Saturday, 12 February 2011

Caring for the Elderly

My mother (84) is cared for by my father (90), she has Alzheimer's dementia, and he has all sorts of physical problems.  Recently mother has had a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) which, as you will know if you have ever been involved with the elderly, causes all sorts of problems such as weakness of the legs leading to a propensity to fall, and even disorientation.  After a number of falls, she was hospitalised, and remained in hospital for four weeks.  This gave father a rest of sorts, but at the same time he has been suffering from a blocked artery in his right leg and can't stand or walk for very long without great pain as the fatigue products build up in the muscles.

We started to think that mother's time at home was coming to an end, and she would go from hospital into a long-term dementia care home.  However, this takes a long time to organise, and in the end she got over the UTI and the hospital was planning to discharge her.  I decided to go and support my father for a while, and to evaluate how urgent the need was for her to move to long-term care.

When I collected her from hospital she was excited about going home, but by the time we arrived there she could not even remember being in hospital, and worse, she did not recognise her own home. On that first night, I stayed awake in case she woke in the night disoriented.  She did.  I didn't know that I had nursing skills, certainly a son would not expect to have to help his mother with her toilet, but these things sometimes must happen.

Curiously, I found that I was able to do these things without problems, and I put this down entirely to the strength that God has given me in recent weeks.  It is not me that helps her, but God, using my hands.  In a very strange way I am grateful for the opportunity He has given me to do this for her.

The next morning I started to telephone about for help,  Soon I found the County's Social Worker, and she began to arrange for Carers to attend four times a day.  I also got her Doctor to visit, and he told me that disorientation was common with dementia patients who were moved, but that it might well settle.

And sure enough, she started to improve immediately, especially once the specialist dementia carers came to visit regularly.  Within a couple of days she was sleeping all night without problems, and being quite animated during the day.

For me that allowed concentration on helping father with the shopping and cooking, not something that I usually enjoy.  However, once again, my newly developing patience has been a boon.  Glory to God for changing me, just in time.

Yesterday, we all decided that I could leave, everything was stable, and manageable for father.  Mother is happy, and loves her new caring friends who wash her and help her, and talk to her with enthusiasm and encouragement.  I also took her for a short walk outside, for the first time in two years, and have a promise from the Carers that they will repeat this when the weather is suitable.

As I drove home in the night, it's 300 miles, I listened to a podcast from Fr. Stephen Freeman about what he calls the One-Story Universe, you know, the one where God, the Angels and the Saints are here with us all the time, and not just on Sunday.  I became aware as the idea crept into my mind that I was driving with the Saints in the car with me, and that those other cars were filled with Angels too, and that I had not left my parents alone either.  It was dark and raining, but the night seemed very bright to me. I kept singing the invocation prayer:
"O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of truth, who art everywhere present and fillest all things,
Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life:  Come, and abide in us; cleanse us from all impurity, and of thy Goodness, save our souls."
The six hours passed easily, and I arrived home about midnight, filled, as if after receiving communion, with a great joy.

It's still with me this morning, it was with me at Matins, I pray it will stay with me always.

God's ways are not our ways, He waits for the right time, for the right place, and then He acts.  Without my mother's dementia, and my father's thrombosis, would I have known this joy?  Only God knows that, but today I am thankful for a whole lot.


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