Sharing My Care-taking Heart

I was going to acknowledge St. Patrick's day yesterday, but the day got away from me, and before I knew it, it was tomorrow.  Or today.   Anyhoo...hope you all had a shamrock-y kind of day.  I have some Irish in me by way of my maternal grandmother, but I did not get the lovely green eyes, or auburn hair.  Our daughter got those.  She's pretty lucky too, so I think she's the Irish gem in our family. 

Today...I found myself here with Dad again...

If you guessed we were at the library or Pizza Hut, you get a goose egg.  We made our weekly trip to the ER for another infection.  Since the placement of Dad's SP tube, infections have been popping up weekly.  We're on a hamster wheel...around and around we go.  He's only off antibiotics for a day or two before another bug starts brewing.  We see the urologist again on Thursday. 

How long can this go on, I keep asking myself?  Can one be on antibiotics forever?  Doesn't seem like a good plan, but what are the options?  A 90+ bladder is a puzzling thing.  Dad's spirits are pretty good, although he's very tired of ER runs.  I'm grateful we have a good ER set-up and to date, the docs and nurses have been very kind.  We should be racking up some frequent flyer miles though. 

We're flying to MD this weekend to help my in-laws get settled in a new apartment.  My father-in-law had a stroke last week and is now in rehab.  The hubs and I are going to be helping clean out the old townhouse and hoping to bring some cheer to these youngsters, who are 85-ish.  When you work with 90-year olds, folks in their 80's look pretty spry.

I've been helping my folks for five years, since Dad's stroke in 2009.  It's been such an eye-opener to realize all that's involved in helping the elderly.  As body parts deteriorate, there are many, many issues that have to be addressed.  Geriatrics is an entire field of study that I never thought two hoots about until my dad needed assistance.  I continue to be surprised by how complicated the body is and how one weak unit affects the others.  It's like trying to play catch up with a cheater.  The game isn't really fair, and we never get ahead.

I know our time with my parents and my in-laws is limited, and we do our best to be helpful.  I somehow think that will change all this - that the right care, enough attention, enough encouragement will make the decline stop, or at least slow down.  But, it doesn't.  This makes me very sad, and sometimes, I just cry for no reason.  I'm not having a bad day, and nothing triggers it, but tears just come.  I think my heart is weary of the long goodbye. 

My sweet mother-in-law with two of her seven children

I've heard people who have a loved one dealing with Alzheimer's talk about this.  Neither my folks, nor my in-laws have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, just some standard dementia expected at their age.  But, it's true that walking through the years of decline in a loved one is like a relentless grieving.   You know the end is coming, but you don't know when, so you guard yourself, and yet prepare yourself, and the heart goes back and forth and up and down and outward and inward. 

My only strength is in God, and His love for all of us.  I have no strength of my own anymore to uplift and help Mom and Dad.  My flesh is truly weak.  Even up to last year, I thought the efforts of my family could change things, but they really can't.  There will come a time when all I have left to do for the folks is to just hold their hands and smooch their foreheads. 

This whole letting go thing is so strange.  Dad thinks he will walk again and visit his childhood home in Indiana sometime.  Mom thinks if Dad took better care of himself, he'd live forever.  They both think every doctor visit will offer some new solution that will cure them of all their ills and turn back time.  

And I keep thinking all of this will surely get easier.



Deb said...

Wow, this post sure hit home. My mother-in-law is going to be 85 this year, has Parkinsons and a bad heart. My sweet 17-year-old son flew up to Utah for his spring break and spent the week taking care of her during the day to give his aunt and uncle a bit of respite. He was kind and patient, although some of the things she said freaked him out a little. It is hard to see those we love die a bit at a time. I look forward to seeing them again young and strong and happy and know that in God's time and way, that will happen. Thanks for sharing your heart.

Andrea said...

So timely...tomorrow is one of my days to visit with my 91 year old grandmother. I was telling my husband tonight that my heart hurts whether I am there or not, it's constant. With her memory failing more each day and the wondering how much longer she can live alone (or if she should at all)...I miss her already because most of what I'd miss is gone. Be strong and take care of yourself too.

Mari said...

I get it. My in-laws have recently moved into assisted living, and my Dad has been having some health issues too. It's not easy. Working in a nursing home, I see people going through that long decline and good bye and it's so hard!

betty said...

It is so hard to see our parents aging and declining and knowing there's not much (nothing) we can do to make it better. I think it is almost merciful in the cases where the parent has a stroke or heart attack and doesn't recover from it rather than a slow decline most seem to take. Even when we think we are prepared for their passing, when the news comes it is totally unexpected. It is hard good that you are close to be able to help your parents, take them on ER trips, etc., but I know it is hard to deal with. Hugs to you.


Arlee Bird said...

These are tough times that you're dealing with. My mother is getting up there as well. I live on the opposite side of the country from her so I rarely get to see her, but we talk on the phone most every day. My brothers and sisters are near to her so they can help out a lot. I wish I could too, but things are as they have turned out.

Enjoy every moment that you can with your mom and dad.

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Annalisa Crawford said...

I still see my parents as being in their 40s, even though they're now in their 60s. I'm sure I'll always think of them as being young, so these kinds of health issues will spring up very suddenly because I won't be expecting them. It's good that you are close enough to help out - sending lots of positive thoughts across the pond :-)

Christine said...

You picked a good title for this. This is such a heartfelt post. My parents are still in their mid-60s, but each time I see them, they seem to have aged a bit. I still see them as my young mom and dad, able to play tennis and keep up with all of us.
The bit at the end about your parents thinking the doctor can fix it all really hit me the hardest. I think the same way.
I do appreciate seeing you taking good care of their aging parents. Not all parents get such care.

Creations By Cindy said...

What a touching post today for me and I do love the memories that you are capturing with pictures. I know all too well the love of labor physically, mentally and even spritually the toll of caregiving takes. But I also know the deep sense of LOVE when I lay down at night and know that I done all that I could to make their days seem a little brighter. So many times and more than not...it is the caregiver that needs our prayers...the Sick or fragile is being cared for. Praying for you as well as you labor in love. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

Rita said...


Juli said...

I think maybe next time you SHOULD go to pizza hut.


I'm sorry. All I have is HUGS.

Jerralea said...

Bless your hearts!

Not sure which is worse, saying goodbye to my 55 year old father when he passed, or the long goodbye you are going through.

I do know there is a purpose in all of it. Prayers for you, Mare!

Empty Nest Insider said...

Mare, I'm so sorry for what you and your family have been going through. There was a period when my mom kept getting UTI's, and was in and out of the hospital every few months. It turned out that her strain was highly contagious which enabled her to go from a private room in the hospital to a private room in a nursing home. She was treated with antibiotics administered through an IV. Maybe this is the type of treatment that your dad needs. I would ask the urologist, or find another urologist. There are also visiting nurses that can administer treatments at home which may also be covered by insurance. Sounds like you both could use a break. Hope your dad feels better soon.


Emmy said...

Oh girl I am so sorry. You are truly do such a wonderful thing by caring for your father so much. I have yet to go through this with my parents but did see it some many years ago with my grandparents. My dad's health seems to be steadily declining, he will be 74 this year and I do worry about the day I won't be able to call up and talk with him in the morning. I know we will be together in the eternities, but I will miss him.