Date Night for Seniors…with an Unexpected Twist

January in Wisconsin was unusually cold, courtesy of the Polar Vortex. One Friday, when temps had dipped well below zero, my hubby and I were contemplating whether or not we’d cancel our weekly date night. Since we had a caregiver for mom lined up (who was willing to brave the horrible weather), we decided to go ahead with it, but not travel too far from home. Our evening out would include dinner out at a nearby restaurant that we enjoy, then we would do a little grocery shopping (yes, we’re old enough that we sometimes grocery shop on our date nights).

Me and my guy – photo courtesy of our dear friend Don Yantis

After all that senior excitement, we decided to go home and relax while watching a few episodes of one of our favorite whodunit detective shows. Momma hadn’t been feeling well and was not in the best of spirits all day. Expecting to find her in bed and not feeling very social, I smiled when we walked in the door and saw her seated at the kitchen table working a puzzle with her amazing caregiver. Wayne went upstairs to queue up our show so we could hunker down for the evening watching another episode of Psych.

Momma really enjoys her weekly time with Kathryn, always lighting up when she sees her. Kathryn has a special way about her and easily keeps mom engaged with puzzles, coloring, or looking through picture books together. Honestly, I think Kathryn is better at keeping Momma happily engaged than I am.

On this particular night, Momma was engaged, but seemed just a bit frustrated with placing the puzzle pieces. After putting the last grocery item away, I walked past the kitchen table to head upstairs for movie time and noticed mom was starting to slump forward in her chair (Kathryn had noticed too). The color in Momma’s face drained, her hands and arms were tremoring, eyes were fixed, pupils dilated, and she was making sounds, but I could not detect any words. I recognized it as an episode of vasovagal syncope (VVS) much like the one mom had experienced about a month ago.

Briefly, VVS is a fainting episode which happens when the blood pressure takes a nose-dive, usually during periods of agitation, stress or anxiety. Momma had not had a good day and was physically worn out by stomach pain from persnickety bowels and back and forth trips to the bathroom. Shortly before this episode, she had mentioned not feeling well and that she had to go to the bathroom again. Next thing we knew, she was slumped in a classic VVS faint. Episodes of this nature are generally not serious and last a minute or less. I knelt next to her, supporting her with a little sideways hug so she wouldn’t slump to the floor. Unless you see it coming early and can get the individual lying down and feet elevated above the heart, there’s really not a whole lot you can do to circumvent an episode of VVS once it has begun. I decided to pray out loud for mom and had no sooner said ‘Amen’ when she began to stir in recovery.

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, but I remember being thankful that Kathryn was there. In addition to the symptoms I already mentioned, Momma loses control of her bladder and bowel during these episodes. Kathryn was so very helpful in getting Momma cleaned up and ready for bed. Once mom was comfy in her bed, Kathryn sat with mom in her bedroom and shooed me off to join Wayne for what was left of our movie night.

I sensed that life as we knew it was taking yet another detour, the path ahead uncertain, and most likely containing many twists and turns. How grateful I am to have the calm assurance that Someone is traveling with us, leading each and every step of the way.