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Heads Up: It May Take a Village To Take Care of the Elderly…

September 23, 2015

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Above: To pass the time in the dental office waiting for CR and Dick to arrive, and then waiting through CR's appointment I do a little sketching in a small 8 x 8 inch journal I made with Nideggen paper. I started with a Staedtler Pigment Liner and then went to the Sensei from Sakura. I really liked how it worked on this paper. All of the faces on this page were started roughly like the bottom two on the right, and then worked up if the person stayed there awhile. I really like the guy on the left in glasses because it looks just like him.

That's the way it seems some days, that Dick and I are not enough to take care of CR, let alone his mom, let alone worry about my folks (who this summer plummeted in the health category—but that's still up in the air, so I'll deal with that when it settles into something I can actually take action on).

My father-in-law turned 94 last week. He's totally in dreamland these days. He doesn't remember to take his pills unless we call him. (He has a pill box and has 3 sets of pills to take each day.) Dick thought his dad was doing OK on the pills so he stopped calling him about them. On Thursday when I dropped CR off after the dental visit (more about this below), I found, while searching for all his stolen property (more on this below too), that he hadn't taken pills for 3 days, since the last time we'd seen him. Dick needs to keep with the program as much as his dad.

Because I had a dental appointment at noon and CR had one at 1:30 I couldn't just pick him up and take him with me. Those days are long gone. He can't be out that long or he gets tired, and he's too frail for long excursions or multi-tasking trips. (We used to get his hair cut after the dentist—that's off the table.) He is also at the point where he is likely to wander off if left alone. It only takes one time to lose someone. (And I no longer have two tracking dogs.)

Also he needs to take antibiotics before his dental appointments. 

Typically I go over one hour before we have to leave for his appointment and give him the antibiotics.

Even that doesn't really work any more because he is taking longer to get out the door. Even if you call him in the morning and remind him to put on clean clothes, chances are when you show up he'll be covered in the food he just ate for lunch.

He's too blind to see it any more. It's actually a little funny when I think of it.

We then have a "discussion" about why I want him to put new clothing on. 

I've been told by friends and experts to not have a discussion about anything with him at this stage as it's pointless. 

This is where I'm still in "denial." I have discussions with toddlers and dogs, so I think I can still have one with my 94-year-old father-in-law. I know what to expect—nothing. I just don't think I should start pulling his clothing off without an explanation as to why. 

To make all this easier on both of us, I need to schedule more time for every type of outing. I need time to assess what he is wearing, find a new outfit if necessary, and change him.

Changing him is no small feat. You have to take off his shoes, then disconnect the suspenders, and untangle them from his t-shirt and pullover.

Everything has to go back in a logical and methodical way, or you end up with a tangled mess. We laugh about it, but in a world where I still believe I can get people to appointments on time, it is stressful.

Once he is packaged for transport into the world, there is still the effort of getting him to the car. That used to be about a 10 minute task. A week before dental visit day he slipped to a new low, taking almost 20 minutes to get from his apartment through the lobby to the car I pulled up at the front door. 

This is something you can't plan on, so I pad the pick up time to allow for this so I can deal with it when it happens without being stressed.

Well last Thursday I was going to be at the dentist when he needed his pill so Dick and I decided that I would go to the dentist and then just stay there. Dick would come home from work (because he forgot the pills, even though I reminded him) and then drive to his father's, give him the pills, change him, and then bring him to the dentist. After that Dick would return to work and I would be in charge of taking CR home.

Sounds like a reasonable plan.

But Dick doesn't believe in padding his time frames to stay on track. He claims that traffic and construction made him late for the dentist, but in all the years we've been together Dick has been on time for 2 events, and neither one of those was our wedding (which was held in our house! You work it out).

When they strolled into the waiting room, CR was without his glasses (and he asked every 3 minutes for the rest of the afternoon who had taken them. Or when he was told he'd left them at home he announced they had been stolen). And half his lunch was over his sweater. (At least I assume it was lunch.)

