Senior Moments: The Ones In Between

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’ve had a few people tell me that they enjoy my Senior Moments posts.

If you know my grandma, you know I’m not making any of this stuff up, and many of the other residents have endeared themselves to me with their stories, their wisdom and their wit.

They really don’t get enough credit.

I’m there a couple times a week, and lord knows I wish each and every trip could be post-worthy. But the truth is, 99 times out of 100, there aren’t many funny moments that I can share. For every Bingo game or dating firing squad, there are 99 times I go there not knowing what the heck I’m walking into.

These are the senior moments I don’t often write or talk about, the senior moments in between.

My mom and I are past the days of having to go at this alone, past those nights of phone calls that sent us flying out of bed in a panic and the horrific stress of being thrust into caregiving roles were weren’t trained for, but that we quickly took on day to day.

When Gram moved to this facility a couple years ago, it was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from our crumbling shoulders. We were finally in the clear. It’s not perfect there, but she’s safe, she’s cared for and we can return to our roles as her girls.

That role is still rough though, as we never know just what we’re going to face.

Some days she’ll look me straight in the eyes and tell me about how she’s exhausted from running here or cooking this and that for a husband who has been gone for years. Looking at her in her wheelchair—where I know she’s been all day, all week, all year—I can see  the confusion, the frustration, the genuine fogginess that hangs over so many there.

One day I’m called her sweetheart and a hero for brushing her hair. The next day she won’t get out of bed and will yell—and I mean yell—at anyone who comes to her side, nurses, aides or otherwise.

She’ll be mean, she’ll say things that she won’t remember but that I’ll never get to forget.

This is the case with so many there, so I’ve learned not to take it personally. But time passes on, as do many of our senior friends, and knowing this inevitability only slightly softens the blow.

You never get used to seeing an empty chair at dinner or the family members of other residents huddled and crying softly outside in the hallway, talking with nurses and struggling to come to terms with things before the final breath is drawn.

Again, you don’t get used to it, but you accept it.

So I apologize that this isn’t one of the funny(ish) posts, one of those that leaves you chuckling a bit with pictures of geriatric square dancing in wheelchairs or yard gnomes, but it’s also reality. It’s a reality that people face on a daily basis as they struggle to deal with the dementia, the Alzheimer’s or any other disease an aging loved one is suffering from.

These are the moments in between, and not to sound like a geek, but they are also “teaching moments.”

Because I learn something from every person I’ve met there, good or bad, and  I wouldn’t trade any of the time that’s been spent with any of them. They have stories, they have wisdom, they have wit.

They really don’t get enough credit.

And those few senior moments—the funny ones I know I’ll never forget and those that I share with you here—make up for the ones that I keep to myself, the moments that are in between.

This post was based loosely on the Studio30 Plus prompt:

In the Clear

Need a holiday gift that gives back? Buy the Book. Save a Kitten.

27 responses to “Senior Moments: The Ones In Between

  1. We moved my grandparents into a nursing home last year. Honestly, best decision and best money spent – ever. Especially with all this crazy weather and power outages and what not. But you’re right – visiting the place is just uncomfortable and kind of sad, regardless of how well she’s treated and how happy she seems to be. When my Pop was really sick he was hallucinating that I was there, yelling curses left and right. He had no clue what he was doing, but I’ll never forget it. It’s tough,but I guess its for the best?

    • I didn’t mean to sound like visiting is sad or depressing all the time, as it’s really not. It’s hard to see things go downhill, but when she’s in a mood, we have fun hanging out with the other residents. They really appreciate everything so much, even if it doesn’t show at times (at least that’s what we tell ourselves.)

  2. Abby don’t in a million years apologize for this post. It is so authentic and true to life. And it brings a lot of hope I think…hope that through these 99 out of 100 HARD “moments” there is always that ONE you can laugh about and feel joy and ease and happiness. You manage to see the bright moments in the midst of the shadowy ones, and that illustration is important for your followers to see and draw on in their own live.
    Thank you for this BRIGHT moment today! And thank you, for being someone who looks after your elders. Who takes the time, love, and respect to care for your own. Our society has lost a lot of that quality I think.

  3. I totally agree with Clare. Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries or donuts or whatever sounds good. A post like this resonates with people. It’s good to change things up.

  4. Great, albeit sad post. This is why I plan to keep a gun in the house. I just hope I’m lucid enough to know when it is time.

  5. Nursing homes have always struck a chord with me. Through all the different volunteering efforts I’ve been involved in, nursing home visitations were always my …favorite? Nothing felt so rewarding or so humbling. I don’t know if it’s because I have a fear of getting old and being alone, or if I just have a soft spot for seniors, but to this day, it’s my volunteering act of choice. Also I do it for the funny moments 😉

  6. I love the honesty of this post. Seeing someone you love age and struggle with dementia (I am assuming) is one of the most difficult things imaginable to me, and one of my biggest fears. I’m sure it’s challenging to accept the realities of the situation while staying strong and supportive and good-humored but it sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job. Finding joy in those little moments that bring out your grandma’s wit and sarcasm and tenacity is, I think, one of the best gifts you can give to her and yourself. Those are the moments you are going to cherish the most. Keep looking for them! I love reading your “Senior Moments” because they also illustrate that, despite the challenges that are thrown at us such as getting old, getting sick or tater tot torpedoes, there’s still a lot to be happy about and grateful for! Plus, I’m pretty much an 80-year-old man in a woman’s body, so I can relate. Thanks for posting this.

  7. Such a beautiful and congruent post, Abby.

    I know it’s only a matter of time before I’m going to have to experience what you do; my beloved Nanna (my Mum’s Mum) is 87 now, and starting to get frail. My sister and I live over 200 miles away from her, and it breaks my heart to watch her get older, with hardly any of her family around. We both do the best we can, and she’s still pretty independent. but time sneaks up on all of us – and I know that it won’t be long until we’re discussing nursing homes with her.

