I’ve mentioned before that Mr. Vox and I are both dealing with the issue of aging and ailing parents. Over the Christmas holiday, he went home to Wisconsin to join his siblings in the search for an Alzheimer’s care facility for his mother. They found a very good one, and with the agreement and participation of his father, Mr. Vox’s mom was placed into care yesterday.
Reading the e-mails from one of Mr. Vox’s sisters, who was there with their parents for the entire day, is heart-breaking. During her lucid moments, Grandma has been aware that she was heading into long-term care and has been participating somewhat in getting ready for that. However, those lucid moments are few and far between. While the family was trying to get her packed for the move, she decided to help pack too. So she’d go around and unload random drawers in the kitchen, or a bookshelf, a closet or a section of the refrigerator. Then Grandpa would discover that she’d unpacked something that didn’t need it, and he’d put everything back. In the meantime, she’d go move something else around.
She and Grandpa have always been fairly antagonistic toward one another. It’s like their marriage settled into a cautious truce (visualize East and West Germany when the Berlin Wall was still in place), but now and then there were armed skirmishes. Well, those have accelerated a lot since her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. All the passive has dropped right out of her previously passive-aggressive nature. For her last breakfast at home, she had a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. She didn’t know what she was doing, and she poured her coffee over her cereal. Then Mr. Vox’s dad (who is exhausted and stressed and who can be a right bastard even when he isn’t) told her that she was going to eat that cereal instead of wasting it, and he didn’t care if there was coffee in it. As soon as his back was turned, she poured the whole thing into the center of the kitchen table and walked away. (I’m honestly a little bit proud of her for that. I’d have shoved the whole meal, bowl included, down his throat.) Where she is no longer compliant with Grandpa, she is much more so with the staff at the nursing center.
After getting her settled into her room yesterday, Grandpa went down the hall to talk to some of the staff. He came back to find Grandma in bed with the lights off, crying. She told him he’d thrown her out of her own home and she didn’t want to see him anymore. One of the nurses came in and soothed her, and Grandpa was able to give her a kiss goodbye before leaving. It sounds like there were tears on everyone’s part, whether it was Grandma, Grandpa or Mr. Vox’s sister.
The part that gets me the hardest is just what it must feel like to watch your family drive away without you. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this move is the best and only care solution for her and for Grandpa. There was no other acceptable outcome. And I know that the pain of being placed in the home will eventually fade out all together, as her memory is lost that far back. But oh, thinking about having the door close and the footsteps walk away…my heart just aches.