A Change of Shift

It is pretty much a guarantee that as we age those who were caregivers will trade places with those who were formerly in their care. The child becomes the “parent” is a phrase that I’ve heard frequently throughout my nursing career. I’ve actually uttered it on more than one occasion while trying to help someone cope with the change of roles between they and their parents. Of course I knew that my day would eventually come but no matter how much you think about a thing you’re never fully ready when it happens.

My grandmother means more to me than most people in life. She has been so much to me throughout my life. My confidante, parent, role model, best friend, doctor, masseuse and the list goes on. The one person who I can tell anything without worrying about feeling any kind of judgement. My mother had me at an early age so in a sense I grow up alongside her calling both my grandmother and my mother; mom.

So the text that I received a few  weeks ago stating that mommy was having health issues caused my heart to stutter. Flashed me back to a memory of my cousins and I arguing over who loved her more. “If she died I would throw myself in the casket with her.” I vowed causing my cousins to yell at me for ever suggesting that she would ever die. In our young minds she would be around and healthy forever.

She’s so strong and up into a couple of weeks ago she was running around CT better than people twenty years her junior. Taking trains and taxis to the casino whenever the whim suited her. Traveling from state to state as if there were no barriers. Never needing any assistive device or any assistance from anyone. Now that has changed and I had been notified via text. Via text…

Even after I talked to my grandmother and she assured me that she was ok. “They’re always exaggerating. You ain’t got to worry about me baby.” Was how she phrased it laughing and downplaying the situation as my aunt continued to text message me about walkers and colonoscopies. The nurse in me needed to assess the situation with my own eyes.

Two flights later I was in her home wearing both the eyes of her daughter and the eyes of her nurse and while it was oh so easy to tell other people’s parents to get rid of their cat or their car, there are not many things more daunting than trying to decide how to tell your own mom that she needs to get rid of her throw rugs. That the table that she keeps lifting her walker over is unsafe as is the cellphone cord that she has stretched across the walkway to her bathroom. Or that yes, you do think that she needs one of those I’ve fallen and I can’t get up things.

I spent an entire twenty-four hours cringing every time she went to the restroom trying to find a way to broach the subject before I mentioned the placement of the table. Of course she lifted up the walker to display for me how light it was. It was not a problem and she would be “OK Baby.”

I don’t like conflict so when she went to the bathroom to get dressed for church I moved the table, plugged her cellphone charger up behind her bed and placed it on her nightstand, then I spent twenty minutes on Amazon ordering all of the things I had discovered she was low on during my assessment; toilet paper, paper towels, ivory spring bar soap, and her beloved beef ravioli.

I thanked God when she came out of the bathroom and laughed “I was going to ask you to put that table over there.” she said before sitting on the bed to finish getting dressed for church. I hope she meant to ask me to replenish her supply of Chef Boy A Dee as well. Either way I embrace the challenge of encouraging her to enjoy her autonomy while moving things out of her way for her own good.

I don’t however, embrace the fact that she may need a hip replacement for pain. I don’t believe that this is something that she has recently been struggling with. Lastly, I don’t know how I’m supposed to live in FL while she’s in CT where I can’t consistently see her with my own eyes.

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