I often ask myself, “What am I getting myself into? Do I really want to do this?” All of these questions and fears race through my mind as the day approaches when grandma comes to live with us.
It is one thing to have an elderly family member come into your home who is mobile and has the ability to do things for themselves, but when they rely on you for their every need, that is quite a different story. The anticipation and trepidation, oh my! My world as I know it and have grown accustomed to love is being turned upside down. My daughter is finally at an age where she is able to do things on her own, and I’m not going to lie, I was enjoying the new found freedom of not having to keep a watchful eye on her every move. But that’s all about to change.
We agreed to take in my mother-in-law to live with us because the facility she now resides cannot meet her needs. When you find a 76-year-old woman walking barefoot down Main Street at 1 a.m. telling you she is going to her sister’s house to pick up some sauce, I think it’s time to change some living arrangements. It’s a good thing the ground wasn’t covered in snow but you’ve got to admire the drive and determination of a Sicilian woman. Nothing could get in the way of her sauce!
They had a plan! The solution they implemented was to place a bracelet around her ankle to track her every move. There’s nothing like a big ring of hard plastic digging into your ankle bone making you feel like you’re a prisoner! But hey, I get where they’re coming from, they must get escapees all the time. Who wouldn’t want to escape and get back to their families and homes and everything they hold dear, including some sauce?
Let me tell you how this all began. One day, after trying to phone her several times with no response, her niece and son let themselves in the house only to find no one there. Feeling nervous and scared for what they might find, they phoned her daughter to go check upstairs and see if she was there. 45 minutes later her daughter arrived only to find her mother unresponsive on the bedroom floor, barely breathing and clinging to life by a thread. Immediately she called the ambulance, and thankfully, they arrived just in time. They began administering the life-saving skills they were trained in just for moments like these. After getting her stable enough for transport to the hospital, they looked up and said “If she had been found any later, surely she would have died.” She was at that thin line between life and death. What kept her going enough to live on? Only time will tell. Surely there must be some unfulfilled purpose for her life on earth.
The life saving efforts continued with the amazingly competent staff in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. The results came in and then we had some sort of answers to all of this craziness, a blood sugar of 1500 which turns the blood into a syrupy mess, and an infection in her blood shutting down all of her vital organs. There she lay, in a coma for 5 days on a ventilator because she could no longer breathe on her own. It was a long, arduous process to bring her blood sugar back to a normal range but finally they had been successful. She also faced heart failure and kidney failure as her frail little body was shutting down.
Deep inside, there must have been the will to live or something motivating her to push forward, along with the excellent medical care she received. Slowly, after being unresponsive for nearly a week, she began to show signs of life. What were we up against? What would be the outcome of all of this? Would she suffer brain damage? Would she have lasting heart and kidney damage? All of these questions paraded through our minds over and over again along with the paralyzing thoughts of what was to come.
Each day was touch-and-go as she slowly emerged from her unconscious state, her body now bloated from the IV fluids they pumped in just to keep her alive. After many unsuccessful attempts to remove the breathing tube, she finally cooperated and began to breathe on her own. In the midst of all this, my husband rushed up to be by her side through all of it. I would like to tell you that all was pleasant and pretty when she awoke but nothing could be farther from the truth. She woke up yelling profanities at everyone participating in her care, even her son whom she adores and loves even as much as her own life. Would this be her new “normal”? Could this have left her in a bitter, cantankerous state? Forever? Only time would tell.
One day at a time is all we could focus on. There were several bad days followed by a couple of good days and then back to bad days. Finally she was at a state where the hospital could no longer keep her and the rehabilitation process began. This wasn’t easy. The profanities continued and the ugliness poured out of her soul. Forget even coming near her to do physical therapy, she would hurl her obscenities and angry outpourings at the poor, undeserving staff.
Her care there had come to an end and it was time to figure out where her next home would be. This is how she ended up in an assisted living facility with an ankle bracelet so elegantly gracing her right ankle for all the world and fellow prisoners to see. Freedom was so close at hand. She could feel it. She could taste it. There was pure joy in knowing she would be set free. Free to roam around wherever she pleased and no one would stop her. Free to wake up when she felt like waking up. Free to eat when she felt like eating. There was hope for a normal life once again. This is where we step in, next stop my house!!