Sometimes Aging In Place is so difficult, no one can help, no one can hear your cries for help. That was the case for Aunt Jacquie, a dear wonderful woman who wanted only to be seen for who she was, a “dinkum Aussie’ at heart, born in Australia, daughter of the American Counsel General, a very well travelled young woman. Her youth was full of world travel, she very much enjoyed her outings to dude ranches other spots of historical interest in the United States other places in the world. She had lived her professional life as a nurse, in their later years, lived with cared for her own parents till they passed.
An intervention in late Fall of 2008 brought the illness to light, some radical, other gentle, steps were made to begin to bring her out of it. But, it was too late. Jacquie was already slipping away. The hoarding had disguised her own real illness, a combination of cancer lung diesease, that, soon after January, had her visiting doctors to no avail, her eventual collapse hospitalization.
The best part of it was that Jacquie never had to go back to the trailer where she had lived out her days of confusion, buying the same 6 or so things every time she went to the store: Kitchen Matches, Plastic Wrap, Spices, toothpicks, cat food, beer. Stacks of things piled up, unused (except the cat food). She had taped all the windows doors shut with duct tape. She didn’t throw anything away. Underneath all the weird trappings of her later years, we found the treasures of her life, the things she had saved. We found a community of Catholics that knew her loved her in the local parish. We learned of a priest who chatted with her regularly who also suffered from depression. In him she had found solace.
I am so grateful for the hospice workers, nurses caregivers who took such good care of Jacquie while she rode out these last few months. The care they gave her, the clean sheets, hair washing, baths; every day she became more beautiful, it was hard to not take a picture of her as she looked more youthful as she fell in out of sleep.
If you have a relative you have not seen in a while, if you know someone who is elderly had you think is a habitual nester, take the time to check in on them. Don’t be put off by their initial “no no no, you can’t come in.” Go in, take a chance, do something nice for them. You will be so happy that you made even a little bit of difference.
Jacquie, we love you!