My 93-yr-old mother, Margaret, lives one door down from her younger sister in the personal care section of a nursing unit in PA. They are inseparable – eating meals together, attending mass, participating in activities. My aunt, who is approaching 90, was never married and has always been proud of her personal hygiene, independence and maintaining control. Last week, she developed a cold and began taking long naps – not leaving her room. When I first went to see her, it was noon. I found her sitting, sound asleep in front of a full plate of food. She had not yet gotten dressed, her hair was uncombed, dentures and hearing aides not in. I stooped next to her and put my hand on her shoulder. “Loraine? How are you feeling?” Her eyes opened, and with a huge toothless grin, said “I think this is old age. I can’t complain – doing the best I can. It will be okay”.
A few days later, she developed pneumonia, and although she was not uncomfortable or in pain, she did develop a fever and her healthcare POA had her transferred to a local hospital for more testing. My aunt became confused and the hospital staff assigned a CNA to sit with her, so she would stop pulling out IVs. She developed a UTI and then tested positive for Flu. I went to see her a few days ago, donned in mask, gown and gloves. I sat down close and spoke to her: “Loraine? How are you feeling?” Her eyes opened, and with a huge toothless grin, said “I think this is old age. I can’t complain – doing the best I can. It will be okay. How is Margaret?”
It’s difficult to make decisions for others. We all do the best we can. But if we can slow down and pay close attention, we can sometimes see that the medicine that has been proven to work for the masses isn’t always what soothes and heals the individual.