Taking Care of Our Elders

grandpa

One of the many things I like about Facebook? You get to learn things about your family that you otherwise probably wouldn’t have known.

The man laying on the ground in the picture above is my grandfather – my dad’s dad. He fought in World War II.

I’m just going to post what my Aunt posted on Facebook …

Dan said his dad never talked about the war much (who could blame him) but he would tell us this story often.

One day there was an order to head out, so some of his buddies got into the jeep. Right before Leroy got in, his commanding officer said “Hutton you stay”. That jeep was hit and Leroy lost good friends. He would say to us, “If I would have gotten in, you all would have never been here, that saved my life”. Glad he didn’t get in!”

Isn’t it amazing to think that one moment in time, that one split second decision my grandfather’s commanding officer made, led us to this moment: Four children, ten grandchildren, nineteen (?) great grandchildren later.

It sort of boggles the mind when you stop to think about it.

My grandfather is in his early nineties now. We lost my grandmother, my dad’s mom, about … three years ago (?). She developed dementia toward the end of her life and it was a terribly sad way to say goodbye. It was very hard on my parents, I know. And now my grandfather is being moved to a nursing home today because we have reached the point where he can’t take care of himself and it’s physically too hard on my family to help. (He’s wheelchair bound and he requires physical assistance to get into bed, go to the bathroom, etc).

This is INCREDIBLY hard on my grandfather. He’s FIERCELY independent, has been his whole life, so now that he is being forced into this situation, well, it’s been difficult, to say the least.

My parents came over yesterday and they filled in the details. It was heartbreaking to listen to the anguish in their voices and watch tears gather in their eyes.

My grandfather begs them to take him home. He doesn’t want to go to the home. Who can blame him?? But though my family tried to take care of him in his home for one week, the situation is simply more than any of them can handle. They’re trying to make deals with my grandfather, work hard, participate in physical therapy, work on his strength so that he can at least walk on his own again and then they can take him home and work on a schedule to have someone with him at all times. But my grandfather is being stubborn. I’m sure the whole situation is embarrassing and humiliating for him. I see this in patients every day at work. It’s SO HARD to succumb to physical restrictions and have to rely on other people to help you when you’ve been so used to being on your own, taking care of yourself, your whole life.

This situation makes me think of my own parents a lot. They’re getting up there in age, too. Though they are still both relatively young and stay physically active (they go to a gym to walk and socialize every day), I can see early signs of dependency. It brings a lump to my throat to think me and my siblings may be in a similar boat one of these years. And though you can promise you’ll never, ever, put your loved ones in a home, you can’t TRULY promise that. I think this situation with my grandfather has taught me that. All you can do is the best you can do for the situation you find yourself in.

I also wonder how our boys will react when Kevin and I reach that age. Getting older has never really bothered me before, but honestly, seeing my grandfather’s situation has opened up doors I never really knew existed before.

I learned that being in a home, a DECENT home, is terribly expensive. This will likely put a huge dent in my grandfather’s money. I have no idea how much he has, it’s really none of my business how much money he has, but knowing my family, he likely has a nest egg somewhere he can rely on to help him through this stage. I feel terribly sorry for people that DON’T have that money to fall back on.

Kevin and I have talked about making sure we have a will. But I’m not sure we have ever really discussed our plan if one of us ends up in a nursing home. I have made Kevin promise me he will never put me in a home, and vice versa, but my grandfather’s situation has taught me, it’s never quite that black and white.

I worry that dementia runs in our family. I mentioned my grandmother had it and there are signs my grandfather might have it, too. I’ve always worried about my own memory – I have trouble remembering things NOW. What will I be like when I reach my twilight years?

I think that’s one big reason I refuse to retire. Which, I realize is unrealistic, my body will deteriorate … I realize this. But I hereby pledge to work on keeping my mind active. I’m not saying my grandparents did not do that, dementia is not something you can likely prevent, but I will do everything in my power to keep it at arm’s length.

In the meantime, life trudges on. All we can do is try and keep pace with it.

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