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Friday, July 24, 2015

Plan for old age health issues - it's a must!


Folks, I'm really sorry that I didn't have this ready for you yesterday. My internet service went down just when I got about halfway through this post. Can you believe it turned out to be some kind of electrical short in one of the cables? Anyway, here I am.

This week I'd like to divert from the typical "mommy"-type subjects and focus on something near and dear to all mothers - the welfare of our families.

As you've probably read, my 77 year-old mom has been sick for a while with complications arising from Type 2 Diabetes.

I remember my mom as a robust, vibrant woman - nothing at all like the shell that lies curled up on a make-shift bed in her living room. Unlike me, my mom managed to juggle teaching, Girl Scouts, amateur singing/theater and church activities along with the usual mom and wifely duties. She was good at everything: singing, dancing, acting, writing short plays, drawing, painting, cooking, baking, cake-icing, sewing, stitching, knitting, gardening, flower-arranging, calligraphy, high-jumping, volleyball, ... the list goes on and on. And when I say she was "good", I mean darn good! My brother always used to joke that all the girls out there would really have their work cut out for them if they wanted to measure up to his mom!

Mom seemed like such a superwoman, I never imagined that I would ever see her helpless. Even when she was first diagnosed with diabetes almost 30 years ago, the only visible effect on her was rapid weight loss due to a specialized diet. In fact, her diabetes was so well-controlled that she never had to take any medication, just regulate her diet!

The thing is, I think that as the years rolled on, she focused more and more on those around her and less and less on her own aging. She got so accustomed to being self-regulated, that even the occasional spike in her blood sugar level didn't alarm her. She would say something like, "Oh, that's my holiday cheating kicking in!", referring to the chocolates, heavy portions of carbs and rich sauces which she usually consumed over Thanksgiving and Christmas. And to her credit, her sugar level would always settle down over the next week or so.

Despite her apparent good health, however, Mom suffered from a condition which most mothers seem to acquire over time: chronic self-sacrifice. Instead of exercising and getting adequate rest, especially after the age of 60, she would use up all of her time helping out with the grand-kids, looking after her ailing husband and volunteering at church - she never took a break for herself. That's probably why she never really took time to re-evaluate her health after the blood sugar spikes, though relatively small, started to increase in frequency.

After disregarding the warning signs for about 2 years, Mom developed poor circulation in her left leg, a leg which had been afflicted with Shingles more than 10 years earlier. You may not know this but Shingles never really goes away, lying dormant in the body instead. To make matters worse, she was still recovering from a mosquito-borne illness which she contracted while on vacation in Louisiana.

All of these factors, along with Mom's advanced age, combined to seriously compromise the viability of the nerves and blood vessels in her left leg. She tried desperately to rectify the situation by undergoing two major surgeries but at that advanced stage, it was too late. Two weeks ago, she underwent her third and final operation - the one we had all been dreading for about 3 months - that is, an amputation.

Since then, my siblings and I have been taking turns caring for her (hence my extended absence from this blog). Although she remains upbeat and in good spirits, it breaks my heart sometimes when I think about all that she has lost along with that leg. It's a hard pill to swallow, but also a grave warning to us (as her children) to learn from her mistakes. After all, we too are aging [though it might not seem so :) ] and therefore have to start monitoring our own health and taking better care of ourselves.

That said, at least she's still with us. We're very thankful for that. I just pray that she can stick around long enough to see her grand-kids grow up. Ever since we had to put Dad in a retirement home when the Alzheimer's got too severe for Mom to handle, she's been largely on her own because she valued her independence. Fortunately, this sudden turn of events doesn't seem to have dampened her spirits much.

In time I hope that Mom will find ways to flourish again, rather than just enduring her new-found disability. Life goes on, and we should all live... I mean, really live it to the fullest while there's still time. Until then, my siblings and I will strive to return just a small piece of the love, care and sacrifice which she so selflessly gave to us over all of those years. I've also renewed my resolve to be the very best mother I can to my kids, simply because I know that, should my old age preparations fall short, they'll gladly step in to help as I have.

Take care of yourselves 


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