My 92-year-old mother has been in the hospital for the last four days. As of today, it’s hard to tell whether she will leave the hospital in slightly improved health or will be ready for hospice care in the adult family home where she has lived for six years. I can’t write about my mom, it’s too hard now, but I can write about caregivers. First, the caregivers in the hospital where she’s spent this week. From nurses to medical technicians to a doctor who squeezed my hand every time she saw me, she has been attended by caring people. About 6 pm yesterday I realized that I had seen the same nurse early in the morning. “You’re working late,” I said. “No. I work 12 hours shifts. I like long shifts, because they let me get to know the patients better, understand a little more about who they are and what they need.” What to me used to feel like long, tiring days she saw as a way to get better at her job. When they weren’t attending to my mother, the staff and volunteers were focusing on me. “What can I do for you?” “Can I bring you coffee?” Even, “Would you like a hug?”
The caregivers to whom I owe the most are Gabriela and Cris of Lake Heights Aging, the couple who has seen to her every need for the past six years. They have bathed her, fed her, smiled and laughed with her, teased her, helped her walk, dressed her, not only in the morning but when she saw fit to strip in the living room in the middle of the day. They took her back after she spent 10 days in a gerontology/psych ward for having a series of psychotic attacks in their home. I could enjoy her company for a short time and then leave her to them. They had her all the time, not just when she was happy, but when she was obstinate, cranky or depressed. Most importantly, they have loved her. If she could thank them I know she would. I cannot thank them enough for all they have done for both of us.