Saturday, May 26, 2012

One Day At A Time

Life can sure be interesting.  Just as my kids are grown and leaving home, we brought another family member into our home. My mother-in-law had been living alone for about 6 years after the death of her husband.  She was living in an RV out in the sticks and with limited ability to get out and around.  Winters were long and cold for her and social interactions were minimal.  So one winter, about 4 years ago, we invited her to come into our home to live.  It has been an interesting, and ultimately very rewarding journey.

Bringing a wife into my home 28+ years ago was an adventure.  Merging together the households and lives of two 30 year old single folks took time and patience.  But we worked through it all and have developed a very comfortable and wonderful relationship.  Adding children a few years later was also quite an adjustment, but one that we managed to make and to love.

But what would happen with the subtraction of the kids and addition of a mother-in law?  How disruptive would it be to have your mother-in-law come to live with you?  Fortunately, at least for us, it was not too bad.  She is quite, fairly low maintenance, and tries very hard to not 'be a burden'; something she generally succeeds at.

In the past few years Mary has become more and more a part of the family and I have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her better.  It has really been a blessing being able to bring our sole surviving parent into our home and care for her at this end of her life; like all of our parents did for us at the other end.

We have watched Mary slowly age over the past few years, but she had still been fairly healthy and able to do most things for herself.  But we got a wake-up call earlier this month about the issues facing the elderly.  So many things can go wrong very quickly in our bodies, especially as they age.

We realized one afternoon, a few weeks ago, that something had happened to Mary.  She was pretty out of it and expressed that she had some confusion, numbness in a hand and some speech issues.  We packed her into the car and made the 5 minute trip to the hospital emergency room where she jumped right to the head of the line and quickly back to a room.  We spent 6 hours in the ER, another week in the hospital and a second week in a rehab facility before finally making it back home.

While the final diagnosis is still somewhat unclear to us, we do know that she suffered a least one small stroke, which fortunately did not leave any significant lasting damage.  She had several more episodes that appeared similar to the first while she was in the hospital that were initially thought to be strokes as well.  She also suffered from periodic extremely high blood pressure during a part of her stay.  Ultimately, after a plethora of tests, the doctors ruled out additional strokes and appeared to be mystified by what had taken place.

While we have had one more 6 hour trip to the ER since she has been back home, overall Mary appears to be doing well, although pretty weak.  We have invested some time in making the house safer and more comfortable for her as well as keeping a closer eye on her condition, her medications and her blood pressure.

All of this is challenging for a stubborn old lady who wants to be independent and not a burden.  And it does add a bit more challenge to the care giving.  But we are walking through it together and trying to keep the whole experience humorous and as stress free as possible.  We will continue to take each day as it comes and make the most of the time we have.

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