Dick claims that they did some changing and there were difficulties, I understand. Sometimes you are so focused on a huge stain on the pants that you miss the brownie and ice cream stain running down the side of the shirt. It happens. Dick has vision problems of his own. 

The dental hygienist is easy going and sweet with CR. She was even done in record time. Then the real adventure began.

CR came out into the waiting room asking if they could go back and get his glasses. When she said he didn't arrive with glasses on, he approached me and told me she'd stolen them.

Get used to it folks—if you care for the elderly their default mode when they misplace something is to announce to EVERYONE that someone stole whatever it was they were looking for.

It doesn't matter if the item has no monetary or sentimental value. Some people are simply evil and steal everything from the elderly. And those evil people are everywhere. You'll hear all about them, every three minutes.

Once I had paid the secretary, I bundled CR into the elevator and we made our slow way to the car. He actually did well for an almost blind person who wasn't wearing glasses. At least neither of us fell.

He walks with a walker and when faced with something like a wad of gum, blackened and flattened on the cement, he will hoist his walker practically over his head and "fling" it ahead of him and then lean forward and fall toward it. You can object, you can cajole, you can offer to personally clean the soles of his shoes if the gum turns out to still be sticky and he does roll over it, but to CR it's a dark valued shape that indicates 1. A crack in the universe, or 2. A black hole.

I understand that. I'm always on the look out for those two things as well.

But as I said, we both made it unhurt, to the car.

And then he started in again about the need for me to go back into the dental office and get his glasses, because they were stolen.

R: Nope, you never had them. They were left in your apartment. 

CR: No they were stolen. They aren't in my apartment.

R: You had them two days ago.

CR: Well [name of best friend inserted here] came by and…

He nods knowingly.

R: Why would [name of best friend inserted here] steal your glasses?

CR glares at me.

I laugh to lighten the mood. 

R: Come on, we will find them at home, and if they aren't there, they weren't stolen, they were inadvertently thrown out in one of your stacks of newspapers. I'll call the eye doctor and order a new pair.

CR: Two!

R: Two pairs? We'll just get one for now, in case your prescription has changed since the last time you went in. You’re going in next week.

He glares at me again.

A year ago I couldn’t beg him to get an extra pair of glasses. Now he wants double or triple of everything, because he spends his whole day looking for one misplaced (i.e., stolen) item after the other.

To change the subject I asked him if he’d like to drive past his old house.

CR: I was just there two days ago.

R: Really? Who drove you? [I ask in an upbeat way, so we can talk about happy memories.]

CR: I don’t remember, but I was there. I don’t need to go there.

I don’t argue with any of that. It’s unlikely that someone would stop by and we don’t hear about it from staff, or meet the person on the way to a visit of our own, but it’s possible.

CR: In fact it was [insert name of second best friend here] and he stole my glasses and my wallet.

Here we go again.

I get that straightened out by pointing out that that friend came over on a Thursday (I happened to know that) and CR still had both his glasses and his wallet on Saturday when I brought Phyllis down to see him).

He admits that his friend could not have stolen his stuff after all.

Then out of the blue he says, “It’s too bad about Phyllis. It’s too bad she’s gone.”

Happily this isn’t the first time he’s become convinced that his wife, who lives in a long term care unit of his building, because she needs help he can’t offer, has died.

If it had been the first time, I think I might have had to pull right over. Forgetting something about someone you've been married to for 60 some years…

R: We just brought her down to see you on Saturday.

CR: I go see her every day.

R: Oh, so did you see her yesterday?  

CR: Yes.

R: So she's not dead? 

CR: Someone told me she was dead today. 

R: Well, she isn't. She's actually in better shape than you are. If she dies, I'll put a note up to remind you. If there is no note she's still alive.

I know he’ll never remember that, but it makes him comfortable for a moment.

