My mother-in-law is in the hospital. She’s been mentally degrading over the past few days, according to the caretaker, and finally bit her caretaker. The family thinks she’s “fine otherwise”.
“She’s doing well” is a statement of denial when it comes to the elderly when they’re sick. It’s a statement of someone who doesn’t want her to be anything else. They don’t want the problems of figuring out “What are we going to do with her?” They want her to be discharged to go home to her “normal” life, where she stares at the walls, laughs at ancient TV shows with the audio so high it will blow a normal person’s eardrums, or cries uncontrollably for losses years gone. This, by the way, is not a criticism of these people, I mention it because it’s right here in my own family, staring me in the face every single goddamned day.
With the biting, though, there may not have an option to send her home. A bite is probably a reportable assault, so the caretaker may not want to take care of her anymore.
This woman spent her entire life taking care of her family, and generously doling out money hand over fist to any family member who she thought was in need, or just because. She paid for weddings, tuitions, paid off maxed-out credit cards, paid real estate taxes for people, parties, the list goes on and on. There is no more generous person on the face of the earth. She selflessly nursed her mother and her husband until they died. She travelled in buses across town for a couple of years to babysit so my sister-in-law could get her degree. She tutored her niece so she could pass math. She was the matriarch of a family that grew to become manhattan doctors and lawyers and wall street mutual fund managers. Nobody in her family ever wanted for anything including love.
Now, her money pretty much gone, I think they will have to look for a medicaid-sponsored nursing home for her, unless the doctor qualifies her for hospice.
Elderly parents are a heartbreak and their situation demands things of us that we never had to do before. This is the situation that turns our lives around. It’s the time that we have to wake up to being adults. There’s no going back after this. We now become the matriarchs and patriarchs, and the family health is on our shoulders. The reins are in our hands. How will we do? And what will happen to us when it’s time for us to hand the reins over to our own children, I wonder?