When Your Parents Age

What do you do when your parents are aging.  They are doing it right in front of you and you can’t stop it.  It can take a toll on you and them.  Now not only do you have your children, grandchildren that depend on you, you now have a dependent parent.  It can be overwhelming at times.  My sister and I were talking last year about how our mother was declining both physically and at times mentally.  We had tried to encourage her and my stepfather to move closer to one of us.  It went to no avail, they had friends and a church that they enjoyed.  Not even a week after my sister and I were talking about my mom, I got a frantic phone call from my sister, it was April 1st.  She didn’t sound like she was in a very joking mood, she said mom’s gone, I replied “gone where”.  It was no joke, my mom died at the age of 78 trying to mow her yard, I know when it is your time, it’s your time, but a part of me thinks well if she lived here I would have done her yard or had someone to do it.  At least she was doing what she loved, working in her yard.  The question us kids raised repeatedly was “what if they only lived closer, what if we really knew how her health was ( she had a way of sugarcoating everything)what if…what if.  We pretty much all stated our lives were pretty crazy at this point, how would we have been able to care for her too.   I had suggested an assisted living to them a few years back but they were pretty independent and wanted to hear nothing more about it.  So subject was dropped.  She was pretty much was of a sound mind but there times she would get really forgetful and repeat stories until you had them memorized.  But she was my mom and sometimes just the sound of her voice would brighten my day.

I have been a nurse for 32 years mainly doing long term care and rehab.  I thought i was ready for the day when we would have to place her in a nursing home.  I knew what to look for when visiting a nursing home.  I made a list of all the things to observe while visiting.  It went something like this:                                                                                                                                                     1.  Be aware, does staff address or greet you, or do they ignore you?  Does the staff seem stressed out?  Do they seem to have enough staff?  Are the the state survey results posted ?  Are the resident’s rights posted for residents and family to see?  Is the number for the ombudsman posted and easily located?  Look up reviews online before committing to certain nursing home.

2.  Utilize your senses.  How did it smell?  How did it smell as you went onto the actual floors?  What did you hear?  Was there a lot of screaming from other residents?  What did you see?  Did other residents look clean and well kept or did they look dirty and disheveled?  Do the residents seem happy and content, or angry and scared?

3.  You are your parent’s voice …use it…you are their advocate.  If something does not seem right, question it.  Don’t scream and holler over every little thing, but develop a good communication with your  parent’s caregivers, teach the caregivers how your parent may like or dislike things.

These are a few of my main things that I would be doing, had we got that far with my mom.   Some people may opt to take care of them at home.  As noble as that is, make sure you can juggle everything and still take care of you.  It sounds easy but it is not especially if you work full-time and are raising an active family.  We kept my husband’s mother for 19 years.  It was very hard on all of us, from the children on up to her.  Every vacation we took she went with us ( we never had a break from each other).  One time when she was hospitalized from a mini-stroke, we decided we all would go to church.  That was the first Sunday service my husband, I, and our 5 children all got to sit together and attend service.  We would usually switch off because somebody had to be home with his mom at all times.  I am not sure how we made it thru those years, but we did.  If you plan on keeping your parent at home, make sure you have back-up caregivers, if even for just a dinner out with friends.  I also suggest you join a support group.  They are out there to help you feel like you are not doing this alone.

Our aging parents are there depending on us for their basic needs from companionship to actual hands on medical needs.  They have given us life and taught us to be the fine adult we are today.  Many of our parents are living history papers just waiting to be wrote.  They could tell us stories from the “Great Depression”, the “World Wars”, just how life was “back in the day”.   They are our genetic history as to who carries on Grandpa’s bright blue eyes, or Grandma’s dimples.  They at one would have done anything for us..now it is our chance to be able to give it back to them.  Whatever you choose to be the perfect answer I just ask that you consider all the possibilities.  And above all please take care of yourself.



Taking Life For Granted

Do you ever take life for granted?  Even just a little?  I really didn’t think I did either.  This week I had a close call with reality.  Through this little ordeal I did realize that I did take life for granted.  I was kind of ashamed of myself.

