Through the Windowpane
“For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12
Because Grandpa has Parkinson’s, and limited mobility, he cannot transfer from a wheelchair, walker or bed without help. When he needs to use the washroom, take a shower, take a nap, get up from a nap or get anything beyond his reach, we have to help him. For all intensive purposes, we are Grandpa’s legs (and sometimes his hands).
When he struggles to stand up, it takes him a few seconds to find his center of gravity. If he’s having a “bad day” (bad day meaning lack of strength), helping him up can be like trying to lift a 50-pound bag of sugar off the table with your pinkie. Because Parkinson’s medicines wear off after a few hours, they have to be taken three times a day. Still, by 5:00 p.m., it seems like Grandpa has accumulated enough dopamine to fire-off a small rocket and he fairly bounces up to his walker from a sitting position. Afternoons are a good time for him to work out on his exercise equipment or take a few laps around the house with his walker.
Since being liberated from the nursing home, the ratio of personal care has risen in Grandpa’s favor from 6 to 1 (the six in our family to Grandpa’s one). How true the saying “many hands make light the work!” In nursing homes, the industry norm 15 to 1 (15 residents to one CNA!). Wow, I can’t fathom being in charge of 15 seniors at one time. Is it really possible to call that care?
Talk about adapting. It isn’t the nursing home staff who does the adapting. Once you walk (or are pushed) through those doors, you must adapt to the nursing home’s policies and the way their staff does things – like it or not.
Yes, since Grandpa came home, he is definitely upwardly mobile.
Purpose. We all need a reason to get up in the morning. That is especially true for seniors. Miriam Webster defines purpose as: something set up as an object or end to be attained. At the age of 89, Grandpa is writing a book about the 4 1/2 years he spent in a nursing home. It has become his his reason for getting up in the morning.
It’s Sunday morning and I’m taking care of him while everyone else is at church. It is Valentine’s day and he has a pair of real cute red and pink argyles on. It’s funny how simple things like a funny pair of socks make everyone smile.
When we first brought Grandpa home, he couldn’t barely do anything except dictate his stories to me. Some days the stories just poured out of him, other days it was like pulling teeth. Today isn’t such a good day for writing, but he’s been getting so much healthier that he even began writing his stories out longhand.
I could tell this isn’t one of his better mornings, though. He had written a couple of paragraphs on his own, when his eye began to hurt. I asked him if he wanted to dictate the rest of his vignette to me. He said sure, but I thought to myself, I think this is going to be one of those stories that takes forever for him to tell.
Once He was taken of of the drug Benzatropine, he was able to type all of his dicated stories into the computer himself.
Fast forward six months, and Grandpa sits daily at the computer writing, re-writing, copying his dictated pieces out of the notebook and into the computer. He often says, “Writing is so fun!”
Most parents joyfully anticipate the addition of a newborn to their family. For the sandwich generation, it’s different. Does anyone really anticipate bringing a parent or grandparent into their home to care for them long term? Isn’t that kind of thinking a little naive? Aren’t old folks better off being tucked away somewhere where they won’t be in the way? And shouldn’t the medical professionals take care of them? After all, isn’t old age a disease?
Taking care of an elderly parent can be challenging, complicated, and downright scary at times. Unlike babies who eventually adapt your family’s routine, the elderly slow you down and cause you to adapt to theirs. Some describe it as having their lives turned upside down or feeling like life has come to a screeching halt. That’s how I felt when we first brought Grandpa home.
Taking care of Grandpa reminds me of when my children were little, only different. Let’s face it, babies are cute and cuddly and don’t weigh very much. 165 pound Grandpas can be cute, too, but unlike babies, they’re generally viewed as more of a burden than a blessing.
When I was sharing with a friend how we took Grandpa out of the nursing home and how crazy our lives had become as a result, she wisely said, “Selfish people calculate, loving people act.” Her insight brought me peace.
There is a huge difference between calculating the cost and counting the cost. A calculating heart says, What’s in it for me? A heart that counts the cost says, Jesus paid the ultimate price for my freedom. Can I do less for others?
Taking care of Grandpa has drastically changed my life and the lives of my husband and children. I’m glad we didn’t stop to calculate the cost. Seeing Dad alone at the most vulnerable time in his life moved us to act. It has come at a great price to everyone involved, but that’s okay, he’s worth it.
Have you ever had someone’s face light up because you walked into the room? That’s how my day started. I peeked into my dad’s bedroom and said, “Hi Dad!” and his face lit up for joy. Eric was already taking care of him, helping him wake up and get ready for the day, but Dad was groggy and unmotivated to get out of bed. But at the sound of my voice, he turned his head, opened his eyes and his face lit up with joy.
“Good morning, Dad,” I said.
“It is now that you’re here,” he said.
“Eric and I are your friendly CNA’s, here to take care of you,” I joked.
“Let me see, we’re your… “Children, Near, Always,” I said, using the beginning letters from the acronym Certified Nursing Assistant.
Children near always. Do you know what that means to an 89-year-old who’s had to rely on strangers to take care of him for the last four years?
Eric pulled Grandpa up off the bed and he grabbed his walker. Steadying himself, he began his labored journey to the bathroom. Dad has Parkinson’s and it takes him a while to get his motor apparatus in gear.
As they headed for the Friday morning shower, I caught a glimpse of my dad from behind, bent over, pajamas sagging, a tell-tale sign of the soaking wet diaper underneath.
We would have to wash his pajamas and sheets again today.
As I gazed at the scene unfolding before me, the tall grandson securely grasping the safety belt of the little old man hobbling to the bathroom, I commented to Eric, “That’s Jesus, you know.”
“I know,” he replied.
“…I was naked, and you clothed Me…” Mathew 25:36