Making Friends in High Places

I ate with Mom at least three times a week, and the meals was almost always good. The food in this nursing home was definitely above average. They worked at individualizing meals to accommodate the needs, likes and dislikes of residents.

They weren’t perfect, however, and there were times when my grandmother’s diet needed to be changed. She went through stages. There were days where she wanted bacon for breakfast every morning. Even though she talked to the CNAs about it, somehow her desires were not communicated with the workers in the kitchen.

Fortunately I had become friends with the director of nutrition. We had conversations on a regular basis, and I always let him know that he and his workers did a wonderful job feeding the little folks in their care. When Mom’s ‘bacon tooth’ became active, I shared her desires with the nutrition director and she had bacon every morning.

Yes, it makes life better for those in your care, if you make friends in high places.

First Rattle Out Of the Box

Before we moved Mom from the hospital to the nursing home, I spent a lot of time talking with the administrator and others in that facility. I did my best to make sure that everyone understood her needs, and I thought I had done a pretty good job.

That is until I walked in one morning just two days after her placement in the nursing home. She was sitting in her wheelchair in the hallway. When she saw me, she began to cry. In all my life I had never seen my grandmother cry. Not when her husband died. Not when her middle son died. Not when her oldest son died.

Needless to say, her tears on this occasion upset me. She told me that she had been treated roughly. She said that the CNAs had pushed and pulled her while dressing her and transferring her from her bed to her wheelchair. She told me that they caused more pain in her back. Oh man, was I mad.

I immediately located the CNAs and informed them in very concrete terms that Mom could not be treated in that fashion. Then I went to the administrator on duty that day. I clearly made my concerns known to him. He then talked to Mom, and she confirmed everything I had said. He assured me that our concerns would be addressed and the entire staff would be informed about how to help Mom transfer as well as other needs.

The administrator was true to his word, and within a day the staff knew about Mom’s needs. Things improved dramatically for her. Sigh.

Mom’s ‘Roomie’

I had hoped that Mom’s roommate would be a sweet, happy little lady, someone just like my grandmother. My first clue that that was not the case was when I asked the nursing home administrator about her just before we moved Mom. The administrator paused, took a breath and said, “Well, it will all be fine. This room was the only open space we had. If it doesn’t work out, we can move your grandmother when we have another room come open.”. Then she took me to meet Mom’s future roomie.

Well, as it turned out, God, the great Arranger, had chosen a lady that I had known for years as Mom’s room mate, and yes, ‘Susan’ would never be described as ‘sweet’. From the time I first met her, she always seemed to have a negative mindset. I always loved her, but she was in no way like Mom. Sigh.

God is so wise. Those ladies were a blessing to each other in so many ways. Susan had few friends and family, and received little positive attention from anyone other than staff. Mom and Susan were very good company for each other. When I brought goodies to Mom, I also made sure that I had an equal amount of goodies for Susan. When I gave Mom a manicure, Susan got one, too. Susan shared in family activities we had for Mom. She was included in everything. She loved all the attention, and I loved giving it to her.

How is it possible to overcome a negative situation? With love!

The Very Small “Cubicle”

It looked so very small. I knew it would be small, but I still was not emotionally prepared to see the “cubicle” space that would be Mom’s home. Being faced with the fact that her life had been reduced to a few square feet, was almost more than I could handle. Yep, nearly had a meltdown right there in that room.

Getting Mom settled into the nursing home was a difficult, physically exhausting, and emotionally draining event. But I did it. There are many details about those days that I don’t remember. Perhaps that is best.

At the beginning of Mom’s residence in the nursing home I made a concerted effort to get to know as many staff people as possible. I remember meeting the marketing director, the administrator, the director of nutrition, the director of nursing and the head custodian. From that time on, I greeting everyone with a smile and kind words.

I wanted everyone to know that I was part of “the team”, and that when I was visiting Mom, I would be helping with her care. At first I could tell that the CNAs were a little nervous to have me around. Most likely they thought that I would be going to the administrator with complaints about them. After a few weeks, they began to trust me, just as I began to trust them.

