Here’s a lovely story that just randomly popped into my Inbox today. I thought it just too hard to resist so I’m sharing it on here because it’s so gosh darn sweet. PLUS it includes a piccy of a very lick-able ice-cream WIN-WIN!
Hopefully it makes you smile, offers a bit of perspective and then gets you thinking about priorities you might like to re-evaluate within your own life.
And that maybe life’s too short for all the silly stuff?
At the very least, it will leave you wishing you looked as fabulous in a hat, as this beautiful lady.
A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she was legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.
“Oh, I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mrs Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”
She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.
Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”
Then smiling the whole time, she asked me to remember the five simple rules to being happy:
Free your heart from hatred.
Free your mind from worries.
And you know she’s right. Reminds me of a great saying I heard once: Being HAPPY is not a pursuit – it’s an obligation.
Every time I visit 82-year old Ruth Cuddlepot I read this poem.
She has it up on a wall in her kitchen near the toaster, just above the bench. I know it by heart now because it’s so hard to miss and I stand there every Wednesday reading it (at least three times over) – while I’m waiting for her crumpets to pop!
It’s a short, but popular verse and most experienced carers have encountered it on their travels in and around the Aged-Care industry. To be honest, I always end up feel annoyed after I’ve read it because as far as describing the hopelessness and grim reality of Alzheimer’s disease – it’s pretty spot on.
It is also completely SAD.
So, the story goes that back in her day, Ruth Cuddlepot forged for herself (and prospered for many years in) an outstanding career as a Headmistress in some posh private school for boys – at the time the only woman on record to obtain such a role. She never married, didn’t have children and had no real family to speak of. Therefore, a very well-to-do Ruth had mountains of cash and high-performing investments squared nicely away for that one ‘rainy day’ when she just might need it.
That drab, dreary, drizzly day came a few years back when Ruth received the official crushing diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Being the no-nonsense insightful person that she was however, Ruth decided immediately that she would face her destiny head-on and set herself up for the inevitable; for when she could no longer work or take care of herself.
Indeed, there would be NO nursing home for Principal Ruth Cuddlepot!
Without wallowing in self-pity and in typical Headmistress fashion, Ruth seized control to ensure her affairs were arranged down to the very teensiest detail. The health services, neurologists, an endless supply of support workers and the most fastidious fleet of solicitors were all put in place so Ruth could be completely looked after and cared for IN HER OWN HOME.
No matter what.
She knew her condition would deteriorate; that her memory would crumble, and she would eventually “lose my marbles completely!” Apparently, that’s how Ruth used to brazenly declare it, although I didn’t know her then and have relied on verbal reports from other carers to fill me in on all the background reading.
Needless to say, she was one very smart woman. Although, by the time I had the pleasure of caring for the well-respected Ruth Cuddlepot, she was no longer the organised and efficient educator I had been told she once was.
Ruth had, instead, evolved into ‘Ruthie’.
And thanks to the personality-morphing Alzheimer’s, Ruthie had become a frail, yet openly happy and affectionate elderly woman…. WHO LOVED TO HUG!
Even when her speech faltered, Ruthie could at least continue to communicate with a nice big welcoming embrace whenever I arrived for my shift. I looked forward to it in fact!
There she would be, perched in her favourite place on a big comfy chair in front of her enormous lounge room windows. The spot where she had the wonderful view of her ever-changing garden, the birds flying by to say hello… and where she could keep a watchful eye out for her next visitor whom she could throw her arms around and give a great big hearty squeeeeze to!
Really if it wasn’t so heart-breaking, it would be lovely.
Recently though, Ruthie had started calling me Wendy.
Which is fine by me, because you can imagine it happens a lot in this line of work (I’m also known as Debbie, Louise and Margie with some of my other cognitively-challenged clients). Let’s face it, remembering each of your carers’ name, rank and serial numbers is understandably not high on the priority list for some seniors.
Especially when they no longer know their OWN name!
I knew something had started to change in Ruthie when one day – the hugs stopped. And another cruel stage of the Alzheimer’s curse set in… Ruthie Cuddlepot started to become aggressive.
