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May 19, 2009

When Grandparents Are Sick

Wheel chair My mother-in-law has Parkinson's Disease. She has had to learn to adjust how she lives her life to cope with her illness, and we've all had to make some changes to accommodate that. Our house is too small and we are looking for a new one, and one of the requirements is that we won't have a sunken living room like we have now, or a lot of steps to get in the front door. My mother-in-law's leg function has deteriorated such that she needs a wheelchair all the time now, but she doesn't want to give up what little independence she has, so she tends to try to walk with either a walker or two canes because "I'm fighting it." And while I admire her spirit, when it's something that you can't get rid of, fighting it sometimes does more harm than good.

A couple of weeks ago my MIL fell at my house. She just sort of fell over, like someone felling a tree. She looks just like someone walked up behind her and pushed her, and she told me that's what it feels like, even though no one is anywhere near her. She managed to fall on our carpet, which is heavily padded, so she didn't hurt herself or anyone else, but frankly, we all got lucky, this time. If she'd been five inches to the right, she would have mashed her face into a hard-back chair. If she'd been one foot to the left, she would have fallen on on my five year old, which would have resulted in injuries for both of them, possibly severe for my daughter. All four kids were in the room, and frankly, it scared the crap out of all of us.

She has a good sense of humor about it. I was complaining this past weekend about how filthy the carpet is and how much I want to clean it, and she joked that she tasted it and it wasn't bad. I admire that, I really do, and from having been on bedrest with one of my kids, I understand so much about wanting to maximize the independence that one has for as long as possible. But I wish she wouldn't "fight it" quite so much.

She falls a lot. At least weekly. She has to take blood thinners for another health problem, so she ends up sporting bruises that make her look like she has a recurring part as "Beating Victim #4" in various action movies. Somehow she's managed to escape a serious head injury or too severe broken bones, but it's only a matter of time at the rate she's going. She scares the kids and makes it more difficult for my father-in-law, who is her primary caregiver, to take care of her. We've done our best to mitigate the effects on the kids; we've told them about her disease and how it makes her body not work the way she wants it to anymore. They've asked why she doesn't use her wheelchair and why she keeps falling, though, and how the heck do you explain issues of independence to 5, 7, and 9 year olds? We're still puzzling that one out.

Original DC Metro Moms post. When she's not worrying about her mother-in-law, Mary/FishyGirl blogs at The Fish Pond.

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