Last weekend was an interesting one for our family, with some unexpected results.
Planning for the Trip
Gini and I had an annual trip planned. The West Texas District of the Church of the Nazarene has an annual event for pastors of churches on the district called Shepherd’s Rest. Gini is the Family Pastor for our church, Pursuit Fellowship Church of the Nazarene, and the retreat is special to her so I tag along.
It’s been increasingly difficult to find a solution for what to do with Betty when we do this annual trip. Originally, Gini had planned on leaving her with a couple from our church that have often taken her in during the day; however problems with that plan came up.
Frustration and Anger
Betty’s dementia has gotten progressively worse. As she’s lost the ability to care for herself; her frustration has turned on the person tasked with taking on the responsibility of caring for her – her daughter (and my wife) Gini. She’s often become combative. I don’t actually blame Betty, it’s the nightmare disease that she suffers from. The combination of being physically an adult, occasional memories of what used to be, and the inability to completely understand those things will never be again, all produce frustration that too often leads to anger. But it’s the the type of anger you would see in a 2 year old, but just is so hard to deal with when seeing it in an adult.
Gini had made the decision not to leave her with our friends from church because she had become so combative, and instead checked into short term respite care. She spoke to a local nursing home, 3 miles away, and the next day they called to say they had an opening.
Decision for Change
She’s angry with me all the time, and I want my mother to be happy when I see her.
When Gini brought her things for the weekend, the conversation turned to making it more permanent, and Gini made the difficult decision to make that change.
I was unaware that the nursing home was to be permanent. For much of our retreat I thought it was just for the weekend. When she broke the news to me, Gini put it in a way that broke my heart. “She’s angry with me all the time, and I want my mother to be happy when I see her”.
I understand the decision. I do not believe I would have 3 1/2 years ago, when we started this little adventure, but I do now. I believe it is our moral duty to our parents to care for them if they need it, and Betty definitely needed it.
However, it was not me that was bearing the responsibility for her care. I was the “fun Uncle” to Gini’s role as the responsible care-giver. I got to do things like sneaking her ice cream sandwiches after Gini finished cleaning her up and dressing her. After I got over the initial disappointment of the decision and put more thought into it, I can understand why Gini is tired, and wants her mom to smile and her face to light up when she sees Gini coming.
One thing is for certain – as much as this is a change for Betty’s last season of her life, it is for Gini and me as well. Except for a short period (less than 3 months) when our daughter and grand-daughter moved out, and a young man that had been in Gini’s youth group as a teen moved in to board for a few months; we have not lived alone in our house. We’ve often been free to go do what we want, but the house was “shared”. This is a new season for us as well, we will finally actually be “empty nesters”.
Except, of course, for Gabby the Cockatoo, and the dogs Bubbie and Cooper.
My Mother-in-Law Betty
Betty Hartnett is Gini’s mother. She came to live with us on August 16 2015, and on February 1, 2019 she moved 3 miles away to a nursing home. She passed away on July 5, 2019.
She came to live with us because she was suffering the the effects of Alzheimer’s, and could no longer care for herself. When she first came to live with us, she was still very much aware of her surroundings, but as the disease progressed, her memory faded. She lived with us until the disease progressed to the point that she needed 24 hour care, which we simply were not able to give.
I’ve written about her here from time to time. You’ve heard the term “bitter-sweet”, I consider these things “funny-sad” in that you have to find what humor you can in such a sad sad situation.