Better Days, Better Nights

There is an unfortunate tendency to dwell on disasters. It makes compelling reading, and often the disasters are the only thing which bestir us enough to write. As a result of this fact, my posts here have tended to be a long litany of one bad thing after another, with most good things simply becoming the silence in-between the posts. All of this has, perhaps, lent a rather skewed perspective on my current life.

Today I will try to balance the scales a little bit by stopping to observe the good. I have written at length in the past about terrible nights I have suffered through–and I am sure I will have more before this whole adventure is out–but what is of note at the present is how much better my nights have been. I currently can almost get an uninterrupted night of sleep, and the situation has so much improved that I can actually set an alarm for myself to get up at a fixed time in the morning.

This is a very drastic change. Before, the nights were so typically bad I had to take every day as it came. You couldn’t schedule yourself to get up at 7:00 AM, or any hour, if you didn’t know if you would be spending half of the night up. Because the nights were so bad I basically tried to get up as late as possible every day–which typically was not very late, either because of Grandpa or my own inability to sleep in. Getting up late is completely anathema to my nature, and all of this contributed to a rather disjointed start to my day and did not help me focus on getting things done. But it really couldn’t be helped (short of becoming super-human) so I had to learn to shrug my shoulders and simply do what I could in any given day.

Even so, I always watched to see if somehow I might be able to get back to a punctual rise in the morning. And that time has finally come.

Unfortunately, this improvement in my personal circumstance is a reflection of the increasing collapse of Grandpa’s condition. My nights are more peaceful because Grandpa is a combination of too exhausted and too incapable to make as much ruckus as before. Most nights now all he has the energy to do is wake once in the middle of the night and make a half hearted attempt to find the bathroom (actually, that is only the first three seconds–the rest of the time is just spent on his hands and knees playing with the carpet, or some such). Such is only the loss of 15 minutes, or a half hour, and in the end there is no disaster, no strife, and I just tuck Grandpa back into bed once he tires himself out. Blissfully, there are no soaked clothes, and no floors to mop up. This greatly improves one’s rest at night.

Again, my day’s are better because Grandpa’s are worse. It is sad to say that, but it is true. Before, I spent a good deal of my time trying to keep Grandpa happy. There was breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, supper, and bed-night snack. And mixed in with all of those was the many trips we would take to the bathroom, and the many times I would have to save him from himself in his trips around the house. Now weakness and apathy has cut all of that down. There are no trips to the bathroom, (save the occasional time we manage to catch a bowel movement in time,) and all the snacks and coffee breaks are gone as Grandpa becomes increasingly un-interested (and unable) to eat. There is no more saving Grandpa from his self-made disasters, because mostly he is stuck on the couch all day. It’s pretty easy to take care of someone who sits on the couch all day, especially when you compare it to someone who used to wander around the house and get into all sorts of trouble.

It is not that Grandpa has become some quiet little thing. I would say he spends about half of the day either quietly occupying himself, or dozing. The other half of his time he sits on the couch and makes a lot of noise. But when you know he is pretty well stuck on the couch you feel a lot more comfortable ignoring his noise, which means I can keep a little more structure to my day.

All of this, I must admit, has been good for me and has led to a marked quality improvement in my life. But I feel sad for Grandpa. About all he can do is sit on the couch, and about all he wants is for me to sit on the couch with him. I feel a bit like the cruel self-centered caregiver in that I go about doing my stuff while Grandpa sits on the couch calling for me. I sometimes ignore him, sometimes call back, and sometimes sit with him. But the simple fact is that I cannot spend my entire day sitting on the couch, so after a few minutes with him I’m back up and away and soon as I get up Grandpa starts calling again. When you have no memory you get lonely very fast.

This is not to say everything will just get easier for me from this point on in. My sense is that we are at a plateau. Things will get bad again, eventually. But if my sense is right, when things get bad again as a prolonged state of living (not just the occasional bad night) it will be because we are in the final, terminal, descent and I will be engaged in the very intensive hospice care. It will be the most brutal part of my care-giving experience, but it won’t be the longest, and the end of that will be The End.

Which is all the more reason to enjoy this present calm, and to be thankful for the days in which everyone is healthy and everything is peaceful.

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