Saturday, January 2, 2010

not the best start

Well it's not been the best start to the new year/decade. Grandma Naida went in an ambulance to the hospital w ongoing atrial fib of the heart, and her bronchitis turned into pneumonia. They are tinkering with meds, and she is still having a lot of chest pain. A month ago, they tried a planned procedure to shock her heart back into rhythm, but the result only lasted a few days before the atrial fib kicked back out of whack. Meanwhile, Grandpa is still in the rehab facility, recovering from his hip break accident. The good news is he is covered w 24/7 help while Grandma is in the hospital, he's been recovering since late October, so he is most anxious to get out & go home-- always a sign of recovery. Looks like they still need to do more therapy, so late January they may set him free. My Mom is in a care facility in Illinois, with Alzheimer's. She will celebrate her 85th birthday this month! I do go through periods of wondering how is it we are all spread across the country by thousands of miles, so we are not able to help in times of need. I have taken family leave over the years, to help post op, and do working vacations to help with major projects that are needed, and this is the first year in a while that I took a break. Last year I spent 2 weeks of vacation dismantling my Mom's house of 40 years. Definite labors of love, but also I found it emotionally difficult. Mom is still alive, and we were emptying the house, as if she was not. I had a few meltdown moments, just overcome with how sad it all was. To watch a vibrant, fiercely independent woman "fade" with this disease is difficult. To this day, Mom is still fairly lucid, but she shifts into a not here & now mode sometimes in mid conversation. Her beloved Sister who passed away a few years ago, is always referred to as being alive, in the present ~ even though Mom attended the funeral. With this disease, you don't correct the person, upsetting and or confusing them further.
I just agree, and then change the subject.
There are times I want to just uproot & go to the Midwest & be there to help them. This really is their time of need, when their ability to live independently is no longer the same. But the reality is we do have everything in place here. Jobs, a home, etc. It's not that easy to just flip everything circa 2010. Jobs are scarce, even selling or renting a home is a big deal & no way we could afford two different house or rental payments. Even family medical leave has it's limits...
you can take time off for immediate family, but not In-laws, for instance. Even that is time without pay... so it is limiting by virtue of financial reality. I keep feeling like I myself did not think this through very well-- of course our relatives would need help in their "sunset years".
It feels like time just suddenly warped & each elderly relative is in a time of need.
Old man time just got real stingy, and I feel trapped, by economic reality, obligations, and a wish to be able to be there for everyone, when in reality I know I can't.


Christopher said...

So sorry to hear of your family strife.

It sounds like there is no good or perfect answer. Any possibility of moving your mom to an Alzheimer facility in Oregon? I would think there are excellent places in Portland or Eugene. Just an idea.

We were talking about family members aging today. Jim came home from a particularly difficult shift where two of his patients had Alzheimer disease. He's not really trained to care for them but, the way the law works, the moment they're "stuck," as in a line is put in a vein, they become a medical patient and the facilities here can't keep them so they have to be moved to a hospital.

Today we decided to get our advanced directives in order so no one is burdened by end of life decisions that might come back to bite the other. I'm still haunted by my decision to have a gastric tube put in my 95 year old grandmother so she wouldn't starve to death. Her sisters admonished me for the decision saying I should've let her die but the doctor told me she might rally and have a few more good months of quality life. Sadly, that wasn't the case and she passed away two weeks later.

It seems there is no good decision when the person is a beloved family member.

Dave Dubya said...

I no longer have the in-laws or parents, and have had to deal with such issues at both near and long distance. It's never easy. I wish I could offer helpful advice, other than be sure to take care of yourself, too.

They would understand.

D.K. Raed said...

Dear Fran, if there were any way to be there yourself, I know you would. Of course you feel you should be there, but since that does not seem feasible, you do what you can from a distance and have nearerby relatives pick up the slack.

In our modern world families are no longer all living within a few miles of each other, making it difficult, sometimes downright impossible, to handle those "sunset years". It is, as you say, a trap, but not one of your own making. It is economic reality and you are dealing with it as best you can.

It is totally unfair that Family Leave does not apply to in-laws or less than immediate family. If you are the caregiver, they should be considered family, no matter what the actual blood relationship.

It's all very sad because surely no one would choose to live their final years in constant pain. Many people don't even want to talk about the issue.

Mauigirl said...

Fran, my thoughts are with you. I know how difficult it is to see someone you love fade away with Alzheimer's Disease. My father had some type of dementia, probably Alzheimer's, and ended his days in a nursing home, and now my mother-in-law is in the same situation. We are lucky enough to be within an hour or less of both my in-laws and my elderly mom and aunt so I can only imagine how difficult it is to deal with these situations long-distance. I know you would be with them if you could.

Fran said...

