From the Teachable Moment May 1999:
" As we all know, homeschooling carries over into all parts of our lives. It is not a separate thing we do for a certain number of hours a day. We're always noting learning moments and experiences as we go throughout the day. I've just realized that after 7 years of homeschooling, I've developed what definitely has to be a homeschooling attitude. Now attitude is usually taken as a negative word lately, but I use it in a positive sense.
In October 1998, my grandmother developed pregangrenous ischemia on a toe from poor circulation. I traveled the three and half hours to her home to bring her to Tallahassee for a second opinion. We were in hope of saving her foot. Three weeks later, she was at the hospital undergoing an amputation up to her midcalf. I mentally began preparing for what we needed to do to get through this ordeal. There was an option of putting her in a rehab facility for 2-3 weeks after her 5 day stay at the hospital.
Nurses expressed surprise when I told them we were taking her straight home and would handle the physical therapy on an outpatient basis. They didn't believe we could pull this off, even if I was an experienced nurse. I knew instinctively that my grandmother had to get into a different frame of mind if she was going to have any hope of resuming her independent lifestyle.
I did become a little nervouse when the physical therapist at the hospital was trying to suggest ideas for my grandmother and each one wasn't workable. What do you do with someone whose main interests and hobbies are now out of the question due to rheumatoid arthritis? I knew grandma could not sit like a slug every day.
My cousin bought her a cassette player. We made the suggestion she might like to listen to books on tape from the library. She later told me she had no interest in that. My uncle came from Oklahoma and had religious tapes from their church. Bingo! She would now listen to one tape in the morning and one at night when she was going to sleep. We made a request for people of her religion to visit her. I arranged my schedule to take her to her services.
Our homeschooling life continued. My kids would read and discuss the articles in the newspaper every day. Soon we had her reading the newspaper too. Then I got her interested in a series of books that we have all read. She had finished 4 volumes before she returned home.
I researched amputations at the library and found a book on 38 survivors; people who survived arm and leg amputations and still found life enjoyable. She read that book twice and gained much knowledge. We discovered there was a magazine for people with amputations. Knowledge was changing her life and making her a stronger person. (2012 note: my grandmother was one of the strongest people I've ever known in my life, but the situation just about beat her.)
The kids soon had her playing Hail to the Chief (a history game about US presidents) and Dominoes. They were amazed at her abilities in both games. She always could beat the pants off anyone in Dominoes!
She gave my husband cooking lessons in foods we love to eat at her house. I think she long ago realized I was a lost cause in this department. She enjoyed our cockatiel so much. He would fly and land on her and she would just laugh. We began studying the bird magazines lying around in her doctor's office. She admitted to a fascination with hummingbirds. I never did get around to bringing books home from the library on hummingsbirds.
Grandma became more alert and joyful than I've seen her in years, in spite of her depressing circumstances. The first week after her amputation, I was pushing her to do her PT exercises at home and she looked at me and exclaimed, "I am a 83 year old woman and you all are expecting too much out of me!" By the time she went home in mid January, she was so much stronger.
I just spoke to her on the telephone two days ago. Her 89 year old sister is in bad shape with her arthritis and is wanting to give up on life. Her son had told my grandmother they all knew what was wrong with her. My grandmother expected him to say the arthritis, instead he said, "She's an 89 year old woman". My grandmother related this to me indignantly. She said she told him that didn't make any difference with what she went through.
I had called my greataunt right before she fell so ill. She was depressed and said she could tell this was the end. This is a woman who has always had zest for life and participated in a million things at once. But again, the arthritis is stealing interests and hobbies away from another person. I tried to convey to her son that she needed to become interested in other areas that would stimulate her mentally. He really didn't want to hear about it. (My greataunt died in 2000).
I am determined to find a book on hummingbirds to take to my grandmother on my next visit. I want to encourage her to keep learning. I believe one answer to old age depression and doldrums is getting back into the learning mode. It worked for my grandmother!"
( 2012 note: I did buy her a wonderful book on hummingbirds which is now in my home. My grandmoher was able to live independently in her home for three more years before she passed away from ischemic bowel disease.)