August 17, 2018 If you read my last blog you know my recent trip to Maryland was not fun and games. Mom had two strokes my first full day there and was hospitalized. After a few days in the hospital they moved her to rehab hoping she would get stronger. Rehab was in the same place where they lived independently in an apartment. However, when they moved in there a little over a year ago, the stipulation was they could live there as a couple, not individually, realizing they needed each other to function semi normally. Dad was a trooper when she was in rehab, he kept reminding her she needed to get strong so she could go home. She fought us tooth and nail. She was bound and determined to go home to her apartment. She would say to Dad, why do you let them do this to me? You used to take care of me, speak up. In his state of confusion and hurt he could not even answer her.
One afternoon I was talking to her on the phone while she was in rehab and she said to me, “you won’t believe what your Grandfather did.” (I assumed she meant my Father) My Grandfather has been dead for 40+ years. She said she had asked the nurse for coffee and they never brought it so her dad (my Grandfather) went out in the hall and told the nurse, “my daughter needs some coffee.” And they finally brought her some. She also had been talking to my sister about being with Uncle George and what they were doing. Uncle George died soon after I was born. She never talked about them before like they were here, in the present. Very strange.
I left on a Friday to go back to Roatan. Mom spent almost 2 weeks in the rehab center, they had to move her from a double room to a single room because she was causing so much trouble. Missy said while there Mom called 911 three times one evening and said she was being held against her will. They took the phone away temporarily. She would not stay in her room. She would find plastic bags and take all of her neatly organized folded clothes out of the drawers and stuff them in the bags and go wait at the nurses station for someone to pick her up. It was really sad. She spent so much time at the nurses station we could never reach her on the phone in her room. Missy tried so many times one day she ended up calling the nurses station to have them check on Mom and MOM ANSWERED THE PHONE AT THE NURSES STATION. Oh yes she did. This woman did not give up. Missy went there once and Mom was in her room while Dad was having breakfast with some man he did not know. Mom was doing the rehab therapy but she hated it, she said it hurt and maybe it did. It was OK with her being there because as long as Dad could find his way over (his apartment was adjacent and connected to rehab) he would spend the day with her. She was sleeping much of the day at this point.
A week after I left, Missy went to the center on a Sunday morning and found Mom slumped in a chair at the nurses station. Nobody seemed to be paying attention to her at all. Missy tried to talk to her and she acted like she had another stroke. She was slurring her words and didn’t open her eyes. The right side of her body seemed affected. Missy called a nurse and they called 911. The paramedics came and took her in the ambulance. The one paramedic said probable/possible stroke victim. Once at the hospital they put her on the observation floor again. They did a brain MRI the same day and an EEG the next day. They showed nothing. They also checked her for a UTI, no infection there. They then decided she had pneumonia and started treating her for that. This whole time she was pretty much non responsive. Every now and then she would have a moment of lucidity but it didn’t last long before she slipped back into her non responsive state. Missy and Dad spent the next couple of days with her. Missy went over one evening and Mom woke but didn’t know who she was. Then she asked where Missy was. Missy was putting Vaseline on her lips because they were so dry, she was only breathing through her mouth and Missy said she had a very odd snoring sound. Dad called me one evening, very stressed but very matter of fact saying your mother isn’t good. She’s not doing well. I kept trying to remain positive saying once the antibiotics kick in she will snap out of it. However, I didn’t believe she had pneumonia. She was having no difficulty breathing so why were they saying that? This continued for 3 days, strong antibiotics, no response. She was not eating or drinking.
I always mute my phone at night and Thursday morning I picked it up while I was still in bed and saw that my sister had called 3 times. I knew this was not a good sign. I called her back right away and she said the hospital had called and that Mom’s body was shutting down. She was on her way to get Dad and going to the hospital. Mark (Missy’s husband) and her son Eric also made it to the hospital. Dad was holding Mom’s hand when she passed. She was not in pain, she was not suffering, she just slipped away within 15 minutes of Missy and Dad arriving at the hospital. I think she waited.
Missy called me right after she passed, she was crying and so was I. I know, she was 92, she had a cancerous tumor in her stomach, she had terrible asthma problems and just recently her mind began to slip but we weren’t quite ready to say good-bye. We were waiting for her to get over the pneumonia and start being bossy and angry again.
I know that my parents were/are old, most of my friends no longer have theirs, we were lucky. I knew they would not live forever but I didn’t expect Mom to go like this. I started digging around on-line, still upset at the pneumonia diagnosis and the fact that the meds did nothing. I found an excellent article about dying: www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/09/what-it-feels-like-to-die/499319/ and sent it to Missy.
After Miss read it she said: Wow, this is exactly all the things Mom was doing. Especially the lifting of the arm- the left arm for her. I thought maybe she was thinking of therapy…And seeing Uncle George and talking more about Pop Pop, that fit right in… and closing her eyes… and the half awake state… and the senses going in a certain order. It seems so clear that the dying process started a while back, no wonder the antibiotics couldn’t take hold. She was already going… and we didn’t even realize it. In fact, she started the ‘confusion’ on that Tuesday morning before she even left the hospital.
Yes, she did start the confusion the day they moved her to rehab. We thought it was all the changes but it was something much deeper, something out of our control. Our Mother was dying and nobody at the hospital even remotely suggested that. They said, she may be dehydrated or wait until the antibiotics kick in, when it was already too late to fix anything.
