Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The decline of Grandma Guthrie

As I predicted, Grandma Guthrie has gone downhill since the death of her husband almost two months ago. It hasn't helped that she's had quite a few falls in that time. Each fall made her that much weaker and that much more likely to fall again the next time she tried to stand up by herself.

She needs someone to keep an eye on her pretty much 24/7. She won't sit still. Turn your back on her for 5 minutes and she tries to stand up and walk to another room.

I'm proud to say, she's only fallen once on my watch - and that was over a year ago. She wanted to go outside, walk around the yard and look at the summer flowers. Back then, she got around pretty well (if pretty slow) with her walker and I didn't need to shadow her as closely as I do these days. She stumbled over some uneven ground and fell to the ground. She begged me not to tell her children about it for fear they wouldn't allow her to go outside anymore. Since I never did tell them, they actually think my record is spotless.

These days, she falls a lot. Like I said, turn your back on her for 5 minutes and there's a good chance you'll be picking her up off the floor. She needs help getting dressed. She needs help going to the bathroom. She is afraid and so desperately wants you to just sit with her because she doesn't want to be alone.

I talked to my mom in Michigan today and her stories about watching her toddler grandson (my nephew) sounded eerily like my stories of watching 89-year-old Grandma Guthrie - right down to our matching tales about letting them wash dishes because it made them feel useful but re-washing the dishes when they weren't looking so their feelings wouldn't be hurt.

Grandma Guthrie's children are divided on whether or not she should go to a nursing home. Grandma Guthrie has made her feelings very clear on this matter: She does not want to go to a nursing home. I'm with her on that. It'll kill her sooner and create a hell of a lot of paperwork. Also, I'd be out of a job.

I'm putting in a lot of extra hours right now. I used to stay with her about 14 hours a week. This week I'll clock in around 30 hours. Her son and I took her to a doctor's appointment today for the shoulder she injured in a recent fall and she ended up being admitted to the hospital. This was not unexpected. Tomorrow I will spend the day sitting by her hospital bedside. Somebody has to be close by to make sure she doesn't try to get out of bed by herself and to help her go to the bathroom. The hospital staff doesn't do that stuff. That's up to the family.

I don't mean to knock the local hospital. I'm sure they do the best with what they got. But it is a sad, dingy place. My judgment probably has a lot to with the fact that the majority of my hospital experience comes from thirty years of watching General Hospital, so take my opinion with a grain of salt (and a shot of tequila). I'm just saying that stains on the walls, dustbunnies under the hospital bed and a fly in the room made me wonder just exactly where and when I was. Sadly, those are the two things Grandma Guthrie wonders about too. At least we both still know who we are.