In response to Elderly Care: invitation to Write
I’d like to write about the experience of caring for my loving elderly mother for 2 weeks. I love her dearly and she is in her 80s and in relatively good mental health but getting depressed on and off because of her broken wrist and previously broken hip which made her become dependent on others for her daily routines and needs.
I saw her last year and she was up and running and in good health. It is amazing the difference a year makes in the life of an elderly. I have a large family with many uncles and aunts and their spouses and see this change in them as well when I get chance to visit them.
My sister and sister-in-law have been caring for my mother and I knew about her fall and broken bones. I wanted to be with her during her recovery and perhaps be an emotional support that would help her to get through this. I also wanted to give my sister and sister-in-law a break so they can tend to things they had set aside in order to take turn in caring for my mother.
So when I got there I told them leave my mother to me and off you go! Of course they would be around and she also has a nurse that tends to her during the day for 8 hours/day and 6 days/week. The major task of caring for my mother is at night when she can’t sleep and goes to bathroom a lot.
I guess when you get older and don’t have much to do you sleep during the day (dreaming the 7 kings ;-) because you feel safe with daylight and at night when the lights are out and everyone’s sleep you’ve already caught your sleep and are tossing and turning through the night.
I didn’t realize just how difficult it is to get up randomly every 15 minutes to half hour to an hour or 3 or 4 times an hour and up to total of 16 – 17 times a night. I’d take her to bathroom and help her do her thing and then bring her back to her bed and help her lie down and would then go back to bed myself (on the floor in her room) only for few minutes or half hour when I’d go to sleep and then wake up again when she’d call my name.
One of the things that bothers her was to wake me up and “bother” me. I told her not to worry at all just call me as often as you like and don’t worry about anything, I’m here to take care of you for couple of weeks and would like nothing better to do.
I never thought I’d help my mother to bathroom, my brother had not been able to bring himself to do it and I don’t blame him, although I wish he’d be more of help but everyone is different. So the first time I went to bathroom with her I realized this is another chapter in my life as well as her life. She told me this is so bitter sweet. Sweet because I’m helping her and bitter because I’m helping her. She’d said she’d cherish these memories and so on.
The first night it was just number one and then the next day they asked me if her stomach had worked and I said no so they gave her some flaxeed pills or something and the 2nd night she did the number two and again for the first time I cleaned her up with number 2 and helped her back to bed. I’m writing these so that you can imagine doing this for the first time for your loving parents. If you’re ever faced with this just do it and be happy that you can do it.
The harder part for the caretaker is getting up the next morning and tending to your other responsibilities. For me I was on vacation and no other responsibilities so I’d stay with her while her nurse would help her exercise and we’d watch a movie or I’d go out and get her some stuff. Still I was sleepy during the day and as the time went by I became a zombie but I didn’t complain. I only imagined what it’d be like if I had to work the next day like my sister or sister-in-law.
One night my mother complained to me that others are short with her and having cared for her for several nights I imagined why loved ones would become short and frustrated when they couldn’t put their head to bed for more than one hour max. I tried talking to her that this is a two way street and she and others should try to get along. I said if she thinks a 24 hours nurse would be better she is mistaken. Since this would be her “job” she wouldn’t care as much and would be more than short here and there and more than likely abusive.
Towards the end of my stay we realized that one of her pills that made her go to the bathroom often so she wouldn’t get infected when she had broken her hip and in bed, was NOT supposed to be given to her at night. The stupid doctor didn’t specify the correct time. Others would complain to her that she goes to bathroom too much and doesn’t “need” to but because I was taking her to bathroom I’d witness that she actually needed to go and it’s not for nothing. So that’s when I raised the issue and realized the timing of the pills and by then the pills were finished. The going to the bathroom was decreased from 17 – 18 times to 4 or 5 times during the night.
I can write more but perhaps we can take this up in the comments section and not make this a long blog. In the end I found that our elderly loved ones are each different and while they may have similar physical ailments their ability to deal with those ailments depends on their personalities which would make some fall into depression which would make it harder on everyone.
It’s a tough job and as they say they become like children so perhaps you can treat them like children with the same love except you can’t “discipline” them like children because they’re towards the end of their lives with a life time of experiences and don’t need any discipline for anything. You just let them do whatever they want to do and just be there for them. That is if you truly love them - unconditional love.
Photo caption: Siah Bisheh on the mountainous road to Caspian Sea.
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