“Let it go!” It’s a popular saying these days and means many things to many people; however, “Let Them Go” is quite a different matter altogether. Watching a loved one refuse rehabilitation is difficult. Feeling that they are being stubborn and uncooperative with medical staff is normal. Wanting them to go to therapy and get better is our way of encouraging them. But experiencing a loved one’s refusal to eat at mealtime is heartbreaking when they aren’t refusing the food because they don’t like what’s on the menu.
Quality of life equals independence to many. Knowing that you can manage your responsibilities without assistance is an ability, especially in today’s society, which is greatly strived for and respected. As our bodies grow older, and the natural progression of the aging process continues, the ability to enjoy life without mental, physical or emotional compromise is also the hope and goal for many.
My grandmother, who passed away at age 93, was fiercely independent her entire life. Given to a children’s home temporarily at a young age because her mother couldn’t take care of her by herself, my grandmother learned to take care of and watch out for herself quite early. Once back with her natural mother she helped take care of the house and others. My grandmother married, had two daughters and worked outside of the home full time. She made her own clothes and cooked every meal. Her home was spotless and she kept up with the repairs by herself. She took care of the family budget and also took in family members when they had nowhere to go.
Grandmom’s life took a turn for the worse when she suffered a fall as a result of climbing a ladder to hang her new blinds. Ninety-three years old and still hanging blinds! She fell and lay on her living room floor for three days before anyone found her. Suffering a badly broken/fractured leg, she had surgery. The doctor said she did well through surgery and would heal nicely because of the good health she was in before the fall. My grandmother only ever took one medication which was for her blood pressure, which was prescribed for her in her eighties.
Grandmom decided that she didn’t want to go through physical therapy because she would never have the same quality of life and independence that she had always enjoyed. She also didn’t want to “lose” her home if she had to live in a nursing home and receive care. She refused rehabilitation/physical therapy and then slowly began to stop eating. She had made a choice. Did our family agree?
No, our family did not agree. Some family members felt that she should listen to the doctors and do everything she could to restore her health. Others thought that it was her decision, her life, and her choice alone and she should be given the respect to live it her way as she had done all her life. Dependence, independence, quality, burden, struggle and pride were the issues Grandmom faced, and the decisions she faced as well. It was her choice, yet others’ lives would be affected one way or another. Acceptance of an individual’s choices doesn’t necessarily mean agreement with those choices. Acceptance is a form of respect we give our loved one who has decided to “do it my way”. In the end, she did what she thought was best, best for everyone, in her mind and in her heart.
I love you Grandmom and while I had to “let you go”, I will always hold onto the beautiful and cherished memories I have of you.
Fast forward 10 years and her granddaughter now works for an Elder Law firm who knows that she didn’t have to “lose” everything, that her assets could have been preserved. She could have been placed in a skilled nursing facility where she would have gotten the careful attention she needed. Would she still have made the same choice? I don’t know, but I do know this. I miss her deeply and I respect her decision, but…
by Donna Powell, Legal Assistant