Sunday, June 7, 2009

Not Easy To Be - or See

Getting old is an achievement. And there are wonderful examples all around me of people healthy enough to be living well in their older years. Some are not as fortunate. They require more care than they can get at home or more than the people they love can give. My hubby's grandmother is one such person. Nana is suffering from dementia Alzheimer's and lives in a long term care home. She is 96 years old. She leans heavily on the walker she depends on for stability, her eyesight is a little cloudy and her hearing is as good as can be expected for a person her age.

Today I joined MIH on her visit to Nana. We signed in, declared that we had our flu shot, took a squirt not a sip of alcohol sanitizer and headed up to find her. It was close to noon hour so we started in the almost silent dining room. She was sitting at a table with three other ladies -- all of them with eyes closed, gently dozing as they waited for their lunch. tug at heart string

These visits are not easy for MIH -- Nana's Alzheimer's is progressing and she has difficulty remembering people and pretty much anything else. Her eyes popped open at our touch and she looked at her daughter - bewilderment and confusion sketched on her face -- until I called MIH by name. At the mention of taking her out for lunch, she practically bolted out of her seat with a blast of energy and enthusiasm reserved for winning bingo.

This tiny little person's reality has changed drastically [understatement]. Memories of her early years are more alive to her than anything. Her joys now come from small pleasures ... a nice cup of coffee; a cream filled donut her eyes light up with that one; or a warm hug and kiss. Today she was describing how she had gone to church downstairs - like she has done religiously for more than 70 years - and felt "out of it". She couldn't remember the rituals nor the people in the pews. Her look drifted off and she said, in a very resigned, quiet voice, "it's hard to know what to do, really". another tug

These visits are heartbreaking for MIH. Her mother never remembers them, and sometimes she barely remembers her own daughter (MIH). Nana always insists on walking us to the elevator and with a final hug you wrestle to keep your composure as the doors of the elevator slowly close, and Nana disappears from sight. tug, tug

I assured MIH that although Nana won't remember the visit, the laughs we had and the treats we devoured, the time spent was not in vain. For a few hours this elderly little woman's sentence to misery was suspended, and she experienced the joy you can only get from connecting with the ones you love. On the way home in the car, MIH commented that it seems tragic that life can take you from marrying, raising a family, and losing your spouse - to ending up in a facility, simply existing.

MIH is a devoted daughter and Nana is blessed. I couldn't help noticing (and photographing) others who are not so fortunate.

1 comment:

  1. " seems tragic that life can take you from marrying, raising a family, and losing your spouse - to ending up in a facility, simply existing."

    Oh boy. That just broke my heart a little. :(

    But you're right. The kindness shown to the elderly, if not remembered, is certainly not for nothing. A few moments of happiness can undo the damage of long days of lonliness. ;)


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