I think he tells all the women in the dining hall that Phyl is dead, because he gets sympathy. Of course they all look pissed off when I show up with her. Or when I stop to say hi in the dining hall, and tell them I can't eat with them because I'm off to see his wife Phyllis.

And then I’m smiling and chatting away.

Balance is restored and we drive along in companionable conversation, which consists of him asking me in a loop, the same four questions about my work. Which I answer each time as if for the first. I’m getting good at it. I play a little game with myself about remembering how I answered the first time and how closely I can match it.

Almost back at his apartment, he brought up the theft of his glasses and wallet again.

I suggested in an upbeat way that they were simply lost. I suggested that when he goes around stating that people have stolen things, when he's just misplaced them, he puts people off and they don't want to be around him.

He laughs and claims to understand it. But I know he doesn’t. Still that’s part of my denial, I still have to try to reason with him.

I know that this is the last conversation with him that I will ever try that.

It makes me sad as I get the walker out of the Subaru and help him out. I open the doors for him and remind him to sign back in. He says he will. I tell him I’ll meet him at his apartment. I know I have plenty of time to park and get there before he does.

I park, check the sign in and see he’s simply crossed out the entire line. I write in a time. I pass him in the hall. He’s trying to use his key to open someone else’s mailbox and can’t see that, because he doesn’t have his glasses on. I help him sort through the advertising fliers—we have all his mail delivered to us because he was throwing out important bills.

We walk slowly to the apartment and on the way he explains again that someone has stolen his glasses. 

(I found them on the TV shelf immediately when we got back to his apartment.)

As for the wallet, I'm sure he left it in pants that got laundered. Or he tossed it out in his paper recycling. (The blindness is a huge issue.) I never find it. It will be up to Dick to help his dad replace his ID.

I return home five hours after I left it. I know that in the future I need to reschedule my appointments if his ever fall on the same day again.

And I realize I have to add 20 minutes minimum both ways to any future outings.

150917_dental-officeRtpageLeft: When I first arrived at the dental office and was waiting for my appointment there was an older woman reading an iPhone manual and asking her son for explanations. I smiled as I looked straight ahead and drew her using my peripheral vision. This is how it starts. The learning of new things seems impossible.

Dick believes his dad is having vivid dreams that he can’t distinguish from reality. I simply know that all the synapses aren’t working, and that I have to compensate and find ways to work around the increasing mental frailty and physical frailty.

Later that night, I can’t shake off the worry that the same thing will happen to me. My imagination is already way too vivid. Heck, some days I actually half believe I AM a ninja.

Dick tries to reassure me by reminding me that both his folks smoked for decades (that deprives the brain of oxygen), that I never have, “and you’ve always exercised.”

That’s small consolation. And zero guarantee.

But here’s what you need to know if you are facing eldercare—

Time will take on a new and fluid meaning.

If you don’t want to be stressed all the time about delays and replays, make sure to pad in extra time for even the simplest of tasks.

If you have a village to help you with this, delegate! If you don’t have a village, maybe you have a significant other with whom you can at least tag-team.

And buy double of everything, so if something gets lost you have a spare.

I’m just kidding, of course you can’t buy double of everything. But you can laugh a lot.

You can practice laughing right now. Go ahead, think of the worst thing you can imagine. You know, something like those puppy mill commercials, which, if you're like me, you can't watch, because they are too, too awful.

Now laugh. That's right. In spite of all those horrible images burned into your brain of pain and suffering, you have to laugh. Laugh all the way from your belly.

You have to be able to be upbeat and to laugh, in order to remove the tension from your body and stay calm. 

If you can laugh while thinking of those horrible puppy mill commercials, then you just might be able to take care of the elderly.

You need balls to take care of the elderly. Otherwise everyone would do it.

Next laugh at yourself, for expecting anything different than what is being offered up. This is old age. This is what it looks like.

All you can do is be there to make sure they don’t step into any black holes.

  1. Reply

    Oh Roz. Thank you for this.