Christopher~ A good question you posed- Any possibility of moving your mom to an Alzheimer facility in Oregon?
That topic came up in the first months of her being in a care facility.... my Mom asked me if she could move here & I was absolutely willing & offered to have her move here. A number of issues came up:
• What Mom actually wanted was to move to my house-- not a different care facility near my house. She needs 24/7 care. There are several good facilities within a few miles of my house... but that was not what she had in mind!
• The key element in Care Facilities is find ones that do long term care AND accept medicaid. Surprisingly, many hotel companies run "care facilities", that care as long as you have money. When the $ runs out, they no longer care and do not accept medicaid. Some facilities offer a limited # of medicaid patients they will do long term care for. The top notch places that offer it all, have a 1 to 2 year waiting list. We had to pay a $500 application fee just to get Mom on a waiting list.
• Mom is not a big traveler. Flying in a plane for 2000 miles would be physically difficult for her. She has bladder & bowel issues, and once she gave up her place at the facility she was in, and paid the cost to fly here, there would be no turning back. She might decide she wanted to change her mind & that would not be an option.
• 24/7 memory care in the very nice facility she is in runs $7000 a month. Plus laundry, $500 out of pocket for meds, and any other extras. She has burned up the total amount of the value of her house, if we could even sell it.
Awash in a neighborhood flooded w over 300 foreclosures in her zip code alone. Soon, the house will have been for sale for 2 years.
We've dropped the price over $100,000 & it's still not selling. Money is a factor.

Great move getting the advance directives, and Power of Attorney in order- so you & your partner do not wind up in one of those nightmarish family legal battles.
They have lots of tiers of DNR care-- if there is hope of recovery, give it a shot, but the bottom line for me is quality of life.

We have friends who lived together for 15 years, and @ 50 something, he was working out @ the gym & had a major aneurysm....
in a coma for a long time, many surgeries to relieve the swelling. He can't hardly speak, can barely walk, needs care & his 80 something year old Mother, took power of attorney.... and even though the partner (a nurse) had come to the decision he would not want to live this way....she was able to take control, take him to her state & now he will spend his life living with his mother- never able to work, or really function again.
All his near & dear friends agree, he would have preferred to not live this life.

But she had the legal power.

We did ours when the Schiavo case was happening. No way I would want to be in a coma for 12 years while my family hashed out the legal details.

I also have a copy of my medical directive on file @ my Doctor's office.

It's not all doom & gloom-- my older son is getting married in November in Ohio- so we plan on visiting both families- in Illinois & Ohio.

Volly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Volly said...

Fran, I'm sorry to hear about all this stress. As others here have said, there are NO quick, easy answers, and it seems like opportunities to "step in something" lurk around every corner. You can only do what you can do. And one thing you can do, you've already thought of -- beginning to make your own arrangements for that long-in-the-future day when someone else may be grappling with something similar with regard to you. Easier said than done, for sure, and impossible to cover every eventuality, but worth taking the time to do. It's too easy to be squeamish. Glad to see you're not.

Sending good wishes of support your way.

nonnie9999 said...

there are just no easy answers these days. unfortunately, being able to choose the care a loved one gets depends on how much money you have or on just plain dumb luck. we need to get back to a small community mindset. i have visions of establishments where the elderly mix with nursery school kids and even animals from shelters. the kids and animals would keep the oldsters young, and the little ones would learn to respect and cherish the elderly and to take care of the animals. these places would be adjacent to business areas, and workers could visit their parents or children during the day. i think everyone would be healthier and happier.

Fran said...

Dave D ~ Thanks. I wish it were easier to just up & be there.

DK ~ I hear what you are saying, but I feel like I am shackled to the job & "stuff" here that is not as important as the family members are to me.
It all just kind of hit me at once today.

Maui~ No easy answers. But it's killing me that so much is going on & I can't be there to help.

Life As I Know It Now said...

You are doing the best you can and that is all you can ever do.

Wishing you peace in the upcoming year my blog friend.

Fran said...

Volly~ Thanks for your words of wisdom, I needed that!

Nonnie~ The care facility my Mom is in kind of has that concept up & running... there is a day care pre school in the same building & they have interactive activities. They also bring in therapy animals to visit, and local musicians, from school bands & choirs, to professional musicians-- but the workplace nearby thing, not so much.
What you are talking about sounds optimal.

Lib~ I'd go there today if I could.
Damned reality-- always getting in the way!

Thanks for your good thoughts.

Dada said...

Fran -- So sorry to hear this; of the miles and miles of separation, the frustration that you can't be where you want to--need to--be and the feelings of confinement reality imposes upon your liberty to just go to them.

I share your disappointment and frustration of family so far apart. I have experienced that with departed parents and sibs.

Fortunately, Mrs. Dada's 85 yr. old mom is here in town, for her pre-Christmas hospitalization with pneumonia gave us a scare and the sobering realization we could have been facing a life-altering event for her. (Maybe not yet.) Mrs. Dada has been able to stay with her since her Xmas eve's release from the hospital, but it's a slow, slow comeback process this time (unlike your mom's sadly).

Our thoughts and hopes are with you. As a very wise person just recently said to me: "Hope springs eternal, and reality is annoying."

Fran said...

Well, there is some good news to report... the MIL is responding well to the meds. They have the a. fib back under control, and on the correct meds for pneumonia.
There was even talk of letting her possibly go home tomorrow.


Dada said...

Very good Fran! It's nice to get a little good news. It lightens the load of all the heavy stuff just a little. "Hope springs eternal"

Spadoman said...

You wrote:
"There are times I want to just uproot & go to the Midwest & be there to help them. "

I feel the same way. I moved away over 35 years ago. It would be so hard to move back, but I feel I should be there. Maybe I'll just go and be around, staying at my sister's place, in case I'm needed.
Thanks for your kind words to me when i announced of my mom's problems. I guess we'll lean on each others shoulders then as time and motion wait for no one and life passes. Our own lives as well.
At least there is some good news.

Peace Fran. Sending positive energy as I can.