Acceptance · Aging · Body image · Caregiving · Dementia · Elderly · Humor · Musings · Scripture · True Story

My Body is a Sagging Tent

odometer

A dear friend, 6 significant years younger than I,  contacted me feeling woebegone.

She’s about to turn forty and she feels lousy. Her eye-sight is suddenly failing, her metabolism is on strike, and her children – all under the age of 8 – think they are smarter than her despite her doctorate degree. She’d envisioned running a research department at a prestigious university by this age, but now she sits in a dingy diner trying to make out the blurry menu and not kick her rugrat crawling around under the table who just said, “those last people had weally good Fwench Fwies.” Sigh.

Since I’m about to turn forty five, I laughed my head off at her. I bought myself the sign above at a fun store in Rockaway Beach. Poor baby. She has no idea that she’s living the best times and that it’s downhill, fast, from there. See dear, we are now officially middle aged! That’s a true fact. Read it again.

It’s funny to me how 60 year-olds think they’re middle aged. Anyone that thinks we are not middle aged, is actually old and in denial about their status unless they think they will live to be 120.  Which is not going to happen. Please scoot your walker forward, you’re knocking on geriatric. If you don’t own a walker yet, you can get one at the local senior center for a $5 donation. Go get it. I said, (a little louder, and with hand motions) go get it. You can thank me later. The only exception is my 100 year old resident who frequently observes, with disdain, other residents who are much younger than she, and says, “I hope I don’t act like that when I’m old.” Ha!

Our conversation called to mind these superb words from Ecclesiastes 12.

Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
    and the grasshopper drags itself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

The “keepers of the house” must be our muscles, “the strong men” our bones. The “grinders” are our teeth. By “fear of heights” the inspired writer means the curb. Be grateful that you can hop right up or down from it today, my dear. A time will come when you will pray that a Boy Scout (who might be a girl- don’t try to understand that) is walking by so it takes you 5 instead of 30 minutes to maneuver getting up or down that curb.

Is the silver cord our hair that will all have fallen off or is it our spinal cord whose reflexes will be calcified. Is the golden bowl our once brilliant PhD brain which will lead us to crawl under the table eating the previous occupants Fwench Fwies? Can you picture carrying a full pitcher and a walker, with shaky hands and a stooped back? Forget about it!

The “wheel… broken at the well” tells you there may be water down there but you ain’t getting it. Just about all you do takes too much effort and creates problems of its own. Or is the spilling, broken pitcher at the spring addressing the deficiencies of our bowel  and bladder functions? Maybe that refers to the female process while the wheel with its defunct rope refers to the male. How annoying to have a bladder full of liquid, move heaven and earth to get to the bathroom, then dribble three drops of urine and be done? That is until you get back to your power recliner and you gotta go, NOW!

But don’t feel bad about this prognosis. There are numerous upsides to the aging process as your youth disappears, the best of which is you can say whatever you darn well please. I can’t remember the rest. But I do remember a brilliant quip some senior citizen came up with that goes something like:

“I can’t walk, I can barely talk, I can’t screw, I can’t poo, I can’t see, and I can’t hear. Good thing I still have my driver’s license!”

So my advice to you is from Ecclesiastes 11.

Light is sweet,
    and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years anyone may live,
    let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
    for there will be many.
    Everything to come is meaningless.

You who are young, be happy while you are young,
    and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
    and cast off the troubles of your body,
    for youth and vigor are meaningless.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/disappear/

Scripture reference from the New International Version

Aging · Caregiving · CPR · Death · Elderly · End of Life Decisions

Decompression

I’ve been trained in First Aid/CPR for over 20 years but never had to use it in an emergency. On a warm Tuesday afternoon, a precious lady beside me suddenly passed out. She was sitting in a tall seat and instantly needed to be supported to avert a fall. Thankfully, there were 3 other people to help me hold her up and manage the salvo of bodily fluids.

When she didn’t come to after a reasonable amount of time I called 911. Her blood pressure was dropping rapidly and her breathing was erratic. The dispatcher had us get her on the floor and start compressions.  I stopped whenever she came to but she’d quickly slip out of consciousness – my cue to resume.

I’m grateful that administering breaths isn’t required any more. Position the heel of one hand partway between the breasts and the  sternum, place the heel of the other hand atop the first, and push straight down to the rhythm of “Staying Alive.” I felt strangely comfortable with the procedure, having practiced it numerous times before.

It was a painful process for her. She winced and jolted whenever I started, but went limp when I stopped.

An officer arrived on the scene first, followed within a minute by a quartet of fire fighters. My work was done and I could sit down and hold her dear hand. She opened her eyes and looked around as though she had just awoken from a nap. “I’ve never really looked at this ceiling,” she quipped.

They ran numerous tests and poked her hand with an enormous needle to start an IV. “Do you hurt?” one of the paramedics asked.

“Yes,” she gasped.

“What hurts?”

“You!” She said emphatically.

She was transported to the emergency department and my cronies and I held each other and debriefed. We’d worked like a well oiled machine in the crisis and were now ready to decompress. I was so grateful they were there to help me with that arduous yet necessary job. The physical and emotional effects of the stress of it lasted a few days for me. It also transported me to my mother’s dying bed. I wasn’t there for that occurence. I’m saddened that she went that way instead of slipping away silently. It’s hard to picture her in this commotion.

