Posted by: Robin | August 24, 2008

Uncovered

I swore when I wrote my last post that this blog was not going to become a chronicle about being a caregiver to an aging parent, but the fact is that has been my life for the last eleven days. I did a fairly good job mentally preparing myself for the things I knew about–the mobility issues because of numb feet, the incontinence issues, and even her personal idiosyncracies (though I admit I react more than I wish I did). What has hit like a crippling sucker punch is that she is far more disabled than I’d ever dreamed or been told. And the benchmark the rehab facility gave me of getting her shoulder back to as close to her pre-fall functioning as possible I discovered too late wasn’t close to being delivered. With only one good arm and feet she can’t feel (one that curls up on her from time to time) every time she does anything but sit in a chair, it is a potential fall waiting to happen. We can minimize the dangers, but it is impossible for us to keep her safe 24/7. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so impotent, even when I was this disabled a few years back.

She can’t get her incontinence underwear on. Getting in and out of bed is an extreme sport. Keeping her and her environment clean requires constant attention. Nothing feels safe any longer, and our split-level house feels like the enemy. And then the emotional meltdowns–hers not mine–because she is requiring this kind of care, and she feels so helpless. But maybe what I was least prepared for was the physical intimacy. I should have expected it logically, but I guess I never imagined what the care would mean practically. I can’t shake the Bible story of one of Noah’ sons being cursed because he saw his father’s nakedness. There is something about it that just feels so unnatural. Maybe it’s just that I’m overly sensitive about things like this. Or maybe I’m just not prepared to get this up close and personal with where I could be in twenty-one years. Either way I feel I should be taking this all in stride more than I am. when I consider the individual parts, but the truth is we aren’t living the individual parts.

Logistically we are also in a catch-22 because we had to move her from one state to another. Her Pennsylvania Medicare advantage plan is no good in New Jersey, so she can’t see new doctors until the NJ plan kicks in September 1. Bankruptcy cannot be filed until she has established the 91-day residency requirement. A living situation that would be safer cannot be pursued until her debt is cleared, and with her limited income, few options are available for the moderate care she will need. Lawyers, social workers, and medical professionals have been helpful, and the potential answers are in sight, but that ten minutes between us and the Pennsylvania border have us all on hold.

So here I am, working my way along a day at a time, learning about lots of things I never expected to know, even about myself. I’ve uncovered more difficult realities than I expected to find. But one thing I did have right when I wrote last. I have an amazing husband and children who are loving me through this, and that is a grace for which I am not nearly grateful enough. My dog Charlie is a quiet comfort and makes me laugh regularly. These too are indvidual parts that combined are greater than their sum.

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Responses

  1. The great advances that medical science has brought to us has also brought the with it the many problems of dealing with aging and debilitated parents. When the ones who cared for us are now like “children” and need our care, it is a struggle to help them retain what dignity they can retain, while literally having to bare their beings. There are no easy answers here. There are no answers that fit for every situation. This is certainly a quandary that calls for decision making as the issues arise. Certainly some decisions are out of bounds, and certainly one has to consider the options prior to entering the fray, but ultimately, it is your character (the essence of who you are), your trust in God, your family, and the Lord Himself that guides you through all of this. You love her and “wash her feet” whatever that ends up being, doing what is best for her. That doesn’t always mean being with you; it doesn’t always mean being in a facility.
    You will get through this. You will learn from this. You, Don and the kids will ultimately be strenthened though it.


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