Family Matters

Hey y’all! It’s been awhile since my last post, as I’ve had some major life changes, and I feel obligated to share it with you as it is probably an issue that most of you will face in your lifetime: caring for aging and elderly family members.

I’d like to first preface this post by saying this is not the post I wanted to write. This is the post I needed to write for my readers to give clarity to the long history that happened well before Wild Wood Wanderings. The post I want to write is one I have decided to keep to myself, for now. While I know my raw ramblings are appreciated by you all, I haven’t fully emotionally processed all that has happened and I have a lot of mixed emotions surrounding the events both past and present, nor have I really grasped how it will change the vision I had for both my life and the Wild Wood blog.

Now, as I’ve shared before, I am the legal guardian of my paternal grandmother, Ruby (aka Granny) and her son, my uncle, Ricky. Granny and Ricky lost their home in 2013 to a housefire. With no insurance and no where to go, I took them into my home.

Up until that point, my Granny had been the primary caregiver for Ricky, as he has been mentally ill since his 20’s and later experienced Neurolyptic Malignant Sydrome, a condition associated with long term prescription use of the psychoactive injectable known as Invega Sustenna. Before NMS, he drove my Granny to appointments, as she never learned to drive, he played mandolin, he cooked, he lived a relatively normal life. After NMS, however, he lost the ability to do much more than care for himself. They managed, though, and they had my Dad and myself to help them when they couldn’t manage alone.

After the housefire, Ricky had to be hospitalized for several weeks due to smoke inhalation. Granny came out relatively unscathed but, as we would find out in the months to come, the emotional trauma of their tragedy took a toll on Granny’s mind. At first, she became combative and confused, accusing me of stealing her money and not knowing where she was at times. It was, to say the least, an emotional rollercoaster of frustration, anger, and overwhelming sadness.

In the months to come, with the help of a specialist at the Center for Aging, the symptoms seemed to get better and less severe. She was prescribed a mild sedative, as her symptoms were not advanced enough for other treatments yet, and it helped for awhile. We found a small apartment for her and Ricky, worked with Rural Development and were able to begin construction on a new home. Each day, Dad and I would visit, run errands, taking turns caring for them, too busy with trying to pick up the pieces to realize that she was forgetting more and more.

We moved her and Ricky into their newly constructed home in 2015. I had plans to go to St. Croix to visit a dear friend and I left just a few days after they moved in. Dad agreed to keep an eye on them while I was gone and make sure they were settling into their new surroundings.

Just a few days into my vacation, I received a call that Granny had experienced a stroke.

We found out later in the day that she had overdosed on valium, the sedative she had been given for stress. It became apparent that her symptoms were an indication of early onset Alzheimer’s, and in the midst of her decline, Ricky began declining as well. I came back from St. Croix to a nightmare. Luckily, I was well-rested because this was only the beginning.

As they both declined and we struggled to find professional help, Dad agreed to stay with them around the clock. One night, however, Granny became combative again, attacked Dad with an iron skillet, Ricky’s paranoia drove him to jump in and the police were dispatched. It was the perfect storm and it left Dad shaken and distraught. That week, knowing that the strain was too much for Dad to bear and that there was no one else to step up, I became temporary legal guardian for them both.

Guardianship and making the decision to take over the care of not one, but two adults, is an incredibly hard decision to make. When someone is placed under guardianship, they lose the ability to make any, and all decisions for themselves. They cannot sign a check. They cannot make medical decisions. In some cases, they may not even be able to vote. Essentially, guardianship renders a person incompetent in the sense that they cannot manage their personal, medical or financial matters and assigns a guardian, typically a family member, to handle those matters. This is not a choice to take lightly and once it is done, it can never be taken back, unless a person should somehow be deemed competent again.

Granny and Ricky had stabilized in their respective conditions and were living alone for quite a few years. I managed their care, bought groceries, paid bills, and transported them to doctor appointments. We were grateful they were stable but we knew we were working on borrowed time.

In the past few months, Ricky became destabilized through a series of negligence on the part of his doctors and an onslaught of unexplained seizures. He sustained two falls, the second of which resulted in a brain bleed. After being prematurely discharged, he came home for 3 days, over which time he became paranoid, proceeded to destroy the house, assault Granny and call the police on himself.

While I understand, probably better than anyone, that he cannot be held responsible for his behavior at the time, it became quite clear that I could no longer provide him with the level of care that he needed within safe and ethical parameters. I agreed, upon the urging of my friend with Kentucky State Police and the in-house behavioral therapist, to commit him to Eastern State Hospital, a behavioral health hospital, and moved into Granny’s house to continue to provide her with the care she needs.

For now, work on the cabin is on hold, though I hope and imagine I will be able to take Granny with me to work periodically on it after things settle down from our move. Granny is doing well, adjusting to us all being in the house together. She has become my little sidekick in the past few days since we moved in and I’m hoping that having us around will help her brain health by keeping her stimulated and learning. She is in excellent shape physically and loves to get out of the house and be outside. She enjoys watching the kids and dogs. She can hoe a mean garden row and still keep her hair perfectly coifed.

Ricky is still hospitalized, and we are working with professionals to find him suitable accommodations once he is stabilized, as bringing him back home is no longer an option. His case manager is hoping he will become stable enough to move to the Acute Brain Injury floor for further physical and occupational therapy which will help him to transition to a residential facility closer to home. Until he stabilizes, however, it is a waiting game.

So while much has changed and we are acclimating, Granny and I have a garden to plant, soap to make and strawberries to can. You can take the girl outta the homestead but, you can never take the homestead out of the girl.

Peace, Love and Cheesecake!

6 Replies to “Family Matters

  1. You are one tough lady and after this post, it shows what you said to me once “I’ve got strong shoulders.” I honestly believe it. These, like you said, are just changes and I know soon you’ll be back at it with your cabin! Best of luck!

    1. Thank you. It’s amazing what you can do when you feel like you don’t have choice. I’ve definitely conjured up some hidden strength in the past but I’ve never really allowed myself the option of doing anything other than what I thought was “right”. I guess a lot of that comes from years in addiction and being a dirt bag. Sobriety taught me to do right by those I loved regardless of personal cost or emotional burden. That philosophy has kept me clean, I believe. There is no better way to rid oneself of selfishness than service to others.

  2. Wow.

    – This is a season (Eccl. 3)
    – Every season has tasks that are appropriate FOR that season; no sense planting when it’s time to harvest!
    – This too is a part of homesteading: caring for family. It wasn’t all that long ago when several generations were birthed, grown, matured, and passed…all in the same homestead. This is an important time. This is a precious time. This is a learning time. This is a s teaching time.

    There is really nothing more I can say… Except I’m really proud of you!!

    1. I agree, Norm. Thank you as always for your beautiful wisdom and spirituality. Every season has brought it’s challenges and rewards and this one is no different. I will always have lessons to learn and these years will allow me to be still, listen and learn a greater stillness, a deeper lesson. These are Granny’s final years. What better way to repay her for her years of dedication to me than to do the same for her.

  3. Sending you big hugs!!! Caring for family is no small task—you have a heart of gold!!! ❤️ Keep us updated on your adventures with Granny!

    1. It isn’t, you’re right, but I take it on with a dutiful purpose. Absolutely and thanks for your feedback!

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