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Archive for the ‘Other Elderly Affairs’ Category

After yet another stay in the hospital, Uncle C’s doctor informed my husband that short of a heart/lung transplant (which they would never perform on a 94 year old), Uncle C’s condition will only worsen. Uncle C has congestive heart failure and COPD. Uncle C, of course, doesn’t believe there’s a thing wrong with his heart or lungs. In fact, he continues to tell people that he has the heart of a 17 year old and only has the pacemaker for back-up.

After hubby had a heart-to-heart talk with Uncle C this week regarding his condition, Uncle C responded with, “Well, Dr. M doesn’t think I have much time left so we better hurry and get my driver’s license back!”

You gotta love him!

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Uncle C moved on Saturday to the house we own across the street.  My daughter who has been living there with her daughter has been waiting for months.  I didn’t really think it would ever actually happen, but it did – by the hardest.

Uncle C had chosen June 1st as moving day.  Of course, other moving days have come and gone, but he seemed serious this time.  I still wasn’t counting on it.  But when June 1st arrived he said tomorrow, which was Saturday.  Okay, close enough.  So on Saturday with him still agreeing to the move my husband and I started packing up the few personal belongings he has in anticipation of the big move.

We really had a great day with him.  Uncle C wanted to go shopping for some new clothes so off we went to J.C. Penny’s where he bought a few pairs of shorts, a pair of dress pants and a few shirts.  Our next stop was Target for items that he would need once he actually moved, bath mat, shower curtain, etc.  Uncle C actually seemed a little excited about the move.  He started talking about what he planned to do once he was living there.  On the top of the list was, of course, getting his driver’s license back and then going to Florida for a couple of weeks.  I only smiled.  We then had a nice lunch together.

Once home Uncle C went to rest and hubby and I took the opportunity to move over his personal belongings and go to Mass.  When 5:30 rolled around and Uncle C was still at our house and not budging, my husband asked if he was ready to go over to the other house.  “I think I’ll just sleep here and go over tomorrow,” replied Uncle C.  Well that’s fine, Uncle C, but all of your personal belongings are already at the other house.  “Why don’t we just walk over and take a look?” my hubby said.  Uncle C reluctantly agreed.

Once there, hubby sat with him for about an hour while my daughter ran back and forth between houses gathering the remainder of Uncle C’s items including several pictures of his wife and a beautiful portrait that my daughter had painted for Uncle C of Aunt J.  She prepared him a lovely dinner and then suggested that they all go to his room to “decorate”.  They hung the portrait of Aunt J and placed other pictures of her around the room.  Uncle C was a musician and played the trombone, paying his way through college many, many years ago.  I found his trombone in the back of a closet while cleaning out their home in Houston.  My daughter hung the trombone on the wall of Uncle C’s room to his delight.  At the end of the night, Uncle C gave my daughter a hug and told her that he was very happy.  He spent his first night in his new home that evening.

I don’t really expect him to stay.  We told him he could come back any time he wished.  But if we only have a week, maybe two weeks, alone it would be heaven.  It would refresh us, rejuvenate us.

So here I sit, alone on my patio for the first time in months.  Hubby should be home from work soon and I’ve prepared a lovely meal for just the two of us.  And I’m excited about spending time with just him.  Having a nice meal with just him.  Conversing with just him – it’s been over a year since we’ve been able to do that.  I hope he is as happy about it as I am.

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I was beginning to think that my husband was secretly Superman.  He works a six-day a week job, most days working 10 – 12 hours a day.  We own over 20 rental properties which he takes care of himself, collecting rent, chasing down the non-payers, evicting tenants he can’t collect from, answering calls at all times of the day and night and fixing things that break or no longer work.  And then there’s Uncle C who wants his attention the minute he walks through the door, either with some complaint of a new ailment, the need for yet another doctor’s appointment or just to talk about the stock market or Syria or the state of the world – anything to get my husband’s attention.  Pre-Uncle C days my hubby would sneak home almost everyday to sit in his recliner and take a 20 minute “power nap” as he called it.  It refreshed him and he was good to go again.  He no longer can do that as Uncle C refuses to let him rest, demanding in his sweet little way my husband’s attention.  My husband will not refuse him.

