Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Treasure Every Moment With Those You Love

When I woke up this morning I had no idea that by 5pm, I would be sitting in my dining room, crying to acomplete stranger.

It was early January this year that I sat in that very same dining room with my mother and brother, talking about how we felt about my grandparents living on their own and that maybe they should consider moving in with my mother and I. Little did we know, that only 5 months later, this wouldn't be an option, but a necessity. Later that month, on an early Sunday morning, my mom got a phone call saying my 85 year old grandfather had fallen in the bedroom of his condo and was being rushed to the emergency room.

There were tests, tests and more tests. Doctors came and went. Specialists were called in. Each time, someone would come up with an idea of what had happened to cause my grandfather's "collapse",as we had come to call it, and still not one of them could find a medical reason for it.

After the hospital had agreed there was nothing more they could do for my grandfather and he seemed to be in relatively good health, he was moved to a rehab facility. Though there was no clear medical problems with him, he still was not ready to come home, because he could not eat, stand, walk or do much else on his own.

At this point, my mother and I had moved my 90 year old grandmother out of their one bedroom condo and into the 3 bedroom house we shared.  My grandfather had been caring for her for the past few years and she was unable to care for herself.

My mom, myself, my younger brother and sister had all discussed what we should do. It was obvious we had no choice but to put the condo on the market, as it was clear my grandparents would never return to it. One of the girls I work with is a licensed realtor, so we began the listing process.

We moved some of our furniture that wasn't really used to make room for my grandparent's furniture and my mom moved her things to the back bedroom once occupied by my sister so my grandparents would have the master bedroom and their own bathroom.

As time went on, my grandfather would have good days and bad days, yet not seem to ever get to a point where he was back to himself. As we waited for him to improve, we continued getting more of his personal affairs in order since we weren't sure how much of them he would be able to handle them all on his own.

Then one afternoon while I was near the end of my workday, I got a call from my mom. She had just arrived at the rehab facility to see my grandfather as usual ,when my grandmother suffered a massive stroke. She was being taken across the street to the hospital ER. I called my brother and sister, and the three of us rushed to meet them there.

After tests were done, the doctors told us that my grandmother would be ok, but wold have to stay in the hospital for a while. Meanwhile, my grandfather remained in rehab. we never imaged earlier this year that we would have not one, but two grandparents in such poor health.

Time went on and soon my grandmother was being released from the hospital and over to the rehab, where she would share a room with my grandfather for the time being.

The doctors and specialists had assessed that there was not much else that could be done for my grandfather and medicare had stopped payments to the facility. If we wanted to keep him there, it would have to be paid out of pocket. We all agreed, including my grandfather, that it was best to do just that. Weeks passed and we started to consider what we should do. At some point both of my grandparents would have to be released from the rehab, but what was the best option for their care? Would we find a nursing home or bring them home to live with my mom and myself, hiring home care assistance.  Feeling he would at some point continue to get better and knowing my grandmother would not require much care,we decided to do just that.

The condo sold, we found a home health care service and things proceeded. Soon, it would be time for my grandparents to be released and be brought home to out care. The hospital would arrange for transportation for them and medicare would provide hospital beds, wheelchairs and some in home visits from nurses, physical therapy and the like.

It will be two weeks since my grandparents have been home this coming Saturday and things have been harder than my mom and I ever imagined.  My grandfather was looking to be getting better and better, but my grandmother, unfortunately seems only to decline in health.  This week, we began to talk about if maybe they would be better off in a facility where they could get round the clock care. we finally decided to call in someone from hospice, to talk about our options.

It turns out hospice care could provide them with home care that was better than what they are receiving now, without having to make them move to a facility. Yesterday we made the call to get them "admitted" into their system.

Today my mother and I met with our assigned nurse and socialworker. It was explained that we would be able to get a nurse out to us any time, day or night if needed, my grandparents would be able to any medical services provided right here and if at any point, we felt it was no longer needed (though this is doubtful) we could discontinue and find another type of care.

As the social worker took information, I was asked questions I didn't really think I would be considering so soon. What funeral home would we like to use in case one or both of my grandparents passed? Do we want them to remain at home or be moved to a facility when it looks like "the end" is near?
I stared to feel the tears building and the nurse turned to me and said "it's alright to cry", and cry, I did.

It all came flooding out. All the emotions I had been holding back for almost 2 weeks. The realization that I would never again have a two sided conversation with my grandmother. That my grandfather, whom I had relied on for the past 20 years of my life for advice and opinion when I had nowhere else to turn, would probably never stand or walk on his own again. It was all so unbelievably REAL.  This was the moment I knew wold someday come,  I just didn't know it would come now.

I consider myself so very blessed to have had my grandmother around for so long, knowing friends that are not as fortunate. She is , after all, going to be 91 in September and has lived a long and happy life. My grandparents have been together for over 60 years and have shown me just what the very definition of love is.  I have watched my grandmother care for my grandfather for most of their lives and now in the latter ones, seen him in turn care for her.  I know soon it will her time to move on from this life and though I want her to stay, I also know it would be selfish if she is suffering. She is no longer living a life that I would want for myself. Bed bound and unable to do anything for herself.

So as I write these words I try to prepare for the time when she ends her journey here and also wonder if my grandfather will improve or decline further, himself. I have decided to remain optimistic, but realistic.

As I end this blog post , I can feel the stinging of my red-rimmed eyes and know it will not be the last day I cry over my grandparents conditions. In fact, I fear it will only the the beginning of many tear-filled days and nights. as I look back on the time I shared with them I value ever second of it and want to treasure every second I have left. I don't know how much I have left, but I am going to make the most of it.

I ask one thing of you, my readers. Please take a moment to consider the ones you love. Then make sure you value every day you have with them. Life is short. Nobody knows what fate has in store for us. Things could turn at a moments notice and nobody wants to regret not having have done or said the things they thought they would always be able to do another day.

Trust me, because Redheads Know Best.