Don’t think, however, that all was “sweetness and light”. There were some difficult moments. In the next post, I share the first one.

Wishing For What is Not Possible

We have all done it at one time. We have all wished for things that are not possible. I wish I were taller, shorter, younger. For my grandmother, many things were not possible, going home, having a straight back that did not hurt, and being able to walk without a walker to name a few.

In all the months she was at the nursing home, she only asked one time to go home. When I reminded her that she had given me permission to take care of all her possessions and empty her house, she readily took back her request and never mentioned it again.

She could have whined, complained about this and many more things. She could have wished for her life to be different, to be happier, to be better.

But she didn’t. She understood and embraced a little nugget of wisdom in Phillipians 4:11-13, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me.” English Standard Version

My grandmother knew that desiring what was not possible would not contribute to her happiness, or the happiness of others around here. Being in her presence was always a blessing because she was always, always happy. In all things, even during the saddest of times, she had a countenance which showed a godly contentment and peace that ‘passed all understanding’.

This is yet another life lesson I learned from my grandmother.

Doing Grandmother Things; that is Doing Things on Behalf of My Grandmother

It has been a summer to remember; a summer that has challenged my physical and emotional stamina. School is beginning again and things have almost setted down – almost.

On June 9, my precious grandmother fell. Up until that day she lived at home and did fairly well for someone who is 98 years old. That day, however, was a ‘game changer’. The circumstances of the fall made evident the fact that she could no longer live at home. She fell during the middle of the night and lay in the floor for several hours. Oh, yes. She had a ‘lifeline’ bracelet on her wrist. She decided not to call them because she knew the paramedics would take her to the hospital. Sigh. Well, her main injury was broken ribs. She spent a week in the hospital.

When I received the call that she had fallen, I was teaching music in Vacation Bible School at my church. I immediately left, packed my suitcase and drove to her home, which is two hours from my house.

Mom, at the age of 98, has outlived most of her family. She has buried two sons, a husband, and all of her brothers and sisters. I am the oldest grandchild, and the one who has received the mantle of caring for her. Though this is no small task, I count it to be a privilege and blessing. I don’t know if I can put into words what she means to me and how much I love her.

I will be sharing in the next few posts what I have learned from her this summer.

My Grandmother: A People Magnet

I recently spent the night with my grandmother, Mom.  She is now 97, still living at home, and still as spunky as ever.  I took her to the doctor for a checkup where he pronounced her to be doing very well.  She continues to gain weight, strength, and alertness.  She is truly amazing.

After her doctor’s appointment we went out for lunch.  That’s our tradition, you see.  It has been challenging at times to handle the logistics of getting her into and out of a restaurant with her walker, and then finding table and chairs that are at the right height.  Her back is literally shaped like a crooked question mark and she is now very little and very stooped.  There have been times where her food has been too high for her to see, but she has not complained.  She just enjoys her meal.

On this occasion, everything worked out just fine.  We were able to park close to the door of the restaurant and she had no trouble getting in.  The table and chairs were exactly the right height and we put a pillow behind her back to cushion her spine from the rungs in the back of the chair.  We shared a chicken strip plate and she ate well.

It doesn’t matter where we are, at the doctor’s office, hospital, or restaurant, the same thing happens.  You can count on it.  Though it is no longer surprising, it is still amazing to watch.  People are drawn to my grandmother.  Everyone who passes her smiles.  Many go out of their way to talk to her.  I believe it is her goodness, her love, her joy, that makes her a people magnet.  They sense all this and more in her, and they desire to know her even if it is just for a moment.

As her granddaughter, I can’t tell you how it thrills my heart to watch this take place time after time.  I have always known these things about Mom, but seeing it confirmed in the smiles of other people is an unmeasurable treasure.

I believe that if her body holds up, she has the zest for life to reach and go beyond the century mark.