Seniors


If you know me, you know the in-laws have been living with us for 3 years now. We’ve been through many ups and downs in that time, as sharing a household is never easy.  Feelings get hurt, things get broken or dirty, schedules compromised, etc.

Hubz and I went into this like everything we do;  we researched, learned, prepared, made lists, etc. and yet knew there would be surprises. What surprised us the most, I think, is the fact that things never settle into a routine.  Each week of the last three years has brought new challenges and new ways of doing things. Just when you think you have it down, something changes! Someone gets sick, a health care provider retires or moves, and more.

Our latest change involves the nursing home.  Again, we knew it would happen, but you can never really fully prepare for the emotions that come along with that.  Gene fell Thanksgiving week and cracked a vertebrae, which is easily cemented…but nothing is easy when you’re 87.  It has set him back both physically and dementia-wise, necessitating his permanent move to assisted living.

That leaves Nola home with no daily health care provider, no social life and an overriding sadness of having to put her husband in a nursing home.

Nola & Gene = 65 year anniversary! 1/21/14

Nola & Gene = 65 year anniversary! 1/21/14

And so we enter a new phase of this cycle of living.  No one ever said it was pretty.  And even as I say “I can’t do this any more” I’m reminded of Phil. 4:13…”I can do all things through Him, who gives me the strength I need.” and I trudge on.

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My MIL likes to write in her journal, but as life has slowed down in the last 1 1/2 years since they moved in with us, I think she’s abandoned the writing.  So…daughter Alison and I decided she needed some ideas…some thought-starters to get her writing again.  In the process she’ll also be contributing to a written family history!

Grammy’s Journal in a Jar

Here are some of the dozens of questions we wrote on tiny pieces of paper, then placed in a jar:

What kind of chores did you used to do?

Were you ever punished as a child and who did the punishing?

Did you and your brother get along?

Did you ever run away from home?

Did you have a bridal shower?

Do you remember when you first became pregnant? etc. etc.

There are so many life-changing events occurring within our family this spring, we barely can find time to relax and breathe.  I want to take a moment…I want to remember each and every detail. 

  • Alison and Alan, April 20, 2012

    Alison’s wedding;  I was delayed getting to the church by numerous roadblocks;  I later found out I was the beautician’s FIRST client! which pushed everything late…and I was distressed that I was not there in time to help my only daughter into her wedding gown. *tears* Later when the photos arrived from the professional photographer I was gratified to see wonderful and fun pics of her 4 bridesmaids assisting her…lovely! Perfect!

 

  • Jon’s graduation;  distressed with all the complications caused by a lone professor and his unusual grading methods, but we were still witness to a beautiful ceremony at Purdue University, including a great and humorous talk by a Nobel Prize laureate. All will turn out well in the end.
  • 2 sons, 8 years of Cathedral H.S. now finished.

  • Alex’s graduation; the panic of a forgotten camera dimmed in the importance of a wonderful ceremony, nice speeches, and the bittersweet ending of 12 years of h.s. events, performances, study assists, trips, early morning marching and so many more things.  Now, we just need to make that final payment so we can move on to paying for 4 more years of college…

 

 

So many details of wedding and graduation parties, end-of-year banquets, final projects, moving, new jobs,  new college orientation, etc….we are overwhelmed, sad, yet also happy and so grateful for such a full life.  God has been good.  We look back to 2004 when the bottom dropped out of our world and all the discouraging things that have happened since then…but we can also see all the wonderful things that have also been happening.  We have 3 great kids…and now a new son-in-law as well who is pretty great himself! Neal and I are definitely embarking on a new season in our lives, including caretakers to his aging parents….yet we still see opportunities for ourselves to do new things, unencumbered by the many appointments of kids in school.

Stay tuned!

When you are a daily caregiver to a couple of octogenarians…on top of working full time, making plans for a wedding and 2 graduations, etc. a good way to deal with the intense stress is to TRY and “accentuate the positive”…and take a moment to appreciate little things as they go by.

I had a good day.  I was thrilled to be able to spend much of the day manning the Super Bowl Host Committee’s Media Center, chatting with reporters from around the world (Italy, Argentina, Australia, NY to name a few!), and helping with story ideas and sources for interviews.  “Where will these football players most likely get in trouble” was one I bounced over to a Sports Corp spokesman (here‘s his story) and ‘tell me more about this Lego Lucas Oil Stadium’ (here is one of many stories and see below for photos). I am looking forward to another such day on Thursday and then a full day in Super Bowl Village on Saturday, the day before The Game, assisting media.

My day was capped off by seeing K3, my youngest son, decked out head to toe in MY clothes!  Even my daughter rarely borrowed my clothes…but it just so happens that I have a decent wardrobe of workout/running attire that my son likes to get into.  Thankfully, I’m not yet old enough or quite chubby enough that he can’t still wear stuff of mine 🙂

Also, daughter was over for dinner with us;  always a treat, since she doesn’t live with us any more!  We spent some time laying on my bed going over some wedding details, too, which was fun.  I must remember to cherish these little things!

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Sharing is a part of humanity;  we learn how to share in preschool, get married and re-learn how to share, and then teach our kids to share!  We are occasionally tested on our real understanding of this verb, however.  After all, it does translate to “to give a part of something“.

A Clean Kitchen!

