Two months ago, my 90-year old grandpa had a stroke. He’s had trouble walking the last few years after breaking his hip and a few other falls, so it wasn’t immediately evident that this fall was connected to a stroke. I was there when paramedics came to take him to the hospital, and I saw their disbelief when they found out he wasn’t taking any medication. A 90-year old who only takes vitamins and the occasional sleeping pill is fairly unusual, it seems.
Now, two months later, he has another pill added to his regimen. He’s now taking an antidepressant twice a day. It isn’t actually clear yet whether it is the right medication or the right dosage, but I’m glad it is happening. He and my grandma have had to move out of the retirement community where they were living independently (mostly- with plenty of calls to my parents) and into assisted living. My grandma’s dementia seems to have gotten much worse, which is exhausting for my grandpa. Walking is even more difficult for him, and the stroke impacted his vision enough that he can’t read or tell the time on his watch anymore.
I’ve heard said about people in similar situations before, “but they should be grateful that they’ve lived such a full and long and wonderful life!” And yes, my grandpa, a retired UCC minister who had dogs almost his whole life; who is a bibliophile and loved the woods; who has 3 children, 6 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild; who has been married to my grandma for almost 70 years… Yes, he has lived a full and beautiful life.
And still, for however many days or years he has left, I hope his medical team can help find an antidepressant that works well for him. Because there are many things in his life right now that understandably may be contributing to situational depression, and he deserves to try to alleviate the symptoms.
Today I’m praying for my grandpa and for other elders who are struggling with their mental health right now. I’m also praying for medical staff trying to help people find effective medications, that they may have patience and persistence.
Hannah Campbell Gustafson
Hannah Campbell Gustafson and her family recently made a leap of faith and moved to Minneapolis, MN from rural Wisconsin. She is the outreach coordinator at Plymouth Congregational Church. Hannah is treasurer for the Mental Health Network, is trained as a social worker, has an MDiv, and is a Member in Discernment with the Southwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC. She and her partner (an ELCA Lutheran pastor) share their lives with their young child Leona and their standard poodle puppy Óscar.