I hope you’re staying warm and safe during all of this crazy weather we’re having. My friends and family in New England are at their wit’s end with the snow but one thing I know for sure is they’re fighters and will get through this just as they have many times before. And before you know it, Spring will be here and the piles of snow and ice will be a distant memory! I’ve had my own storm going on since December, hence the late newsletter.
I don’t generally share personal stuff in my newsletter but what is going on may be of some consolation to some of you and so I felt it was important to mention. I’ve been caretaker for my elderly Uncle. He’s a World War II Veteran and was a Merchant Marine his whole life. He’s funny, full of crazy stories from all his travels around the world and loves animals and his family memories. Most of our family is gone-my Mom is his last living sibling out of 6.
Taking care of my Uncle has been a relatively simple responsibility for many years, as he’s been in a wonderful assisted living facility. But since December he’s been in and out of the hospital, rehab, and his assisted living. Round and round. I’ve been spending countless hours with doctors, nurses, techs and administrators making sure he has the best care. Which is extremely challenging. I’m exhausted, frustrated and so very disappointed in the way our healthcare system fails the patient consistently. For any of you out there who are caring for, or those who will soon be caring for elderly family members, my heart goes out to you. This is not an easy job and there are times where it feels like you’re just screaming in the wind as you come up against “we’re not allowed to do that” and “the insurance restricts this” and “the government says we have to do it this way” every time you turn around! But I keep pushing-and I have made some major strides. I’ve discovered loopholes and ways around the systems here and there in his best interest.
Meanwhile, my Uncle who has dementia, COPD and CHF and is diabetic, is struggling with his own spiritual battle of trying to decide if he even wants to live. He’s not suicidal. Just done. His body is shutting down very slowly and his ability to understand daily tasks is all but gone. I had a realization yesterday that the reason I’m so fried is because I was trying so desperately to live FOR him. And I have to stop.
I’ve read that caretakers suffer greatly during times like this and I see why. I haven’t had stress in my life since I left the corporate world! It’s a destructive and dangerous way to live. I need to live in balance. I love him dearly and don’t want to lose him but it’s not up to me. I’m seeing clearly now how we just “know” things when faced with the end of our lives. What matters and doesn’t matter becomes so clear. And so I’m shifting my thoughts now. It’s not about “saving” or prolonging his life. It’s about allowing him to be who he wants to be. Although he literally doesn’t know what’s best for him anymore due to advanced dementia, he’s got a strong spirit and he’s more in touch with it than he has ever been. He’s been sober many, many years and has a good spiritual program-he understands more about this than I have been giving him credit for. I’ve been a good, strong advocate for him when he needed it the most but now it’s time to just allow the process to move freely. And in doing that, I know I’ll be doing him the greatest service ever. I’m going to spoil him with lots of his favorite foods, music he loves and cat videos-he loves cat videos on YouTube.
It’s very interesting to note the other day he was being released from rehab, and his assisted living would not take him back as his health conditions were too much for them to be responsible for-he was caught in the middle again and I was trying to work it all out. I had no idea what to do. If it weren’t for my wonderful husband, David, who intervened and made some phone calls I’d have had a full on meltdown. That night, I asked God to give me a sign-do I MAKE them take him back? Do we move him? Leave him in rehab? If he stays there what do we do with his furniture and stuff? How do we make this all happen??? The next morning I got a call -a water pipe had exploded in his assisted living. 6 units were flooded along with the main lobby. The pipe burst with such force it looked like a bomb had gone off. It happened in HIS room-OVER HIS BED!! All his furniture was destroyed. Items on his nightstand were literally BLOWN across the room and the ceiling came down so hard his bed was smashed down to the floor. He would have died if he had been there. Message heard. Loud and clear. LET GO. YOU’RE NOT IN CONTROL. He’s done with this part of his life. Time to move him into a quiet, safe place where he can sleep all day if he wants and I won’t keep nagging him to get up. It’s all up to him now. I’m just along for the ride.