Yes, we are still here.
As I wander deeper and deeper into the throes of caring for my grandma, each day I wonder how much longer this can continue.
Things have changed.
Of course, things are constantly changing… such is the nature of life. The amount of change that caregivers face on their journey can feel suffocating. Just when you get the boat back rocking smoothly again, something changes and you’re struggling to breathe under your capsized boat.
My grandma went on hospice a couple months before the Covid nightmare was shifting from a tiny whisper to a roaring cacophony. She had a “touch of pneumonia” and spent a week in the hospital. It was obvious the time for 24 hour care had arrived. I was faced with the decision of either bringing her home or placing her in a facility.
Just like the last time this happened to me, I put my big girl britches on and told the doctor to call up hospice, because I was taking her home. I leaned on my faith in God and the Grandma’s Sidekicks.
A couple weeks into spending the night with her and then returning home to take care of my animals and work on my projects, I was exhausted. I decided to find a house where we all could live, Grandma, critters and I, so I could see this through to the end.
A wonderful realtor at my grandma’s church helped me through the process of finding and buying a house. It’s a wonderful home.
With the help of a handful of trusty amigos and Grandma’s Sidekicks, I was able to get each of our houses combined right before everything shut down.
Covid really hasn’t affected us too much, all things considered. We were already socially isolated. My grandma’s circle of movement and relationships had been shrinking and so was mine. Besides, very few have ever showed up to begin with, so again, not too much has really changed thanks to the global pandemic. The best thing that ever happened to me was having groceries delivered or picking them up. Seriously. Shopping is such a time sucker.
The major game changer for me over the past year and a half has been Alzheimer’s disease.
Right before we moved, Barbara Lynn (yah, I call her that now) had just begun asking her Sidekicks if she was going home in the evenings. That was my first clue she was no longer fully aware of her surroundings.
She has persisted asking this question to this day, although she does ask it less, because she is talking less.
A lot less. Sometimes she simply repeats back to me what I say. I have to use very simple language and limit the choices I give her to two options. When she does talk, it’s mostly babble that doesn’t make much sense.
Each day, I’m at least three different people. I am her mom, her dad, her husband, Kenny or Ronnie, some random family member or teacher or neighbor. I can’t even remember the last time she said my name. Two out of the last four times she was asked, she couldn’t even remember her own last name.
She has been declining steadily for the past year. She fell last November. On my watch. (Hello, guilt monster!) After a few days in bed it became obvious she was not going to be able to walk. Hospice got us a broda chair and a hoyer lift so we could get her out of bed each day. We continued to do it dutifully and I still try each day. (Aside: There’s no way we could have gotten that kind of equipment in her old house. This place truly has been a blessing 🏠)
Barbara Lynn’s decline accelerated mid-Summer. All of a sudden she was just sleepy. Like all the time. It became pretty obvious that no matter what we did she wasn’t going to be able to tolerate much.
Once she started sleeping all the time, I gave in and we let her rest.
For a month now, I have been caring for her 24/7 except every other weekend and a few hours here and there. It has been an adjustment doing this solo, but then again, nothing is ever the same from day to day, so everyday it basically feels like I’m in a constant state of adjustment.
Nowadays, she is awake and alert anywhere from 4-8 hours away. The number of days she stays in bed is slowly increasing. Her hands are contracting and she has been having quite a bit of trouble eating and drinking.
While before Barbara Lynn was very good at faking us out and masking her confusion, now it is obvious that she is declining (and quickly).
I think my grandma has been trying to tell me she is tired. So, I have been working on making our home a peaceful place to rest and just spending time.
Is this the beginning of the end? (Of course , the beginning of the end took place long ago, but you know what I mean..)
Only time will tell.
Until then, we’re still here.