The two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom.
If Schopenhauer is right - and I tend to think he is - my mom is not very likely to be happy right now. She has been back at the Rehab Center about four days and even though she is getting physically stronger, her mental state fluctuates between being preoccupied with pain, being anxious, and being bored. Not a good combination but one that is, in many ways, suited to the place where she is. Her hip is still non-weight bearing and so she can't get out of bed by herself. Worse yet, I am not "skilled" enough to get her out of bed without risking hurting her fractured hip. My sister who will hopefully be coming soon, can do that because she is an occupational therapist (OT). I can bring Mom things, read to her, rub lotion on her back, and bring her little treats to liven up her diet. My dad is with her every day and he gets her things she can't reach, checks on the status of whatever is coming next - pills, food, someone to help her to the bathroom - and talks to her. For my mom's part, she has never been much of a television watcher, she doesn't play cards, knit, or do crossword puzzles. She likes to visit with people and read. However, there is only so much reading a person can do in one day. On weekdays, she has therapy which occupies her for an hour or two. The doctor comes in two or three days a week, depending upon her vital signs. Weekdays are doable. Weekends are hell.
Yesterday was Saturday and, to make matters worse, her roommate, who Mom really liked, was discharged in the afternoon. She and my mom had been in the room together about a week before my mom's sudden departure for the hospital and four days after she returned. Dollie was born in West Virginia; my mother was born in Kentucky. They both enjoyed poetry and reading and Dollie had a sweet, gentle way about her that put my mom at ease. Last night, Mom was in "a state" because she had to spend her first night alone. Dad and I stayed with her for about four hours and I phoned my sisters and husband and made sure that they phoned Mom later in the evening, after we'd left.
Meanwhile, I spent four looong hours at the Rehab Center. While I was there, I sat with my mom and dad, read from the Psalms, including Psalm 121 - one of Mom's favorites. "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help," are the opening words of this lovely psalm. My mom can't even see out of the window and, if she could, the view would be a parking lot. When you can't get out of bed and all you can do in bed is watch television, read, or nap, it's easy to get discouraged. On a walk around the facility, I didn't see too much else going on on a Saturday. Most of the people in the halls were in wheelchairs. One old woman was saying over and over, "We used to have a farm." Bingo attracted quite a few people, but my mom isn't up to sitting for long. There were several old people dozing off in front of a large screen television in the long term ward and I noticed a glass case with what I think were tame finches in it. They kept me amused for a few minutes. Then, I walked back and continued working on my crossword puzzle, pausing now and then to get things for my mom or check on when an aide was coming to take her to the bathroom.
Before we left, I found at least one station on the tv that Mom liked: Animal Planet. We watched Wild Russia with her and she enjoyed the wildlife, especially the foxes. Each time Dad suggested going, Mom begged us to stay. I know Dad was getting tired, but I couldn't blame Mom for not wanting to be alone. A Rehab Center/Nursing Home. And, in the end, isn't that what caregiving is all about - making sure that our parents and loved ones don't end up in such a facility. As my sister - the OT - said, old people should be surrounded by family and by life. I agree 100 percent. At the best of times, nursing homes and extended care facilities are understaffed and rarely as comfortable as home. At the worst of times, the conditions can be horrific. For now, however, my mom has to stay in Rehab until she is able to walk again. And that's why in a few minutes I'm going to pack up my laptop and leave Starbucks for the Rehab Center and another bout of boredom and caregiving. Because, right now, my parents need someone to lean on.