I point to this in the context of taking family members (or anyone else, for that matter) into your home.  When you do this, you have to think of every way that it will affect you…and them.  As you know, my in-laws have been living with us for the past 10 months now.  Here’s what sharing has meant to us:

 

  • They’ve pretty much turned their car over (“shared”) to our son, who gets to drive it to his senior year of h.s.;  they no longer drive, but handing over the keys is always traumatic.
  • We share the laundry room.  Doesn’t always work well….usually its fine, thanks to designated days…but I can no longer leave clothes in the washer or dryer “until I get to them”.
  • We share the kitchen.  (Do you have any idea how much emotion was just packed into that sentence?) Women don’t share kitchens very well.  Do men share their work benches with other men?  Do artists share their paints with other artists? Do teenage girls share their makeup drawer with other teenage girls?  Very personal…..enough said.
  • We share space.  That means often small spaces shared by large people, walkers, an occasional cane, 6 pets, etc.  and sometimes differing views on housekeeping and even decor.
  •  And air…we share different smells, different temperatures…adjustments constantly are being made on both sides….we are “giving away a part” of even the air.

There are many things you should be prepared for when you move in with family members, or have them move in with you.  Sharing is a very big part of it!  Sometimes I revert back to my 2-year old self and feel “I don’t want to share any more!”.  That’s when its time for a nice walk or a movie 🙂

I often think that we are at the edge of the curve…that as Baby Boomers age, and our parents age…more will be pulling parents into their homes, just like we did.  But its so hard to find information..  many “resources” are just looking for your money and aren’t all that helpful. How to navigate?

We made a good decision a few months ago, to have an assessment done by a local home health care agency.  They charged nothing for the assessment, and came back to us armed with information on services they could offer, as well as Medicare, etc. options for payment.

As conditions change (which we’ve found they DO change WEEKLY!), the agency has made new recommendations, filed all the paperwork, and even been in touch with the Veterans Administration to iron out benefits.

New changes this week include a hospital bed, which allows FIL to safely get up during the night…and he actually gets up LESS now, so the bed must be more comfortable for him.; an unexpected side benefit!

We have added assistance with two 1-hour baths per week for FIL, plus 3 other days of a 6-hour home health aide, who not only bathes him, but assists with meals, straightening, bathroom cleaning (VERY necessary with the elderly!), and other things “as needed”. What a God-send!  MIL is feeling much happier now that the stress of constant care has been lifted and we feel so much better at work each day knowing they are safe and someone is checking in every day while we’re gone.

Each day, each week, each month is new and different.  We just plod on…

Can't hold off the sunset

Lately I’ve noticed the great similarities between having a child and having an elderly person. Really.  Well, up to a point:

When you’re having a baby, you get all the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”-type books that walk you through every detail of pregnancy, childbirth and life thereafter.  Your friends shower you with gifts of heretofore unknown products like baby-wipe warmers and specialized dishwasher inserts, etc.  Then for the first few years of parenthood, you find yourself hauling that extra equipment everywhere;  loading a child into the car for a trip to the mall or doctor takes an inordinate amount of planning, time and precision;  strollers are folded and packed in just so, diaper bags loaded with all the necessary meds, foods and other supplies, toys strategically placed for maximum entertainment value, children meticulously strapped in, etc.  When you get to your destination, you do it again backwards, unloading, unfolding, unbuckling, etc.  But you feel a certain confidence, as friends and relatives have coached you and outfitted you with the proper equipment and all is loving and good and for the most part the children involved are willing and pliant (okay, forget that part…).

Now let’s say that instead of having a baby, you’re having an elderly person…or two!  Not many instruction books available…usually no 9-month pregnancy period to get used to the idea and “study up”…and no…NO ELDERLY SHOWER!  Nobody gives you the equipment you need;  in fact, nobody even mentions WHAT equipment you might need!  One day you’re frustrated about a certain problem or issue and you head to the Internet and punch “how to help Dad get into bed” into your search engine and Voila!  You find out that there are bed-rails, designed to assist the elderly with the ins and outs of bedtime and turning over, etc. Amazing!  And so it begins…you’re amassing a hoard of specialized equipment again, that needs to be hauled around every time you work up the bravery to go somewhere.   Once again you’re folding and packing things into the trunk, packing a bag with essential meds and foods and whatevers, strategically loading passengers into the car (made more difficult by the fact that you can’t lift them into the car like you can the kids), etc.  When you arrive at the destination, its all reversed…unloading, putting equipment back together, assisting in movement….*whew!  It takes time and patience, as every trip takes at least twice as long as you’d think.

And here’s the kicker…the certain confidence is not there as it was with the children;  there are no cute little babies for people to ooh and aah over as they give you advise, most people don’t know you’re a caregiver or don’t really understand what that means, and they can’t coach you because they haven’t “been there” yet.

This is not the joyful time….this, for the most part, is the sad sunset of life, when we are seeing loved ones decline and become less capable of doing the things they once could do. Emotion gets in the way, in the form of frustration, sadness, and a sense of helplessness.

Society needs to change this!  I have a feeling that with the “bell curve” of Baby Boomers now starting to care for their elderly parents (who are living longer this generation), we just may start to see more highly-publicized social programs and assistance.

In the meantime, I just keep going back to the Internet and any community assistance programs I can find, soaking up as much information as I can.  Each week brings new nuances…changes, adjustments, needs…we just keep trying to keep up with it all!

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