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Caring for Your Parents

Chapter 2: Lorraine and Charlotte [4:37]

"Look how far you've come!"

A stroke has robbed Charlotte of her mobility, but Lorraine believes her mother can get back home if they work together.

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Transcript 

Chapter 2: Lorraine & Charlotte "Look how far you've come!"

NARRATOR:  

LORRAINE KAUL LIVES ABOUT AN HOUR OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE...IN RURAL RHODE ISLAND ... 

LORRAINE AND HER HUSBAND BILL RAISED A DAUGHTER HERE AND LORRAINE'S MOM CHARLOTTE MOVED IN ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO...THESE FISH WERE HER IDEA... 

BUT A FEW MONTHS AGO LORRAINE'S MOM HAD A CEREBRAL HEMORRHAGE...AND THE PACE OF LORRAINE'S LIFE PICKED UP CONSIDERABLY... 

LORRAINE: 

I work out of my home as a consultant so I schedule myself to get up at 3:00 in the morning, work until 7:00--do all of my chores, make all the early phone calls to put on people's message machines so I can respond to them. Do the e-mails and fly out the door. 

NARRATOR:  

EVERY MORNING LORRAINE TEARS DOWN THIS COUNTRY ROAD TO HER MOTHER'S NURSING HOME. 

LORRAINE:  

I normally come down driving--dodging chipmunks and squirrels trying to get to my mom. And the reason it's so urgent is because I have to get there, in my mind, right at the time that she has free time. Because in her situation they put her back in bed. And sometimes they line them up looking at walls. And that's just not her.  

NARRATOR:  

CHARLOTTE IS 97 YEARS OLD... 

LORRAINE:

You're ready to go out and get some air and we'll get your hat and we'll be ready to go... 

NARRATOR:  

AS A SINGLE MOM IN THE APPALACHIAN HILLS, CHARLOTTE HAD A TOUGH TIME, RAISING TWO LITTLE GIRLS AND A LIVELY BOY... 

LORRAINE:

She never got out of elementary school. And she raised--all of us got Masters degrees. And we were born in a two room shanty, an outside toilet. We had no water, no TV, nothing. And every one of us, I mean, I got two Masters degree.

I started looking through pictures of her posing and being funny, and

I mean I lost it. I, you know, must have cried for days.  

NARRATOR:

WHEN CHARLOTTE WAS ADMITTED SHE HAD A CRIPPLING CEREBRAL HEMORRHAGE... 

LORRAINE:

She was just totally non-responsive when she first came to the nursing home. She was practically unconscious. She'd be able to speak in kind of grunts and words. 

But then there were times when she  

would fade out and not even know me.  And that was devastating because, you know, I was afraid that if she didn't know me, then I couldn't -- I couldn't support her through because she wouldn't be able to tell me from any other caretaker.  

She could not feed herself.  She couldn't find her face.  She couldn't grasp a spoon at first.

Clean that table. 

I was making other arrangements, I did not think she was going to live.  

NARRATOR:

IT'S TAKEN MONTHS OF INTENSIVE WORK TO PUT CHARLOTTE ON THE MEND... 

LORRAINE:

When I see that kind of willpower still there and -- because I've had history with her, I know what that looks like.  Everybody else would look at her as, you know, a sick old lady ready to die.

Oh great.  That was a good stretch.  

You came in here April 15th.  It's been only three months and there were parts where you didn't even know who I was and now look at you.  Look how far you've come.  It's a good thing, huh?

CHARLOTTE:  

I guess. 

LORRAINE:  

Keep on truckin'?  And what are we working toward?  What are we working toward?

CHARLOTTE:  

To get home! 

LORRAINE:  

Yeah.

Your job is to kick hand if you can.  Kick.  You work, girl.  And what do you need to do to be able to...

CHARLOTTE:  

Move my leg... 

LORRAINE:  

Right. If I can get you to be able to get from the pot to the wheelchair, I could have you home, since I can't lift you and I don't have those skills. 

Good.  Up.  Here we go.