Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cycles....


"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these."
George Washington Carver


The day after I last posted here, my housemate had a catastrophic health event. She was taken to the emergency room, was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism, pneumonia and sepsis. She was critically ill and was admitted to the ICU.

Since that time, my life has been a whirlwind of taking care of and helping her family, making sure her needs are met as best I can. She is currently in a skilled nursing facility where she is getting physical therapy and breathing treatments, other things that will hopefully restore her to some independence and quality of life. This event has pushed her into some serious cognitive issues. She has likely had Alzheimers for some time and this made it worse. As it is right now, her grown kids are having to make her decisions. The reality is that she probably won't be coming home.

During the worst of it, January 8, while she lay on a bed in the emergency room on a respirator, the doctor approached me and told me he was prepared to put her on life support. She wasn't expected to live. A few minutes before that, she'd given me her advance directive in front of the hospital personnel. It was a huge responsibility to choose between her wishes as I understand them (no heroics) and my knowledge that her family needed time to gather from around the state, get time off work and all the little things that must be attended to before they were able to come to her bedside. I didn't want to make a decision that would deny them the ability to say goodbye.

My answer was "yes". Put her on life support if necessary.

In my lifetime, I've always been protected from these things. I have very little experience with the cycles of life. My mother, thankfully, still has full cognition. My father passed a few years ago. My brother is fine. He has a typical collection of health issues, just as I do. It's normal for people our age.

When I was growing up, we lived thousands of miles from extended family so most deaths, illnesses and so on were little more than informative phone calls. We were not actively involved. Consequently, it had a distant feeling to it. A detachment.

This has been entirely different. I'm at the nursing home daily. I'm actively involved with her kids, all of whom work and have to maintain their lives. I'm making decisions and being proactive in her daily health care at the facility. I'm on the HIPPA list. The staff talks to me just as though I am blood family. (That is with her family's consent and legal permission.) I am paid to do this work. (That's another issue for another blog. Why am I paid? Should I be paid? Etc. My decision was to be paid.)

The one thing I'm very aware of is that there are a lot of dynamics in her family. Old wounds. Broken relationships. Each person wanting to establish his or her place on the hierarchy of decision-making. It's an interesting and sensitive road to navigate.

If there's anything I've learned from this so far is that it's so important to let go of all those old grievances. (Mine, too.. not just her kids. I'm taking my inventory. Not theirs.) We all tend to judge the giving of other people by our own standards when in reality, we need to be looking at the individual capacity of others. I have had my issues with D. in the past, as everyone who reads here already knows. In looking at it from this perspective, she was giving the best she had to give. It wasn't always up to my standard. There were times I felt exploited and used. The reality is that she did give me what she had to give - within her capabilities.

That is why I haven't walked away which is what I would have done in the past. Little did I ever imagine I would be in the position I'm in now, making choices and decisions about her life - and finding that I want them to be the kindest, most compassionate decisions I can possibly make to keep her happy. Her life is probably short at this point. I want to see her go peacefully, feeling loved and pampered. That's the best I can give.



~*

20 comments:

Cecilieaux said...

This seems so right for you: an opportunity to meet up with these problems face to face, yet at some remove. It sounds as if you're making the most of it for you and her.

Leann said...

I would agree that you need to be paid for the services you are giving even tho it sounds as if you are willing to give them one way or another which shows the kind of stock you come from. It is difficult to not put out expectations onto other people Chai. It is how we are. When we can come to the point you are, where they are OUR expectations not the other persons, which makes them OUR issues not theirs. This has been a difficult road for me to hoe and I struggle daily. Life is but a series of lessons that prepare us for that final moment on this plain.

Take care of you while you are taking care of her :-)

Blessings my dear.

Angela said...

So, how does it feel to be an earth angel?? I'm so glad you're able to do this and I'm so glad you're able to be paid for it! What blessings all the way around. You're truly one of my heroines, Chani. Thank you for role modeling such compassionate human beingness.

LittlePea said...