It’s been a week and her chest is still hurting terribly whenever she moves. Yesterday she had the hiccups all day. It hurt to watch her, as we tried remedy after remedy.

I’ve since sat with her family and debriefed the situation. They are very grateful she is alive despite sore ribs. Would we do it again in the future? No. It was a great opportunity to discuss end of life issues with her doctor and update her resuscitation orders from 2 years ago.

While she is young at heart and a jovial person, she is at peace with death and would prefer to be allowed to slip away instead of “being punched in the gut repeatedly” as she describes it. We performed CPR for about 8 minutes. My mother had CPR done for 40 minutes. She died anyway. That’s unconscionable. The hospital bill for the code team alone was atrocious.

Share your wishes with loved ones and put them in writing. Keep having the conversations as they serve the purpose of helping your friends and family establish what your values are. These can be more beneficial than a signed piece of paperwork. Discuss various scenarios and what you’d like. It may be difficult to have these conversations but they save a lot of heartache and headache in the long term. Enlist the help of a healthcare professional if some parties are resistant.

Finally, take a first aid/CPR class. In my experience, fire departments offer them for the lowest price and it’s great to get them from people who are constantly using those skills. Hospitals and other agencies offer them as well. A crisis that calls for these skills is incredibly stressful and it’s a tremendous help to have had the necessary training.

Free Image retrieved 4/3/18 from:

cityofls.net/Portals/0/images/main/News%20Releases/CPR%20Logo.jpg?ver=2018-01-26-080502-767

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Aging · Caregiving · Dad · Daughters · Elderly · Family · Grief · Relationships · sad · Short story · Tribe

The One You’re With

I’ve heard it said that if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

The two captivating desires of elderly residents I’ve cared for over the years have been to be in their own home and to have family visit everyday and care for them. They are almost obsessive desires. My job security rests on the fact that these two desires can’t be met. It’s fascinating to me that while they wish their loved ones were caring for them, I too have a secret desire: to be back home caring for my elderly father. Unfortunately today is not the day for that dream to come true.

The ironic flip side of that coin is that while these residents love their family members dearly, the majority of them, when it comes down to it, wouldn’t really want their family taking care of them. I’ve heard the lines: She’s so impatient… She’d rather die than wipe my butt… He’s always been so selfish… She’s so rough…. They are actually grateful that the family isn’t caring for them.

Well, there’s a flip side to my desire too. Dad is difficult. And demanding. And selfish. He has to be the boss and things have to go his way. He is loud and has the worst boundaries in the world. It’s a good thing he has a great sense of humor and can take a good jab when he goes too far.

AND he raised me. I don’t necessarily owe him, seeing as I didn’t ask to be born and raised, but I remember he put himself out repeatedly, faithfully, deeply (did I say loudly?), so that I had the best I possibly could. I remember all  that demonstrated consistently from the time I was knee high to that mountain of a man. He was on time for my appointments, present for my rehearsals and performances, involved in my education, drove me to college hours away so he’d see where I’d be.

And when I boarded a plane to fly across the world, he held me close and told me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and that he’d be praying for me. And when I graduated he flew 10,000 miles to see for himself the first of his children to receive a university degree. He spent the whole time jet-lagging and trying to work out the cramps in his long legs from the long trip, and finally on the great graduation morning, he landed in the hospital with pneumonia. When he wasn’t kidding with and bossing the nurses, he was apologizing for missing my big day.

Two weeks later he walked me down the aisle and held me close again, and reminded me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and he’d be praying for me. And that he was ever so proud of me.

We talk on the phone a couple times a month. I call him Daddy Blue. He calls me Mummy Blue. ( See the story behind the Blue https://wordpress.com/post/thukumainen.wordpress.com/3729). Four years later he flew to my grad school graduation and was ever so proud. He wore his favorite blue shirt, strutted like a peacock, spoke louder than normal, and looked so handsome.

IMG_20180312_111121135.jpg

I think I’m his favorite and he doesn’t know he’s my favorite. He’s my first thought when I wake up in the night. I think of him throughout my day. So why am I not there checking his medications as he takes them, slowly massaging his stump, holding his barf bag when he needs it, and sitting in on his doctors appointments? Why am I not there trimming his nails, reading Psalms to him, soaking in his amazing wisdom, and laughing at his fabulous stories?

Why am I here instead, doing your mother’s pretty nails, massaging her stump, hearing her awesome stories for the hundredth time, making her favorite dessert, looking through her picture books, and tucking her in at night with the pink and purple blanket just the way she likes it, with the little pillow over the long pillow angled just so?

I can only pray that the one who’s caring for dad knows he likes the lighter sheet off to the side so he can pull it over him if it gets cold at night and water set close to but not blocking the clock. And that wherever you are, you are taking the time to help the lady get across the street, or telling the kids that little Teddy doesn’t want them pushing his wheelchair any more. Or that you’re checking books out diligently at the library where you work, and teaching class in a fun and engaging way. That you’re being extra humane as you pick up the garbage on your work route, raise your babies at home, and as you do brain surgery on your patients, or fill tanks with gas, do landscaping, or adjudicate cases.

All this while I am with the one who would rather be with you; while I can’t be with the one I would rather be with. That’s the way of the Global Tribe.

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