Our Lady of Weight Loss

Our Lady of Weight Loss


The Elder Care Blues: Things Could Be Worse … and, they will be.

The thing about life is that life has a life of its own, and you just never know when ‘life’s life’ is going to show up and where ‘it’ is going to take you.   For the most part the unexpected twists n’ turns are a mere blip in your day, barely noticeable.

For example:  You plan on wearing your black jeans, but they’re in the wash, so you grab your blue jeans.  You plan on going to a movie, but when you get there, it’s sold out.  No biggie.

There are the happy twists n’ turns.  You go to a party and run into an old friend and marry him (not that night, but soon thereafter).  You go on a trip to Chicago and unexpectedly connect to a gaggle of long lost cousins. (Best kind of family; little to no history but still family.) You permanently remove bucket loads of excess weight, create a website to share your experience and – holy cowgirls – a publisher asks you if you’d like to write a book. (All true.)

And then, there is the other kind of twist n’ turn; the type of twist that turns you inside out and upside-down and is not particularly welcomed.  Just as my husband, Peter, and I were making our final plans to spend a few open-ended months in Tucson without concern of a return date (a mini/semi-retirement for him — my work is portable), just as I was incredulously saying, “OMG! This is incredible!  We can go and come as we please. Can you believe it??”

Just as I bellowed from the deepest part of my soul, “Freedom!” a la Mel Gibson in Braveheart (I forgive you, Mel, for your lame-brained remarks), my fully independent, still living on her own, 95-year-young mother fell, not once — but twice — and…

…The world of elder care came crashing down upon us.

Peter and I rushed to the hospital where we found my mom — whose name is, by the way, Harriet — behind the emergency room curtain, lying lonely on the hospital bed. I asked, “Are you all right?”

Harriet replied in her usual witty and wry style, “Things could be worse… and they will be.”

We laughed. “Things could be worse… and they will be” is one of my mother’s signature sayings.

When I was five, Jimmy S. tripped me. (Intentionally?)  My chin cracked open (I have the scar to prove it), and by the time I made my way home, my pretty-in-plaid kindergarten dress was bloodied up.

Mom said in a somewhat playful yet serious tone, “Ohhhh.  Things could be worse.” She followed this with a sympathetic smile and a half-chuckle. “And they will be.”

When my 6-year-old neighbor decided to practice his barber skills on my favorite doll, Patty Playpal, and cut off her long locks much to my distress, my mom once again said, “Things could be worse… and they will be.”

So mom fell, not once but twice, and “things” surely could have been worse.   Her elbow was fractured; the crown of her head was cracked open just a tad, leaving a small gash; and she was pretty much a bruised-up mess.  But she did not break her hip, no surgery was needed and she still has all her marbles, which was a very good thing.

Naively, I thought, “A few weeks of rehab and life will return to normal.” Boy-oh-boy was I wrong!  The words, “Things could be worse… and they will be” have taken on new meaning.

As the weeks passed, it became abundantly clear that we were looking at a “new and lesser normal,” and that the day had arrived. My mom, 95.5 years young, who had lived happily in her Long Beach apartment for 31 years, was not going home.

Elder care is a minefield of logistics and a roller coaster of emotions.  As I stated, our scenario is not the worst ever, but nevertheless it is madly overwhelming.

Madly is defined as wildly, fiercely.  Its synonyms include absurdly, crazily, dementedly, desperately, exceedingly, frantically, frenziedly, hastily, irrationally, passionately, psychotically, senselessly, unreasonably, violently… Eldercare is all that and more.

One way I have been channeling my emotions, processing the daily happenings and seeing the opportunity in this journey (Yes, there’s plenty of opportunity here for personal growth, including but not limited to surrender, compassion and humor) is to fast and furiously send emails to my real and “chosen” family.

These missives, which ranged from “three-tissue reads” to “side-splitting belly laughs,” have proven to be an enormously therapeutic tool (for me), and the information and entertainment factor useful and even enjoyable for the family, which brings me here — to this page, and to YOU!

I know there are plenty of “us” caretakers out there, and we are stressed! According to a recent study from the American Psychological Association, 55 percent of caretakers are just “plain” stressed, and 22 percent are “extremely” stressed.

It is my intention to share my journey on these pages and to keep it real, which means telling the entire truth, not just the more sane and happier slices of it.  I think the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me G_d, is necessary here.

This isn’t about me.  True — writing to you all is a most excellent way for me to empty my mind and vent about the happenings in my life; but I am merely one of the very many boomers who are currently navigating (or will be soon enough) the strange, alien, frustrating and frankly, insane world of elder care.  Skimping on the truth wouldn’t be helpful or fair.

So… Here “we” go.  I am reaching out to you for support and at the same time offering support.  I am hopeful that you will seize this opportunity to empty your mind, tell your truth — comment below — so that we can, together, face this bittersweet time and help prepare those who are to follow.

Keep an eye out for my next post, when “delirium” hits Harriet and these pages!

Spread the word … NOT the icing,

Janice

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Barbara Salant

    Dear Janice,
    I am glad that your Mom is a survivor! My heart and true empathy goes out to you. You are so fortunate to be connected to people who can help you on this journey. When I was faced with a similar situation, I was completely alone…even my brother deserted me. (We have since reconciled and things with us are good). The key is reaching out to people….something I didn’t know about during my Mom’s 7 year stay in a nursing home. Cheers to you and to your family!!!
    Barbara Salant

    • http://www.ourladyofweightloss.com Janice Taylor, Editor

      Hi Barbara… Thank you for your thoughtful note. Your mom’s 7 year stay in a nursing home must have been ‘something!’ Again, the son thing … where are they??? Reaching out is a most excellent idea! I am reaching out and I appreciate your responding! Take care!!! J.

