All of our lives we take for granted that we will still have our youth…even in our young adulthood…and into our middle years. We have the feeling that life will go on and on. When we finally reach the latter time of life, it is with some shock that we wonder where all the years have gone.
This realization came to me in the past few weeks when I was shopping for a bathrobe for my 92-year-old Mother, who was in the hospital with congestive heart failure and pneumonia. For the first time, it was certain that she was going to need full-time care, not just someone to help on occasion. I had seen other families with this situation, but had never experienced it myself. It was quite unsettling.
My Mother is a proud woman, who was a beauty in her younger years; a woman who helped out the war effort in WWII, and owned her own business. Even at the age of 92, soon to be 93, she takes care of her own banking and investments; writes her own letters, and reads 4-5 books in just two weeks. Her mind is clear, but her body is weak.
The realization that life does have an ending has set in. We will each be in this place one day, should we live so long…barring all accidents.
The emotions have run from high to low. There have been sad moments. Mother had to make definite adjustments to her life as she entered an assisted-living facility, but she is doing well. She wants what is best for her and she wants my husband and me to have time ,without worry, as we are beginning our years of retirement.
The biggest disappointment in coping with this situation has been the process. It is my opinion that no elderly person should be put through the wringer when making the decision to get extra care. This is a time of big decisions and should be made as simple and correct as possible. What are a few things of which I speak?
- Moving from hospital to rehab.to Assisted-Living (Getting the records correct.)
- No facility should tolerate a nurse or assistant with an attitude. A registered nurse made the statement about my mother, “I’m not walking way down that hall to take her blood pressure” This was either because she was too lazy or too tired…but certainly not professional. Hire someone who takes the patient and their profession seriously.
- Insurance companies should use what they can from hospital records… and not put a weak, sick patients through a page after page interview. Also look at the fact that she never missed a payment for years. This is what she paid for and what medical doctors now says that she needs.
- Take into account that the elderly often cannot hear well. Don’t send someone who cannot speak English clearly.
- When a doctor’s signature is needed for a critical oxygen supply, sign it….and don’t ask “Is she going to continue to be my patient?” Perhaps, that is her decision.
Both my husband and I wondered, ” What do people do who do not have a family member there to intercede on their behalf?” It must be very difficult.
The statement that I repeated and repeated to every care-giver was that my Mother had a very good mind; thankfully no dementia. Just because she cannot hear you, does not mean she does not understand. “Speak up…and slow down…and we will be just fine!” So often, even in the best of places…and we looked at many…people were sleeping all day in wheel-chairs in front of nursing stations.
I had to practically fight for people to listen to me that all the medicines being given better mean something necessary for my Mother….and not to give her something that just makes her sleep. She likes being alert , playing Scrabble, and reading her books too much to ever have that kind of life. As for this writing, I will not go on and on. I think my readers get the point.
I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, Chocolat directed by Lasse Hallstrom. One of the most interesting characters is Armandi Voi, who is an older woman played by Judi Dench. She is living her life the way she wants to despite the protests of her daughter, who is concerned about her mother’s health issues such as diabetes. One of her lines ,when asked to play a game in which she is to say what she sees in the game, she replies :
” I see a cranky old woman too tired to play games.”
She wanted to eat what she wanted; dance if she felt like it and not be told by anyone how she should spend her last days. She is a dignified, strong-willed woman living in the French country-side in a town where the people believed in tranquillite’ (tranquility). There was not much tranquility in this town, but this is exactly what this woman wanted. Should a diabetic ignore all medical expertise, as Armandi Voi did? Of course not and she died early because of it. However, there is something to be said for doing things as one wants to. After all, this life was lived long and well. There are some privileges.
I think this is true of those who have a short life left to live…is just a little tranquility and dignity to live those last days. This is all my mother wants. It is what you will want when you are her age. Whether you are 32 or 92…the day is coming. Live each day. Give it your all. Take a look at the Mother or Father that you may still have. Give them that extra measure of love and thank God for each sun-rise. Visit them and let them know you care. For anyone that may be old and feel a little tired, the angels will smile if you turn over one night and enter your eternal rest in peace. We should all be so blessed.