Who are the Grands?

They are 90 and 93, and they live each day like there is no tomorrow. Because there may not be. Their minds are not what they used to be and their bodies are breaking down bit by bit, but inside those old minds and bodies they are the same independent-minded young people that forged their own way in this world and made a good life for themselves. This is both a blessing and a challenge, as you'll see in the posts below. Welcome to our journey!

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Unexpected Surprises

At 90 and 93, surprises are usually not too good. Thursday's surprise was proof of that. I was working on the computer around 4:30 and I got a call from Grandma. Since she had been so upset with me last night, I didn't answer right away. But she called back again, which told me that something was wrong.

Something was. She said Grandpa wasn't feeling well and I'd better come over. So I dropped everything and was there in 15 minutes. Grandpa was having a really weird episode that I still don't understand. He had his eyes closed and he was miserable. He was crying, too, which is really strange. He said that he couldn't understand what was happening because his thinking was in his neck. He kept pointing to his neck, saying, "My thinking is down here" and "Everything is down here." Then his hand moved to his heart when he said these things. It was so strange. Neither Grandma nor I knew what to do or what was going on. I thought maybe it was related to his dementia symptoms, but he also couldn't open his eyes or focus on anything. Could he be having a stroke?

As this weird feeling moved from his neck to his heart, I started to think that it might be some sort of stroke. I told Grandma I needed to get the nurse, but Grandma didn't want any confusion for Grandpa. I told her that I had to at least talk to the nurse. She reluctantly agreed. After I told the nurse, Lydia, what was happening, she said she really needed to come in. So I went back to the room, had Grandma go talk to Lydia. After talking with Lydia, Grandma agreed to have her come in.

This was a very purposeful approach with Grandma. Because it's as much Grandma as Grandpa that can't stand all the confusion anymore. Grandpa was actually fine with the nurse coming in, but Grandma gets anxious about it. She is still very verbally astute but she can't process what's happening around her anymore. She can't understand a lot of things that we take for granted. Grandpa can't either, but he has accepted that he can't. Grandma still thinks she can understand, but then when she can't she just rejects the idea. So I try to work her into understanding what is happening and what needs to be done so that she doesn't feel anxious or upset. I also try to give her as much control as possible without compromising health or safety. Thank the Lord that Bickford's staff is as patient, caring, and responsive to their residents' needs as they are because that's exactly what Grandma needs.

Sometimes I can't give her as much control as she wants, but I try. In this case, I had to go against her will again by talking to the nurse because I could see that Grandpa was in real distress and that it might be really serious. Fortunately, my approach worked (yay!) and I didn't upset Grandma.

I really hate upsetting her because I think it's hard enough to be 90 and 93 and facing end of life issues every day. When they were still in Missouri, Grandma and Grandpa used to say that they knew more people in Dexter's cemetery than they did in town.

And it seems like every week they hear of another friend or relative that they grew up with dying or becoming ill. I can't imagine it from the youthful age of 44, but I try. Each time they hear these stories they wonder when it will be them. Worse still, they fear that they will be the one left behind. What could be harder than Grandma facing the loss of Grandpa after 74 years of marriage?

So Lydia came in and determined that he'd better go to the hospital for possible stroke or mini-stroke symptoms. At the hospital, Grandpa had a great deal of distress from stomach pain. After a catheter, a near-heart failure from shock involving the pain of inserting the catheter, and a lot of pain medicine, Grandpa stabilized.  But then we got the unexpected surprise.

All this time, you probably thought that the surprise was the hospitalization. That was a surprise, but the biggest surprise was that the cat-scan revealed several spots that weren't supposed to be there. It revealed a lesion on his spine, a tumor on his liver, and one on his colon. And his prostate is the size of a tennis ball. So they think that the prostate cancer has metastasized into the three other areas.

Since Grandma and Grandpa decided that chemo and radiation are out of the question for Grandpa, the doctors suggested hospice. I embraced the idea of having hospice now, because as he gets worse they will have all the resources in place and the relationships with the hospice team that they need.

Now I can't be in denial anymore that my grandpa is dying. But I still am. I still can't believe it.

My sweet grandpa. I know he needs to go. He's tired and every day is a struggle. But I'm going to miss him so much.

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