  8. My father in law is in a nursing home. He’s only 59 (brain surgery/stroke). It’s sad. Little things like feeding himself or yelling at nurses makes you happy.

    Ok, this comment is sad and pathetic. I’ll do better.

  9. man…i’m kind of speechless. this was just beautiful. in that way that these situations are beautiful…heartbreaking, real. love love you.

  10. Melanie The Spork Lover

    I like your touching posts just as much as the ones that make me belly laugh. I just lost my gram last week. We were very close and I am very glad that she got to go home and pass away in her own bedroom. We just sat and waited for her to stop breathing. It’s what she wanted. I wasn’t ready for her to go yet. It was kind of sudden and I’m still in shock. I’m REALLY glad you see your gram once a week or so. I did the same for the past few years and it is something that I cherish. I got to spend a lot of time with her and learn a lot about her before I lost her. You are an awesome lady.

    • I am so, so sorry for your loss. Even if you’re “ready” for it, that doesn’t really make it that much easier. I go a couple of times a week and my mom goes every day, so I know that not going at some point will be weird. Anyway, please email me any time if you want to vent, and know you’re in my thoughts and prayers!

  11. This is really touching and something that many of us can relate to. It reminds me of N’s Oma–a wonderful woman who I consider to be my Grandma just as much as she is N’s (I lost all my grandparents long ago). She went off her anti-depressant about 6 months ago and didn’t tell anyone. She ended up in the hospital and although she is still not the same Oma that we remember, she is starting to come around. I’m thankful that she is in a very good assisted living and love being able to visit with her and her friends. It reminds me of your experience sometimes.

  12. My grandmother died of Alzheimer’s. The last time I saw her, she didn’t know who my dad was. Her son. She finally went into a home when she didn’t turn the heat on one winter. Or remember to find some blankets.

    Of course, flip side is… I have no idea what’s going to happen with my sister. I don’t know how much she will recover from her current state – the one where she is pissed as hell she can’t go back to work, but the fact that she doesn’t understand she’s not near ready is just another indicator of her mental state. What will happen to my parents? Will they get to enjoy the remaining years they have before I have to start taking care of them, too?

    Apologies, Abbs. I know this is supposed to be touching and all – but it just makes me think about things I don’t want to think about at 8:30am on a Weds. Even after all this time, I haven’t been able to find the happy moments. Not exactly.

  13. Oh my. I know exactly what you are going through. My grandmother suffered from alzheimer’s. Putting her in a home, and watching her decline, was extremely heart breaking.

  14. I can totally understand that feeling of having a weight lifted when you had gram move in. I wish my own gram wasnt so stubborn because I know it would put my dad at ease.

    And don’t worry about making your readership chuckle. As humorous as you are, it’s the mushy stuff that attracts me to you 😉

  15. Sobbing. My grandmother suffered from, and ultimately died from Alzheimer’s and Parksinsons. We were lucky in the sense that my grandfather was mentally and physically capable of taking care of her until the end, but watching her succumb to such a disease (and watching my father watch it) was heartbreaking. You and your Grandmother are lucky to have one another.

  16. Great post. It’s horrible to see someone deteriorate mentally. Thanks for sharing with us.

  17. I really enjoyed this vulnerable Abby…Don’t roll your eyes! Whenever readers have said that to me about my more serious posts, I’ve always thought: Sure you do.
    But now I totally get it.
    I have worked in a personal care home. It’s tough. You did good with this post. But now I’m going to read about a drunk nun?….

  18. My gram was sharp as a whip when she suddenly had to move to a nursing care facility. My grandfather had died and suddenly she was alone in an apartment, surrounded by strangers. She swore she would never eat again. Eventually, she ate. But she was never really happy again. And that was hard. Knowing that was really hard.

  19. I loved this. Mostly because it’s such a familiar experience to me.

    My grandma, unfortunately, has been pretty out of it most of the time I’ve known her, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hilarious moments – like the time she convinced everyone at the home she’s at that my brother works for NASA.

    My brother is a comedian – so I”m not sure how she got space travel out of sketch comedy.

  20. Such a great post. I think it is amazing that you and your mom take such great care of your grandma. I’m sure there are many elderly folks in nursing homes and elderly communities that aren’t so lucky. I can’t imagine how hard it is when she has her moments of confusion, but I think it’s a true testment of your love for her that you carry on and keep loving her and going to see her despite it all. And I’m sure the funny senior moments help keep you coming back, too. 😉

  21. I’m so glad I decided to come back and follow up on the post I put on Studio 30+. (Making sure I actually posted – sheesh!) Brought back memories of my little gram in the nursing home and the full range of emotions that came with it. She spent her last few years there and was well cared for. We were so thankful there was a place available for our peace of mind. She passed in the care of people who genuinely cared for her and with my mom at her side.
    This is really a beautiful post because you share the reality of the circumstances. Thank you!

  22. I’m in a chorus that sings at facilities at Christmas that range from retirement communities were the people living there are in great health, just old as the hills, to assisted living facilities, to hospice care facilities. There are definitely humourous moments and interesting characters. . . but there’s a lot of heartbreaking things as well.
    (One year when we sang at a hospital, there was a patient who couldn’t even leave his room to come listen and his wife asked if we could come do a couple songs in his room. . . for the record, singing Christmas carols activates my tear ducts at the best of times. Singing for a dieing man while his wife holds his hand with tears streaming down her face because he may not see the new year, let alone another christmas, makes it very difficult for me to keep my composure. . . )

    But bringing some happy moments to any of those places is a definite highlight of my holiday season.

Talk to me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s