    I have read your blog for years now, for the paper and pen and paint recommendations, for your relentless enthusiasm, for your encouragement to MAKE something, but your posts about caring for your elderly touch my heart. My father is 90 and declining, my mother 81 and denying everything. I read your writing here and it gives me hope that I can face their decline with an iota of the grace you are demonstrating.

    • Carmel Campbell
    • September 23, 2015
    Reply

    I love your sketches and your story. This is something I will not faced with although I hope it does not happen to me. I would have no one like you to care for me or add humor to my life.

  2. Reply

    Lee, I know you are facing difficult times. I hope you and other family members if there are others around, or close friends if they are willing, can help you talk with your folks and strategize about what they need to thing about for the future at this point. It’s a difficult thing. We were able, after Phyllis had several falls, to convince them to go into assisted living. But getting a place takes time (and it was an emergency situation and the first location they were in wasn’t the greatest so we scrambled and found another place which has great staff). Much of elder care is getting your “ducks in a row.” I have friends who lose their elders quickly and suddenly. It’s a shock and sadness, but they never deal with any eldercare issues because of that. And I have friends who have helped their elders for many years. We’ve been helping the folks for over 25 years as they shifted into extreme old age, and the last 5 years have been pretty intense. But we all do laugh quite a lot.

    You’ll also need to find someone on the ground near to you to talk to you about all of this. There are support groups for caregivers. I don’t attend one because I have three friends who have walked this path before me and are happy to talk with me when things get tough. But everyone needs a support group, so start building that for yourself now too. Good luck. Enjoy all the little bits you can.

    OH, one more thing. The move to assisted care saved both their lives. My frail father in law didn’t have to take care of his wife (it was killing him) and she finally got a social situation she could thrive in. She stopped sleeping 20 hours a day and is now up for about 12 hours a day going to all the activities, happy, healthy (though wheelchair bound) and gracious, grateful for life, and just a great woman—who has discovered art and crafts!!!! It’s fun to see.

  3. Reply

    Thanks SusanLily. Dick likes that sketch too.

    It’s difficult being first with your friends to do this. I watched my friend who’s parents were a bit older forge this path. I’m grateful everyday that all my friends who went before me on this were such capable women who knew how to get things done. I was alerted to many things to expect.

    And of course I’ve always been a plan for the worst case and be thrilled when it doesn’t happen. So on days when I’ve padded the time frame and we arrive early somewhere then we just have a fun (if somewhat circular) conversation and I enjoy that. Because of course, I am where I am.

    We struggled with the walker issue with CR as well. It also means to many elderly a loss of independence, when actually it is safety and more independence. And it beats taking a fall that puts them in the hospital. Those falls usually don’t end well. I lost a 96 year old friend this week because of a disastrous fall.

    The hardest thing for me to adjust to is the loss of the person who was there, even before they are dead. You watch them inch away. Sometimes you get a glimmer, but over the months and years but sometimes just day to day, there are huge and irrevocable changes. So I hope you enjoy every moment you can with your mom.

    And there’s a parking lot of walkers at CR’s dining room too!

  4. Reply

    A very touching story, I do believe training dogs has helped you to be patient with your father-in-law… My elder care days are over, my Mom passed away in July, and was the last of our parents, my husband lost his parents before we married. Lost my Dad eight years ago, and finally Mom… the dementia was the hardest thing to see happen to her, she was so smart and well read… and it scares me to think I’ll follow in her footsteps if I live long enough that is.

  5. Reply

    Carmel, those of us without kids need to plan even more, as there won’t be anyone to help us. And not to scare you, but even when you live in a safe assisted living situation there is so much that you need someone to do for you that if you don’t have someone things that we all take for granted don’t happen. And then if they aren’t in a safe situation people take advantage…

    One friend laughed the other day and said we should adopt the ancient Roman practice of adopting adult “children.”

