My last post of 2009 was about my Mother’s illness, so I thought I’d follow up on that…
Mom died yesterday morning. We have had an incredibly blessed year of her continued life, defying the dire predictions from last October. She made it through her 80th birthday AND Mom & Dad’s 60th !! wedding anniversary!!! She’s been under hospice care since December ’09 & they have been absolutely key for us to handle Mom’s illness & death as smoothly as possible. I’m very glad we didn’t wait to get hospice in. I think they were a huge contribution to Mom’s quality of life.
Up until the end of last week, she had been alert, talkative, feeding herself, reading, watching TV and enjoying her Saturday “Brit coms”, up in her chair every day & interacting with everyone. Not in any pain either. It was clear her functioning has been deteriorating slowly, but she continued to be bright & happy. Over the last couple of months, she had been intermittently choking on liquids. With the help of the hospice nurse, we decided not to thicken them as a quality of life issue.
Unfortunately, we think she had another stroke sometime last Friday. She had gotten much sicker in just 3 days. Hospice ramped up their services instantly. We had someone from hospice here every day & the nurse came by every day that week. Since it was clear she had only a short time to live, they helped us make arrangements for pain relief & cremation services. I believe the excellent in-home care we have been able to provide, both privately & through hospice, made a huge difference. We’ve really been blessed by the extra special year of her company!
As usual in our chaotic family, there were complications even in the few weeks before Mom’s death. Dad had surgery on an inguinal hernia 2 weeks before. Can you imagine – it was his first surgery EVER in 80 years (if you don’t count having his wisdom teeth out earlier this year!!)!!! The surgery went extremely well & he’s recovering faster than I did from my appendectomy. However, he was forced to go from doing WAY too much for Mom to not being able to do much at all. He’s slowly resumed some of his previous “chores” and been able to return to driving – so he can get out of the house. Nik has been awesome at taking over the heavier duties of walking Star, trash, recycling & feeding the beasts. Dad managed to get 2 people to be here when Mom needed the most care & hospice made certain extra people were around as much as possible.
Hospice has been our savior in all this. Dad slowly came to accept that she won’t live much longer & is having a much easier time now as a result. The Chaplain, Aaron, is also a Lutheran minister & from the town in Florida Mom & Dad lived in!!! What an amazing coincidence!! He’s helped us over quite a few difficult spots. The latest was 2 weeks ago – right before Dad’s surgery. Mom started to have tooth pain a couple of days before Labor Day weekend. Convenient time, huh? We tried to get someone dental to come to the house, so they could tell us whether Mom needed to go to an oral surgeon or if there was something that could be done here. Mom had left the house only a couple of times since we brought her home last year. Hospice workers tried to find someone through their services, but had no luck. Finally we spoke directly to our lovely Dentist, who was kind enough to come by the house & look – and tell us she needed to go & get the tooth extracted. AKKKH!!!
Now, Dad had to cancel his surgery once, while they worked up a mild heart conduction problem. He had set up the double coverage for the first surgery date, canceled it, and now had to recreate it in a much shorter time. So, on top of that, Mom had the tooth problem! The freaking out level was through the roof here!!
The day before his surgery, Dad got transport for Mom & we got her to the Doc, where she had no problem at all with the extraction. That changed after we got home. Mom didn’t remember she had a tooth removed, so she didn’t see why she should bite down on the gauze to stop the bleeding. Dad completely freaked out, which escalated to a totally unacceptable level.
This is when an intervention by Aaron really really really helped. Talking to him on the phone probably saved at least one life – was gonna be me or Dad… I was so knotted up that I was sick. We had to get to the surgery center by 9 am next morning. And you know what? We made it there on time and both in one piece. As Dad was checking in, Aaron actually came in to see how he was!!
Since then, I’ve had to step in to do more care-taking & more activity than I really should be, with my physical problems. Hey, someone had to do it! Dad’s much better and making peace with his limitations & Mom’s death. I think the tooth extraction pushed Mom over the edge, but it was going to be something, anyway. The hospice nurse, aides & social worker have all been there for us. It’s been great to know we have support, even for the next year following her death.
Hospice is the best. If your loved one has a terminal illness, please don’t wait until the absolute end to call in Hospice! Medicare pays for it all. They will make sure your family member dies as painlessly & in the most humane way possible. They’re also very very much there for you, as family members – as well as all the support I’ve mentioned, they also have group programs for children, teens, caregivers & bereaved, grieving family for as long as a year after the death. Don’t wait! You won’t be sorry.