A Day of Peaks and Valleys…and Lots of Love
Disclaimer: I have had two hours of sleep, so though I am burning to write, I’m praying that I can write in complete and coherent sentences. This spans yesterday and this morning (Wednesday, Thursday). Here we go…
This has been a day of peaks and valleys. My day began at 3:30am when I woke up obsessing about what I needed to get done for Mom. I so desperately need sleep, but am so tired that I can’t seem to do so. Does that make sense?
I am attempting to maintain some semblance of normalcy, as Mom’s fall happened the week when I had three big appointments- back, dentist, and physical therapy for my shoulder- all made to avoid conflicts with my crazy Fall/Spring teaching schedule. Afterwards, I went to Mom’s apartment at Princeton Towers to clean up and collect a few things to help Mom be more comfortable at the hospital.
When I walked into Princeton Towers, I ran into some of Mom’s friends. They asked about her, and I immediately teared up. They told me they missed Mom and hoped she’d be back soon. One sweet lady shared a paper towel with me to wipe my tears. I had no idea how much returning there would affect me.
The whole morning was tough, as I feel like a walking zombie…I tried to keep up my same routines- I’m the naturally early riser, so I fix the coffee pot for Dan and pour his juice before I feed the dogs. I somehow managed to pour the water in the coffee machine, but didn’t do the crucial part of opening up the basket for the coffee grinder and turning on the machine. Dan came downstairs and I burst I to tears- So not me. I cried at the sweet receptionist at the dentist’s office, and at the oral hygienist. I couldn’t seem to stop crying all morning. My heart is so soft, especially when it comes to my mother.
Walking into Mom’s quiet apartment was difficult. I was hit by the enormity of the situation yet again. This was the apartment she loved, but in all probability would never return to. Though I realize that it this is just life, I felt so sad for her. I saw and felt her everywhere, and the tears flowed freely. I made her bed, vacuumed up the mess from her fall, gave perishables to her friends as she asked, washed the dishes…tried to get the apartment back to its normally clean and tidy state.
I was I so thankful to run into Tyrone (aka, The Laughing Man) and The Rev, my two very favorite seniors. The sent their love to Mom, encouraging me to do whatever my heart told me was best for her. I so want for her to stay at Princeton Towers, but I understand the Improbability of it all. Every doctor and therapist that I have spoken to insists that Mom can no longer live on her own.
When I walked into Mom’s hospital room, she was in the middle of physical therapy. She was struggling, but had managed to stand up and do some basic moves, assisted by the therapist. Painful to watch, but this was a big deal for her. While it tired her out, it also gave me hope that she might get back to some sort of mobility in rehab. The nurse told me that one of the biggest issues with seniors after a bad fall is that they are so afraid of falling again that they won’t try to walk and become bed-bound. We just can’t let that happen.
Mom was happy about the chocolate milkshake I snuck in, but decided to save much of it for later. Her appetite- usually great- has not been good. She perked up for the milkshake and started being silly (no morphine, this time- just regular Heavy D shenanigans). I also brought her mail, including a sweet package and card from Syl Strawbridge (snowmen!). Syl has been so kind to call and talk with Mom faithfully. Mom loves her Sylvia (she can’t seem to say just Syl).
Mom’s milkshake fun…
Soon afterward, though, the pain was back, along with the shortness of breath that began last night. The most serious issue right now is trying to get her insides to start moving again. The poor woman is miserable, and I was finally able to get the nurses to realize this was becoming serious. My friend Victoria Cummings told me how important it was for me to advocate for Mom in the hospital, and she was so right. I can see how the nurses get so busy and forget to follow through with Mom’s needs sometimes. My normal ‘I hate to bother anyone’ demeanor has changed, and I no longer feel bad going to the nursing station whenever there is something Mom needs that I can’t do for her.
I have learned about so many new things- how to position a bed pan, how to change an adult diaper, how to change the sheets under someone, how to move Mom up higher on the bed, how to turn her, how to give a suppository. My mother and I no longer have any secrets. I wanted to weep for her at times, as I know how modest she is, and how hard this must be for her to deal with the indignity of it all. Seeing her body in such pain each time we had to move her felt like a knife in my heart.
Through it all, though, she told her stories. Stories I’ve heard a million times, but that always seem new when I hear others laugh. She has told everyone about ‘The Space People’ (her fan club from the Open a Group at Bedlam Farm), and some of the nurses have started calling her Heavy D. Some have asked for my blog address so that they could read her stories. It made me happy to see Mom puff up as she talked about the group “from all over the world!” I loved hearing her say, “Neese, should I tell them the wig story?”, and off she would go, nurses smiling and laughing.
I had to wait to visit nursing homes until I spoke with the social worker, as she had called around to check on availability. We have it narrowed down to three places right now, with the first one being my dream for Mom- a very nice place and very close to me. There is a question about their desire to take Medicaid if Mom stays there long-term, but they are not saying no. As soon as my physical therapy appointment is done this morning, I am going to do surprise visits at all three homes, armed with the list of things to look for and questions to ask that have been shared with me by friends who have recently experienced this with their parents.
Today is Mom’s last day in the hospital, so the crucial thing is choosing and getting her accepted at the best skilled nursing rehab center. I feel the urgency, tinged with panic, about making these big decisions for Mom. I worry- what if I get her in the wrong place? What if she is miserable? What if we can’t make this work financially? I guess I’m going to have to trust my gut and my heart. My prayer is that we get her into a rehab facility that she likes, and that we can transition her into long-term care there. The less change, the less traumatic this already difficult situation will be for her.
As for me, I am making it. I slept maybe four hours last night, so that’s an improvement. I came home from the hospital absolutely fried. I’d had big plans of walking the dogs and doing some cleaning, but could only manage some medicinal time sitting on the top deck, staring at the beautiful views and chatting with my sweet little sister in Florida. Again and again I am reminded how blessed Mom and I are with so many wonderfully kind and supportive people in our lives. As I told Mom when I left the hospital, “Don’t worry, Momma, we’re going to get through this- together.
Join me on the top deck….