Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I started to write this post about 2 days before she died, but I never got to it. Mom died peacefully in her sleep on February 2, 2013 at 10:30pm. My sister, Tammy and I were with her along with 2 of my sister's boys. Life is funny. You never know in this world, but even knowing that you still can't grasp the concept that anything can happen until it really does. In early September, I received a call from my sister, Kristina in Alaska saying she couldn't get a hold of Mother. I then also tried calling her, unsucessfully. I decided I'd better go and check on her, so my husband and I drove the 12 miles to her house. I will admit, I was nervous about what I would find. We rang the door bell several times and finally the front porch light flickered, and there she was behind her door, looking a bit disoriented. We entered her un-airconditioned, sweltering 94 degree house. Although things were pretty much in place- no basic cleaning had been done. I went to the kitchen and started washing some dishes and straightened up a bit and got her a snack. She said she had not been eating and promptly got sick. My husband whispered to me "Honey, she needs to get some help". I was beside myself- we got her settled (it was about 9:00 pm) and we drove home, not knowing what to do. I called my sisters and apprised them of the situation. The next day, I again was not able to get a hold of her on the phone and called Tammy- who said she would check on her on her way home (she was flying in from her 2nd cancer surgery pre-op on top of all this). She called me when she left Mother's and said, "she is really bad", which of course I had determined also. We decided to take her to the Emergency Room. We went to pick her up and take her to the hospital the next day and she readily agreed she needed to go. Of course, we were in the Emergency Room for several hours and wondered whether or not she would be admitted- we felt she needed to be, but we weren't getting that opinion from the doctor. Finally, her potassium level was death threateningly low and they admitted her. This begins our, uh, what adjective can I use here, ummm- horrific- is about the only word that describes my mom's end of life journey. Of course, Our Lord and Saviour also had a horrific end of life story, which of course makes our suffering so much more bearable, knowing we have the hope of heaven as well. Her six days of hospital stay were followed by being placed in a Rehab/Nursing Home. My sister and her husband made plans to have her live with them afterwards, but we soon realized this was not going to be in the plans. She was diagnosed with dementia, which we realize she must have had for quite sometime. Sure there were little signs that we dismissed as forgetfulness,independence and perhaps loner tendencies, but talking to her on the phone- she really had us fooled. Slowly but surely, her health deteriorated in the nursing home and we came to realize she would never leave there. We did the best we could taking care of her house and keeping up with her bills and getting her insurance in order. My sister and I took turns visiting her and at one point she was so bad that I went every day. She stopped eating, which the Hospice nurse said was a conscious decision on her part to just "go". We took her to many doctors to try and figure what else was wrong with her- she suddenly couldn't walk, she got sick easily- it was basically a nightmare. I wish I could say the "professionals" we dealt with were helpful, but we had bad experience after bad experience. If I expanded on this subject, no one would believe what we have been through. There were a few of her caretakers that I do believe really did care, but other than that, to us it was a big money game, but at the same time, we did not have the ability to give her 24 hour care on our own. In the end, Mother had a peaceful death- she was kept comfortable- we had heard that death by dementia was very hard, that her starving herself was probably "better". (Mom had a Living Will, but at one point I overrode that by agreeing to a feeding tube for extra nutrition, but she declined it at the Doctor's office, and the Hospice Nurse said she would have ripped it out anyway). I learned many things along the way- that Mom loved us in her own way, that family is of upmost importance, that not all doctors are in it to care, that we are pretty strong and that I would not have wanted to go through any of this without faith (and the company of my sister.) Please- get your end of life details worked out as best as you can and call your mom/kids several times a week!!! Rest in Peace, Mom!!