The next day I met with her team; her nurses, therapists and social worker. They asked me what my expectations were. I told them I required three things from Clara; that she can get out of bed in the morning on her own, get out of her chair without assistance and to the bathroom unassisted. I then heard their report, Clara had significant loss of motor function on her right side from the stroke, but they were surprised that her left side was also affected. I kept my mouth shut because most of what was described to me was Clara’s condition before the stroke. The team felt confident they could help her gain her strength and I knew the stronger Clara was when she returned home, the less wear and tear on my body. After our meeting, I went to Clara’s room and her first question was, “When can I go home?” I told Clara she would need some more treatment, and reminded her that she needed to be able to get out of her lazy girl chair at home by herself. This floor kept Clara busy with differing types of therapies, and she was missing most of her stories in the afternoon, she was not happy. I reminded her that the more effort she put into physical therapy the quicker she could come home. I would only visit Clara for about an hour each day, I felt this was my time to get what I needed to get done before Clara’s return home. Her daughter would come after work and stay until after visiting hours each evening, so I felt like my visit during the day was enough. Once her other daughter returned from Italy and learned of her mother’s health crisis, she rushed to the hospital. Then she was back to work and limited in her time to visit. One day when I arrived for my daily visit, I walked by the nurse’s station to go to Clara’s room and noticed a large group of patients were sitting around a table. I continued down to Clara’s room and it was empty. I went back to the nurse’s station to find out if Clara was in therapy, and the nurse pointed to the table of patients. I didn’t even see Clara when I had walked by before. The floor was hosting an ice cream social and Clara was in the midst of the patients chatting and laughing, it was nice to see. Clara seemed delighted that I was there. I noticed Clara’s hair had been done and when I complimented her on it she told me a hairdresser actually came to the hospital and washed and set her hair. She was so tickled about that and asked if I had money to pay the girl, when I said yes she said, “Be sure to leave her a good tip.” I thought back to the morning of our beach trip, looking into Clara’s vacant eyes hearing her grunting, to now, a little over a week later, with a sparkle in her eye and communicating perfectly. The lady next to Clara asked, “Are you her daughter?” I answered, “No, I’m her daughter-in-law Michele, it is nice to meet you.” Clara piped in, “But she is as good as any daughter you could ever hope for.” She actually teared up when she said it, Clara didn’t express much sentiment and her remarks deeply touched my heart. I thanked her and told her how delighted I was to see her doing so well. The ice cream arrived, so I told Clara I would come back later so as not to interrupt their ice cream social. On the way home I had tears in my eyes as I thought about Clara’s kind words.
I was Clara’s full time caregiver for 8 years. I mentioned earlier in this blog that I am posting exerpts from my book, Life with Clara – One Caregiver’s Journey. My goal has always been that my experience and honesty could help others in this life changing role. My entire account is available at www.createspace.com/3469034