by Jeanne Hambleton © 2008
NFA Leader Against Pain-Advocate
To say I was pleased to receive this information is an understatement. It restores my faith in human nature and it appears some folk, and in particular this fibromite, do have time to stop and think about others. The days of respect for parents and a small repayment for the gift of life they bestow on their children, is obviously alive and well in some places.
The email I received came from a caring daughter who wishes to remain anonymous and told me,
I have just been reading your Fibrohugs blog about parents and some people’s lack of care or thought for their elderly relatives.
It is a great story and I hope a conscious pricker for many who read it!! I am in your camp on this subject and without meaning to blow my own trumpet, I care for my parents on a daily basis to the best of my ability. I do this with total commitment and love despite any problems I have myself on a personal and health level. My husband is always there to help too, god bless him!!
My Mum is 70 and my dad is 74. Mum has angina, arthritis, spinal problems, severe mobility difficulties and in my opinion fibromyalgia. She has had it for years, a fact she is interested in but is in total denial of! With a multitude of other problems old age brings, i.e she is nearly deaf and until recently was nearly blind too. She has had laser eye surgery on both eyes now and has had cataracts and a new lens in both eyes.
To see her delight at her ‘new world’ is astounding!! She can see the world around her, and actually see colours in all their glory. She has declared I should have told her years ago just how many wrinkles she has as she looked into the mirror after her eye surgery and saw a little old lady staring back at her. She was mortified. I laughed and laughed and told her to take a deep breath when she got undressed for the first time in front of a long mirror as the face was looking quite well compared to what was under the nightie!!
Bless her heart, she is my best friend and we are so close I cannot begin to describe it. We do everything together and despite our illnesses and limitations we support each other on bad days and generally have a laugh at most problems life can throw at us. It is a fabulous relationship and one that many of my friends and relatives are quite jealous of. My sisters they think it is a competition because we are so close and we do most things together. They tend to ‘buy’ Mum’s attention. Laughable really when she would love their company or their time far more than expensive gifts and lunches out. I hope that they both see this in the goodness of time before it is too late for either of them to do anything about it.
Dad had a stroke and a brain haemorrhage around 14 years ago along with arthritis, diabetes and emphysema. He does well though and between us, we try to help him to be as independent as he possibly can be. This can be difficult as his short term memory is shot to pieces. Only last week I found him stood in the middle of the kitchen with a butter knife in his hand looking confused. I asked what was the matter and was he okay? He said, ‘Yes love I am fine but I cannot remember for the life of me, where the bread bin is!’
Such a shame, he is not allowed to cook or do dishes or even go for a shower on his own as he leaves taps running and gas taps on and forgets he has started to cook something. The implications of which are scary and dangerous. He takes all this supervision with good nature most of the time but it must be awful for him and frightening as well as confusing. Yet, ask him who won a specific football match in the 60′s or some other fact from many years ago and he is as precise as a historian. Getting old is so cruel. I love them so much and would do anything for them both to make their lives happy, safe and productive.
Just over a year ago we got them moved to a bungalow in the next street to us which has been great as one or the other of us call in several times a day to do things for them, take meals up or a bit of baking or just for a chat and a cuppa. This I feel is far better for them than being in a home as they retain some independence but have our full support at any time of the day or night. It might be fetching a little shopping with ours or just being there, nearby. I know this makes them feel confident and safe while they can still live together and carry on fine most of the time. They both deserve this and to have their lives made as easy as possible. I love to preserve their ‘dignity’ at all times and feel this is an important factor in their coping with their advancing years comfortably and happily.
Mum has a stomach problem too which can be really nasty and has hospitalised her on many occasions. During these spells in hospital I visit three times a day!! My husband goes bonkers at me for doing it because as well as seeing to Pops it exhausts me terribly as I still have my own problems to deal with, run a house, see to our animals and give a certain amount of quality time to our young son each day but I have to.
This goes back to my comment about ‘dignity’!! I go in morning to the hospital before the doctors do their rounds and wash and change Mum. I brush her hair which is quite long and put it up for her in a ponytail or a plait. I know the nurses and carers are their for this purpose but it is not nice for another person, a stranger, to be washing my Mum’s bits and pieces!! I know how to do this task with the minimum of fuss and in the quickest time. We joke as we do it and I am the only person who can remove her nightie and put her in a fresh one without hurting her or causing discomfort after years of practice. Then she feels she is not being a bother to the staff and is sitting there clean, fresh, happy and looking as good as she can in the situation she is in before the doctor arrives.
This I know makes her feel so much better because she has not had to ask anyone to help her and the morning ‘business’ is done quickly and without a fuss, preserving Mum’s dignity. As I said before, this is very important I think to all older folks as the system tends to strip them of any shred of dignity they have left. I refuse to let that happen to either of my parents…EVER.