Reading this post made me think of a really healing conversation I had with a family member the other day. The most tumultuous relationships I've had are the ones that forced me to grow emotionally whether I wanted to or not. It looks like your relationship with D has grown into a more meaningful one. She's lucky to have such a compassionate and thoughtful caretaker. And I hope in all of this, you find a minute here and there to take care of yourself too.

Whitemist said...

That was something very difficult to be in, I really can not say more except that it is good it was you at that time and for where you were at!

Molly said...

Life's little twists are infinitely interesting! It's good there are big hearted people like you in the world....

Olivia said...

Yes, and I echo Leann--take good care of yourself, Chani. Don't forget. xo, O

Thomas said...

I recently visited a friend's family as he lay sleeping in a Hospice. I couldn't help looking ahead and knowing that someday that would be me, or my loved one, laying there.

Sometimes life is just really hard.

AngelP said...

Chani, Thank you for letting us faithful readers know what is going on and why you haven't been blogging lately. I've missed you, but I'm being selfish. Bless you and the universe is smiling. Deborah

meno said...

Wow. I really admire you for getting in there and doing what needs to be done. She is lucky to have you.

Tabba said...

Chani, I am so sorry to hear about your roommate. You have been on my mind for the past few weeks as I noticed your absence on Facebook. I was even going to send a message out to Flutter to see if she had heard from you. I am SO glad YOU are OK :)
That being said, I am so sorry to hear of your roommate's health decline. But I believe you are there for her at this time because you can provide her with that peace and compassion. My thoughts are with all of you. <3

Navy Bean said...

I have to say thank-you for allowing her family time to gather and deal with this. That is a very compassionate thing to do. I am glad you are finding resolution through this as well. That is indeed, the best you can give.

slouchy said...

You're amazing. What a support to her family you're being.

(I just wrote about dying and death and being present, oddly.)

CAtales said...

I was wondering where you've "been," so thanks for filling us in. What a position you've been put in! You made a wise decision in allowing the family to have some time with your roommate to say their good-byes. It's wonderful that you didn't just walk away from it. What a wonderful gift you're giving her (although I definitely agree that it's only fair that you be paid for your services).

I love that you're learning about letting go of old grievances. I seriously believe that carrying them around can age us and cause health problems. I've managed to let some some grudges go, recently, and it's amazing how freeing it can be.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Bravo! Your last few sentences should be everyone's credo in life. Thank you.

Mary G said...

Oh Chani, I have been through this valley of the shadow too many times - my mother, two of my (childless) aunts, all with dementia, for all of whom I was the support, the decision maker, the lifebuoy to which they clung, dying.
It is horribly hard; if your friend's family wants to pay you, the pay is for your lost hours, not your care.
It is horribly lonely; I send you waves of good wishes for strength and serenity.
Watching someone become less than their adult self made me angry and frightened and hard. I had to fight for my own centre - make myself open up and feel -- contain the anger.
Know that you are in my thoughts.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I've been away from the blogging world - checked in on FB to wish you a happy birthday and saw this status update. FWIW, having been around too many of these scenarios, I think you made the absolutely right choice to be paid - it allows a bit of distance that might be hard otherwise. I realize you didn't solicit my opinion, but there it is. If you want to e-mail me - please do - I've been where you are now and it's a hard, if also strangely rewarding, place.

I hope that things go as easily as they can for you, D., and D.'s family.

Sending good, loving thoughts your way.

Laurie said...

You are doing the all the right things and for the right reasons, in my opinion. You are a good friend to have, Chani. I've always thought that, this proves it. It isn't easy to do what you are doing...but it is the noble thing to do. You are giving her and her family more than a lot of blood relatives are willing to give. My hat is off to you.

Olivia said...

Hey Chani, I just gave you a Kreativ Blogger award over on my blog. PLEASE feel free to participate or not as suits you best. Just wanted to acknowledge you :) Peace, blessings, love, O

AngelP said...

I miss your posts. How are you? Your faithful readers want to know.