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.

You Are My Sunshine

“You are my sunshine. My only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. And I love you.”. That was my grandmother’s version of that wonderful old song. I heard it many times when she was in the nursing home. She sang it to me. She sang it to her roommate. She sang it to the CNAs who cared for her every day. She sang it when she was having a good day. She sang it when she was having a bad day. It was her way of expressing love to those around her. It was also her way of coping with life when things were not going well.

She told me that occasionally she felt like she was being treated roughly when CNAs were showering her or helping her change clothes. You can be sure that I had another conversation with the director of nursing every time she mentioned this to me. I asked her what she did when she felt like the CNAs were being rough. She replied that she sang the sunshine song. I asked, “What do they do when you start to sing that song?” She grinned and said, “They smile all over themselves.”

Mom understood all about catching “more flies with honey than vinegar”.

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.

Precious Lord, Take His Hand

I have written about Dubbie in previous posts. He is part of my family by marriage and by love. His only daughter is married to my husband’s cousin, and he is one of the kindest gentlest people I have ever known. Just after the wedding of one of his granddaughters last July, he became ill and has never recovered. He has been in a nursing home since then.

On May 31, Dubbie went to sleep and has not awakened. His lungs have been filling with fluid and his temperature has risen. He has had nothing to eat or drink since then and is gradually losing his grip on this life so that he can walk victoriously into the next.

His daughter, Joyce has written beautifully about this season in their lives and in the life of her father, Dubbie in her blog,

Because I feel in my heart that some of you, my readers, may also be facing the loss of a dearly loved family member, I want to copy into this post something that she has written. It is a prayer that in some form many of us have prayed as we have stood by the bed of someone we love, opening our hands and releasing them to go join our Heavenly Father.

Precious Lord, take his hand. Lead him on. Let him stand.
He is tired. He is weak. He is worn.
Through the storm, through the night, lead him on to the light.
Precious Lord, take his hand, lead him home.

When his way grows drear, precious Lord linger near.
When his life is almost gone, Hear his cry, hear his call, Hold his hand lest he fall:
Precious Lord, take his hand, lead him home.
When the darkness appears
And the night draws near,
And the day is past and gone,
At the river he stands,
Guide his feet, hold his hand, precious Lord, take his hand, lead him home

The Feeding Tube and Mother

I have already written about the decision to insert a feeding tube in Mother on a previous post.  At this point I would like to go into more detail about the decision.

Mother’s dementia had advanced to the point that she was unable to swallow.  She would try to eat, but the food was aspirating into her lungs, and she was in serious danger of getting aspiration pneumonia.  We were told that if she  continued eating that within three months she would have pneumonia and die.

One of my sisters was adamantly in favor of the feeding tube.  After all, Mother was still conscious.  She knew us, even though most of the time she didn’t know where she was.  She could smile at something funny and cry when she was sad.  Her ability to speak was reduced to words, not sentences.  If she wanted to tell us a story, she couldn’t.  However, she did have a few good moments here and there, when we came to see her, and when children came to see her.  She always smiled at them.

I was not in favor of the feeding tube.  I knew that she was ready to die.  She had told us so. In spite of her sweet spirit and ready smile, she hated her life in the nursing home and she was ready to go to heaven.  She no longer had the strength to sit up or even to make herself comfortable in her recliner.  She had to wait sometimes a long time in pain from sitting in one position for a long period of time.  She could no longer hold her head up and had to have pillows under her neck to be comfortable.  If she became uncomfortable, she had to wait until a CNA came by to check on her before she got any relief from her pain.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  She was not happy.  The last thing I wanted for her and the last thing I know she would want was to lie in a bed and waste away.

Still, as Darla said, it was hard to deny her the feeding tube and just let her die when she could smile and she could recognize us.  Oh, such a hard decision to make.  Darla was the swing vote and so I was ‘out voted’.

If I remember correctly, the feeding tube was inserted in November or December, 2004.  She passed away in April, 2005.

By the way. I was astounded when I learned that most of the time, feeding tubes are inserted into patients and they are returned to the nursing home the next day!  I could go on and on about that as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

Next post, removing the feeding tube