And then there’s me, his wife of over 30 years who prior to my life getting turned upside down was really a pretty even-tempered, happy person.  Now, he’s never sure who he’s coming home to, his wife of old or the dragon-lady.  Yet he handled it all beautifully, keeping the peace, rarely getting upset about anything.  That all changed last week.  That’s when I realized that my husband was indeed human.

Last Friday hubby was up and out of the house by 6:30 a.m., heading to Houston at Uncle’s insistence to bring back his precious vehicles.  Uncle C has four vehicles, all at least 15 years old and he wants to keep three of them.  He’s only willing to sell his wife’s 1983 Mercedes.  Now remember, this is a 94-year old man who has no valid driver’s license and hopefully never will.  Yet, he refuses to part with his two old Camrys and his old VW camper.  Hubby hired two guys to go with him to drive back a Camry and the camper.  The other Camry is already home and the Mercedes was left in Houston.  The vehicles have not been driven in over a year and a half, the license plates are expired and there is no inspection sticker on any of them.  Uncle C didn’t believe in that.  The oil in the vehicles were last changed in 2010.

By the time my husband got home he was exhausted.  He was weary.  His spirit was bruised.  There was anger in his face, in his voice.  In our 30 plus years together I have never seen him so out of sorts.  He snapped at everyone around (except Uncle C, of course).  He was irritable, he was anxious.  At one point he looked at me and said, “We are going out tomorrow night.  And we’re not coming home!”  Okay, I’m good with that.  It took him a couple of Crown and Cokes to feel relaxed and normal again.

So Superman is back to being Superman, and all is right with the world.  But at least I now know that he is human, he does have a breaking point.  Hopefully he won’t get to that point again, but now I don’t feel quite so bad about my little melt downs.  Thanks Superman.

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Last night for the first time in what seems like ages I had 20 minutes to myself.  My hubby was working late and Uncle C was watching the nightly news in the living room.  I snuck out to the patio, glass of wine and the new Southern Living in hand, and I just sat – flipping through the pages of the magazine and sipping my wine.  And it felt wonderful!  I left all of my worries behind.  No guilt feelings to mar the peace and quiet.  It’s amazing what such a small thing can do for your spirit.  It was lovely.

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I’ve spent the last five days packing up for the big move – and no, it’s not Uncle C.  I’m still convinced he’s not going anywhere.  It was my in-laws.  A couple of weeks ago my father-in-law called to inform us that they had decided to move into an assisted living facility.  Honestly, I think that is a very courageous, unselfish decision on their part.  It has to be difficult to come to that conclusion after years of living and raising a family in the same home.  They had been talking about it for about a year, but once they made the decision they were ready to go – NOW!  That did pose a few problems.

Problem number one was that we live 700 miles away.  Problem number two was that they were moving from a house of around 2,000 square feet into a 360 square foot assisted living apartment.  The entire place is 18 feet by 20 feet.  Ouch!

Once we told our kids that their grandparents were moving out of their home they all wanted to help.  They also wanted to enjoy the old homestead one last time.  All three made arrangements to be there.  On Thursday my son flew into the nearest city with an airport which is about an hour away from my hubby’s hometown.  Their town is very small.  So tiny, in fact, that the majority of the streets are still brick.  It is very quaint, but it’s like taking a step back into the 60’s, like visiting Mayberry.  I keep waiting to spot Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife walking down the street.  (Am I dating myself?  Certainly some of you remember The Andy Griffith Show!)   Our two daughters along with our granddaughter drove 12 hours through the night on Friday, arriving around 7:00 a.m. on Saturday.  They had about a day and a half with their grandparents before leaving Sunday evening to return home.  Thank God they made it home safely – both had to be exhausted.

