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Friday, September 9, 2016

Who is the Boss of Grandpa?

It was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time. Few there are these days who pass on gently into the night without pain. Sometimes, one just has to envy the Vikings who believed that the most honourable way to die and enter into the halls of Valhalla for everlasting companionship with Odin, would be to die in battle.

That means one dies a quick death.

Our elderly folks are octogenarians and their bodies are falling apart. Grandpa has had gout for years. Uric acid crystals have settled into his right foot and cause pain every so often. Unfortunately, this time, his poorly managed diabetes have created conditions that predispose the development of cellulitis. This is a skin infection. His entire right foot is swollen. He is in pain and he is running a fever. I rather suspect that what really bothers him is the loss of independence. With that loss of independence comes a certain loss of dignity.

A self-determined life is over.

This brings to the fore the notion of how exactly children need to show love for aged parents. My first instincts were to lock the old man up in the house and take away his keys and make every single food decision for him. I cook. You eat. That is that.

We would do that if we wished to ensure his personal safety and physical health. Grandpa fell down on a bus a month ago. He tripped on a stone and fell a few months back. Yet, he insists everyday to travel the distance from Sembawang to Marsiling to feed the wild cats up in the park on the hilltop. Along the way, he passes by eateries and gets tempted by foods that don't help his diabetes at all. It doesn't help that Grandma is constantly after him for what he should do, should not do, should eat or should not eat. Sometimes, I think he does all the wrong things simply because his wife tells him not to. Indeed, the crafty old man pretends to look at his wife uncomprehendingly whenever her tone takes on that high pitched haranguing quality. Yet, he seems to hear the nurses and the doctors and me, just fine. He has hearing aids but insists never to wear them at home.

I think Grandma threatens his sense of self-determination. I can relate to that. I think any adolescent can. It is the notion that this is my life and if I make mistakes or the wrong choices, it is STILL my life and I will pay the price. I have in the past told my mother-in-law that before when she criticised my cooking, my house decorations, my placement of furniture, my way of bringing up the children.

Knowing this and empathising with how Grandpa feels, is the best way to love him to imprison him at home and force him to eat what I think he should eat? In the end, our family decided, "No". He has not many years left to us and it would not do to have him pass them as a virtual prisoner in his own home, even though we do understand that whenever he walks out the door, he may get hurt.

We will deal with what comes if he gets hurt.

This said, we thought up a lovely subterfuge for controlling his diet. We will cater meals from a nursing home for him. These meals are dietitian supervised and delivered to the house. We will also look at getting him monitored by staff of the nursing home so that his meal plans can be adjusted as his health conditions change. He has so many health conditions - diabetes, hypertension, gout and osteoarthritis, and the balance of these shift constantly. His meals will need to shift accordingly. We will tell him that these are doctor-ordered meals.

That way, he can blame none of us for wanting to control his diet. The nameless and faceless doctors will be blamed for this. This would not threaten his sense of self-determination because these people are distant and unknown.

With this, if he insists on eating poorly, then we have resolved that his choices must be respected. The day will come when he is totally incapacitated and then, he will be housebound anyway. For now, he probably believes that he has few years left and he intends to enjoy them to the fullest, without letting anyone else be the boss of him.

I reckon that when I grow old, I want to be treated thus too. It is my life and if I make mistakes, they are my mistakes and not yours.


Theanne Crossett said...

What an excellent decision regarding an elder (and that answer my question about how the parents are). I took care of my husband Don during the last years of his life and I know how difficult it can be to make choices for another human being. You're so logical and level headed, he's very fortunate to have you looking out for his welfare.

Petunia Lee said...

It was not all me. Our family discussed and debated at length. My children contributed their wisdom too.

Theanne Crossett said...

So sorry...when speaking of "you" I included your family in a collective "you."

Petunia Lee said...

Oh I see! You are most wise then!!!!