  • http://Eldercare!!! Cathy Petersen

    My mom fell 2 1/2 yrs. ago and broke her hip requiring surgery and a stay in rehab. At the time she was selling her house in one state and moving close to me in an adjoining state. I had to close on her house there and purchase the new one here. I also had to paint it, buy floor coverings, appliances, and move her belongings. Then she fell and broke her shoulder, surgery, and rehab again. During this time I had her 2 dogs, my 2 dogs, and my son’s 2 dogs all at my house. She did pretty well for awhile and then passed out from low oxygen to break her wrist. No rehab, but new precautions. After taking her on a vacation to Mexico, she developed a detached retina requiring 3 surgeries over the next year. Then she had the hardware from her hip removed and 6 weeks later, fell and broke her pelvis in several places. Back to rehab…Then she came home and 5 weeks later, fell and broke her arm in 3 places requiring surgery, and you got it, REHAB!!! She was doing fine and came home last week. She’s 79 and lives by herself. Now if she would quit being so nervous, maybe she might enjoy life. I’m not so sure. It’s hard to watch and be as supportive as you can. My brother is in another state so he’s no help and my kids help when they can. It’s almost like a full-time job. I just hope things can calm down for awhile….

    • http://www.ourladyofweightloss.com Janice Taylor, Editor

      Wow wow wow! What an ordeal. I can’t believe you and your mom are still standing! And you are absolutely correct; it is extraordinarily difficult to ‘watch’ and be the supportive daughter. As far as I can tell, sons are few and far between. More on that later! It deserve a post or maybe two or twenty-two. In other words, don’t get me started :) Thank you for sharing and … please … continue to do so! Thank you! J.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Christine Snow

    First off, I am sorry to hear about your mom. My father, 87 in April, spent New Years and the entire month of January in the hospital. I have made more calls to Long Term Insurance, hospitals, care homes and in home care in the last month than I have made personal calls in the last year! I now have pop back in his home in Anaheim with my mother and… a 24 hour care sitter. These guy’s have been a Godsend. I had issues with one falling asleep and my father making his way down stairs in the middle of the night but, he was replaced and there were no broken bones. I sleep with my phone under my pillow and I have yet to have a night of rest. Things could be worse..and they will.

    • http://www.ourladyofweightloss.com Janice Taylor, Editor

      Oh My Christine! The stress of it all. Your phone under your pillow!!! As of yesterday, my mother’s phone is theoretically broken (the last time, she’d hit the wrong button and turned it off) – so until I get there tomorrow, things are quiet! I hope that your ‘helpers’ are God-sent and do their job well! Things could be worse :) xo Janice

  • http://www.alicebcreative.blogspot.com Betty Springer

    Janice – First of all, I love your Mom’s motto. And doesn’t it make a heck of a difference when your folks keep their sense of humor, because if you can laugh together that makes it a bit less daunting (at least momentarily).

    I cared long distance for my parents as they eeked out their last years in their beach house with caretakers coming in. Their caretakers were truly a God-send. Finally Dad passed from lung cancer – terrible way to go – and I moved Mom up closer to me in a nursing home.

    No matter how nice the place, I still had to act like a “Momma Bear” sometimes to get Mom well-cared for.

    I am totally here for you, Janice.

    • http://www.ourladyofweightloss.com Janice Taylor, Editor

      Hi Betty, As you can see, I am a tad behind responding to last week’s post, as I just answer your this week’s note! Sense of humor is everything! It’s the truth; I am micro-managing everything. I’m doing my best to think of things that we need a lot of so that I am not constantly running to the store. Cases of toilet paper, for sure! It’s a balancing act; from the deeply emotional side of it all to the logistics and daily stuff. Toilet paper, instant coffee and grape jelly seem to ‘move’ fast! Keep on writing. Janice

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Patti Iverson

    ohhh, all so true, Janice! I’ve had my mil living with us for 28 years–the good, bad, ‘n ugly of it. Now, at 96, she IS the elderly elderly and we are “stuck”. It is a joy to serve the Lord, to care for her because she is wonderful in so many ways–yet it is the hardest thing we’ve done so far–and that’s including many trial in life of many awful issues. This is harder. But God is great and gonna see us through this time, otherwise we couldn’t put up with the agonizing/exasperating/infuriating/frustrating–all the “ings” of dealing with aging. And she doesn’t wanna deal with ‘em either! She’d just as soon go be with God ‘n her dear husband–and everybody else who’s died ‘n left her still here. Harumph! I don’t go to Caregiver’s classes/seminars–all I’d do is cry. I tried once. Fergeddaboudit! We all know to “LET IT GO”–and that is our mantra we use daily. That and prayer get us through, and when all you have is God, then you find that God is enough. And actually—it can’t go on for “tooooo” many more years! So we choose to enjoy what we can and let the other we don’t, go! Hope this helps somebody…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jan

    I am a elder care person also. I have my Mother at home with me. I am 72 years old and have bad legs but I manage. She has some dementia and dosn,t like me. She refuses to walk so I have to change her, bath her and feed her in bed. Very hard. Three years ago I took care of my bedridden husband the same way. So I agree with your Mom, it can always be worse. Good luck to you and yours. And thank you for your site.

    • http://www.ourladyofweightloss.com Janice Taylor, Editor

      Hi Jen, Sounds like you literally have your hands full and my heart and prayers are with you. Doing what I am doing has me frayed to the edges; taking care the way you are is an enormous undertaking. Bless you, for your patience and fortitude. Keep me/us in your loop. I’m sure everyone here is sending love and supportive vibes! Janice

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