Passages – Dropping like flies

man-woman-birth-death-infinityWe got bad news over the weekend. (Or was it?)

A loved relative who has had mild dementia for several years has reached the point where his devoted wife can no longer care for him in their home. He will move to a home this coming week.

It’s not a surprise. We knew it was coming. I am surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

So why does it feel like someone died?

Ultimately, this is a good thing. The change will be good for all parties. He will have more staff and activities than he would at home. It won’t be strange because he has been attending day care at the same place. In fact, he has already developed a girlfriend.

His new friend (wife approved) is 25 years his senior (yep, really old), equally dotty and a caring soul. She makes sure his sweater is nearby.

Neither one is capable of anything physical. It’s meeting a new set of needs. Or maybe the oldest need in the books — companionship.

His wife will be relieved of the burden of worry and the shackles of responsibility for someone (a large person) who cannot be left alone. At all. Ever.

His ability to stay in his home for this long is a tribute to his wife, who orchestrated treatment, doctor appointments and family visits much like a ballet. A very delicate balancing act.

This relative is not local so we don’t see him frequently. I doubt if he would know us.

What we have are memories of happier times when he was a vital, healthy person capable of a challenging discussion on just about anything. That version of him is gone. Long gone. That is what we are mourning. His eventual death will pale in comparison.

My (much older) brother talks about the funerals they attend (weekly). Funerals may trump doctor appointments. It’s another passage I don’t think I’m ready for.

One thing is certain. These events make you appreciate health and happiness. I find myself looking at people as if it may be the last time I see them. Hugs abound. (Working on not appearing too stalker-ish!)

Maybe I will get used to losing dear friends and relatives. (Do you ever?) Maybe not. We’ll see.

As Ben Casey said — man, woman, birth, death, infinity. I like the front-end better than the back-end.

39 thoughts on “Passages – Dropping like flies

  1. My Mom always said, “The hardest part ofgrowing old is losing people.” Bill and I are beginning to experience that too. It is all so very sad but you are wise to know how important it is to listen and love those who are dear to us while we have them.

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    • I remember when a friend’s grandmother died. Her mother said that her generation (her and her siblings) were now the “old folks.” I’m finding that I’m now in the group too and not too happy about it! I’ve lost some good friends already. Each time is a reminder that we all have an expiration date.

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  2. There’s heartbreak in seeing someone we love and care about slipping away, Kate. I’m so glad he is being well cared for, and it sounds like he’s doing well under the circumstances, but it’s still very hard. I think that having a long life means that we will have so many occasions where those we love will precede us in illness or death, and it takes awhile to gain acceptance that this is the part of life we will all live through, inevitably. The loss is very hard. I can understand how this would just throw a pall over everything for awhile. i don’t like these changes one bit. ox

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    • We live a distance away so our support is minimal and confined to encouraging emails and mailing care packages. Every day I am grateful for health, not only for me but for all. My Dad had a heart attack and was dead in 90 seconds. There is something to be said about that exit.

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  3. I have a lot of sympathy for your relative’s wife. No matter how hard the caregiver works, no matter how much she gives up, it’s still hard to put the loved one in a facility. I’m glad it’s going well for them.

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    • Yes, I have been in awe of her for years. She would say that you do what you have to do but she does it with style and with love. She kept him until he started getting uncooperative. That in itself is painful.

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  4. Ben Casey! It does seem that losses come on the heels of other losses. Or in cycles. That’s also a problem with retirement communities like where my mother lives. There are always funerals!

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  5. For a long time I worked in a nursing home and observed that quite often the admission process was harder on the family than on the patient. The staff I worked with was skilled, caring and dedicated. Your relative, and his wife, are likely much better off now.

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  6. Aging is an intetesting process, isn’t it. Not only for oneself but for those around us. I try not to think of certain things and focus on today and the positives but it seems like that becomes harder to do with each passing day. People are living much longer these days but there is a difference between living and being alive. Dementia is a such a frustrating condition for those it affects and those who must watch the deterioration of someone they love.

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  7. That’s a story. Not ready to think about it on a personal level, but can see the beginnings of dementia in one older friend. Interesting how in a way it is a death, but in another way it’s a birth.

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    • My mother had age-related memory loss during her last few months. I cried when I saw it. She knew she had it because she would snap back in a minute and then she worried I’d think she was crazy. Very painful for me and probably for her too.

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    • It is difficult but I think it’s the right one too. He’s a large man and she’s a small woman. If he fell she couldn’t get him up. He has physical issues so that day is coming soon. She was glad that he had a friend there too.

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  8. My dad went into assisted living a little less than 2 years ago. He’s been on medication for dementia for a few years and isn’t too bad, yet. He’s 80, married, going thru a divorce (that story is for another day) and has a 90 year old girlfriend in the facility. They make each other very happy and I’m happy for my dad. As Power of Attorney I know what my sister goes through with my dad so I can only imagine the job your relative’s wife had. Testament to their love.

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  9. This change sounds like good news for all concerned.

    Of course, thinking of him causes nostalgia to creep in. When we remember how “he” used to be with all faculties intact and a vibrant hearty laugh . . . we want that “Jack” back.

    Only, as you say, that “Jack” ain’t coming back.

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  10. So tough. And that was one amazing wife. I hope she gets to travel (or sleep!) and is able to cope with losing the job that has been at the center of her existence such a long time. Without guilt.

    The girlfriend makes me happy. 🙂

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  11. I hope your friend will be very happy in his new digs — and cheers to his wife for putting that off as long as possible.

    As my dad would say, “Gettin’ old ain’t for sissies.” — neither is staying behind!

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  12. Living so long it’s the price we pay
    Guess we’d have it no other way
    Glad my hair is getting gray
    Soon to be facing doomsday
    **************************
    Don’t mean to be flippant with the poem!! What you say is so true. Sometimes I think I am fortunate not to have lots of relatives and friends.

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