I am learning much about the aging process. Mom K, still recovering from her fall and the long trip from Florida, and the stress of going into an Assisted Care facility is not as mentally sharp as she has been in the past. I wasn't sure if I should be helping to remind her of the things she is forgetting or not. She was so distraught that her husband hadn't been to see her last night...but her husband has been dead 25 years. She told her the nurse had indicated he was not around any more, and she said she had been very frightened. I am not trained in this. What does one say or do?
I brought out pictures of her three sons, one of whom is my husband Arvo who she keeps insisting is her husband. I also brought a picture of her husband, Heino. First I asked her who the picture of Heino was.
"That's my husband," she said. We talked at length about all the good things we could remember of Heino, how he could fix anything, and taught his sons to do the same, taught them to play volleyball, taught them how to roof.
"He was a good father," I told her.
"Yes, he was," she agreed.
Then, showing her a picture of her three sons, I asked her who each of the sons were. She correctly named them. Then I asked their relationship to her. She pointed to the two older sons, and told me they were her sons, but when she pointed to Arvo, she said, "And this is my husband."
"But who is this?" I asked pointing to Heino again.
"Then who is this?" I said gently pointing to Arvo once more, and asked how he was related. She paused. Then she looked at me and said, "You are trying to trick me." By the time I left, she had her sons and her husband straight. I labeled the pictures with "husband Heino" and "son Arvo" etc., and told her that would help the nurses know her family. That evening, she introduced Arvo to her friends on the porch as "my son".
I spoke to the nurse afterwards, and she told me that when a spouse has died and an older person doesn't remember that, it is sometimes best not to mention it. Redirect the conversation, I was advised. I told her Mom K was so worried and not understanding why he wasn't coming home...I felt I had to tell her something!
"Did she cry when you told her?" asked the nurse.
"No, she remembered his heart attack..and we talked about how we hoped to see him again in heaven."
"In general," the nurse told me, "When they are told a spouse has died, they feel like it just happened, and they mourn all over again."
Oh my. I have a lot to learn....I share this with you all in case any of you come against this same trial and tribulation.
And for all of you out there with elderly folks that are fall risks, my own parents gave me a great suggestion. I found a company that manufactures sensor pressure pads, that can go on the bed and chair. When the person begins to stand up, the pad wirelessly beeps an alarm. A more pricey one can beep it to a nurse's station or belt clip they carry with them. I told the nurse about it, and she said that they would ask the doctor to prescribe it since she clearly needed it. Insurance would likely cover it!
I left the rather mixed emotion morning to go kayak with Asherel's friends. While the kids swam, the mom, Rebecca and I poked around the shore in our kayaks. We saw a fish in the distance flopping along the surface and making a loud smacking sound. It looked like a giant catfish. We glided silently near. The catfish was doing circles on the surface of the water, his head above the water, and he was snapping his mouth open and close. I thought perhaps he had swallowed a hook and was trying to dislodge it. I wanted to help him, if I could, so I kept going closer. But I didn't see any hook. I'm not sure what I would have done. Really, there was no way I was going to make a barehanded grab of the giant fish.
And then I realized that what looked like dying was actually living! The giant catfish was snapping up the insects along the surface. When he heard me behind him, he plunged under the water and swam away.
I thought about that, how I had mistaken living for dying. I think we humans spend much of our life doing the same thing, and worse, sometimes dying for living. Perhaps losing one's memory, losing one's hold on the reality of this world is necessary for some to not cling too strongly to the temporal. If eternal life is waiting for us when our mortal bodies have crumbled, and I believe that is true for all those who accept the gift of salvation offered by faith in Jesus, then what we call dying is the final and most heroic, magnificent leap into living.
As I left the nursing home yesterday, the old man who clapped for me when I carried in the heavy bookshelf a few days earlier, was at his post on the porch.
"Hello!" he said, "You know, you are beautiful!"
I laughed, and thought how wondrous it is what old eyes see.
Romans 6:23 (NIV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John 5:24-25,28-29 (NIV)
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.  Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice  and come out---those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org