Without much warning her moods became erratic and it eventuated that Ruthie couldn’t STAND to be touched. Not even a handshake or a gentle pat on the shoulder. You just wouldn’t dare in case she would flare up and start screaming and punching the air (or anything else within proximity) in what appeared to be the ultimate frustration within Ruthie’s muddled-up mind.
This most heartless and indiscriminate Dementia had finally taken hold of her … it has been just awful to watch.
Finally, after accusations that Ruthie had started slapping and pushing her carers, we were told there was a serious incident last week where she had to be whisked away by ambulance and sedated in hospital.
Quite honestly, it became apparent to all, that they didnt know WHAT to do with her!
After all Ruth’s organising, having purposely prepared herself and her future to remain forever being tended to in her own home by an army of paid care-working bees and service providers, it now seemed this was no longer a viable option.
I wonder now looking back, how Ruthie could have possibly planned for this final gloom-ridden stage of her illness?
Perhaps she’d anticipated that by this late phase: 1) she wouldn’t know where she was, and 2) she wouldn’t care? I hoped so for her sake.
The poem was right, and the best of Ruth had gone. And sadly yes, we had failed in standing beside her. Basically, it had become too unsafe to do so! Poor Ruthie had become a danger not only to herself, but to everyone else as well. And if a support worker is under any threat whilst looking after a client in in their home, then the people in charge needed to modify to an alternative arrangement.
I was informed only today that the once proud and brilliant Ruth Cuddlepot had been relocated ‘indefinitely’ into a High Care nursing home facility.
Just like the poem had foretold she was now sad and sick and lost. Her beautiful forward-thinking mind now full-to-capacity on sensory-depriving medication to keep her comatose and manageable (for her own protection, we were told).
I have deliberated greatly about going to visit Ruthie but honestly, what would be the point? And as harsh and as self-serving as might sound – I don’t think I could bear it.
The worst part is finding out she doesn’t even have a window.
I received this email from my cousin Rochelle recently.
Thought I’d share it here (because I can), and also to emphasise how shitty and random this increasingly common disease called Dementia is. Not to mention the despair and frustration for families who are left heart-broken and grief-stricken as they watch on hopelessly; it is totally NOT FAIR.
Aunt Winnie taught me that girls don’t have to aspire to be receptionists or typists or office note-takers who run around after others… “unless you want to, then that’s fine, too.”
Instead, if you’ve got the gumption (her favourite word) – you can make a great career doing something you love, settle down and hopefully find a nice boy “wearing not-too-tight slacks” to make a good enough life together.
It has eventuated that I have done both.
Aunt ‘Winnie-the-Poo’ – – – YOU ROCK!
(We miss you so much).
To my dear family,
I’ve been back from overseas for almost 2 weeks and there have been a few changes with Mum (our Winnie), so thought I’d send a group email update so you all know where that’s at.
Unfortunately, and as predicted by most of us, her mental health has declined significantly.
I took her to her GP and she completed a MoCA test (half hour competency testing), where the results were not flash: ie: 10 out of 30 is bad.
Poor mum scored 2…(TWO!) Is that even a number???
Thank the Lord she defiantly remembered where she was from, although truthfully, I think she must have fluked the second point by just sheer good luck!
We also discussed her anxiety levels and turns out, they’ve put Mum on a little ‘upper’ to assist with her mood. Arthur is great with mum and loves her to bits which I could cry with relief about cos he’s such a caring wonderful man.
Obviously, as a retired school teacher, he revels in the role of directing and correcting! (Plus, the Citalopram will be doing it’s job – keeping Mum calm and ticking along, happy to stay back after class with another special Arthur ‘detention’ !!!)
In the meantime, the Geriatricians will without doubt, assess Mum for ‘Care-Home’ level assistance, and I assume officially diagnose her with Dementia. This should happen soon. Hopefully, while I am still in the country – although I may be called up any day now so not sure what we do then…
Thankfully, in all the zippity-do-da (haha another one of her ‘funnies’) most stuff can be sorted online and organised via email etc. And legally, I don’t need to go to the lawyers- which is just perfect.
