Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rollin' With the Oldies

It's been a troubling week in Elderland.  My aunt seemed determined to not behave, and to thwart as many well-laid plans as possible.  She did call me at the first of the week to ask if I was mad at her, and of course I'm not.  I worry.  I stew.  But I'm not mad.  She was hoping to move to a larger room that had become available, but sadly (and probably because she waffled) it went to someone else.  It was a bitter disappointment to her, but I have a feeling it was meant to be.  She was fretting about the extra money, and I was already wondering how I was going to talk her into spending more money on some (in my opinion) needed medical consultations.
I've become friendly with a couple of the caregivers at her residence facility, and they are worried about her as well.  They regularly tattle on her when she insists on walking the quarter mile to the pharmacy for her 2 weeks overdue blood pressure medication (and she wonders why she's falling so much!), or when she refuses to come down for meals or other activities, or when she insists on taking the stairs.  We've had full-on snitch-fests, trying to come up with ways to tempt her to take a bigger part in things socially.  Whenever I'm there, and she sees other residents, they are always drawn to her, and she seems so well liked.  But she won't let herself be completely inclusive.  She sits in her dark stuffy little room watching Fox News. (She likes Fox News, she says.  But... ALL DAY?)  Sliding door closed, blinds drawn, even though she has a lovely balcony overlooking the patio and a large fountain.  Her complexion is pale and pasty because she almost never goes outside unless it's to trek to the pharmacy because it seems she'd rather die than go on the facility bus with others.
Yesterday I went to go visit.  Most of the residents were downstairs listening to a musician who had come to perform for them.  They were having a great time.  Was my aunt down with them?  Of course not.  So up I went to her room.  Knocked on the door.  No answer.  The door is usually locked, but yesterday it wasn't, so I opened it a crack, and could see her struggling to get up.  Looking confused, as usual.  I asked where her cane was, and she didn't know.  It was over by me, by the door.  She looked right at me and said she didn't need it, yet...she wasn't able to pull herself up very well...
I lost it.  Right there.  Looking at her defiant face, I grabbed the cane, threw it down, and told her that I couldn't take the ridiculousness anymore.  Actually, you don't want to know what I said, because it was a little salty, but that was the jist of it.  The picture of Christ-like love and patience.  And I left.  I huffed down the hall, (and my kids are probably laughing right now because they know how I can HUFF) and then got control and went back.  Did I apologize?  No.  Not then.  I scolded her some more, and shook my finger at her, and told her that her behavior was pathetic, and what was wrong with her anyway?  (Clearly, I missed my calling as a master therapist...)
This good lady just looked at me with a straight face while I was mid-tirade, and said "I'm going to start locking my door." Well - that just broke me up.  I laughed and laughed.  And I apologized.  And THAT is what keeps me going back to try and help.  As if I was any good at it.  She is a trial - stubborn as a mule.  She is severely depressed.  And it's killing me to see her decline.  But she has a sense of humor that is so clever and quick, and she's still in there.  Somewhere. By the time I left she had shaken off the frail old lady act and had become a little more sparky.  Showing me her determination and how speedy she had become with her walker, because she was mad that everyone had ratted on her.  She sped all around the room and out the door and up the hall.  It was impressive, actually.  She even held on and went up and down on her toes.  Doing her new tricks.  I would like to kiss her new physical therapist.  He is working a small miracle here.
Now, if we can just get her to talk to someone about her "feelings" (the thought actually horrifies her) I think we could get somewhere.  I tried to get her to agree to let me make an appointment but she said she wasn't ready.  So okay.  Maybe a new physical therapist and speedy tricks with a walker are enough progress for this week.  We'll address the issue again next week.  In the meantime, I think I owe the lady a tall hot chocolate at Starbuck's.  With whipped cream.  Luckily, she realizes my temper rants are just badly disguised love.  This is when I behave like my dad.  We only lose it when we don't know what to do.  When we're frayed with frustration and fear.  But I can't give in to that frustration again, because it's mean and self serving.  It blows off steam, but it's not constructive.  Or maybe it is, a little bit.  It sure snapped her out of acting helpless, but I think I can find a better way if I think about it long enough.  And pray about it a lot.
So there you have it.  My week so far.  Work and meltdowns.  Computer work and bad behavior.  I need to get out more, I really do.  Fresh air would do me good too.  Oh, and I started a Paleo diet without actually reading the book.  Protein, vegetables, and fruits, and avoiding grains and bread like the plague.  So far, so good.  I've felt really good, and have lost 6 pounds since Friday.  I think the protein keeps me going steadily for a longer period of time.  It's been a little bit hard to pass up bread, and pasta, and make do without, but I feel so dramatically better than it's easy to stop temptation.  We'll see where this leads.  L and I have been pedaling every night on our stationary bike.  I hate it.  It's hot and I sweat buckets (Dainty?  Not me...) but I've done it, and been glad I did afterwards.  So I guess it's been a week of work, frustration, and worried concern, but also better health and feeling lighter.  A little good, a little bad.  Mia read me a book about a girl named Pinkalicious with great expression and feeling.  (Maybe she will love to read like Mema.)  And Saturday I get to get my hair done, and L has started to look for good flights to Boston for me, AND he totally researched a trip to Hawaii for the two of us for a time to be determined.  I think the sun just came out.


