Staying Grounded

I don’t mean “You’re Grounded!”, nor do I mean I’ve been “ground-down”. I simply mean standing with my feet flat on the ground, upright and still moving, grounded in my faith and in reality. Last weekend I was able to spend a night away with our daughter and family at their ‘bush retreat’ in country Victoria, a pleasant and welcome time of rest and gentle walks, with no meals to prepare. The business of staying upright and aware does require discipline and more than a night away, though! In everyday life, just convincing myself to get out of bed is not always easy. These days I seem to be tired all the time (perhaps lethargic would be a better description) and it’s often been hard to find motivation for most things so, just maybe, a New Year resolution was needed, and I began to think about it…..

…..But I got a wake-up call last week when Dorothy’s care home phoned to say she was off to hospital in an ambulance after a fall. In her accommodation, the bathroom floor is the only hard surface and, of course, that’s where she fell, luckily with only extensive bruising and a very small head wound. Somewhat still in a daze, I sat by her bedside in casualty for the best part of a day and a night and pondered the way our lives were travelling. Even the tiny head laceration resulted in a prodigious amount of bloodied hair and, as I sat there, I marvelled at our privileged lives: here we were with Dorothy getting the best possible treatment in a modern, properly equipped emergency wing of a local hospital, staffed by efficient trained people and yet in the throes of the coronavirus epidemic. Wow!

After a period of rest and observation in hospital we were soon back at her care home; she to recuperate with an enhanced sleep, and me back home for the same reason! A day later and Dorothy was strongly back on her feet, quite unperturbed, and I was back to my visiting and taking her walking the internal corridors of care and even beyond to a local park to enjoy the freedom of a walk among the trees. Within the care home’s stringent and careful protocols, we were able to escape to enjoy some time together outdoors, watching the ducks on the lake, the children on play equipment and the birds and the trees.

I am amazed that Dorothy seems not to feel pain, she has bounced back with only bruises and a small plaster on her head. Me, I’d be milking it for weeks – maybe I am too soft – but I think I’d be miserable and whingeing, whereas she is full of smiles and relaxed! It is of interest to see the range of infirmity of the dozen or so other residents in Dorothy’s wing of the home where most seem to be less mobile than Dorothy, some even wheelchair bound. But the staff do encourage the group with physical as well as mental stimulation, tasks not easy with such a diversity of age, gender, and ability. The activities are planned, organised and mostly well-staffed, although recent staff reductions are beginning to concern me, especially now as I see the decrease in physical and mental abilities of this cohort demand more and closer attention.

So, staying grounded means a lot for Dorothy, and also for me and other partners like me. It is easy for me to withdraw, to be introspective and inactive, mentally, and physically. I don’t have answers, but I do realise it’s important for me to retain and develop interests outside the care home, but also inside, where at the request of my friend Jim and his wife Joy, I recently held a few short “encouragement classes” for some non-Alzheimer’s folk to play Scrabble, and we all had a happy time together.

There you have it, my New Year resolution: keep upright, stay grounded, but laid back (not laid down!).