Mom in high school as the drum majorette
Touched. Buoyed. Loved. Understood.
There aren’t enough words to describe how your comments on Getting Personal made me feel.
For those of you who’ve had a similar experience of losing a loved one, thank you so much for sharing your story.
For those of you who join me in this ridiculously difficult journey right now, God bless you.
I thank you all for giving me a safe haven to share my words and emotions. So much has happened over the past 6 days. No, my mother has not died. Quite the contrary. She has “rallied”.
I put the word in quotation marks because it’s a term hospice uses for end-of-life patients. They “rally” for a time.
“Shocking” doesn’t begin to describe the associated emotions.
From September 19 when she was discharged from the hospital until last weekend she was on a steady decline. It was clear her time was passing and I tried my best to prepare myself, yet still enjoy any moments of interaction with her. There weren’t many. The “comfort” medications knock her out for the most part but having her in no pain is a huge blessing.
Last weekend, however, was hard. No, “hard” doesn’t begin to cover it. Gut wrenching. Early Saturday morning – we’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. for quite some time now – I tried to give her the morning meds. She clenched her lips and shook her head. “NO!”
But Mom, it’s your medicine. It will make you feel better!
“NO! You’re trying to kill me! My own mother is trying to kill me!”
Have you been through this, where they don’t know you? Dear Lord. I simply cannot imagine what people do who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
It was just too much, seeing that look in my mother’s eyes as if I were trying to inflict harm. I would say it was the “last straw” except with a terminally ill loved one you never know what lies ahead.
I called my dear friend at 6 in the morning, barely able to mumble out the words that I needed her and she was there in a flash – calming me, calming Mom, giving Mom the meds and basically saving the day.
Of course I put in a call to Hospice and the nurse knew exactly what to do, said this was very common, this “terminal anxiety”, and ordered haloperidol. Sure enough, within an hour of her first dose, Mom was clear-minded, knew who I was, and was totally compliant again.
The rest of the weekend was tough though with a myriad of new ailments – itching all over, a nasty bedsore, and then nausea. Many of her medicines are liquid, but not all.
I’ve learned how to crush pills, mix them as well as the bitter liquids into yogurt just to make them fairly palatable. I’ve learned how to roll her onto her side when I’m alone with her so I can tuck a pillow under one cheek to remove pressure from the bedsore. I’ve learned how placing Sadie, our boston terrier, into bed with Mom will calm her down no matter what.
I’ve learned all this and more, things I hope you never have to learn yourself. But if you find yourself taking care of a loved one, the main thing you will learn is that you can do it and you will get through it. Somehow. I pray you have a friend like I do who can be your advocate, helper, sounding board, and shoulder to cry on.
Anyway the weekend was beyond tough. Monday wasn’t much better. I went to teach aerobics Monday morning, with our friend sitting with Mom, and when I came back Mom was still barely conscious. They have a look, an appearance where they really look more dead than alive. It’s a haunting part of the end of Life.
But you get used to that look, just like every other thing that you can’t believe is now part of your daily routine.
And then . . . just when you think you’re getting a handle on all of it . . . she “rallies”.
As in, she’s alert, she’s sitting upright, she has an appetite . . . yogurt, juice, oatmeal, and coffee! Granted, we’re talking 2-3 teaspoons of each but, still, it was so unbelievably remarkable. She was back. My mother was “back” to life.
We talked. We laughed. She made jokes. She ate. She told me to change the channel. She was . . . Mom.
For 2-1/2 days. Two and a half nearly blissful days.
And of course, on her weekly visit the hospice nurse made a point of taking me outside and telling me nicely, but in no uncertain terms, that this “rally” didn’t change anything. It can happen after certain medications take effect and with anyone terminally ill .
Whatever the reason, I took the nurse’s advice to cherish each moment as the gift that it was . . .
before the parade passes by.
My mother has lived quite a life, full of love and loss, conflict and joy. She’s been recounting many stories to me lately of her childhood and early adulthood. I am hoping to get them written down – possibly here on the blog – so her remarkable life is remembered.
I’ve written these so far, if you’re interested –
An article I wrote about Mom for our local paper.
Her 85th birthday and her step aerobics class.
The amazing “coincidence” of how she met my stepdad