“He should avoid stairs whenever possible. Do you live in a one story or two story house?” the doctor asked.
“Steps. Lots of steps, but I can do it,” Rodger answered.
“Is there any way he can remain on one floor? He’s at very high risk for a fall. The combination of Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and blood thinners is a recipe for disaster.” The doctor didn’t see the look of fierce determination that crossed Rodger’s face upon hearing those words but I did. This next transition was not going to be easy for either of us.
“She worries too much. I didn’t fall. My ankle hurt a little, that’s all. Don’t listen to her. I walk all my life. I can do it.”
“We live in a two story home but he has a bedroom, a sitting room with a sofa, chair and TV, and his own bathroom on the second floor. I can take his meals to him. He can remain up there or we can convert a downstairs office into a bedroom for him on the first floor.”
“No. I’ll stay in my room. Don’t change the office,” Rodger insisted. “I can do the steps one, two, three times a day.”
“No sir, don’t use the stairs. If you fall you could break a hip and that will not only be extremely painful, it could prove fatal.”
“Everybody dies sometime. You have a destiny and when it’s time, you go.”
“That’s true, but you don’t want a broken hip to be part of your destiny if you can help it.”
“Yeah, yeah. You don’t listen. She doesn’t listen. I have to do what she says.”
“That’s an excellent plan. Do as she says and stay out of trouble. And use your walker every time you get up.”
“Good luck,” the doctor said to me as he ushered us out of the office.
I knew I was going to need it. Rodger had always been very active. He missed his daily walks and doing little chores around the house.
“You can’t loaf all the time,” he would say. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to do those things anymore. I had to find some way to keep him busy and safe at the same time.
I bought several simple board games but he soon gave up on them. “These are kid games,” he insisted shoving the board and pieces off the tray table. I got out a deck cards and helped him play several games of solitaire every day until he became frustrated when he couldn’t remember which card went where. When I wasn’t able to distract him with games or CNN News (his favorite) he would take off down the hall without his walker to prove he didn’t need it.
One afternoon, when my husband was at home, I went to a nearby Michael’s store hoping to find a craft we could do together. Channeling Martha Stewart for inspiration; I wandered through the aisles looking at birdhouse kits and unpainted cups and other make-work things. Nothing seemed to be right and I was beginning to think I had wasted a trip when I turned the corner and saw a small display of hooked rugs.
“That’s it,” I thought. My daughter was expecting her first child and Rodger always lit up when a baby was around. I found a kit I liked that looked big enough to keep us busy for a while but not so large we wouldn’t be able to finish it. I bought it, hoping I’d be able to convince Rodger to help me make it in time for the baby shower in two months.
He was skeptical at first. He had a hard time wrapping the short pieces of yarn around the shaft of the hook. Once I showed him how we could work together he was eager to get started. Every day for weeks we sat at a small table in his sitting room and worked on the rug for the baby. It was very slow going. The baby shower came and went. Ava was born and still we worked on the rug. Some weeks he wasn’t up to it and we put it away for a while. As Rodger weakened I wondered if we would ever finish. I should not have doubted his determination. Row by row, color by color, the pattern emerged as he worked with me or his home health aide. Only once or twice during all that time did he complain about not using the stairs. Oh, he walked to bathroom and back without his walker whenever he thought I wouldn’t catch him, (I almost always did), and I found him standing at the top of the steps more than once looking balefully at the baby gate blocking his way but, he never actually went down the steps unless Mike or I was with him.
When it was finally finished and the day came to present it to Ava and her mama he appeared happier and healthier than he had in a long time. He held the baby and explained to her mama how he inserted the hook in the holes one at time and wrapped the right color yarn around it before pulling it through the mesh to knot it into place.
“Up close it don’t make sense. You look from far away, you see a beautiful picture.” How true, I thought as I thought about his life.
Now that he’s gone that rug is a warm reminder of the many quiet hours I spent with him, weaving strands of yarn to make a vibrant pattern representing innocence and beauty. That too was part of his destiny and for Ava, when she grows up; it will be a treasured reminder of her Great-grandfather’s love. Perhaps someday she will display it in her daughter’s room. I think Rodger would like that.
Have you channeled Martha Stewart?
If you have a favorite game or craft that can be done with someone in your care I’d love to hear about it. If you have a picture or pictures send them to me and I’ll post them on my blog, The Imperfect Caregiver.
Here are a few links to craft ideas for seniors.
Bobbi, I love reading these posts. Even though we lost my mother-in-law at the age of 95 from cancer and dementia, your stories about Roger bring her back to me with the memories of both the challenges and the joys of being a caregiver. Don’t ever stop this blog!