I finally know what’s been bothering me. It’s the weight of being totally responsible for Grandpa. I can’t drive him home at night to be locked behind the doors of a nursing home, to be someone else’s responsibility. He’s mine and my family’s now. Yes, I’m responsible for my children, too – that’s a given, but for the most part they’re healthy. They have medical issues now and then, but Grandpa is fragile – all the time – and that’s what I’m not used to.
I’ve pretty much had a sinking feeling inside for months, a certain dread that I haven’t been able to give voice to until now. Suddenly, I’m keenly aware of the “what if’s” of life. For the first time, I can truly sympathize with those who care for loved ones with disabilities and fear circumstances which beyond control might upset the delicate balance of care they so desperately need. Knowing how dependent Grandpa is upon us for his personal hygiene, medicine, and daily substance, the weight of being totally responsible for this little old man in any catastrophic situation scares me to death.
To illustrate my point, yesterday, Grandpa was having an “off” day. I got to his house about 1:00 p.m. and he was barely awake. He was actually “sleep eating” at the table, a semi-conscious state in which one eats a whole meal with their eyes closed. He informed me that he was having what Parkinson’s calls an “off day.” I tried to remain optimistic and encouraged him that the Bible says, “…For when I am weak, then I am strong..,” and that he could call it his “Jesus Day” instead.
I know it sounds ridiculous to say that to someone when they’re so out of it, but Grandpa just thrives on that kind of encouragement. Over the years, he has become quite an optimistic person, saying you can’t help but be that way with the Lord.
“What did you call it, again?” he asked.
“Your Jesus day, Dad,” I said. “Your Jesus day. When you are weak, He is strong.”
When I went to give him his lunch pills, I noticed the blue one was missing. That’s when he told me that he had only six pills for breakfast, instead of usual eight (he’s very sharp). Claire thought the medicine was at Walgreen’s waiting to be picked up, but I just hadn’t put it in the pill box yet. When I looked in his medicine tray, I could see that he had missed a Carbidopa, one of his Parkinson’s pills, and Aricept, one of his memory medicines (I don’t really know why he is on that – he doesn’t have Alseimers). Aricept is a very strong medicine and I would like to see him off of it or on the most minimal dosage in the future, but I don’t know if that is possible.
Just missing those two pills in the morning, severely affected Grandpa’s ability to function. Instead of having a productive day, sticking to his exercise routine and working on his book, he sat in front of the TV all day long and didn’t wake up until about 6:00 p.m. We experienced some of this behavior when we first brought him home and he was still on the Benzatropine. Seeing him dazed and struggling to come out of a fog brought me right back to my greatest fears about caring for him in a crisis situation. What can I do to make sure that we don’t run out of dad’s medicine in the future? They suggest keeping an emergency supply on hand, and I plan to, but this medicine is expensive. Still, I will have to try to squeeze that purchase in somewhere between rent, utilities, food and supplemental insurance payments.
Sorting through my feelings made me wonder how many older folks died during Hurricane Katrina? One article said nearly 200 senior citizens died in part from preexisting health problems such as Parkinson’s and heart attacks. Although hurricane conditions will never happen in the Midwest, any interruption in our ability to purchase diapers, wipes, and medicine, not to mention not being able to access water or electricity would be disastrous. We use a lot of water daily to wash grandpa’s sheets and clothes .
Hence my greatest fear – not being able to keep Grandpa clean and smelling sweet.
My only recourse is to cast my fear and anxiety on the Lord because the truth is that Grandpa is really His responsibility. Although we are living in uncertain times, our God shall supply all our needs according to His riches in glory. I truly believe that God is sovereign over the “what if’s” of life, 90-year-old Grandpas and 53-year-old daughters who need to be reminded that every day can be a “Jesus Day” especially when we lack the strength to make it on our own.
Who wants to go it alone anyway? Jesus is all we really need. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
God’s grace is sufficient for every need – especially the “what if’s” of life.