Tag Archives: elderly

Lessons in Grace with Great Aunt (part 12)

13 Oct

Have you ever had the sense someone was watching you – even in your sleep?  I don’t think I will ever forget the night I woke with a start to a ninety some year old woman standing at the side of my bed at 3:30 a.m. peering down at me! Did I ever jump!!!

Why was she up in the middle of the night? What was she doing? Where else had she been?

 As time progressed with Great Aunt, one of her most common activities was packing her belongings.  For some reason, she continually thought she was moving. I would walk into her area of the house to find the pictures off the walls, blankets – folded and stacked, books, photo albums, jewelry… absolutely everything she could find piled or stashed away into drawers.  I would unpack each treasure, rehang the pictures, and reassure her that she was not moving. This was her home. This was her family.

Remarkably, by the time I came back to check on her, the process would be repeated! How did she do it? What stamina! She was able to pack all of her things several times a day!

Pack – unpack. Pack – unpack. Pack – unpack.

I may be a bit slow, but it didn’t take too long before I realized we needed to make some changes.  She needed less to pack, and I needed to unpack less!

We converted part of Great Aunt’s living area into a master bedroom accomplishing two things. One, she needed less space and fewer things deal with. Two, we were closer to her, providing better and much needed oversight.

The decision had been a very difficult one for me.  In no way did I want to limit her; or worse, move in to her very own abode.  Would she or the extended family think we were selfishly taking her space?

She adapted so well, we wondered why we hadn’t made the change sooner.  The large amount of space had clearly become too much for her.

In a large family such as ours, seldom was Great Aunt left alone. Although Sunday mornings and a few other occasions, she had the house to herself.  She had done well, until… we started coming home to tissue paper stuffed into the gas fire place (with the gas on), the stove top turned on high, water faucets left running.  She was rapidly loosing the ability to function safely without supervision. It was after the episode in the middle of the night,  it became clear that we needed to install a lock on her bedroom door, on the outside.

If I thought reducing her living space was difficult, the thought of locking Great Aunt’s door was worse!

We could no longer trust her judgement.  We did not want to put Great Aunt or the household at risk. We did not want to send her back to the “home-for-the-elderly”. Our desire was to lovingly care for her as long as we were able.

The lock was installed.  Because it was seldom used, it wasn’t an issue.  She had declined enough that it was not offensive to her.  In fact, when moving about her new more limited space, upon trying the door- she would just politely knock on the door, and close by, we would come to her attention. Once again, I was able to sleep without worrying about what the night might bring.

~lessons in grace~

loving when the loving is tough

pulling back when the desire is to give

restraining for ones own benefit

…all while honoring a life well lived


Lessons in Grace with Great Aunt (part 8)

22 Jun

I procrastinated a little too long…

As with all of life, each day with Great Aunt brought new challenges.  At first, the walk from her living area to the bathroom seemed to be a good thing. It required her to get up, stretch her legs, and move regularly throughout the day.  In addition, it brought her into the main area of the house where all of the action was, providing some stimulating conversation with a multitude of young children.

Over time, as her health declined, it became evident that some changes needed to occur.  The bathroom was just too far away.  We searched for the best and most economical solution.  Installing a bathroom in an area of the house that had no plumbing would cost a fortune.  The next best option was a commode.  If you are not familiar with the term, a commode is a portable chair/toilet.  It was relatively inexpensive, had a reasonably sized removable container,  and looked easy to clean.  The Commode became part of our household.

It turned out to be a great success, equally helpful to both Great Aunt and myself.  For a time, it saved me much work.

I tried to get the routine down:  empty, disinfect, replace…  Sounds easy doesn’t it.  It truly was easy.  But… the babies needed to be fed, diapers had to be changed, laundry needs were continuous, beds must be made, hungry tummy’s required frequent cooking, gardens were maintained, homeschooling was in progress… and then I would remember – The Commode.  Quickly making a mental note,  I would remind myself to empty soon!  The telephone would ring, the toddler would fall and need bandaging, Great Aunt would like tea, lots of it  “nice and hot, with two teaspoons of sugar” …  Oh, yes! I was reminded… The Commode! On went the cycle, until at last – it happened.

In the kitchen, tending to the needs of the moment, I heard a strange, unusual noise.  Quickly running to check on Great Aunt, I suddenly knew I had procrastinated a little too long!  That “reasonably sized removable container” of The Commode, only holds so much weight and no more.  I allowed the limits to be tested too far.  Oh, how I wished we had linoleum floors rather then thick plush carpet! I felt so stupid, so embarrassed.  There was no one to blame but myself.  Not only did I have to clean up the mess,  while I cleaned, I carried the shame of my lack of care for her in this area.

Was I lazy? No, those days were never lazy, but I did put off something that was essential that needed regular attention.  We all do it.

So, today I am asking myself and asking you.  What is most essential in our lives?  What is more important than anything else?  Is it being tended?

Don’t let less important things crowd it out.  Be deliberate!

My Lessons in Grace With “Great Aunt” (part 3)

3 May

Arriving home yesterday after being gone for several days, I had a bit of laundry to catch up on. (Let me clarify, this was not the children’s laundry! They had, of course, done theirs. ) I am speaking of Mark’s and my own.  After greeting the family with many hugs and kisses, I  began the washing process.  I am not sure at what point in life my love for laundry began, but I truly enjoy it! Years ago, I hung the cloth diapers out on the line and was impressed  at how the sun seemed to whiten them up.  As I was pinning up the clothes yesterday, my mind was drawn to fond memories with Great Aunt.

At the time she moved in with us, Great Aunt was able to get around pretty well.  Although she used a crutch, we weren’t sure if its purpose was to steady herself or a weapon of aggression! On  several occasions she would threateningly shake it at the children, while giving them a piece of her mind.  Sometimes it was well deserved and sometimes not.

Sharing the love of being outside, we were able to find enjoyable things to do together.  It was essential for her to be able to contribute in whatever way she could, so as I began to hang the laundry, Great Aunt naturally joined in.  Slowly, quietly hanging piece by piece, one clothes pin at a time.  All around us were the sweet sounds of children playing, birds chirping, and the wind softly blowing.  We chatted about life. She shared memories of her past. We dreamed of the future. They were precious times.

Although Great Aunt required much time and patience, she slowed me down in many positive ways.  Simple tasks that may have gone quickly on my own, were made more meaningful by methodically working together.  Being a person that loves lists, I can mistakingly take more joy in crossing out each item than fully embracing each task. Life isn’t about how much we’ve done or a long list of accomplishments.  It’s about relationships. Its about loving and serving. It’s about faith.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons I still love hanging laundry today.  It forces me to take time, breathe, think,  chat, and remember Great Aunt.