Hubby has one sister still living in their hometown, but his two brothers also drove in, both traveling several hours.  My in-laws wanted family members to take items with them – furniture, old family photos, paintings, kitchenware, memorabilia, etc.  Honestly, I need nothing.  My house is jam-packed with stuff I had before Uncle C came to live with us and I ended up with even more after his arrival.  But I didn’t have the heart to tell my mother-in-law that I wanted none of her treasures.  I ended up bringing home one small table, some family pictures and a couple of other small items she wouldn’t let me leave without.

My father-in-law took it all in stride, but my mother-in-law seemed to be struggling with leaving her home.  She had trouble deciding where to start, what to take, what to leave.  I can only imagine the emotions that must have been raging through her.  So much is collected over a lifetime.   How do you decide that one item with so much history, so much sentimental value is not worth keeping, yet another is?

But in the end, it is all just stuff.  And though it is hard to part with things that are special to you, the real tragedy is that this elderly couple can no longer care for themselves and feel the need to move out of the home they love.  Yes, a huge burden will be lifted from my mother-in-law’s shoulders.  She is the one preparing meals, cleaning, washing, caring for my father-in-law.  But there is something so sad about actually giving up your independence, giving up your home.

The reality of it all hit when we visited the facility in which they are moving.  The fact that the doors are always locked – inside and out – struck me as just wrong.  I can understand keeping strangers out.  But keeping the residents locked in “for their own safety” is difficult to wrap my mind around.  My in-laws are moving into an “assisted living” facility.  They are not invalids.  They are of a right mind, as apparently are the other residents.  So why the locked doors?    They have to ask to be let out of the building and give a description of where they are going and how long they plan to be out.  Honestly, I think my father-in-law will hate that.  And if there is any deal breaker for him, that will be it.

Once allowed in, we walked into a room of elderly people mouthing the words to old hymns as a woman played the piano.  They just stared at us, blank looks on their faces.  My thoughts were that my in-laws did not belong here.  They are more active than that.  My father-in-law still plays bridge three times a week.  My mother-in-law plays a couple of times a week.  He still drives (he shouldn’t, but he does) and they do their own shopping, go to church, go to the casino, etc.

The second shocker was walking into the actual apartment they will be living in and seeing just how tiny it actually is.  It is one thing to say “360 square feet”.  It is totally different to actually see that space.  There is one living area, one bedroom, one bath, a closet and a kitchenette.  I don’t even think their queen size bed will fit in the bedroom with enough space for them to walk around to get to the bathroom.  But, it’s a decision they made on their own.  No one is pushing them.  No one is forcing them.  And the good part is that they are not obligated to stay.  If they hate it they can leave.  The problem with that is where to go next.  Their house will have a renter and the only other facility in town has an eight month wait.

Growing old is difficult.  Body parts begin to break down, the mind sometimes goes.  And then you get to a point where you can’t care for yourself anymore, you have to rely on others.  It is such a sad time in life.   Maybe I’ll be there one day.  I hope not.  I never want to be a burden on loved ones.  No one does.  But if I do, I hope I am as strong as my in-laws.

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I keep waiting for Uncle C to move into the house we own across the street from us.  My daughter is now living there with her 4-year-old daughter and they are waiting for him.  Part of the deal with her living there is that she is to be his night-time caregiver.  It will be a big job, but she is okay with it.  She is loving and patient with him.  It’s a great deal all the way around.  We are happy to have her and our only grandchild so close, Uncle C will have a nice, safe place he can call home and we get our privacy back.  We have filled the house with furniture, pictures and lovely items that we brought over from Houston so it can feel like home.

We have had difficulty finding a night-time caregiver that we felt comfortable with.   I kept trying, but honestly my husband was resisting.  He was afraid of someone taking advantage of an elderly man.  Believe it or not, it does happen – often.  The one woman who appeared to be perfect as she was a retired registered nurse, had recently moved to our area so was looking for some place to live and was willing to be a full-time caregiver didn’t work out.  She sat with him twice in one weekend and by the Sunday he was ready to marry her.   Uh, no.  Not sure what went on there, but that scared us.

