Monday, January 9, 2017

Nearing the Sunset of Life

My grandfather is 87 years old and his health has been steadily deteriorating these last few years. He is to the point where my grandmother is not going to be able to take care of him anymore. I would suggest she is already past that point because she can't do the things she loves anymore due to her full time job of taking care of my grandfather. But grandfather comes from a long line of stubborn people and he stubbornly refuses to move back to Iowa where family can help out.

Fortunately, my mom's brain cancer and prognosis perhaps spurred him to change his tune and he has said he is ready to move back. Last fall I did some legwork to find some full service facilities in the town where I live where they can transition from independent living to assisted living to nursing home as the need arises. During this last trip down, my wife and I spent quite a bit of time reviewing the information with my grandfather. My grandfather won't talk to my mom (his daughter) or uncle (his son) about these sort of things but he opens up to my wife because he trusts her clinical opinions I guess. So we have become the open channel of communication these last couple years.

This trip, we worked through some of the logistics of them making such a move. Foolishly I volunteered to fly down this spring and drive back a moving truck of their possessions while my uncle drives them back in their car. I'm certainly dreading the thought of that trip but will be happy when they get moved in. Fortunately, with the stuff I brought back this trip and previous cleanings, they don't have much left of sentimental value anymore, so there shouldn't be a whole lot that needs to be brought back.

Due to my grandfather's health and other logistics, this is the first time in three years I have seen him. He now hobbles only short distances with a cane and doesn't talk much anymore due to a difficulty in breathing. Still it was nice to see that old spark in him is still burning strong and his mental functions are still intact. If his body wasn't just worn out, he would be the same man I've always known. But his body is worn out and I think that depresses him some and angers him some. However this past week with his descendants all around him cheered him up and perhaps reinforced his decision to move back to where he could live among them. I'm hoping that if he survives long enough to make the move, perhaps the psychological aspects of living in a worn out body will be lessened by living among family to the point where his remaining years are a bit happier.


Vince said...

That is a thing here too. Many go to Spain and Portugal in their retirement only to fly back when their health isn't so great. It's not that the health systems are any worse but they seem to believe they are safer where they know the system.
Just an FYI. One of the things you have to be careful about is their expectations of what you are doing. Remember the life in Iowa is very different to what they remember before they moved south. So their projections about your free time (time to visit them) could well be totally different to what Iowa demands today.
They have immigrated for what it sounds like 20 years, so lots have changed.
My best to them, and you.

Kelly said...

A difficult and emotional situation, I'm sure. Having both parents die when I was a child/teen, I've never dealt with this. My FIL died young, too, so I only have my MIL's experience - and she had Alzheimer's, so not anything like what you're going through.

Even though I know it must be difficult to be "put in the middle" of things, it's good that he's been willing to discuss it all with your wife. From what I've observed though friends and extended family - it's so hard for older folks to relinquish that control and freedom, even when they're bound to know deep down that they can't do it on their own anymore.

Prayers for all of you through this transition.

That top photo is gorgeous!

Bob said...

You're a good son and grandson, Ed, and your grandfather is lucky to have you and your wife looking out for his best interests. My in-laws, both 88, made the move to a retirement community in the town where they live in Arkansas a year ago and it has been great. Although we've offered them the option of moving here, about 5.5 hours away, they don't want to and I can't say I blame them. My wife has to go over there quite a bit, but since we are not there all the time, it gives us a lot of peace knowing they're somewhere where help is readily available.

sage said...

It is good you can be there to help him at this stage of his life. It was a blessing when I took a week off to help my grandmother (who died in December) to move to an assisted living place near my uncle (where she lived her last eight years).

Ed said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. I'm fortunate that I'm as old as I am and still get to interact with my grandparents. I spent two decades with them frequently until they moved down to Florida and then about 15 years or so of seeing them two or three times a year. The last seven years I've seen then five times. With social media and cellphones, we really are never out of touch but still I am looking forward to them being closer so I can stop in and play a few hands of cribbage or cards in the afternoons and really enjoy the time we have left.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

It is a very hard when we become the caregivers of the ones who have taken care of us for so long. It does make it easier when they are nearby, so I'm glad you were able to talk them into the move. Enjoy your time with them as you are very lucky to still have them in your life.