I go to the hospital at lunchtime to help with her dinner and for a chat. I take papers and juice etc. then again at the evening visiting with the rest of the family by which time Mum has had a relaxing day and feels better for my help and has a nicer visit with the rest of the family.
She often says that she does not need any help or that she is sorry to be a pest or something along the lines. She is sorry to phone and ask such and such…..to which I always have replied, ‘Mum, you can mother me and ask for my help 100 times a day every day. I will do anything and everything for you at anytime of any day or night however many times it takes. I do not mind in the slightest and this is not a problem because one day you will not be here to mother me anymore. When that day comes I will be so bereft, I will not know how to carry on without you because you are my best friend, my soul mate, my support, my life, and I will miss you so much it does not bear thinking about’.
The love I feel for my Mum and my dad too overwhelms me. I would never consider her my Mum a pest or a liability or any kind of burden to me or mine. Fortunately for me my husband feels the same way. He is fantastic with my parents and does all of the household cleaning for them, windows, floors, bathroom, changing the bed every week without ever moaning or begrudging them his time. He does this as well as working full time, looking after me and everyone in our home as well, what a guy eh?
He says he does it because he loves them but because he loves me more. He does not want me doing the heavy cleaning for them. I do the light stuff, the dusting and polishing and wiping down the kitchen. I go shopping with Mum and we see to the garden between us. I don’t drive either so it can be a pest at times but Mum still drives so we manage between us no problem.
This was supposed to be a note to say I enjoyed your story and it has turned into a saga. Hope you have not fallen asleep? Wakey, wakey, prod, prod??
However, I do feel sorry for all those people who neglect, ignore and do not bother with their parents or elderly relatives because they enrich our lives so much. As you so rightly said they are a font of wisdom and knowledge. Our son loves his Nanan and sits with her hours while she tells him stories of the ‘olden days’. We are taking Mum with us on holiday. Dad refuses to come with us, bless him, but my aunt is coming to stay with him for the 5 days so we do not have to worry about care for him and can relax.
Mum is so excited to be coming as she in effect has been Dads full time carer for 15 years and has not had a break from that. She is looking forward to being able to just think about herself for a change and not supervising meals, tablets etc and being alert to the dangers Pops can get himself into. She is also so very excited to be spending a week with our son!! She has so much fun with him and he is so sensitive to her needs and limitations for one so young. It is a delight to watch – so all in all we should all have a great week.
I am ready for the break myself and the fact Mum will be with us is a definite bonus for me. Nick is one hell of a husband too not only to allow my parents to be such a large part of our lives but he enjoys their company and does not resent them in any way. I find this such a great quality in him I cannot express my feelings. I have friends who find it difficult to be with their parents because their spouses do not like or get on with their families. They would not consider the involvement my husband has with mine. I am truly blessed in many ways Jeanne.
Wow! I had better shut up eh? Sorry this has been so long. You inspired me to tell you about my ‘wrinklies’, love ‘em to bits we do and so should everyone else in this world if it was a perfect place. I know, I know, it is far from being that.
It would be good to hear from other people about how they cope with their ‘oldies’ when they need more than occasional help.
ON A BRIGHTER NOTE
Just a few thoughts to ponder. Ask your parents if they agree that -
· Raising teenagers is like nailing jelly to a tree
· Families are like fudge..mostly sweet, with a few nuts
· Laughing is good exercise. It is like jogging on the inside
· Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy.
Also I am sure your parents will confirm
· Wrinkles don’t hurt
· Growing old is mandatory
· Growing up is optional
· Forget the health food, you need all the preservatives you can get
· When you fall down, you wonder what else you can do while you’re down there
· You are getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster.
· It is frustrating when you know all the answers but nobody bothers to ask you the questions
· Time may be a great healer, but it is a lousy beautician
· Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Finally a warning – if you happen to have a wise but wayward parent, take heed of this story -
A young man shopping in a supermarket noticed a little old lady following him around. If he stopped, she stopped. Furthermore she kept staring at him.
She finally overtook him at the checkout, and she turned to him and said, ‘I hope I have not made you feel ill at ease. It is just that you look so much like my late son.’
He answered, ‘That’s okay.’
‘I know it is silly, but if you would call out ‘Good bye, Mum’ as I leave the store, it would make me feel so happy.’
She then went through the checkout, and as she was on her way out of the store, the man called out, ‘Goodbye, Mum.’
The little old lady waved, and smiled back at him.
Pleased that he had brought a little sunshine into someone’s day, he went to pay for his groceries.
‘That comes to $121.85,’ said the clerk.
‘How come so much … I only bought 5 items..’
The clerk replied, ‘Yes, but your Mother said you would be paying for her things, too.’
Talk soon. Jeanne