This past Tuesday Bernice and I went up to Penang for an early celebration of my mum’s 91st birthday. My sis and family came up from KL for the celebration too. When we reached Penang we were alarmed to discover that my mum had had a bad fall about a week earlier. Her carer either didn’t understand the severity of the fall, or for some reason had chosen not to inform us. Mum had been bedridden since and she would yell in pain if we touched her right leg. We called for an ambulance to bring her to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Penang General Hospital.
As we suspected, she had a hip fracture. The neck of her right femur had fractured. Tough decisions had to be made. Should we get mum to go for an operation? The risks were heightened because of her age. And her dementia meant she would not cooperate with post-op care. If we went for more conservative treatment, it meant she could no longer be at home with a carer. She had to be in a nursing home.
A good friend, a doctor, arranged for mum to be sent to a private hospital and arranged for an orthopaedic surgeon friend to look at mum. Again, tough decisions had to be made. Without an operation, it meant that mum would probably no longer be able to walk again. Before the fall she could still walk slowly and for short distances. And long-term rehab would mean that she would have to receive ongoing professional care in some nursing facility. That meant she could not stay in her own home. After some difficult deliberation, we decided to go for a conservative approach. No operation.
The fact that mum would not be able to stay in her own house broke my heart. Mum has stayed in her present house for more than 40 years and had said she didn’t want to stay anywhere else. In fact she had said that the only time she would move out is when she was carried out in her coffin. (Mum doesn’t fear death. She often wonders why the Lord is taking His time to call her home.) The house represented familiarity and continuity at a time when her life had changed so much. And now it seems that too would be lost to her.
Then there was the challenge of finding a suitable nursing home which provided proper medical and nursing care. Penang is far behind other major cities in having such facilities and the few good ones have a long waiting list. But we had to act quickly because there was no way she could spend extended time in a private hospital. The costs would be exorbitant and the hospital would have needed the bed for more acute cases.
In one of a number of divine provisions, we managed to find a good nursing home with a vacancy. The nurse in charge of the home came by to assess mum and they seemed to hit it off. The main mercy was that we were back in time to attend to mum’s needs. It was scary to imagine if mum had carried on in agony beyond the week that she had already gone through. Then there was God’s provision of the doctor friend who was a good friend of the family, willing to give time and attention to oversee mum’s medical care. I am not sure why the Lord had allowed the fall to happen but He had also shown His mercy in the midst of the crisis.
We will need a lot of grace going forward. Mum was transferred to the nursing home last night. Pray that she will adjust quickly. We will also need wisdom for a number of key decisions before us. Life for mum and for us has changed in this new chapter of our lives. We want to do the best for mum with the resources that we have. We also realise that there are certain things only God can do.
The biblical teaching on caring for parents is crystal clear. We are to honour them, give them importance in our lives, people worthy of our best resources (Exodus 20:12). In fact Paul reminds us that to neglect caring for your own family means we have denied the faith (1 Timothy 5:8). Jesus Himself models for us His care for His mother when He made sure Mary would be provided for even as He lay dying on the cross (John 19:25–27).
With her growing dementia, mum is recognising people less and less. But she still remembers her son and she remembers that she loves her son and she tells me so. So much of who I am today is a result of her love and her investment in my life. Dad, just before he passed on, reminded me to take care of mum. I am aware of how far short I fall in giving mum the care she deserves. Going forward, it will be even tougher. But I will try my best. It’s mum.