This life is a process of learning.
August 10 was a very long day. That was the day we left Michigan to return home to Vancouver. We had a three hour layover in Minneapolis. Back on the plane, my son had a window seat and watched the night sky out his window. Somewhere between Minnesota and British Columbia, he spotted seven meteors, part of the annual Perseid meteor shower. I was happy for him, and as he watched for meteors and enjoyed his view of the night sky, I thought about some of the things that had happened during our visit. "It is of great importance to note these meteors, even the small ones," William John Wills said about the Perseids. "Every observation, if carefully made, will some day help to show what they are." I wasn't watching meteors at my parents, but I observed many important things during our short visit. I'm still digesting that visit;beginning with the next post, I'll share what I learned.
A few of the things we did during our visit
- Took my aunt to a doctor's appointment and to buy a new shrub for her yard
- Went with my parents to a doctor's appointment for my mother
- Purchased supplies for my mother's care that my father had forgotten to get or couldn't find
- Cooked about half a dozen meals, including homemade cherry pie (made by my husband)
- Went walking with my parent's caregiver most evenings
- Signed my parent's caregiver (who is learning to read and write) up for a literacy program.
- Helped set up WiFi network (my son)
- Helped my mother with many aspects of her daily care
- Followed up on requests from my sister who is the main care coordinator for my parents
- Coped with angry outbursts from my father, who is in the early stage of dementia
Some of the smallest moments ended up being the most important. For example, purchasing a measuring cup to measure my mother's urine output persuaded her doctor to take her habitual drinking (of water) and sodium levels seriously. Spending time to rub lavender cream on my mother's feet, helped soothe and relax her. Encouraging my husband to take my father out to breakfast and to the local farmer's market, lifted his spirits. Not all moments were good ones. And, really, how could they be? But most moments had a kernel of learning.
What I will share in future posts
- Why kindness is so important to elderly people.
- The problems that caregivers and children face when a parent has dementia.
- The problems of sharing the care of elderly parents with siblings.
- Why eating well is one of the most important things elderly parents can do.
- Why supporting paid caregivers is essential.
- How boredom and loneliness affect elderly peoples' health.
- How to cope with saying good-bye. (Well, okay, I still don't know what to do about this!)
Finally a classic song about saying good-bye. The truth is that as our parent(s) age, each time we say good-bye may be the last good-bye. On another August day thirteen years ago or so, we said good-bye to my father-in-law. We suspected that it might be the last good-bye, but we didn't know that it was until a year later. But sensing that we might never see him alive again, we cried as we drove down the road between fields of corn, our hearts full of aching because we live so far away from our families.
What do you do to stay connected to your elderly parents if they live far away?