Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Ebb and Flow


This is my very favorite picture of my parents. It was taken shortly before my father needed to be put in a memory care facility. In retrospect, even at the time of this picture, he was having memory difficulties. But then things took a sudden turn for the worse, nearly overnight, and my mother could no longer care for him.

It was a difficult transition. He didn't understand why he was in a care facility. He was angry and confused. He cried a lot. It was hard on my mother.

About six months later, she realized she could no longer take care of their home by herself. At that point, we moved both of them to a memory facility where they could share a room together. That was not an easy transition for my mother. She did not need to be in a memory care facility. But she said she would like at least "one more year of living together with dad."

Their room was cozy and comfortable, a miniature version of the home they had shared together in Fresno.
What we never would have anticipated was that she would pass away before he did.

For nearly the last year, he has lived in the room alone, and lonely. In the recent months, he has been falling. Frequently. In the last six weeks or so, four of his falls have required a trip to the emergency room, mostly to check head trauma. While he receives very good care in the memory care unit, it has gotten to the point where he needs closer supervision.

Last week, he had a fall that was quite severe. (ALERT: Scroll past the next picture if you are squeamish.)
Plans were already being discussed about transferring him to the skilled nursing section, and this clinched that decision. Even so, he had another two falls. It is truly amazing that he has not broken a bone.

Yesterday, Mark and I moved his things to a new room in the skilled nursing section. He will now be in a room where the door is always open. And he has a roommate. Both of these things make him unhappy. Angry, in fact. He is angry at us, feeling that nobody talked to him about this decision, even though we had prepared him and the staff mentioned it multiple times. But of course he doesn't remember. Mark and I decided to move his things over to the new room and then leave, allowing the staff members to take him over to the new room. I was emotionally drained when we got home last night.

His roommate seems very nice. I kind of feel sorry for him.

Today we will go back, to finish filling out paperwork and clearing out his room--also stressful, as what do we do with the last of my parents' belongings--several items of furniture that were handmade by my father, along with my grandmother's sewing table that my mother used as a desk. We will keep the bookcase that my father made in high school--it will be a nice addition to my sewing room. I'm not sure about the sewing table yet. We are downsizing ourselves, and Aaron and Christa have no room for it either. Fortunately they already have some pieces of furniture that my father made and/or refinished.

We will stop in to see how his first night went. He may not be talking to us.

Transitions are nearly always difficult. My dear friend, Elizabeth, says her father calls this "the era of subtraction," part of the ebb and flow of life. We are trying to help my father through this phase of ebbing, in which he is losing little pieces of the life to which he was accustomed.

And the hard reality for me is that I realize my era of subtraction isn't that far off in the future. I need to make the most of each day and make sure my loved ones know how much I cherish them.

20 comments:

  1. I understand what you and Mark are going through. We are the next generation in line for these changes. Love you!

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  2. What a difficult experience for you, and your family. I completely empathize, knowing that many people go through this sort of thing. The anger is the hardest part to accept, isn't it? I've heard about this anger and belligerence, over and over again. But what can be done to ease it, when the brain condition won't allow understanding? My dad is 89, and I'm grateful he's in his right mind, and is in fact writing his life's autobiography (I'm editing it). And yes, I know we're approaching this same phase of life ourselves. What to do with THINGS is a challenge. Furniture is one thing, but what about keepsakes? My children do not want my quilts, so I wonder who will deal with them. For me, thinking about the number of years I have left is reason to "get serious" about using up fabric. The quantity of my quilty stuff is an embarrassment! But I digress... I admire you and Mark for guiding and assisting your Dad as best you can. Bless you both, and my prayer is that Dad will understand his blessings too.

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  3. So sorry for you Cindy. We went through this with my mom. It is never easy. Sending happy thoughts and prayers your way. Stay strong.

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  4. Dearest Cindy, this chapter of life is one so many of us have found ourselves in the midst of. Having been though it with both my mother and mother- in-law and recognizing your pain, I can tell you that asking God for wisdom, strength and courage is your greatest resource. One day at s time, trust the answers He gives you. I’m glad that you have Mark to help you, my friend.

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  5. Dear Cindy and Mark, Wishing you some peace during this hard transition time. What a gift you have given to so many by sharing your story. Sending you love.

