Days with Grandma おばあちゃんとの日々

In the past four weeks, it seems as if a half year has passed, so I did not have time to write a blog. I have a bit more time to do so now, but as soon as I sit in front of a computer, I don't even know where to begin. My words are yet lost which also kept me from updating the blog. Eventually, however, the urge to write about my experiences won, so I pushed myself to start anywhere I could.

In the past three and half years, I had a rare opportunity to experience what it is like to look after an elderly person.

I have not been writing about this because I felt that it was a bit too personal information for my partner, Loren. This time, I asked him if it would be all right to write about it, and he said, "No problem." For the past five years for Loren and three and half years for me, we took care of his grandmother. She is 84 years old and has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease for the past 13 years. As of today, there is no cure for this disease, so she has been taking medications at certain times every day for the past 13 years in order to cope with muscle rigidity, tremor, and a slowing of physical movement.

Grandma was living in a house by herself after her husband passed away, but she started to fall in the house. It signaled family members that she should not be living by herself. Loren, living in Hawaii at that time, suggested that she move to Hawaii and live with him. It must have been a big move for her, moving to a totally new place (different cultural background) where she knew no one but Loren.

When she first moved to Maui, she was able to walk, cook meals, and do laundry. I remember when I started to see Loren, whenever I visited him, she made soup for me. However, as times passed, she started to lose that independence due to her physical condition. She used to stay home by herself while Loren was working and take medications at the right time, but she started to forget to take medications. Loren started to hire caregivers. In the beginning, a caregiver came and helped Grandma from 9 am to 1 pm for three days per week. Loren and I tried to finish up our work and tried to come home as soon as we could and cook dinner quickly and eat by 6:30 (if it's too late, Grandma could not sleep well because food sat in her stomach). After awhile, Grandma could not stay by herself from 1 pm to 6 pm. Her dementia also started to be apparent. Loren could not help but to have a caregiver from 8 am to 6 pm every day. It was about two years ago. We hired 3 caregivers, and they came at different times and days. Managing them became my job. Until then, I had not had much experience of managing people, especially telling someone older than me what to do. Communicating what I need them to do clearly and pointing out to some of the jobs that they are not doing correctly was something I struggled with. It was a very good opportunity to acquire new skills, though. It was a difficult task to find good caregivers. Loren and I interviewed many people. There have been people who did not last long, did not get along with Grandma, and did not perform professionally. Eventually, about a year ago, we settled down with 3 caregivers who had strengths in different skill settings. We assigned them jobs that make the most of their strengths.

We lived in the house that Loren's uncle (Grandma's son) used to own. He was the only uncle to Loren and was the only son to Grandma. But he did not wake up one morning for an unknown reason. Grandma might have felt protected by or close to him by living in this house.

Loren and I felt safe to go to work knowing that someone is there to watch Grandma. Of course, we did not leave the house before 8 am and came home by 6 pm. If we went out after 6 pm, we arranged a caregiver to stay with Grandma in advance. Things seemed to settle down at least for awhile, but it changed dramatically. Eventually, the financial resources to pay for caregivers run out. After long thoughts, Loren decided to place Grandma in a nursing home. During this time, it was heartbreaking for me to see Loren going through this. He wanted to watch Grandma at home until the end.

In the beginning of this year, Loren planned to break the news to her. We discussed and explored what the best way to tell her in the least shocking way was. One day, while I was away, Loren had moment to think, "Now is the time!" so he did. Loren expected her to cry, but instead, she solemnly told Loren, "Loren, I have been through a lot in my life, so I can handle this. If God wants me to move there, then I will." It was Loren who cried after he heard this. It was me who cried after I heard this from Loren. I think that my tears had different feelings in them: feelings of sadness that I would not see Grandma here anymore and feelings of empathy for Grandma of hearing this news. And I cried because I saw beauty in Grandma’s ability to deal with the news through the grace of God that only life time of experience could provide.

To be continued...

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mimi said...

hi Akari san!

grandma,you, and Loren ...All of you are so beautiful.
Im crying by reading this.
わたしも おばあちゃんを特別養護老人ホームにいれなくてはいけない状況になった時
母が辛い中で その決断をしてた姿を
おばあちゃんは 昨年天国にいきました。
その ありのままの姿を通して

内側から 溢れ出すものなんだなぁ
って Akariさんの日記を

thank you so much for
sharing your story.

Im praying for all of you!

with hugs, mimi

Akari Ueoka 上岡安佳里 said...

Dear Mimi,
How are you doing? I hope you are doing well. ずっとコメントにお返事しよう、しようと思いつつ今の今になってしまってごめんなさい。Mimiの祈りはちゃんとこちらに届いて、私たちのTransitionをとても意義あるものに無事に導いてくれました。ありがとう。Mimiが元気にしていることを祈りつつ。

mimi said...

dear akari:)



hope all of you are doing well;)

with hugs, mimi