    I hope you can age gracefully. Do as much planning as you can. Even the healthiest of “with it” of people, who wait until they are in their 80s to deal with all these issues, make a real mess of it if they don’t have some help. It’s a complicated mess to begin with. Add to that denial…

  6. Reply

    Well, I´m laughing! We have a similar situation with my 95-year-old mum-in-law and I recently gave up reasoning. Denial has been abundant on all sides of this situation, but at least my sister- and brother-in-law is more involved now (they are retired, we are not, but they also live 1000 kms away) which takes some of the pressure off.

    I am, at 48, already planning our old age (no kids) and I realize that however much I plan, without the kind of supervision engaged and loving kin can give, even if I lived in the most benevolent of societies, it is probable that things will go seriously wrong. Hopefully, I will be unaware by then… or get “lucky” (like my grandma) and get some kind of painless cancer before I get too frail, and have time and energy to clean the house and give all my stuff away before it´s time to go. Gloomy thoughts, indeed. But we laugh, as much as we can, while we can.

    I can´t tell you how much I appreciate these posts.

  7. Reply

    Wonderful, Roz.
    I have to admit I sometimes skip the long posts, and no doubt miss out. But this one called to me. I have been through those steps with my Dad, and special loved ones so it all rang true. They are gone. Now at 73, healthy, active and still busy teaching, with a terrific daughter poised for later on, I am probably next. I have to admit I am on alert for each “new normal” as it appears, wondering if it will be permanent or passing.
    Thanks for a great post.

  8. Reply

    Dear Roz Thank you for your ongoing insights into elder care. I am aware that it is just around the corner for me and you give me hope that I will cope. Much love to you for your unfailing kindness and positivity.

    • SusanLily
    • September 23, 2015
    Reply

    Roz, I’m sorry you lost your friend. Falls are a serious concern. My mother-in-law has fallen several times, resulting in broken bones. And my mom spent several months with an open wound along her shin after a bad fall.

    So far, my mom is still my mom as I know her, and I am grateful.

    • SusanLily
    • September 23, 2015
    Reply

    Helping my mom make the transition into assisted living has been a real eye-opener for me and my husband, especially since we do not have children. I’m making notes and, even now, starting to get all our paperwork in order.

    My father died over 30 years ago, and, thankfully, my mom kept a box of his things. Who knew she would have needed his birth certificate, their marriage license, his military record, etc. after all this time. But she’s had to produce all of those documents to apply for certain benefits. Not to mention the Powers of Attorney (for finances AND health care) and other legal documents she needed to even get admitted to an assisted living facility.

    My husband half jokes that we will leave any remaining assets to whichever of our nieces or nephews let us adopt them as caregivers, but there’s really a lot of sense in that idea. My mom’s in a safe and caring environment but still needs help with things like sorting out a bill or getting a personal item from the store. It’s a lot to think about.

  9. Reply

    CaptElaine, my deepest sympathies for the loss of your mom. I understand your fears for the future. I have always had such an attachment to my brain that it seems the ultimate insult that the end of life process can trash it so completely. But while I’m still concerned about it, most days, spending time with the folks just makes me more comfortable with the process.

    It’s all part of the reason I keep telling people to live their lives NOW. Things change and you can’t get back to another “normal” time.

    Hang in there, remember your mom, and do all the things only you can do. Right now!

    As for the dogs making me patient…I think more to the point they made me realize what living in the moment really is. And they helped me relax. (And if I had picked another breed, one that wasn’t a working breed, perhaps they would have helped me relax even more, instead of adding their own workaholic tendencies to mine!)

    Some days I ask myself, “What would Emma do?” It’s calming. But then again it’s also not very practical because you can’t exactly scruff shake a human, or sit on them.

    But you can sit next to them. Emma taught me how to be with someone who is dying. And that’s perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can get from an animal. They can teach us to let go of caretaking and instead care, which energetically is a whole different skill. And lets the dignity reside in the dying.

