Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The mistake and hard lesson

One year ago today, I returned from my early morning work out class and was met in the driveway by my hubby.  I knew she was gone.  It was funny, again, those intuitions.  I had my phone with me in class that day, and it turns out, I reached out to check it and make sure Sherry hadn't called me within 5 minutes of Grandma slipping out of this world.

That time set aside for some stress relief (yes, I realize that most people do not classify a 5:30am workout class as stress relief, but it is for me) came after 4 and a half days of intense around-the-clock caregiving, working from her home while counting the hours until the next dose of medicine, struggling with how much medicine I was giving, begging her to know it was OK to go, lacking sleep, and passing the time with my hubby, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law.  I so appreciate how she brought us together in the end, giving us time with one another and her, showing us once again the important things in life.

I'll tell you something: people pick when to go.  I don't know how or why, but they pick.  And Grandma picked her time, just the way she needed it, holding my hubby's hand, quietly slipping out.

I miss her.  It feels, though, like she's really been gone 22 months, not 12.  Things really went downhill after her fall, and the Grandma I had come to love like my own began slipping out of the world. Today, one last time, I'd like to review my big mistake in caregiving, to finally say goodbye to that pain.

The mistake I made was following advice I was given while she and I were at one of her many doctor's appointments after her fall.  Instead of patiently listening, I tried to distract her from another story she had concocted in attempts of explaining what had happened to her.  She was so stressed about not knowing, tried to come up with explanations that generally included people she had been hallucinating about for quite some time... and I had always just listened... but that day, I tried to stop the story... and the next day, the story became about me.

The more I have thought about that very painful time in my life, the more I have come to realize some important lessons.  Older adults, particularly those with dementia, need stability and predictability.  They need us to remain who we always have been to them, more than any other time in their lives.  They need us to give them the respect they still deserve AND they need us to interact with them in predictable ways.  When they are suspicious, we can no longer just tell them this is the way it's going to be - we have to show them they can fully trust us and our predictable behavior.

I never made that mistake again.  When she finally forgot that story and I resumed fully involved caregiving again, I made sure to recognize her reality and reassure her.  One of the last nights she ever woke me up, she told me she was trying to get up the courage "to smoke me a cigarette."  When asked further, she told me she didn't really want to and was so relieved when I told her she didn't have to.  With that, she let me tuck her back into bed and went peacefully back to sleep.

It can be so easy to get frustrated and short-tempered with the ones we love.  Thank you, Grandma, for the reminder to us to be patient and loving with all those surrounding us... you never know when your conversation and interaction with someone might be your last.

1 comment:

an angry Bunnie said...

*hug* I know what you mean.