Slipping Up on Optimism, But It Ends Well
|Little seeds still grow.|
You may or may not know that my 60-year-old sister has Alzheimer's and is in a memory care facility. She is stuck there with elderly people in various states of decline. She moved there in August after a summer bike accident that sent her into rapid decline. My Dad had just died. My brother had already had two strokes in the last couple of months. My other brother died tragically just six months before. And we've got two kids and a small house, and two, three, four and sometimes five jobs. Aaaaaaahhhhh! (That is a scream, not a sigh.)
We couldn't take her in, as she needed a lot of care. So she's been there in this really quite lovely place that, despite its wonderful staff, its own activities bus, its busy social calendar, and its gorgeous setting, still sucks. That situation sucks, that is. Alzheimer's sucks, to be specific. My sister has the kind of Alzheimer's that starts with language, so for much of the decline, she has been losing her words but is painfully aware of all that is happening to her. She has done a MARVELOUS job of staying positive, but living in facility, no matter how good, has not been a joyous experience. Like any kind of group living, not all the residents there are the kinds of folks she might have chosen as friends, and of course their own cognitive decline may have relaxed certain social norms, such as... oh, I don't know... Mincing words. Watching your tongue. Being nice to each other. Many people there are very nice; some people there may be struggling, too. Can you blame them?
We've done a good job of getting her outside just about every day up until March 15. I would take her out, friends would come visit, and we had private caregivers come every single day. We were keeping her head above water, though we weren't necessarily helping her acclimatize to being there because we kept removing her. But that's what she wanted, and I had vowed to manage her resources in a way that would give her absolutely everything she wants that is reasonable, until the day she dies. Why not, because it is her life and she has always been independent, self-directed, hard working, and financially comfortable as a result.
Well, March 15 hit and the trips and the visits were stopped. The facility closed its doors early, and good for them, because so far, no residents have had COVID-19. But let me tell you, it was a very very dark first three weeks. Daily calls and uncontrollable tears, totally incoherent conversation, day in and day out. Desperation; the kind you can't fix. The onset of some disease-expected paranoia and delusions. Finally, an ultimatum call from the facility saying that if we didn't make some changes quick they were going to send her to a geriatric psych hospital. Perfect! Let's move her to a hospital during a pandemic that is taking its most vicious toll on people in just her demographic.
That was a week that nearly exceeds description, except that's why god gave us swears. It was a $(*$(#& nightmare. Calls to the doctors. Calls her to daughter. Calls from both of us to the neurologist in Boston. More calls to the neurologist in Boston when the messages left went unanswered. Then more calls to the neurologist in Boston when the messages left went unanswered. Oh and more of those. Calls to our amazing GP to get her help. Texts back and forth with said amazing GP. (We love you, Dr. Abu Bakar.) Support from the computer guy to get into the system. Calls to the facility. Scary visits to the pharmacy. Oh, and designing teaching content and also teaching my own kids.
I promised this would be short, but you know I get windy. Ahem, long winded. But let's cut to the chase: We changed medications. At the same time, a friend offered to do some "distance energy healing" with an RN friend of hers who practice this sort of thing. And the woman who runs the facility, who is Julie Andrews in an angel robe, came back from vacation. And guess what?
My sister now sounds the very best I have ever heard her.
I don't know which solution worked. Maybe she just had to get used to being there. Maybe her disease has progressed and she doesn't realize the yucky situation she's in. But something worked, and as I have been trying to do so consistently until I slipped up yesterday, I feel deep gratitude.
Thank you universe for small mercies.