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Losing Independence

July 24, 2021

Another Way for week of July 16, 2021

Losing Independence

As I watch my almost-97-year-old mother’s aging process, I am reminded again and again: we all go down this road. In not too many years it will be me and my siblings facing the challenges she is facing, unless we die younger.

Throw a world-wide pandemic into the picture and you’ve got misery. You’ve got loved ones who need and want to be surrounded by lifelong friends and family—and what they get too often is isolation. If they must live in a nursing care or retirement facility, we all have to follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) rules which are imposed for our own safety of course. Many have experienced being prisoners in their own rooms. Some are forced to greet friends and families through glass windows where rain, snow or sun make the visiting difficult. They gesture and hold up signs to communicate, if they are unable to hear on phones.

Here’s an update on my dear mom, who many readers may recall first had a fall in February last year (2020), right before the Covid close down. She broke her femur. It healed well and she made it through months of physical therapy with flying colors. We were able to visit her several times in her independent apartment and took her to a service at her church (outdoors); to a flea market; to a delicious Amish-cooked “sloppy joes and potato salad” lunch (her choice); and even to a nephew’s home. My cousin and his wife set up canopies for another outside get together they were hosting the next day, so we visited with several cousins in the open air.

Mom didn’t like the rules and close downs and masks. Who does? Plus, she doesn’t read or watch TV as much as she once did, due to eyes that get very tired, so at first it was hard for her to grasp the vast reaches of this pandemic.

Then came winter. Another February, 2021. Another middle of the night fall, this time breaking her shoulder. Much harder to heal. Much harder to do any physical or even occupational therapy involving the upper body because you can only move one arm and hand. The rules say 100 days of Medicare-paid residency in a rehab facility, and you’re out. You have to start paying your own way, unless you are lucky enough to have long term health care insurance.

My sister and sister-in-law (both nursing experience) help make sure Mother stays safe for an excursion to her favorite restaurant the Saturday before Mother’s Day, 2021.

As vaccines became possible, we all (in Mom’s family) got vaccinated, but still there were sporadic close downs for the facility for mandatory two weeks due to outbreaks—including workers, some of whom refused or were unable to get vaccinated. We visited in March, May and planned to visit in June. Then, wham, another close down. However, it was lifted again by the time we arrived June 22, which was a blessing.

It was also extremely helpful to talk to the social worker in charge of her building, who helped my sisters and I understand a few of the ramifications of the pandemic on staffing, volunteering, and continuity of care when much staffing is done through medical staffing agencies. These are trained workers but they come in completely new with many pages of notes and care directions to read and absorb for each of their patients. And then, if one wing of the entire operation needs a worker because others are out sick, they get shifted to a new section of the facility with new patients who have different, particular needs.

Although workers did their best with Mom’s needs, it is difficult for a continual parade of different CNAs (nurse aides) to be as punctual and precise as Mom always was with applying her own eye drops and eye compresses. Or to get her hearing aid in just right.

My brother and other sister help settle Mom into her place at the Essen Haus in Middlebury, Indiana.

Our family appreciates the prayers and care given to Mom. I will write more next time about the challenges our healthcare system—especially for those who have reached their 90s—face. The issues are widespread.

All of us, with Mom at the Essen Haus. The reality of Mom’s second fall and restrictions has been difficult to adjust to for all of us.

If you have friends, relatives, or church members in healthcare, do reach out to them. Go and visit if it’s allowed, and keep visits short. Your friends and the patient’s family will bless you!

***

What has been your experience with nursing care for a relative or close friend?

How did she/he cope? How did you cope?

For a free booklet “Praying When You are Depressed,” by Mildred Tengbom, write to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

6 Comments
  1. Cheryl Mast permalink

    Melodie – What a hard space for your mom and all the rest of you! So hard to see photos of your mom without a smile on her face. She has always been so full of life and positive energy. Last I talked with Pert (my college coach) she talked about how tough this has been on your mom. Prayers as you continue to navigate this part of the journey with your mom! My dad is 88, and it this point he and my step-mom are still living independently, but changes for them aren’t too far off. Shalom, Cheryl Mast (at Amigo Centre)

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Nice to see Pert referenced here. (She’s vacationing but will eventually find this.) It has been especially hard on Pert, Nancy and Terry, I feel. I’m attached too but in different ways and even though we currently can’t talk on the phone because of her hearing issues, I try to write regularly and I know she has always loved letters she can re-read etc. And these columns! Yes, difficult times in this aging business. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Melodie, you and your family are doing your best to show Mom loving care. Still, I sense you don’t feel like you can do enough to make your mother’s path easier.

    I too have been down this road and know the hardships. Yet every situation is unique, and you do a great job of detailing the particulars of this journey. Writing is a great coping mechanism, and I hope it has brought you comfort to share this update with those who care. (Hugs!)

    By the way, your mom still has a lovely head of hair!

    • Yes, and it drives Mom to frustration when she can’t get her hair done every week like she’s done for years. I think they provide that service (extra item on her bill…) as often as they can with the demand there is. The shortage of workers is real and tough and people are suffering. I wish she’d live with one of us (I think I wish that) but she always said she never wanted to live with any of us kids (even though she loves and highly values each one of us!)

      I guess you’re home again! Nice birthday trip and celebrations. 🙂

  3. Margaret Kauffman permalink

    I miss seeing your Mother around but appreciate your updates I am in Manor IV

  4. Thanks, Margaret. Hope you are doing well. Visitors are welcome for short visits–you can spread the word at North Goshen. 🙂

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