George Washington Carver
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.