Awesome Hubby and I have just reached our four-year milestone in caring for Elly, my grandmother, in her home. Elly needs to be watched as her personal hygiene and decision-making process is not always the best. She lives in a very small house with a gigantic 1/2 acre yard in town. It is always about this time of year that AH and I get away for a break. For us, the breaks are very important. Getting a break at least every four months tends to work best for us. This spring break, we decided to go back to Big Basin State Park and camp. We had tried camping at Big Basin when the boys were still in school more than 10 years ago but it rained the whole time.
I have two sisters in town, one lives next door (NurseySister) and the other within five miles. I asked both of them during Sunday family lunch, “What would you like to do for Grandma while we are gone?” YoungerSis said she would come for lunch on Thursday and Friday and bring lunch. NurseySister said she and her daughter would take care of the rest! There was no further discussion and I felt I couldn’t say anything so I just tried to let my feelings of control, frustration, loneliness, and concern go. Conversation continued on about other things and then we all left the table for home.
I chose not to remind or instruct either sister on what the routine or conditions were with Elly other than to text them on Wednesday, the day we left, that Elly was still feeling sick and eating soup. I did leave a note with the lotion, ointment and powder for NurseySister explaining what I do to clean Elly’s legs and her wound spots. Elly was anxious about what time we were leaving and I had the sense that she was up to something. I just “let it go” and we left on the trip.
Our time away was still way too short with some wonderful scenery in the Redwood Forest. We hiked eight miles one day and then I rested the next day, trying to catch up on my magazine reading. We had no cell phone service when we entered the park, none on the trails either. I tried not to think of any emergencies that might happen.
On our way home on Saturday, the first text that my phone showed me was from my daughter-in-love saying she was taking our son to the ER after a little bike accident; it was dated Wednesday. We called our son and got the story, he is going to be fine with 13 stitches and some rest. We spent a little time visiting some relatives on the way home and then arrived home in time to put the turkey in the crock pot for Easter Sunday lunch.
From what I could tell, Elly was just fine once we left. No stomach issues. My sisters brought her food which they said she ate just fine. One of the sisters said Elly was confused about when we were coming home, thought we’d be gone just overnight. Elly seemed to be chipper when we arrived home and glad to see us. Her legs had several spots that were more red and threatening to break open–worse than when we left. It was obvious that only the compression stockings were used and not the wraps. Elly has resisted my routine since we’ve been back saying she needs a break from the stockings and that she doesn’t need the lotion on her legs anymore. Fortunately, we had an appointment with the wound clinic yesterday, where the nurse was stern with Elly about the reason for the routine. I hope we are set straight for a while now. We have another appointment in three weeks so I am confident I can get the legs back in shape with Elly’s cooperation, of course.
It’s been four years. We wonder how much longer can we live in tight quarters. My grandmother is not the same person I was when I was younger and, as she ages, the filters from the brain to the mouth have disappeared! I am struck by how Elly can “rise” to an occasion. She continues to withhold information from her son who calls regularly and not be truthful with me. She consciously chooses to be secretive but then sometimes just doesn’t remember!
We realize that if she moves to a facility, she would have more opportunities to be social and “rise” to the occasion which could be much better for her emotionally. Elly tends to lean toward some depression especially when she is being obstinate and I am being overly truthful–”kidneys just aren’t working and cause these issues.” When she pushes my button, I do say it kindly but, “If you were in assisted living, they would be doing the same things for you.” “At 93.5 years old, you are retired from dishwasher duty!”
She wouldn’t have those conversations with caregivers in a facility; it would be a fact of her life that she would have given up those roles that she struggles to hang onto today. Her son would very much support putting her into a facility, since he understands the stress and the stuff we go through to live with his mom. We know that we would lose a large part of our relationship with Grandma if she were to move to a facility without it being totally her decision. We continue to do what we are doing because we know it’s right for now.
I feel the most weary since I am always interacting with Elly as well as taking care of house, yard, meals, juggling my needs, etc. Awesome Hubby does appreciate and recognize this as a huge responsibility. So, this is where we are today, after Easter.