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Caring for Your Parents

Chapter 7: Lorraine and Charlotte [6:01]

"She's depending on me."

Lorraine and her sister challenge the nursing staff's approach to caring for their mother.

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Transcript 

Chapter 7: Lorraine & Charlotte "She's depending on me."  

NARRATOR:

LORRAINE'S MOM, CHARLOTTE, USED TO LIVE WITH HER IN RHODE ISLAND...BEFORE HER CEREBRAL HEMORRHAGE SHE'D ALSO SPEND WINTERS WITH HER SON IN FLORIDA...THEN IT WAS OFF TO GERMANY TO VISIT HER ELDEST...MIRIAM  

LONG AGO, MIRIAM MOVED AS FAR AWAY FROM APPALACHIA AS SHE COULD--SHE LIVES IN BERLIN WHERE SHE MAKES HER LIVING AS A MUSICIAN...BUT NOW, SHE'S COME TO LEND A HAND... 

MIRIAM:  

I've been here since the middle of April. It is getting close to five months, or perhaps it is five months and that is certainly much longer of a time commitment than what I had planned. 

It's beginning to become a problem financially.  

NARRATOR:

MIRIAM IS AS ADAMANT AS HER SISTER THAT THEY MUST DO EVERYTHING THEY CAN GET THEIR MOTHER HOME... 

MIRIAM:  

That's it.  That's it.  That's good for your arms.

Everybody, if you asked them, would prefer to die on their own terms. No one wants to end up in a bed with strangers, having to be toileted, being brought food, that you don't have a choice on what your diet is really.  

Now some shoulders.  Wiggle those shoulders, that's it, that's going to get the stiffness out.  That's right. Hard, hard, hard, hard.

Now over to the side. 

DR. WACHTEL:

Okay I'm going to put you to the task Charlotte.  What is it?

CHARLOTTE:  

It's a circle. 

DR. WACHTEL:

Take the pen, put the numbers in a circle so it's a clock. 

There you go. 

NARRATOR:

TODAY, AN IMPORTANT TEST IN THE EFFORT TO BRING CHARLOTTE HOME...THE SISTERS WANT TO KNOW IF HER BRAIN IS PREVENTING HER FROM WALKING...IF IT IS...ALL THE EXERCISE IN THE WORLD WON'T HELP...

DR. WACHTEL:

Very good.  Can you sign your name under here?

That's good. 

CHARLOTTE:  

I can't see. 

DR. WACHTEL:

I'm very impressed. All the numbers on the right place.  Um, I don't think that the brain at this point is the major impediment to her walking.

LORRAINE:  

Good, that makes it easy. 

DR. WACHTEL:

I think the legs are the main culprit.  What are the prospects for her walking independently?  I have no idea.  So, in the worst case scenario, that would mean she would have to stay here?  

LORRAINE:  

Yes.  And come home...

DR. WACHTEL:

And come home when you take her... 

LORRAINE:  

When we take her home... 

DR. WACHTEL:

Is that acceptable as a life? 

LORRAINE:  

If that's what it is, then that's what it is, but I don't want to accept that that's what it is unless I've pursued every other avenue or opportunity that we can and we need to discuss that. 

MIRIAM:  

Well also the thing is to respect her wishes and try to go along with that as much as possible. And what she always says, "I want to go home." 

DR. WACHTEL:

Um huh, Charlotte, are you happy here? 

CHARLOTTE:

Well, yes.  

DR. WACHTEL:

It's okay? 

NARRATOR:

LORRAINE AND MIRIAM WANT THEIR MOM TO COME HOME...BUT IT'S BECOMING INCREASINGLY CLEAR THEY MAY HAVE TO MAKE THEIR PEACE WITH THE IDEA THAT SHE WON'T. THAT CHARLOTTE WILL BE IN THE HANDS OF OTHERS. 

LORRAINE:  

I'll just put this outside the door. 

The hardest part, the most stressful part of this particular situation is she's depending on me to have the influence and control in her life and I don't...I am depending on people who have skills beyond me and thoughts beyond me. And they don't always agree with me.  And they have the control. And that's the killer.

NURSE:  

Here we go. 

NARRATOR:

THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE SISTERS AND THE NURSES HAS BEEN HARD.  

NURSE KAREN:

Well, you know it hasn't always been wine and roses, if that's what you mean. 

We can't do anything with out a doctor's order. 

I think Lorraine, she wanted everything fixed, like, yesterday. But some things don't always go that way. It takes time. So that was the frustrating part, I think.  

LORRAINE:  

They started putting you in the bed earlier than usual. They were a little frustrated with us because we kept asking so many questions...went to the bed to get off your butt, that you have to do at one time and then all of a sudden they started getting frustrated with us--- they started putting you to bed earlier. So I started getting up earlier to trick them and I wanted to come in early so I was rushing down here, to come down, so I could make sure I got you out in the air, because once they put you back in the bed, I couldn't take you out for air. So I was so frantic about getting here so I could get you out to get that air, I put my underwear on upside down. (Laughter) 

You can use your other hand to help you but you've gotta touch my hand. 

Good. 

CHARLOTTE:

Three. 

LORRAINE:  

No.  Not til you touch it. You're cheating. (Laughter)

You did it.  That's it.