  1. Six pounds is awesome! You can give up bread- I haven't had it, nor biscuits, tortillas, etc. for almost 5 years now. There are times I think about it, but mostly don't miss it anymore.

    You are so good to care the way you do for your sweet aunt- I hope it gets better. We are having to go through those things with my in-laws. Aging really is cruel sometimes.

  2. Hi, karen! Most weeks are a mix of ups and downs for everyone. I'm sorry you boil over in frustration when dealing with your aunt but it is to be expected. She knows you care. It seems as though she might be mildly depressed. When we are depressed we aren't enthused about any aspect of life and we don't feel like going anywhere or doing much of anything. My aunt is in her 90s and residing in an assisted living facility. She went through a phase similar to that of your aunt. It wasn't until her husband died recently and she stopped relying on him for companionship that she began to come out of her shell and become more active socially. Her meds were also adjusted and now she is able to think clearly and communicate much better than before. I hope your aunt's therapist can shed some light and make changes that will restore quality to her life.

    That diet sounds like a winner. I eat huge amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables every day and only eat bread when I dine at restaurants.

    Have a wonderful weekend, dear friend karen!

  3. You Aunt and mine sound like they were twins seperated at birth. Stubborn, defiant etc. And when you said she lost the room because she "waffled" I almost lost it. At least once a week I hear "I can't make up my mind....." Only later to be follow by "I wish I had..." and I want to HUFF down the hall. LOL

  4. Well the good news about a week like that is that it can only get better...right? Or at least I hope!

    Hawaii would be super-awesome!

  5. I'm going through some situations with my Mom too..she puts off going to the doctor until something is out of control..like her blood pressure. Very scary since I live 6hrs away. Thankfully my sister lives with her but tries to let Mom be as independent as possible. We both go nuts over her care when Mom becomes stubborn. I guess that's the case with independent, strong women when they get older...I'll send the memo to my kiddos! It sounds like your diet is a winner. One of my coworkers did paleo and really looks great. The only problem she's had is nobody will eat what she brings in when we have potluck lunches! Some of it is very strange. Anyway, good luck! I'm trying to do the low carb again...it's worked in the past so I'm hoping for some good results. Have a good weekend!

  6. hahaha

    Have you read Jen's post yet? Sounds like both of you had little temper tantrums this week!

    I'm glad your aunt realizes it's worry and love that make you get worked up about her situation. And I don't blame you. it's hard to be relatively helpless when you love and really want to help someone...

    Glad you are going to get to see the grandkids soon. As for Hawaii, that would be heaven.


  7. I love that you love her enough to rant. She must know that too. She is lucky to have you in her life.

  8. I know how tough that is, to watch someone give up when you know they still have so much life in them. My husband's father struggled with depression after a heart attack. We tried everything to get him back to his regular self. It wasn't until my mother-in-law couldn't take it anymore and gave him the same kind of tough love that he started to improve. I think your huffing and puffing did more good than you think.

    My husband does Paleo. It's a great diet. We've always been a fairly healthy household when it comes to the way we eat. Mediterranean like, centered around lean proteins, fresh fruits and veggies and no artificial preservative foods. I will say the only thing i'm not hugely fond of with the Paleo is the lack of carbs. Carbs are an essential part of a healthy diet, if it's the right carbs. We really don't partake of white flour carbs. Our carbs come from brown rice, multi grain breads, whole wheat pastas, even our pancakes are made from buckwheat.

    Okay now that I've bored you with my boring diet, I'll be on my way. Good luck with your new healthy lifestyle and yay for the weight loss!

  9. Karen if I didn't personally know how hard it can be to care for someone as you are doing, I might have chuckled, but I didn't. When you are in the moment it is so frustrating. You're doing what you can and that's all you can do... It's a LOT. Good luck with your healthy eating and exercise! I plan on a bike ride today, but feeling blah! That's when I need it the most I guess....

  10. I can feel for you with your aunt.. it put a smile on my face of your efforts to help this is too sweet..you are such a dear and love how thoughtful you are..and by the way I too stay away from the white floor like the plague -- now for three years going and I feel tons better and so the white floor food (breads sauces etc,,) I don't give heed to anymore and it feel normal not to have them in my daily life! It worked for me so keep it up! And yes, the extra pounds went off and now getting back to watching my sugar intake - the past holidays threw me off big time! I do well but can improve... All the best to you...

  11. sometimes it really stinks getting old...and that is when a trip to Boston or Hawaii is a dream come true!

  12. The complicated thing about expressing anger is that we end up feeling shame about it, when it's completely natural. It's not that you are angry at your aunt, but at her situation. How frustrating Karen!
    On the other hand, wow! Six pounds is awesome! I would be flying high on that victory.
    Pinkalicious read by your sweet girl makes me smile so big.

  13. Somehow, I really wish I could have seen the exchange between you and your Aunt! I love that you care for her so much. Enough to get irritated for her! You're a good niece and caretaker


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