Please note: I am writing about how adaptable we human beings are, even set-in-my-routine folks like me. I am NOT complaining.
My husband's mother fell two weeks ago, breaking the bone in her upper left arm. She is so frail; the last time she broke something, it was her shoulder. She broke it when she reached back behind her to turn on a lamp. She has broken both hips, a wrist, a finger, a shoulder, now her arm, and I'm sure I left something out.
She has declined over the years that Hubby and I have been married. Every now and then a picture of her scrolls through my screensaver, in our backyard with our former dogs. It's hard for me to remember when she could do that. She has used a walker for several years, and I can't remember the last time she was in my house. She can't navigate the steps to the front door anymore. She has been to the pool for a couple of outings. Hubby drives her car into the backyard and brings her to the pool in a wheelchair.
She's a sweet lady, and she isn't feeble-minded in the least. She doesn't complain, and she isn't a lot of trouble. Although she DID refuse to go the hospital in the ambulance when she fell two weeks ago, all because they wouldn't take her to the hospital she wanted to go to. (It wasn't extremely convenient for Hubby to drive her there either, but he did it.)
Because she can't walk without a walker, and now her arm is broken, she is pretty much helpless. She has one of those power scooters, but she can't get on it. And it won't go into her bathroom. So her days AND nights are spent on her sofa (at least it reclines), and she has to use a portable potty chair to use the bathroom. I get up at 5:00 AM every morning, and at 6:00 AM Hubby and I (and Gus) walk down to my mother-in-law's house. Hubby helps her to a standing position, and then he runs like hell lest he be forced to see his mother use the pot. I help her use the potty chair while Hubby fixes her coffee and gets her a dunking stick for breakfast. (No, we aren't trying to kill her. That's what she ate even before she broke her arm.)
We make her as comfortable as we can, then I go home to exercise and get ready for school. My sister-in-law (the tacky one) comes in the afternoon, and sometimes she comes back in the evenings. Hubby and I walk down there at least one more time, to help her go to the bathroom before bed and close up her house for the evening.
I was sleeping blissfully last Saturday when Hubby woke me up at 6:00 AM to go help his mother. Some part of my brain had become convinced she could go the whole weekend without peeing, and I couldn't believe I had to get up at that ungodly hour on a Saturday. But I did, and I didn't whine about it, because those are the things we do for family. I would even do it for my own mother. If she lived near me. Which she doesn't. Whew.
What surprises me most about this whole ordeal is that I am such a routine-oriented person, and even with this major event in our lives, I have managed to shift my routine slightly and keep on trucking. It shouldn't be that surprising - what other choice is there? I don't consider myself very flexible, but maybe I don't give myself enough credit.
It's hard to watch someone go downhill. It's doubly painful because she isn't SICK; she's just frail. Personally I think we may be approaching the time when it's unrealistic to expect her to continue living by herself, but that's not my call to make. Hubby asked his sister (the tacky one) if she would consider moving in with their mother. His sister lives alone, and it would save her $600 a month in rent. Plus it would give his mother assistance and the peace of mind of having someone there. His sister's answer? Hubby would have to PAY her. (Did I mention she's tacky?) She wasn't exaggerating, not like saying, "Oh, you'd have to PAY me to do such-and-such." She REALLY meant he would have to pay her to stay with her own mother. For free rent.
A therapist is coming by a couple times a week to help Hubby's mother exercise her legs, but there's only so much they can do. She can't even stand up, and if you help her to a standing position, she can't bear her own weight. A home health care nurse came today, ostensibly to give mother-in-law a bath, but she said she couldn't do it if mother-in-law couldn't stand up on her own. Uh.....if she could stand and walk, we wouldn't NEED your services.
It's frustrating. It's sad. It's depressing. It's one of those times when you never know what the right decision is. Mother-in-law always said if she got to the point where she couldn't take care of herself, she would willingly go to a nursing home. But I'm pretty sure right now she would say, "I CAN take care of myself, except for this broken arm. And these weak legs."
It's frustrating. It's sad. It's depressing.