences.  But at the same time, I am glad that I am able to offer some encouragement - and maybe a helpful piece or two of advice.  If sharing anything that we experienced with Mam-ma Polly or my maternal grandparents during their nursing home stay and decline can be helpful to someone else, it somehow makes me feel like all of that serves some sort of purpose.

Choosing a facility for your parents/grandparents IS a daunting task.  Navigating their phone calls and confusion and frustration is highly stressful and frustrating to the caregiver.  Dealing with administrators, government agencies, banks, lawyers, doctors, and realtors is daunting and can make one's head spin!  Having someone who can say, "This is what I did" or "Here's how we handled that...and why" or "My mom did the same thing" can be so helpful. 

I cannot "fix" any of these situations.  Try as I might, I could not fix my grandmother's issues...and I knew all along that I was not supposed to.  I did the best I could, which is all anyone can expect.  But sometimes, we don't even know what THAT is, on our own.  The helpful support and encouragement of a friend who has walked this road can be incredibly comforting.  Or at least I hope it is. 

So I feel like I am serving a purpose...and reaping SOMETHING good from all that we have experienced already.  I told our friend who called that our situation felt crazy at times, but in the scheme of things, it was not that troublesome.  Mam-ma Polly was healthy and relatively well until about 36 hours before she died.  She never became combative or violent, as some do.  She had her "moments"...but it could have been so much worse.  And I thank God for this grace and mercy!

I would like to think that as my mother-in-law and my own mother age, and possibly decline, I would handle these situations with calm and confidence.  But I know better.  There is nothing fun or easy about watching your parents age and decline...much less dealing with the issues that often accompany this.  But as I told our friend, we are not alone.  We're all in this together.  And hopefully that counts for something!

If you wish to share your own situation and circumstances...or to "vent"...feel free to contact me via this blog.  We ARE all in this together...and you DO have people in your corner.