Whenever the subject of moving comes up Uncle C responds with, “I think I’ll be strong enough by the middle of March,” – well, March has come and gone or “I think in a couple of weeks I’ll be strong enough and will have my license back by then so will be ready to go.”  The latest stall tactic is his toe.   Working in the garden together the Saturday before Easter, my husband told me that Uncle C would be moving the next weekend.  Hubby kept assuring me that Uncle C was ready.  To say I was skeptical is an understatement.  As I walked back into the house Uncle C met me in the kitchen saying that as he was walking down the hall he heard a crack and now his toe was hurting.   He finished it with, “I thought I’d be in the other house by next weekend, but I guess not now.  When the wheels starting coming off they really come off.”  Uncle C had my hubby take him to a walk in clinic on Easter Sunday morning, telling the doctor that he thought he had gout.  (Silly me, I put that thought in his head).  He was given a shot of cortisone, more pain meds and sent home.

Now his toe injury has encompassed his entire foot.  He never complains to me about it, he’s never mentioned it to the caregiver, only to my hubby.  He insisted on seeing another doctor this week for his foot.  Uncle C started with the same story he told me, walking down the hall, heard a crack, only now the toe has become the entire foot.  X-rays were done, nothing has become of it, but Uncle C walked out a happy man with another prescription for his pain meds (which we have not filled).  I finally told my hubby to just tell Uncle C that he doesn’t have to move and maybe he’ll quit making us take him to all these darn doctors!

He just keeps stringing my husband and daughter along with “I think I’m almost ready to move,” and they keep falling for it.  Me, not so much.  Just yesterday he spoke to my daughter about moving.  Now he’s just waiting for the handicap rail to be put in the tub.  Well, that’s easy enough.  We’ll get that done this weekend and see what happens next.

For now, I’ve resigned myself to having him in my home “till death do us part,” and he thinks he can live to a hundred.  I guess I’ll be blogging a lot between now and then!

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For Christmas our youngest daughter bought tickets to the theatrical performance of the Lion King for my husband, herself and me. The performance was to be held in New Orleans where our daughter lives which is a couple of hours from our home. Since the musical was scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. it called for an entire night away from home. For the last few weeks I have been hovering somewhere between depression and insanity so the timing of this event was perfect and we decided to make a weekend out of it. Arrangements were made for Uncle C, good-byes said to my parents and off we went.

We arrived in New Orleans around 3:00 p.m. on Friday, checked into our hotel and then walked around the Quarter grabbing a glass of wine or two until our daughter could meet us. We had a lovely dinner at my favorite local restaurant before heading to the theater. The production was wonderful, the costumes were fabulous and we all enjoyed it tremendously. The black cloud that had been hovering over me for the last few weeks began to dissipate.

On Saturday our daughter recruited us to help with a project at the inner city school at which she teaches. She had requested permission from the principal to start a community garden and the principal had readily agreed. Our daughter applied for a grant, but had not yet received a response, so my husband and I hit up a few of our friends for donations to assist with the garden. Saturday morning, armed with our garden tools and about $250.00 in donations we headed for her school. After renting a tiller we began working the 20 x 20 foot area that was to be the community garden, just my hubby, my daughter, me and the principal. As hubby tilled the earth the rest of us cleared the debris that remained after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the school that previously occupied the property. We then began to form eight very neat rows where the students were to plant the tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, eggplants, strawberries and various herbs that we bought. Few, if any, of these third graders have ever seen a garden, have ever seen vegetables growing. In fact, one student asked if they were going to grow pizzas. “No,” my daughter responded, “but we will grow the tomatoes that go into the sauce on your pizza.”

I must say that there is nothing quite like working with the earth and getting a little sweaty and dirty to clear one’s head. I felt so much better, so much happier just being there, with my hands in the dirt, doing something that will make so many children happy – that maybe, just maybe will enhance their lives. We all left tired and dirty, but very satisfied.

Another evening in New Orleans was just what we needed before heading home refreshed. No, things at home have not changed. Yes, Uncle C is still living at my home and yes, my mother still has dementia, but at least for a short time I feel like I can handle it again.

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