Friday, July 5, 2013

Independence Day

It is fitting that my friend Mary was released from what I refer to as the "care facility from hell" today, July 4. In fact she managed to her escape before her release papers were signed. Talk about freedom. Just as her son got her settled in her favorite chair, the phone started ringing. There was no way he was going to get her back in the car to sign a paper or two.

I wonder if the ink was dry on the Declaration of Independence before our forefathers and mothers realized there was way more to being independent that just wanting it so. Poor Mary, was second-guessing her leaving before the morning was over.  Home sounded pretty good when she was living in an area the size of a twin bed. The reality of home is having to walk side ways to get into the bathroom,  having trouble getting out of the chair she normally sits in, getting even a small meal or cup of coffee from one place to another while using a walker, being even more alone than when she was in purgatory, admitting things are not going to be as easy as she thought.

The only good thing I saw or heard this afternoon was a nurse and therapist would be visiting tomorrow. Finally, finally, someone will see how things are and hopefully make some suggestions that will let Mary remain in her home and still be safe.

Sweetie gave me a good talking to. He reiterated that I can only do so much for Mary. Her son is going to have to figure out how to make things work. "But," I said over and over again, sprinkled with several "what if's." It's not that I wasn't listening to him, that I don't know he's right. It's just that I hate HATE that this same fate is what faces so many elderly people every day.  The people of Mary's generation survived  the Great Depression, World Wars, natural disasters, the Space Race, the Civil Rights Movement, the Age of Aquarius, and Y2K. They've gone from Model T's to SUV's before their keys were taken away from them. Their Black and White TVs have been replaced by streaming devices, HiFi's turned into iPods and telephones they once had to dial are now "smart" enough to tell you where to go and how to get there. It's no surprise they want to live (and die) with dignity even as their bodies weaken and their minds begin to fail.   Throw in some pain, some anger, some loneliness, and some fear. It's no wonder old people get cranky and hard to live with or talk to. Hard fought independence is hard to let go of.

As the Universe would have it, I read a new blog today about the "positive effects animals have on the aging and people with disabilities whose lives are generally confined to their homes or facilities. I recall learning that people who have pets in their homes generally have good nutrition because they want to feed their animals well too. Their moods are lighter, and overall, they take better care of themselves so they can stick around for their companions."  Even if going home did not meet Mary's high expectations, having her cat, Gracie, sit on her lap, calmed her a little. For this I am grateful.

Laci's idea of palliative care...
A great big dog kiss.
(Dad, circa 2010)
Later on, while on our way to visit a friend in the hospital, Sweetie and I listened to an NPR broadcast about an Emergency Room doctor in Alaska who had switched to a new specialty - Palliative Care.

When I run the nursing homes, along with cats curled up on patients' beds, therapy dogs roaming the halls and what I will call "child therapy" I will make sure every person who works in my facility from the maids to the managers, focuses on "relieving and preventing suffering of the patients."

My prayer tonight is that Mary will lie down in her own bed with Gracie at her feet and rest in a way she hasn't been able to do since May 13th. Things will be different for sure. But with her strong, independent (read, stubborn) streak and the grace of the Divine Healer may she realize "there's no place like home."

May it be so with you also.
Merry ME

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