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  6. Dear Cindy, I'm so sorry for you, Mark and your father. It must be so difficult to watch this formerly strong man disappear a bit at a time. These decisions cannot be easy and though they are made with love and caring, it is so difficult to not feel guilty. I cannot imagine how awful it is for your father. Prayers to you all.

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  7. Oh dear, how hard. I can only imagine how difficult it is to let some of the possessions go, but perhaps they will bring joy to someone else now. I'm so glad your mother got to spend some more time with your father, even if it wasn't in an ideal arrangement. Hugs and prayers to all of you.

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  8. I know the difficulty of your situation. My father died after a fall, but your dad won't be on a roof, so I think the falls are generally just an annoyance. The problem with the loss of memory is that you see the person you knew and his world is filled with strangers and it just doesn't make sense. I watched my mom go through the very strange journey and then not so long after my sister began it. It is so hard because every fiber of your being wants the person you knew to come out and join you for a while. Logic says even if it happens that somewhere in the interaction everything will fall apart, but you hope and remember and pray for peace in their lives. Hope your dad adjusts to this change soon.

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  9. My heart weeps for you. The memory challenge is something that at this point I have not had to deal with. I do manage my Mother's life, she is in a retirement village, but is not able to drive, so I am her mobility. Even something as restrictive as that makes you think about the times ahead and who will do these things for us. I will keep you in my prayers.

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  10. Such touch times! Bless you during this one more transition....hugs!!

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  11. I am so sorry you are having to go through this...it is so very hard. It doesn't seem to matter what choice you make, it is hard. Three and a half years ago I made to choice to move 750 miles from hubby and home to take care of my dad (he has heart problems). He turned 98 this month, so I think I made the right choice. My heart goes out to you and your dad - you will be in my prayers.

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  12. I think many of us can relate to this post. It is such a difficult time of life for them AND for you and Mark. I know that whatever you do is done with love and respect - even if your dad does not realize it at this time. Hugs.

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  13. I understand what you are going through. I went thru a similar circumstance between 2008 and 2012 and it is so hard! It was further complicated by the fact that my folks were in CA and I'm in Hawaii! I made 7 trips one year and they were all 2-3 weeks long. My .folks were OK before, just havimg trouble getting around, more so my mom. My Dad was fairly healthy but actually died as a result of hitting his head in a fall bringing the trash barrel in. He went into a coma the next day and never woke up. My mom went to Assisted living, then skilled nursing but had a stroke and lost all short term memory. he always knew me and my daughter but it was all so sad.

    Hang in there!

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  14. You have had some tough choices to make Cindy, having gone through similar myself in the last year I know just how tough they are. Know that you are doing the best you can for your Dad and if he could he would know that too. Sending you a virtual hug from Scotland.

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  15. Hi Cindy, my name is Heather. I live in Fresno too. My mom had another fall, her 5th or 6th and she's currently over at San Joaquin Valley Rehab for a broken pelvis this time. At this point I feel like mom can't be at home any longer, it's not safe, especially with her caregivers quitting. Do you mind sharing where your dad is at? I'm looking at skilled nursing at this point but not sure of where to go. Prayers for you too, I know this is hard being a daughter and care giver.

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  16. Thoughts and prayer are with all of you. We went through the same thing with Justin's folks never imagining that his Mom would go first when it was his Dad who had the serious dementia. Be kind to yourself and trust in the facility as well as God of course. Hugs.

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  17. My thoughts and prayers to you Cindy as you go through this difficult time. I believe in my heart that your father trusts you to do what is best for him and his well being. Blessings to you all.

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  18. I love the picture that you led with, as it's how you want to remember who they were, a challenge for those of us who are younger and watching the changes. Your observation about how we are the next in line for this sort of thing is sobering, but a reality. You know you have my ear at any time.

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  19. I took mom on tour #2 of a continuum of care facility today, she is just beginning the era of subtraction. Her macular degeneration has worsened and she is wrestling internally with giving up driving (she knows she must but actually giving up the car is very upsetting, even tho she almost never drives it anymore). These facilities are so nice, but I understand how making that move is so emotionally challenging. Hugs and prayers for you all.

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