Navigating the eldercare world is a long unfamiliar road; twists and turns face you when you least expect it. And, per my post called Murphy’s Law, you are never prepared.
Yesterday was one of those days. I received a call at 3:30 in the afternoon from the assisted living facility were my parents reside. They had called the paramedics and were sending my mother, via ambulance, to the local hospital. To honor her privacy, I will not go into details about what is wrong with her now, but suffice it to say, this is a new development.
The routine is always the same: long hours waiting in ER for test results, culminating with her admittance into the hospital, usually just before midnight. Most often, these events happen on the weekend, but yesterday was Tuesday.
No less than 10 wonderful, efficient, caring nurses worked on my mother while she was in ER and then transferred to her room. All of them polite, concerned and going out of their way to make her comfortable while attending to other patients. I’m in awe of nurses and one of my best childhood friends is a nurse. It takes a special person to WANT to do this for a living.
The ER was extremely busy. Several months ago, during another ER run, I asked one of the nurses about that and she told me that their ER has been like that consistently since around Christmas (it’s now August). I have to ask, is it the economy stupid? Are our local emergency rooms filling up because unemployment has left many uninsured?
Just a side note for clarification purposes: at my parents’ age and stage of life, they are ALWAYS taken via ambulance to ER when as incident occurs. They are not given the choice of making a doctor’s appointment and seeing their primary-care physician first. Since they live in assisted living, I’m sure it’s a liability insurance-related issue that makes this normal operating procedure for the assisted living facility.
The woman in the ER room across the hall from my mother’s room yelled all night long. She was yelling things like, “I want to go home. You are keeping me here against my will. I don’t want her here. Get her out of here. I’ve disinherited her.” And, on and on and on. You get the picture. The hospital had a security guard posted outside her room.
During this stay in ER and later in my mother’s permanent room on another floor of the hospital, they asked me many times to leave the room and wait in a designated family waiting room while they worked on my mother. One of those times, the daughter of the woman across the hall, was in the same family waiting room talking to a hospital social worker. There was no privacy in this waiting room, so of course I heard their conversation and they did not attempt to talk in hushed whispers.
This daughter was probably in her early to mid-forties, which means her mother was in her sixties to early seventies. I don’t know the details of what landed her mother in the hospital, but the early on-set of dementia was one of them.
The daughter had a red plastic accordion file with her. While talking to the social worker, she would pull out this paper and that paper. It was clear that she was traversing some of the same roads I have been down. Whatever had made this mother-daughter relationship go sideways, it was also very clear to me that this daughter was:
- Doing the right thing
- Only had her mother’s best interest at heart
- And, cared deeply.
I felt her pain.
While my parents have been relatively mild-mannered in their relationship with me and my siblings throughout their eldercare journey, my aunt has not. I have had my aunt screaming at me from the top of her lungs that I don’t understand, that she feels like she is in prison, that she doesn’t want to live anymore. In response to these tirades (all of which I have taken very seriously), I have assured her that I will not abandon her, no matter how poorly she treats me. Sometimes in life, it isn’t about you.
The following are the part of the song lyrics from “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” made popular by The Hollies in the ‘60’s. So, as I’m crying while I’m writing this, I’ve changed the lyrics slightly to fit the moment.
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry her
She ain’t heavy, she’s my mother
So on we go
Her welfare is of my concern
No burden is she to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
She would not encumber me
She ain’t heavy, she’s my mother
Until Next Time,
(other posts about Eldercare)
- A Gifted Man
- A Month of Sundays
- All Roads Lead Home
- Both Sides of Clouds
- Do You Have One of These?
- Eldercare’s Blackhole
- High Flight
- Murphy’s Law
- Requiem for My Father
- Running on Empty
- The Gift
- The Sunshine Gang