VII. Brownouts

This morning I looked out our kitchen window to see that my next-door neighbor had elected to do some gardening – their yard looks like a park – and, tan, wearing shorts and a neckerchief headband, was down on her knees in the blazing sun, digging away at something. She had a huge fan plugged in outside, blasting air on her.

Yesterday morning, Emma was nearly too weak to make it down the stairs. The aide almost carried her down, steadying her, encouraging her to stand up, propping her up, for she kept wanting to sit down. Fortunately, Emma weighs only 75 pounds – even at a mere five feet tall – well, she’s a good deal shorter than that now because she’s all hunched over; she looks like a Holocaust victim. We got her downstairs, finally, to our immense relief. Utterly confused – more so than ever –, she remained weak, listed in her chair at the dining table and had to be coached to eat and drink. Yesterday afternoon I heard her moving about, came downstairs, and found her sans walker, which she had parked neatly against the wall, and inching her way around the perimeter of the dining room from one piece of furniture to the next, holding on for dear life.

It is still so hot and humid here; our three window air conditioners have to work hard. Last night just as we had finished dinner, the power went off: pitch black. A transformer up the street blew. I went upstairs and got the flashlight. I know how many steps we have in each staircase, front and back. So, I count the stairs in the dark. That’s not to say that once upstairs, I didn’t bump into the bedpost and trip over furniture. Finally, flashlight in hand, downstairs, I managed to get Emma up out of her dining chair and holding on to her walker, then, with guidance, into the living room and onto the couch.

About an hour later, when the work crew located the culprit transformer and the power came on, a woman across the street, whom I had been outside in the steamy night talking to, offered to come in and help me get Emma upstairs and into bed. This woman’s aging parents live across the street, both with acute medical conditions. She lives nearby and was at their house helping them when the power went off. She is so very kind, encouraging and praising Emma all the way upstairs and when I undressed her, and we got her into bed with ease. It helps to have help – and caring encouragement.

Emma had rallied a bit over the weekend to the point where I told Tess, our Hospice nurse, to cancel the hospital bed. I felt that cutting off Emma’s access to her bedroom, her luxurious king-size bed, feminine white comforter and matching sheets with the eyelet borders, and all her personal belongings would be like suddenly lobotomizing a part of her mind, that she regularly experiences enough of that loss without our help. But, then, after yesterday morning’s event, I reordered the bed. Getting her downstairs this morning was only slightly easier. Emma is simply weak. She needs to be reminded that she has food in front of her, often sits at the table with her eyes closed, and then with coaching, she will eat. At least she eats.

–Samantha, May 31, 2011


 

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