March 08, 2009

Thoughts on the Circle of Life

Today was another day with some time spent with my father in law.

We need a break. We need a long damn break, but we all know there is more to do. We're fried, frazzled... done. My husband said to me today, "I can't stand it anymore. I need a break."

I sat and observed much today. The decline has been marked the last couple months. He ages in spurts. His bad hips, with his Parkinson's, added to with neuropathy, and a dose of mental illness (not dementia) have made his decline steady, with spurts of exponential decay.

I suspect that dementia is next... I fully expect that dementia will be setting in within the next few years and then its going to be a frickin' mess.

I've never watched anyone age like this. I've been around elderly people for the last 15 years, embracing it.

Add the family issues and I swear, I wish there were cameras rolling. People would pay to watch this crap.

Anyway, practically living at this assisted living facility, watching how different people age, watching what is happening to my father in law, it has been hard for me to take lately.

I am developing a vast fear of... growing old.

I don't mean age wise. That's a number.

I mean my body growing old and falling apart.

And I don't mean aches, pains, etc.

I mean truly falling apart, with the confusion, the incontinence, the inability to bathe one's self, the inability to... just take care of one's self.

I am extraordinarily independent. I don't need anyone for anything.

I don't.

And it scares the ever living crap out of me to think of me otherwise... to think of myself having to depend on someone monetarily, physically, emotionally... for anything.


To have to depend on others for basic needs until I die... I can't even go there or I start to have an anxiety attack.

And so this is the punch line... it made us laugh anyway.

There is running commentary with my sister and I, that we will grow old together. We may still be married, but tough luck to the men we are married to because its a package deal.

Mo and I are growing old together.

I sent her a text message today, as we drove my father in law down to my brother in law's home for dinner.

It read:

"We won't be growing old together because I decided that I am committing suicide first."

She called me about an hour later laughing.

We both laughed.

Morbid humor. But... I'm OK with suicide for someone that is terminally ill and is suffering. Why should they suffer? (Thank God for Hospice!) And I decided, if you're on the last years of your life, and you're completely dependent on everyone to meet your basic life maintaining needs... I'm OK with it then too.

I just... am.

And a sidenote, although this last week has left me a depressed and not in a good place, y'all know from reading me long enough, that it will pass.

It's just going to take some time. I'll get through it. Bear with me...

Posted by Boudicca at March 8, 2009 09:27 PM

You have to remember a few things to keep this in perspective.

First is one thing you know:

"I've been around elderly people for the last 15 years, embracing it."

As we all know aging gracefully can be and is done by many people. You've seen it.

But when you spend periods of time at a "nursing home", you see the worst that age can offer.

It's like when I was working in the Neonatal ICU... there were nurses working there who thought every baby needed intensive nursing observation for the first 48 hours. Why? Because on a daily basis they worked with the very worst that life can throw at a newborn. It doesn't take long before you forget - this place is an anomaly - every baby is not a distressed baby. 95% of babies are fine and only need to be loved.

Also, you see people who didn't live during an age when exercise was common for adults. Not to mention diets that may not have been even passably good.

Then you have people who just have plain old bad luck. There's no other way to describe it - just as there are younger people who have bad things happen. For some there is recovery for others there isn't.

In everything though - there is the will, the mind. Most people who end up in a decaying downward spiral have given up mentally. Decided they are old and tired and what's the point? Once the brain disengages the body slowly winds down... slowly and painfully. Once it gets to a certain point, the brain simply can't function the way it used to and it too breaks down physically.

Perhaps one day we'll understand the mechanisms and be able to prevent this - so far we don't. It becomes something each of us must settle in our own head - do we keep striving or do we stop now because we're tired.

I intend to strive. We'll see if I have the luck.

Posted by: Teresa at March 8, 2009 10:35 PM

I've always told my kids that whichever one gives me the most grief growing up is the one I'm going to live with when I get old. :)

Posted by: Ted at March 9, 2009 04:57 AM

Teresa- You're right... there are so many people down here that age and don't have the issues I am seeing on a daily basis. I'm surrounded by some nasty stuff now that is not the norm, but sure does feel like it. I need to remember that on Saturday, I was a the annual fashion show I help with, and one of the star models was a 97 year old woman who goes to the gym every day. Another was an 80 year old woman, brilliant engineering mind, has her Phd in engineering and is a beautiful woman. She is very very fit.

Until now, that was the norm I knew for aging... other than my paternal grandmother. What I knew were active amazing people who suddenly just dropped dead.

What I'm seeing now with him... turns my stomach. You should hear my 10 year prognosis for him. I fully expect him to live into his 90s... WELL into his 90s and it is going to truly suck to be him.

Ted- Heh. I think Bones will be stuck with us. Ringo will have kicked us curbside and T will be off doing some research somewhere in some far flung state or country.

Posted by: bou at March 9, 2009 05:52 AM

my cousin and I will end up living together for 50million cats. Both our hubby's have more than a decade on each of us, so we plan to out live them and be bitter old women together!

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at March 9, 2009 07:03 AM

With Mr Weenie's grandmother it frankly was my "I am afraid to grow old moment".

She was the version of old age that everyone wants, until she fell and broke her hip. Within 1 2/2 years of breaking her hip she was dead. It was like the breaking of the hip made her get old immediately, almost within 6 months. The last year of her life she lived in her mind and I am not sure she even knew what was going on.

She just went down so fast, I hated seeing her like that and I really didn't even want to visit her. I liked remembering her the way she was.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at March 9, 2009 09:49 AM

I hear you, really I do....and you can sit by me. With my FIL his mind is intact, but his body is far.

My family has cancer in the bloodlines....Hubby's has heart disease.....if it's one thing I tell my kids, you can die slowly with cancer or quickly with heart disease...there is no in-between.

Posted by: Rave at March 9, 2009 10:28 AM

My parents are in their 80s and aging quite gracefully. My father still has a pilot's license and uses it. My mom not so good physically but as mentally acute as ever.

I think the secret is not entirely genetic, it's also living a good life; keeping mentally fit and avoiding heavy drinking. Clearly, Ronald Reagan got screwed, but it doesn't have to happen to everyone.

Posted by: Carl Brannen at March 9, 2009 01:25 PM

Grow old along with me;
The best is yet to be.
A nurse will have to grab my putz
And aim it when I pee.

Posted by: Elisson at March 9, 2009 01:36 PM

The first six weeks after my accident were a living hell. I had to be lifted out of my bed into a wheelchair and back like a sack of potatoes. I had to have nurses or techs do my wheelchair weight shifts. They also had to roll me over in bed to avoid bedsores. I could not do that myself. They had to bathe me. There were certain bodily functions that I could not do myself. AARRGGHHH! I hated it! Even now I need help with certain things and it drives me up the wall.

Posted by: Denny at March 9, 2009 05:48 PM

(((( HUGS ))))

This is a hard thing to watch - I know.

You are lucky to have a bestfriend sister - you'll be fine Bou!

Posted by: dammitwoman at March 9, 2009 09:15 PM

Working in Elder Care I totally get what you are saying - but you will most likely be the feisty 90+ y.o. keeping all of your ducks in a row... :)

Posted by: Richmond at March 10, 2009 08:16 AM

I didn't read your whole post.
I didn't read everyone else's response.

But, after living with my mother-in-law and playing volleyball with a man her same age, I have learned that some people grow old and stagnant, and some grow more vibrant. Some wallow in the garbage of their past while others use it as fertilizer.

Don't be depressed about the future.
It is what you make of it.

Posted by: Roses at March 10, 2009 08:48 AM