It seemed like a bad dream and someone was going to say she is OK. She was not.
We did not have a service for Mom, she and Dad both decided to donate their bodies to the anatomy board of Maryland, which is an awesome thing to do.
My heart ached for my Dad, they have been together 73 years and would have celebrated their 70th anniversary the 31st of July, a day before her 93rd birthday. I immediately booked another ticket back to Maryland. This time our oldest son Chance was meeting me there.
My sister and her husband are saints, seriously they are. They have done so much for my parents over the last 10-12 years. Not just pretending to be there but really honestly being there. There is a huge difference. They could not have had any better care. The depth of their giving is overwhelming. I’m so appreciative and feel like crap because I live here and they are there.
I arrived back in Baltimore at midnight and Missy and Chance picked me up at the airport. It was late when we got home so everyone went to bed. The next day Chance and I went over to see Dad, it was right before lunch. We went down to the dining hall with him, he seemed lost. He ordered food from the menu that was something I never ever saw him eat. Mark met us there and we all ended up going to Missy and Mark’s house. Sophie and Eric came to spend some time with us. Missy made a big meal with corn on the cob (so yummy). After dinner we sat at the table and talked and Dad and Chance had some ice cream. We were cleaning up the table and I was walking to the kitchen with Dad behind me. He had an empty can of coke in his hands. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him crumble to the ground. I reached for him but he was already down. He tried to get back up but we kept him down, he was leaning on my legs. Eric called 911 as Dad was unresponsive, eyes glazed over and he was drooling. When he came to, he yawned 9 times in a row which can indicate a number of things health wise (other than being tired). The paramedics arrived and at that point Dad was nauseated but he did not get sick. They put him on a stretcher and took him to the hospital. After a test they said that he probably had a seizure and they wanted to observe him overnight AND, he had fractured his humerus. They put him in a sling and said it would heal on it’s own. We all trekked up to the hospital room and Missy and I started tearing up because it was a few doors away from where Mom had been. They kept Dad overnight, the Doc on duty said he has the heart of a 70 year old man, he could not believe he is 97. Of course Dad told him he was 92.
The next day they discharged him but instead of going back to his apartment alone we took him to Missy’s. They had Dad on seizure medicine and it made him a zombie. All he did was sleep, we would wake him at 9:30 in the morning, he NEVER slept that late. He would get up, eat breakfast and fall asleep. Missy put in a call to the Doctor but it took him 3 days to return her call. By that time we had weaned him off the seizure meds and he was becoming more like himself. When Miss finally talked to the Doc he said what we chose to do was fine, especially if it was helping him with his mental state. I honestly believe many elderly people are over medicated, keep them asleep and they won’t need much. Such would have been the case with Dad had he been in a nursing home. It’s very sad the way the elders are treated, especially those with no voice for themselves and nobody to step in and be their voice. Again, thanks to my sister and brother-in-law.
Slowly Dad started to come out of the “fog” he was in due to the meds he was taking. He stayed awake most of the day. I could tell he was bored and he had no interest in TV at all, not even CNN, his favorite to watch for hours on end.
Monday evening after dinner, Missy drove me to a hotel where I spent the night for my 6 AM flight. My flight home was uneventful, the dogs were happy to see me again.
The day I arrived home they were taking Dad back to his apartment. Missy and Mark had scheduled help to come 3 times a day, in the morning to make sure he takes his medicine, showers and puts on clean clothes (that are laid out at night by the night help) and that he goes to breakfast. We were having someone go at 3:30 to ensure he was awake and going to go to dinner and another visit at 7:30 to lay out his clothes for the next day, make sure everything is ok and he’s good for the night.
Unfortunately Mr Stubborn is not really nice to these people and doesn’t let them in to his apartment, especially the evening person. This may be due to Sundowning Missy and Mark and Dad met with the director of the center where he lives. They offered him a studio or a small one bedroom in Assisted Living. He is still in Independent Living, he’s 97. He said he wasn’t interested in either of them. What we were not aware of was that they would allow him to remain in his apartment as long as he had people coming in to check on him, so that is where it stands right now.
I spoke with him this morning and he was in a great mood. I try to have a normal conversation with him, we used to talk on the phone for an hour only a few years ago. No more. I still enjoy talking to him. Today he said he was lonely and I told him I knew he was and I was sorry. He then rapidly changed the subject to something going on outside in the courtyard.
While I was still with my sister we boxed up all of Mom’s clothes and her costume jewelry and coats out of the bedroom while Chance entertained Dad at lunch. Miss and I went through the clothes at her house one evening and boxed almost everything, we each kept a few pieces of clothes. I brought all of her costume jewelry with me and Miss and I decided I would hand it out to the women in an impoverished area, add some bling to their lives.
I just came back from a week in La Moskitia, mainland Honduras. We went to a very remote village called Laka and passed out food. We decided these were the ladies who would get the jewelry. Nidia and I took necklaces, earrings and pins and decorated the ladies outfits. They loved them. The whole time I was doing it I thought to myself, Mom, are you seeing this?
It was fun to pass this jewelry out to ladies who for the most part had no shoes. Will they ever wear it somewhere fancy? No, never. But maybe each time they put it on they themselves feel a little fancier.
Attached are a few pics of Mom and Dad, all taken awhile ago.
I wish I could talk to Mom, just one more time, I still have things to tell her.