I went and did a mammogram on Friday the 13th ( of all days).  I was bad I never had one before but held my head up high and went and let the machine squash one boob and then the next.  It was basically painless and quick.  I even wondered to myself why didn’t I do this before, It wasn’t that bad.  They said I would probably hear from my doctor that afternoon or Monday.  I waited..I waited … and waited some more.  Monday I got the call no woman wants to get.   The nurse explained the findings to me ” they found a nodule to the right breast”, and “you need to go and get an ultrasound to make sure it is nothing bad”.   I was in shock and had her repeat what she just told me.  My youngest daughter overheard my conversation with nurse and went into a “freak out” of sorts.  You see in the back of all our minds was events that unraveled 2 years ago, my husband received the news that he had a large mass in his abdomen that went into his liver.  My husband fought through surgery and chemo.  He was so weak, so sick, so proud.  He fought but cancer won and he passed away about 9 weeks later.  The image profoundly stuck in all our minds.  My daughter remembers, she remembers everything, all the things that cancer took away from her.  Her daddy, her everything.  Cancer can be evil.  She knows he would not see her graduate from school, teach her to drive her first car, help her pick out the college she would attend, and walk her down the aisle to the love of her life.  She (and I) were a bit scared.  I tried to pretend and say it will all be “okay”.   She reminded me that that is what I told her when we found out about her daddy’s cancer.  I tried to stay positive and strong but inside I knew that things were falling apart.  So.. to say I was cool, calm and collected..well I can pretend, but not well.  Yes I was scared, but in the process of being scared I was trying to rationalize my thoughts saying it’s a small nodule, it’s just in one breast.  I was giving myself such a pep talk.  I was ready to fight…then the flood of emotions …then the okay suck it buttercup …it was a roller coaster of emotions.

I sat there in the dead of the early morning hours, thinking how stupid I was to think I could get by not having a mammogram for 10 years and to think it would be okay.  How vulnerable I felt.  Here is a slice of reality, slap slap.  I then began to think about my life.  I had a good life.  I tried to be a good christian, I tried to help others.  But yet I wondered was I good enough..

I was not scared to die.  I made peace a long time ago.  I worried not for myself but for my children and my grandchildren.  I believe I do make an impact on their lives be it big or little, I am there.   I worried or still worry for my children, yes I know some of them are “old enough” but a mother will always worry.  That is our job.  I blasted myself with all kinds of what if’s.  I thought about all the worst case outcomes.  I thought about what I could of done should have done differently.  Would it really matter?  We all get into our daily rituals or routines.  We trudge through each day like it is a bother not a blessing.  We assume and not think there may be another answer.  We take life for granted.

Well the nurse called to tell me that it was enlarged lymph node and that it was non-malignant.  Best words I had ever heard.   I thanked her.  I actually had her repeat that it was non-malignant.  I could not believe that I escaped the wrath of cancer, if only just this once.  My 13 year old daughter and I were giving high fives to each other.  That was after the embrace and tears of happiness.

The sun looks brighter today.  The sky looks oh so blue.  The grandbabies when they cry it seems like music.  The grass is greener.  Everything seems so much more perfect.  The air smells much fresher.  I am going to live life.  I am going to take in the pretty scenery a think it was was made for me.  I will stop and smell that flower along the way.  I may or may not tell my grandson to hurry up.  Life is full of experiences, embrace them, acknowledge them, and enjoy them.  Remember to accept what life hands you..it is actually a lesson..a lesson we may not even understand yet.





Exhausted but Blessed

This has been a very hectic last few weeks.  Four of my five grandchildren all got RSV.  Both toddlers ended up in the emergency room.  Both of the three month old babies ended up in separate hospitals so I had sibling duty.  It was pathetic to watch these babies and having to put on oxygen and all.  The toddlers did better than their baby sisters.  As any of you know, it is hard to watch these normally busy, buzzing toddlers  become docile and just lay around.  After day two of this RSV crap the docile toddler who still feels bad but wants to play, is not necessarily a nice little person to be around.   Sure they still want to be cuddled and snuggled with, but…they can also be kind of well lets say um..well..mean.  A sick toddler is a terrible two-year mixed with a bit of a teenager, a woman that is PMSing, a little bit of of the pre-menopausal woman too.   It has been hard on all of us from the grandchild that is sick to their parent who is trying to juggle work, their other children, and the child that was sick, and the grandparent who is just trying to hold some sense of sanity together.  I am glad to say that hopefully this adventure is somewhat behind us.

I am blessed that all are on the mend and doing well.  We have had snuggle up time reading books these last few days, other than a few debates between the two year olds’ as to which book needed to be read first, I think we may be back on a normal track again.  I am back to being “grandmommy” the human tissue.  I usually wear my “frumpy”  and “comfy” clothes when I babysit as you could connect the spots of baby spit up, boogers, and whatever they decide that they need to wipe on me.  I don’t really mind as the clothes and I can be washed.  I help them through the day as much as they help me.  They help keep me and my mind active and to focus on their achievements.  They help me to not worry about the future ( at least while we are together), as they are our future.  I want to be able to make the best positive impact in their lives.  From my six year old grandson thru my 3 month old granddaughters and the two in between  and the ones to come… I love you all and you have my whole heart.  When I look into their faces I see bits and pieces of their parents and pieces of my late husband.  How could my heart not melt.