Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Did You Forget Who the Star of This Show Is?

Right now, our lives are a little busy.  My sister is helping start Making Care Easier and is traveling around the US helping to support her former boss - Mitt Romney.  Mike and I are working six days a week.  Mary just moved and is dealing with all the hastles that that involves and taking care of Granny.  Mom and dad are traveling and trying to sell their house that has been on the market for about a year (4 bed, 2 bath in Streator, IL anyone?)  Who has time for Granny?  You WILL ALL make time, that’s who.

Our grandmother is a wonderful person and we love her a lot.  We recently lost our grandfather and her health started to decline.  We were to help them age in place for your many years, but despite our best efforts, she couldn’t safely stay in her home of 60 years.  We found an excellent, brand new assisted living facility in her community that she now lives in.  She wasn’t happy about the move, but we did everything we could to make the transition as painless as possible.  Despite the wonderful people who are working at the facility, the beautiful rooms and activities, personal attention and support from our family—the transition did not go smoothly.

According to the staff, it typically takes about six months for seniors to adjust.  Losing control on top of adapting to a new environment is a lot to deal with for someone who’s almost 90 years old.  What a better time to act out. "I can’t self-medicate anymore?  I’m in prison!  I know I’ve had digestive issues for about 50 years, but I just know this time they gave me salmonella.  It’s like they are trying to do me in." 

First of all, the people at Granny’s assisted living facility have been doing a great job.  The facility is clean; the people are nice and go out of their way to meet her demands.  She is safe, well cared for and although no one is perfect, they try.  Secondly, Mary is a saint.  She is the only one of us who lives close by, so she’s always the one forced to call off work to take her to emergency appointments and gets the daily calls with the latest complaints or demands.

Now that Granny no longer lives at home, we try and do things that help her know that we’re still thinking of her like sending cards, frequent calls, visits, trips, etc.  But, it’s hard to get used to living outside the glare of the spotlight when you’re now just part of the crew.  So, she acts out.  It’s not that she’s a bad person, but it’s her way of dealing with so much change happening so quickly. 

Together as a care team, we are trying to help her through this transition and although our schedules are crazy, we have to make time for Granny.  Just being there to listen goes a long way to reassuring her that she’s in the best place that offers her the best care available.  Talking through her concerns validates her and makes her feel like she’s still an active part of our lives.
Most importantly, we are finding out that reaching out to each other and particularly Mary (the primary caregiver) is critical in helping all of us manage through these stressful times.  Thankfully, we have been able to keep a sense of humor throughout the process, which goes a long way to keeping us all sane.  Even if we can’t be there physically, supporting each other through frequent communication and sharing ways and means to help each other goes a long way to sharing the burden of care.