They say, “Practice makes perfect.” Working for Home Instead Senior Care, it’s my job to connect with older adults and their families. I read and hear their stories every day. I have access to the latest research and training for family caregivers. I work with the experts in dementia and caregiving. My professional career is all about aging – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is the ultimate training ground for my personal journey.
Or so I thought.
I’ve written before about my grandmother and the day I knew our lives would be different. The truth is, our lives did go back to normal after that – in a way. Cognitively, she rebounded. It seemed that an infection and dehydration were at the root of her delusions that day. But somewhere deep down, I knew that eventually, this state would be her new normal.
It became clear that her once sharp mind was now only capable of having the same five conversations. When you strayed from one of those five, confusion set in.
Recently, I walked into my grandmother’s hospital room. She was there after a fall at her assisted living facility. As I leaned over to give her a hug, she said, “You have beautiful skin, just like my granddaughter.”
I would like to say that my heart sank, but that would assume there was a possibility that it could rise back up again. Really, my heart just shattered. The only image that flew through my mind was that prescription bottle with NAMENDA written on it.
I worked to catch my breath and hold back the tears, all the while trying to keep a smile on face for Grandma. Why wasn’t I prepared for this? I knew what to expect. I knew how to handle this.
The thousands of stories, the hours of training, the chats with the experts, and all the research in the world could not save me from heartbreak. This was no longer someone else’s story, no longer someone else’s struggle. This was now my story, my struggle, and there was no emergency exit.
In moments like these it is amazing just how far our brains are from our hearts. The most rational, intelligent person becomes a heaping mess of confused tears. When it’s your loved one, statistics become meaningless, and making a decision based on fact and information is like solving a Rubik’s Cube.
I’d like to give you a nice neat ending to this story. Usually, I end with the lesson I learned, a moment that made it worth it, something to make the blog post a neat little package with a bow. That’s not going to happen this time. There simply is no way I can make it pretty, and it’s too soon for me to have seen a lesson or anything that could possibly make this okay. Maybe someday, but today, my heart is still much too far from my brain.
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