  10. Reply

    Your mom was so good to keep that box. Dick’s folks were not so good. Phyllis stopped filing things usefully in her 60s so in her 90s when I had to clear out their house there were many things that were not saved and odd things that were. It makes stuff a lot harder.

    You’re good to get all your stuff in order.

    The folks were fortunate to have a son who adores them and to have a really grateful daughter-in-law (me—Phyllis was amazing to me) because they lived simply and their house was their only asset. They are living off that now. We try to do what we can do so that people don’t have to be hired to do stuff, and so their money will last longer. I believe Phyllis can make it past 100, as there is precedent in her family.

    I worry for people who are without children who care, and without funds. A time which should be easy and unwinding becomes a fearful battle, and there’s enough fear for them as it is.

    Sometimes I can’t think about it. And I go to the zoo and sketch.

  11. Reply

    My high school mentor, who knew my greatest fear was to lose my mind, told me not to worry about it. “When it happens, I’ll be there.”

    He died of AIDS related complications when I was 32. His biggest worry had always been that he would lose his sight (he was an avid reader). And he did. But he joked about it in his last, barely legible letter to me, in which he hid how close he was to death.

    The take away for me is to keep joking, and realize that the really messy part of life hasn’t even started yet. Good luck Viktoria.

  12. Reply

    jacki, I appreciate it whenever you stop by to read a post, long or short! Thank you. I hope you remain vibrant and lively and get everything organized to make your life easy and things easier for yourself when you do have to deal with all this.

    I would even suggest that the most loving thing you can do for that terrific daughter is to take time now to clear out your home and organize your papers so that her life is less disrupted by the changes in yours.

    Part of our involvement in the folks’ lives is possible only because of flexible schedules. But it all comes at a high cost. And it is a tremendous pressure for the caregiver.

    Now while you are healthy it’s the perfect time to ensure that you make the transition as simple for her as possible.

  13. Reply

    Alison, good luck on your journey. You WILL cope because you are already thinking about these issues. Talk with your family and get organized. Use some of my posts, or Roz Chast’s book on her parents (I posted about it in another post) to open a dialog with your elders.
    Thanks for writing.
    Roz

  14. Reply

    Susan, I hope your mom can go forward with no more falls! I’m glad she’s there to be with now.

    • Gerda Wolzak-van Hummel
    • September 24, 2015
    Reply

    So nice drawings, Roz. The writing about elder care may be different in the official care, but what relatives or friends are feeling and going through is the same. I can recognize it so well. Keep your humour, that helps a lot!

  15. Reply

    Hi Roz,
    First let me say I love how you developed the drawings in this post.It is so interesting to see the progression.

    I then was riveted by the description of the outing with CR. My heart goes out to you and Dick. I went through this with my mom although she kind of retreated inward. But the point is that it is very hard to watch someone you love decline. And while I could go on forever about this topic I will not. Mom lived for 5 years after my Dad died and my brother and I went went every weekend to see her when she was in assisted living. Please make sure you take good care of yourself while you are sharing the care for CR. I had to take a long nap every time I returned from my visits.

    Take good care!

  16. Reply

    Hi, Roz,

    Read your post about your father-in-law with a lot of interest. My late husband had Lewy Body Disease – similar to Alzheimer’s – and that was a very, very difficult, and long, journey for both of us. A couple of things helped me:

    1. The 36 Hour Day, a book about dementia that is available in paperback
    2. You’ll never win an argument with someone who has dementia. I played along with most of what my late husband was saying. When he was in the hospital the nurses remarked how good I was at it…my work as a novelist, I’m sure, helped me in that regard.
    3. A good friend, whose father had Alzheimer’s told me, “You can sacrifice yourself, but it won’t save ‘hem.”
    4. Some days it’s all you can do to just cradle your head and breathe.

    Cheers,
    Zeke

  17. Reply

    Thanks Zeke, and thanks for the book reference. I’ll check it out.

