Thursday, September 26, 2019

Kindness, Compassion, Dignity

One Sunday afternoon in October of 2015 my mother in Maryland called me and it was clear she wasn't feeling well.  This was the start of a prolonged and often gruesome march along the path of decline.  In my mother's case, this was defined by her disease - Alzheimer's.  A swift trip to Maryland where I remained for 3 weeks marked some of the most trying days I have ever experienced.  With the flip of a switch, I was a caregiver, furiously working with doctors, therapists, insurance companies, assisted living facilities and lawyers.

Removing my mother from her treasured home that she cared for and valued for over 55 years (most of that time independently) was an agonizing decision followed by enduring the hardships of confusion, change, and emotions for the next few years.  Despite all of this she was fortunate (thanks to long term care insurance) to be able to afford the premium fees at a well-respected care facility.  This doesn't make the dementia process easier, but I am grateful to her for her own forethought and planning regarding her end-of-life care.  Without it, I would have faced the additional burdens and stress of caring for her at home.  That scenario is all too typical today.

(Betsy passed away in March of 2018 freeing herself of the hardships of dementia.)

Caregiving your parent(s) at home isn't all bad of course.  The intimate times you share living together would not be experienced otherwise.  But make no bones about it - caregiving in your home is arduous, depleting and potentially wreckful.  To undertake this is a huge sacrifice.  To do it well is exceptionally honorable.

In Seattle, we have a friend along with her husband who is caring for her 96-year-old mother in their home.  Our time with them and their two 16-year old little dogs was enlightening and inspiring.  Marta, an only child, cares for her most wonderful, endearing mother Barbara who we all fondly call "Bat."  Husband John is a vital part of the caregiving, silently making meals, transporting, guiding and encouraging Bat daily.

Bat suffers from numerous health issues including macular degeneration which limits her vision terribly.  She is dementia-free however, a blessing she and all are most grateful for.  I've included some videos and photos here to provide some flavor - none of which do justice to the actual experience of living these moments.  Nevertheless, we are most grateful to have shared these days and nights with them.  And my highest honor and praise to Marta, John and everyone who performs caregiving at this level - a thankless but saintly task!

Here we all have a good laugh about something while playing a game.

These 2 precious bichons turned 16 and Marta gave them birthday cake. Consider what it might be like to be 112 years old when you can't see or hear. It might take a moment, but once you realize there's cake there's no hesitation!

Annie and Bat at the visitor center near North Cascades

Annie and I riding with her - we call it a "Bat Sandwich"

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