More Than Meets the Eye, True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife covers many aspects of the dying and grieving process and sheds light on euthanasia, suicide, near-death experience, and spirit visits after the passing of a loved one. ___________________________________________

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Role of a Caregiver for Elderly Parent

You may remember reading on this blog about my grandmother, whom we call Nanny, when she fell and broke her hip and arm last year. She had been shopping at Sam's Club with my parents and was helping to put away groceries when she lost her balance and fell in the kitchen.

Nanny has always been active. She practically raised my cousins, my brother, and me while our parents worked. After I was grown and married, I lived next door to her and my grandfather (he passed in 1988). Nanny and I raised a 1/3-acre garden together, including the plowing, planting, harvesting, and canning. My mom would come by after working all day and help us with whatever task was left. In her eighties, Nanny still mowed her own lawn and lived alone. In 1998, she sold her house and moved in with my parents, who also sold their home and bought a place big enough to accommodate the furnishings of two households. My parents have made many sacrifices to see that Nanny, the matriarch of our five-generation family, gets the love and care that she has unselfishly given to us for all these years. This photo was taken last summer when Nanny turned 93 and we had her birthday bash.

Nanny's worst fear was that she would be placed in a nursing home in her old age. I've heard Nanny say many times that she would rather die than be away from her family. My mom and I promised that that would never happen as long as we were living.

While in the hospital, Nanny had surgery to insert a rod into her hip bone in hopes that she would be able to walk again. She overcame pneumonia only to find that the rod didn't hold. It was causing her much pain as it swayed back and forth, unattached at one end. Her doctor ordered tests to determine Nanny's ability to undergo a second surgery that was more dangerous than the first one. The test revealed that she had a blood clot in her groin. A filter was inserted into her leg vein to catch the clot and prevent it from going to her heart, brain, or lungs. Then, she had the surgery which left her with a ten-inch incision to heal while still on blood thinners.

It's hard to see Nanny unable to walk. Nevertheless, it has not dampened her spirits or her ability to interact with her family. Even though she's presently recovering from a third blood clot, Nanny is in excellent spirits and sound mind (thankfully!). 

My mom has taken great care to see that Nanny doesn't develop bed sores. Even though Nanny's arm didn't heal properly, she is able to use it well enough 
to feed herself, wash her face, brush her teeth, and comb her own hair. She has recovered the use of her upper body through daily exercises the physical therapist taught my mom to do with Nanny. In the photo above, Mom is checking Nanny's temperature, blood pressure, and blood gas levels simultaneously. Easily to see where I get my multi-tasking abilities!

Thanks to having good insurance that covers her healthcare, we have a hydrolic hoist to lift her from the bed and wheel her to the living room where she sits in her recyliner most of the day. She's still an avid Braves fan even though she doesn't see or hear well. She likes being in her chair because it puts her smack-dab in the middle of whatever is going on. She is a very social person, and the worst part of her recovery was being in her room alone and unable to get herself up to join the action or help in the kitchen.

I really don't see how my mom does it all: clean house, care for her mom, cook meals (not just for those who live in her household, but also for the family who comes to visit), do the shopping, and run errands while Pawpaw (my diabetic father) sits with Nanny. Mom rarely gets to leave the house for more than an hour at the time. I don't envy her, even though I would help her regularly if I didn't live five hours away.

I did make the 275-mile trip this past weekend because my mom's house was the venue for my daughter-in-law's (Amanda) baby shower. My cousin's daughter is also expecting a baby the same week as Amanda so while we were in town, we had both baby showers: Jessica's on Saturday and Amanda's on Sunday. That meant a lot of extra cleaning, shopping, and cooking. Mom was thrilled to have a chance to get out of the house and have help with the daily chores and someone to help her with
 exercising, bathing, and tending to Nanny. The time we spent together was fun. Here is a photo of Nanny, blindfolded and playing the cotton ball game at Amanda's shower.

Nanny is fortunate. Most families don't have an attentive caregiver like my mom. The nurses who come to visit once a week are amazed that Mom never had any medical training. She has simply cared for people all her life and is willing to do whatever it takes for her loved ones to be healthy and happy--even at her own expense. She is so tired these days. I'm very glad that she has arranged for other family members to come in and care for Nanny around the clock next week. Mom and Dad are going to Florida on vacation for a much-needed time out.


Carl David said...

What a great family! How lucky you all are to have each other. Your Grandmother is a very cool lady; love her zest for life!

Wish her many more years in good health; she deserves!!!!!!! And so does her family.

Yvonne Perry said...

Thank you, Carl. I know you understand the value of family. I feel like part of yours since working with you on your book!