    Your advice is the same as what I get from everyone on the ground here involved in eldercare—and I do play along with most things. But I have to still insist, with stated reasons for the changing of clothing, since I don’t want to just start undressing him, and he isn’t hostile about it—i.e., can still process those stated reasons.

    As for the stealing fixation, sigh, yep that’s over. Hence I can write about it.

    This year has been a huge change for me managing my life and time. Being sick for almost 5 months at the beginning of the year really brought everything into focus for Dick and me.

    I appreciate it Zeke.

  18. Reply

    Thanks Sharon for your kind comments on both the sketch and eldercare. Somedays I have to come home and sit very quietly (I can’t nap, I’ve never been able to). But I think I’m getting better at coping. The big shift for me was 3 years ago, noting that CR had changed so much our old relationship no longer worked, and then finding a way to a new one that did. It’s definitely a work in progress.

    • William Burrell
    • September 26, 2015
    Reply

    Thank you for your insightful and humorous treatment of your “eldercare” experiences. We went through the experience with my mom and dad a few years back. They are gone now, but what I learned is a lot like what you wrote about. Instinctively I am applying the principles of simplification to my life, because I know that we are next. We have 3 grown daughters that live nearby and are kind and thoughtful, but I really want to spare them the pain of trying to help us in our “golden” 🙂 years if we are unprepared ourselves. Great insights. Thanks again. Cheers, bill b.

  19. Reply

    Bill, I’m glad you found it humorous. I’m sorry for the loss of your mom and dad, but glad you could be there for them. I applaud your efforts to simplify your life now and save your daughters the difficulties we both know can arise. It’s good to spare them all that. Talking to them about your wishes is important too. I see too many elderly believing that they will die healthy in their homes. And it just doesn’t seem to work that way for most of the people I know. We are living longer, people are on more pills (avoid that as long as you can!), and everyone is a slip away from a bone break and hospitalization. The more people talk about it with their kids the better those kids will be able to act. And it’s important to have all the other legal stuff taken care of well in advance too. Good luck.

  20. Reply

    Dammit, Roz. I didn’t laugh. It made me cry.

  21. Reply

    Zeke, an update. The 36-hour Day book came on Saturday. It’s great. Thanks for the recommendation!

  22. Reply

    Kate, yeah, sometimes I cry too. But 99 percent of the time it’s all pretty funny when I think of what I expected of old age for others and myself. (We traveled so much when I was a child we never lived near my elders and most died while we were gone.)

    You’ve taken care of people and you know it’s the little gifts in split seconds of insight and exchange that actually make it meaningful, and sometimes we can only laugh about those instances after the fact.

    Thanks for holding good thoughts for all of us.

  23. Reply

    Yeah, eldercare. I’ve already gone through it with my grandmother, and am not looking forward to going through it with my parents and husband.

    Your story reminds me of an episode of This American Life in which a family deals pretty comically with a dementia victim.
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/532/magic-words?act=2

    No kids, and not enough money to plan for care. I won’t have anyone to take care of me. I plan to walk into a snow storm. I’ll have to leave California though…

  24. Reply

    Maggie, it’s too funny that you sent me this link. I didn’t hear the program when it aired, but after a series of recent conversations with CR, like those in this post, I began thinking about how I might deal with things differently and the improv idea of “Yes and” (which I use in my writing) came to me as a way to be less apparently harsh. I’ve already let go of all other “conditions” and “patterns” of our relationship, and accepted that he doesn’t have those memories. Anyway, listening to this was just what I needed to hear.

    I’m still going to have a difficult time when he announces that Phyl is dead. I will want to correct him, but maybe I can even work a way around to that.

    I think it’s worth trying. Many thanks.

    NO ONE who isn’t one of the 1 percent, has enough for eldercare! We too have no one to take care of us. Dick believes he’ll be healthy for a century. But I look at his folks and worry. He’ll say he never smoked, but I don’t know if that’s all there is.

    Keep moving and take care of your upperbody strength so you can take care of yourself as long as possible!

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