It’s New Year’s day, 2011; a fitting time for reflection on the year past. ElderBlog readers know that it was a big year for my parents. As in life, 2010 held expectancies and surprises; laughter and tears. Let’s take a look back.
First, the nicer things. Pop, who rarely opened up about his passions, graced us with advanced painting techniques; stories about dancing and drinking, and especially about his music. My old man also provided the biggest laugh of the year; this from the day he got a pedicure. A picture is worth a thousand words.
There were seemingly unimportant stories such as the near-move to a converted room in the nursing area of Piedmont Place. There was much consternation about how Mom & Pop would get along together having had a less-than-stellar relationship for fifty-nine years. There was a lot of strategizing; but, ultimately, no move. Then, they were finally reunited in the same room; this after nine months apart. Life, and the relationship, resumed as before with no less stress between them – though the tone was somewhat more subdued due to age.
Mom and Pop have had their share of surgeries over the years, but 2010 saw only one, and a minor one at that. Mom had a pin inserted into her fractured left elbow, and then suffered seemingly endless physical and occupational therapy in its recovery. Falling in or near the bathroom has been a repeated concern for Mom. This year saw two such incidents; one in July and one in August, both caused by blood pressure issues; both resulting in hospitalizations. Mom claimed a third bathroom fall in December, but that doesn’t count. There was no report to nursing and no evidence of a fall. We think it was imagined.
Pop passed away in August. That was the real story of the year. He endured hospitalizations for kidney issues and for an upper respiratory infection before entering the hospital one last time. This was chronicled daily from August 3 through August 12. I was there for all of it and I wrote every word.
Reading these posts again today, I find this experience touching on so many levels. Pop’s funeral was strengthened by a beautiful eulogy delivered by my brother Michael. He told our father’s story with grace, putting Pop’s life in context for all to understand. He was a man with many gifts; a man who offered those gifts to God, and a man who is loved by God.
There are at least two aspects of the caregiver experience which might be of value to ElderBlog readers: one, the emotional impacts from the death of a loved one; and two, the untangling of the estate.
Beyond issues of estate, there were big changes to Mom’s status. Her financial picture changed radically. Income now coming in her name meant that she exceeded the asset ceiling for Medicaid thereby making her ineligible for those benefits. As a result, her status at Piedmont Place was changed to full-pay. All of these things were considered way back in 2005, but execution in real time could not have been planned beforehand.
So, how is Mom doing? Extraordinarily well. She adapted to single life so quickly that it causes one to wonder if the walls will eventually come tumbling down. They haven’t.
Yet the effects of her Parkinson’s and dementia seem to increase slightly by the day. She is the classic ‘vulnerable adult‘ by legal and medical definition, so it’s necessary to keep a watchful eye for her well-being. She still walks the halls for exercise almost every day and tries to remain engaged in financial matters.
Some things never change, though. I’m all of fifty-eight years old and I still let Mom get under my skin. Speaking of my age, there seem to be limitations to the amount of stress I can handle gracefully. Your humble blogger came close to that limit in June.
Apart from stories of my parents, I do have a few favorite posts. One is about a business trip to Nashville during the May flood. Another is a love letter of sorts to the art of writing. And the last casts aspersions upon my immediate family (tongue firmly planted in cheek).
I do enjoy writing with humor, even amidst a crisis. Sometimes, humor comes in glimpses. While in the hospital last August, Pop wrestled with tubes and electrodes attached to his body. I implored him loudly and repeatedly not to do that. Once, from his drug-induced stupor, he became momentarily alert; alert enough to ask, “What’s wrong with you?”
Two days later, his condition worsening, he opened his eyes, looked at me and asked, “So, how am I doing?” As it turns out, these were his final words.
As it turns out, he’s doing fine now. Thanks.