Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Deja Vue

I have two dear friends in their 80s who live together, friends for a long time.

Lucy has been diagnosed with dementia and requires assistance with daily tasks.  Greta is her caregiver.  

I visited them today, and it was like watching myself with my mother in 2007. 

Lucy recognized me and was gracious and gentle, as usual.  She loves flowers and is devoted to her garden. 

A nurse was there for her daily visit, wrapping Lucy's elbow, injured in a fall and slow to heal.

There was also a jigsaw puzzle, just completed, on the dining room table, part of Lucy's mental exercises.

After the nurse left, Greta asked if Lucy needed to use the restroom and then assisted her as she stood and used her walker to get there.

After ten minutes, nothing had happened, so Greta had to decide whether to bring Lucy back to the living room.  

I remembered times when I would wheel my mother to the toilet, turn on water at the sink, and wait.  She had no control over her bowels, so I would often end up taking her back to her chair with no results.

Then, of course, after the movement of getting up and down from the chair and the toilet, she would announce that she needed to urinate.  

I would get so impatient: "No!  You can only go to the bathroom once per hour, Mom."

Now if I'm drinking lots of fluids and make two visits to the toilet within less than an hour, I wish I had been more accommodating.  

Feeling guilty over not doing more is one ever-present aspect of care-giving.  Where do we draw a boundary that allows for self-care as well as attention to the needs of another?

Greta gave Lucy a bit of Metamusil and explained to me that she had forgotten to give Lucy her evening laxative the night before.

"Can you help me get it out?" asked Lucy.

I remembered my aunt, who has a daily visit from a nurse to dig the waste from her bowel.

Ah, the trials we never imagine we might face.