• V - Vigilance

    V is for Vigilance!

    #AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

    My mom was in my home for 5 years - and in Assisted Living and Nursing for 3 years.  But for two years prior to moving in with me - I could see changes happening.  This elder person who happened to be my mom was showing signs of ... well ... at first I wasn't sure what the signs represented.  She still lived independently, she still drove, she still paid her bills, she still went to church and the senior center, she still did everything she did before.  But something was changing and I couldn't put my finger on it.

    Decline can happen slowly.  It can easily be overlooked.  Seniors are great at hiding short falls in behaviors.  Early in their decline they are probably aware of some limitations - aware that they can't do things they used to do, aware that some tasks become just too much, or too confusing.  And they are also aware that they are probably beginning to fail in some indefinable way.  They compensate by hiding that fact from others - because independence is the last jewel of a persons life - something to be locked away where no one can take it.

    Family doesn't see a lot in the beginning.  I know.  I didn't.  I saw a tiny red flag in a sea of normalcy.  A tiny red flag that probably is just an imaginary spec of dust.  And subterfuge is not difficult for an elder to perform in a sea of normalcy if family isn't paying close attention. So initial years of decline can artfully be hidden from the casual eye.

    This inability to see is so common in families.  I know that some members of my family were unable to see what I saw.  Does that make them bad people?  Absolutely not.  But just like any other familiar thing in your life - you can overlook, fail to see what is in front of you. Or sometimes you see the problem but really don't want to see it, admit it is happening - and minimize it in your mind.  It is normal.  But so is being aware normal.  Hopefully someone in a family is aware - it is elder family member's safety net.

    When does that safety net needs to be activated? That is were Vigilance needs to step in!

     is no more than the action or state of keeping careful
     watch for possible problems or difficulties.

    It doesn't mean stepping in at the very first sign of a memory lost, a forgotten name or an item misplaced in plain view.  We all do that.  No, vigilance means being aware of behavior patterns or problems that are new or maybe developing.

    My vigilance began 2 years before mom moved in with me.  When I started paying attention, I tried to make excuses for what I was seeing.  I wanted my mom to live the rest of her days independent, happy and loved.  But at some point my excuses were piling up.  I became vigilant without even knowing I was doing it.  I started my slow campaign for a move into a more secure and safe development - maybe one for seniors - with some oversight.  I really didn't think she need more than that.  At least at that point - it was what I thought.

    After 2 years of discussions (and 2 years of her further decline), I realized she needed more than a little oversight!  I finally convinced her to move in with me.  Within one week of that move, I discovered just how far she had declined and how exceeding good she was at hiding that fact.

    My gut, my vigilance for those 2 years was telling me a 'truth.'  She needed help!  I didn't realize how much help until she moved under my roof.

    Over her last years my vigilance slowly expanded to all parts of her life:  medical appointments, medication administration, driving, illnesses, hospitalization, rehab stays, assisted living, and nursing care.  I literally became her voice, her eyes, her decision maker, and even her 'mother' when she got confused.  In her last days when she was unconscious waiting for death, the nursing home administered a drug to reduce her anxiety through the dying process.  I approved of that.  But they wanted to give her an oral drug - and she could not swallow!  It was to be administered under the tongue.  But it made her cough every time.  She was in a coma-like state - not aware of her surroundings, but she still required someone to be vigilant on her behalf.

    If you have an elder person in your life - don't forget to really see them.  Don't see just what you want to see - really look, be aware, be vigilant.  Don't let that person slip through the safety net of their own world because you haven't been vigilant.

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