I am more and more deeply involved in the lives of frail elderly seniors, some of whom are directly in my care, and others whom I care for on an occasional basis in our Adult Day Program at Stonebridge Haven. As I watch these vital and precious souls slowly declining, and, see the stages ahead in their journey it makes me very sad.
My Mom was at Fairview Manor a couple of weeks ago for a respite week for my sister. She was in the memory care ward with what seemed like a mob of frail seniors like herself with varying levels of cognitive capability, although Mom with her moderate Alzheimer’s was in the better functioning half of the population there. There were lost souls wandering around (some moaning or crying out), seeing but not understanding, trying to find the way out, wandering in and out of rooms in their fruitless search. Mom was collapsed in on herself for the first few days there, and I thus left feeling very sad. Later in the week she was comfortable enough that she would go for walks and even reached out compassionately to touch and comfort one moaning, lost lady. She was very happy to leave with me to go to our day program, but continues to get stuck in many ways, like getting out of the car. It is a real struggle to figure out how to help her have a decent day.
Meanwhile my resident Mr. J had developed stool incontinence and then somehow got pneumonia – perhaps aspirated – and started falling a lot. He had to go to Emergency and from there onto a ward where they controlled his pneumonia but finished his transition into being a long-term care patient who was catheterized at night and given urinals rather than helping him get up to go to the bathroom. His dementia worsened and now he has chosen to go to long term care wherever, rather than come back to our place. He has no true concept of what his choice means, but his niece does not have the heart to force him to do what he doesn’t want to do and so he’s still languishing in hospital awaiting a bed anywhere to open up for him. Poor Guy.
Meanwhile my in-laws are declining more and more in their cognitive capabilities and over-all energy levels, so that I can see the writing on the wall for them when he can no longer provide care for her, and thus both their worlds will come apart. At the same time those we have cared for in our Adult Day Program have had their issues as well, one surviving a 30 hour surgery, another having graduated from our program after getting her driver’s license back only to fall and hurt herself badly enough that she’s been set way back. Finally, another has recently fallen and broken her hip and will be in hospital for some time. All these dear old souls who I care for in one way or another, and they are all declining, all losing more and more. It is such a gift to give them love, support, laughter and meaning, but it takes such a toll to see the losses, to see them declining, to know what the future is bringing.
I have wept quite a bit lately, particularly at my Mom’s and Mr. J’s losses, and I know that my chosen path is a path of grief, as well as a path of compassion and laughter. But there it is – it is what it is, and it will be what it will be.
Thank you God for the grace you give us to continue on this difficult but oh so worthwhile path.