The best thing is that the staff at the Respite home where Mum is now are all on the same page as I am. And they have been concerned with her deterioration for a while – the head nurses have an amazing rapport with her, plus they’ve kept me fully up to speed on things.
I am just SO impressed with the set-up there!
Win gets to stay in her current apartment WITH Arthur – and the Care Team actually comes to her! This includes 3 showers a week, getting dressed daily and undressed, breakfast, lunch and dinner, dispensing medications, clothes washing, housekeeping etc.
At the moment, Mum is just having shower and dressing assistance (extra $100 a week). Once the new level of care comes through, we will apply for a subsidy as their combined total assets is less than $119k.
This new level of care will be paid from Dad’s deceased estate account (ie: $23k – and then the good old government takes over…PHEW).
I did have Mum come stay with me by herself last week (and my girls too, much to their horror), for a night recently. She spent the WHOLE TIME thinking Arthur would be coming to pick her up at any second – watching out the window, pacing up and down etc.
I could tell she really would have preferred to go back ‘home’ to Arthur; we had to phone him a few times during the night when the panic set in.
You should have seen it the next day, though, when they re-united. I just about died… they had the biggest SNOG I’ve seen in ages! In front of all the staff…everyone…THEY DIDN’T CARE!!!
(I think I was actually JEALOUS!)
Mum’s just fine where she is and like I said, Arthur loves her to bits. So as weird as all this is, Winnie’s definitely safe and cared for. She actually does realise her memory is bad (kind of), but quickly seems to forget she had that flash of realisation and so we just move on.
She happily accepts shower assistance, and for her own dignity and personal presentation, I’m terribly thankful for that. Physically, Win looks and IS well.
Don’t know what else to say but I really hope this email doesn’t cause any concern for you guys. I really feel she is in the right place and I think we should all feel blessed that she married Arthur last year – as crazy as that seemed at the time…. WHO IS THIS MAN WITH THE GIANT MOUSTACH WHO IS IN LOVE WITH MY MOTHER?
Because it certainly takes the load off me – not that I’m complaining…
It’s just hard, you know?
Anyway, I hope all is well with you guys – sorry if I’ve rambled on but I wanted to put you in the picture seeing as you are her family,,, the people who love her the most.
God, does she even remember?
You know what…I really don’t know any more. Today for example, she called me Geraldine. As in Aunty Gerry, her twin, who died when they were in their 20’s. And I can tell when she looks at me that she’s not ‘Mum’ anymore. I hate that the most about this awful disease.
Anyway, I’m waiting for confirmation of my next placement abroad – not sure when or where that might be but I’m loving my Oncology nursing and the fabulous people involved in the industry so that makes it all worthwhile (as well as being the best distraction from the Win & Arthur show!)
Will keep you all updated as the rest of the saga of our gorgeous mum/sister/aunty’s life unfolds.
Love you guys,
PS: please, don’t worry about mum. She is fine, really.
PPS: we must all get together in the SAME room one day. Life’s too short. – I could end up losing my mind, just like Mum. ARRRGGGHHHH!
What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see? What are you thinking .. . when you’re looking at me? A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise, Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes? Who dribbles his food .. . … . . and makes no reply. When you say in a loud voice . .’I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do. And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe? Who, resisting or not . . . … lets you do as you will, With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill? Is that what you’re thinking?. .Is that what you see? Then open your eyes, nurse .you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still, As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will. I’m a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother, Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap. Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep. At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own. Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home. A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast, Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone, But my woman is beside me . . to see I don’t mourn. At Fifty, once more, .. …Babies play ’round my knee, Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me. Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead. I look at the future … . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own. And I think of the years . . . And the love that I’ve known. I’m now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel. It’s jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool. The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart. There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells, And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain. And I’m loving and living . . . . . . . life over again. I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast. And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see. Not a cranky old man . Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. …. . ME
(Originally ‘Crabbit Old Woman’ by Phyllis McCormack (1966); adapted by Dave Griffith)