Today has been another frenetic day, and I see myself fraying around the edges. The weeks of stress and time spent in the hospital and worrying about Mom slowly wearing me down. I hardly slept last night, just overwhelmed by the events of yesterday, and filled with worry about Mom. Such an emotional roller coaster with our two trips to the ER, just three weeks after her bad fall and hospital stay, and, seeing Mom in her delusional state yesterday shook me to my core. I am feeling emotionally raw, alternating with feeling things incredibly deeply to feeling detached and numb.
I decided to keep some long-standing appointments today, so I began with an early physical therapy session for my back, before heading out to St. Martin’s to pick up Mom’s dentures and speak with the admissions officer about holding Mom’s room while she is in the hospital. The P.T. began working on my back and said, “Wow- you are really tight- you need to get a full body massage!” I told her that I would love to, but there has been no time for such luxuries, and didn’t know when that would change.
Returning to St. Martin’s was a much more emotional experience than I had originally thought. Walking up to the front door, I met Cindy, the clarinet playing admissions officer. She was compassionate, telling me that they were committed to keeping Mom at St. Martin’s and for me not to worry about that right now. I felt great relief hearing those words, as I have a deep-seated fear that Mom will come out of the hospital and not have a place to live. I feel so responsible for everything to do with her now, and sometimes it feels as if it would only take one domino falling the wrong way to derail my hard-won plans for her to live at St. Martin’s long-term.
When I came upon Jackie, Lynn, and Tasha, the three incredibly kind women who helped me with Mom yesterday during the ordeal that sent her to the ER, my tears began to flow. Each of them hugged me tight, asking about Mom and offering words of concern and encouragement. Lynn talked to me at length about her experience with her grandmother at the end of her life, and gave me some very thoughtful and wise advice about how to approach this time. There is something special about Lynn, someone who obviously has a gift for caring for seniors. She has a beautiful outlook on death and dying, and it was comforting and enlightening to talk with her. She ended by telling me to remember that my mother loves me very much, and she will understand the tough decisions I will have to make on her behalf. She encouraged me not to have any guilt, to trust my heart that I was doing what was best for Mom.
After sitting with Mom for a while, I was pleased to find that she seemed more mentally clear after wearing the BiPap continuously. She hates it, but it is helping. She looked more alert and even began joking with the nurses- it was so good to see her act more like herself. She still doesn’t have much of an appetite, but at least is beginning to eat. I spoke at length with her wonderful nurse, who explained more of what caused Mom’s delusional behavior. Afterwards, I left to go to an appointment with the audiologist. The hearing issues I have dealt with are worsening, so I felt it was important to go in for these tests. Another issue bubbling away on the back burner.
When I returned to St. Vincent’s, my brother Mark and his wife Barbara had driven from Georgia to visit with Mom. I was glad that I made them understand that they needed to see her, as they often think- as many people do- that mom will live forever. Yesterday proved to me without a doubt that that is not the case. They left a few hours later to head back to Alpharetta. Mom was completely worn out from the visit, having difficulty staying awake…as was I. I kissed her on the forehead and told her I was going home to take care of the animals and rest. We both desperately need to sleep. I walked the long hallways to the parking deck, noticing the beautiful views, thinking of how important beauty is in times of challenge.
Dan had to work very late at the theater, so I began doing some chores, watering all of the plants, doing laundry, finally trimming my nails that had been bothering me for days…the little routine things that have to keep on going somehow. I loved on the dogs and cat, and then plopped onto the couch with the dogs, completely drained. I put my feet up and watched HGTV while eating blue corn chips right out of the bag for dinner. I know that I needed something healthy, but I wanted to peacefully enjoy my chips and just be. I had no spare energy to do anything else. Not very mature, but today, that’s all I had.
I feel like we are caught in this vicious cycle of emergencies mixed with periods of calm that are happening more and more often, that things will get better, but then there will always be another trip to the ER, more indignities for Mom to face, more sleep and spirit draining stress for me and for Dan. I wondered, is this how it will be? Is this all there is? I feel honored to be here for Mom at the end of her life, but isn’t there more? Isn’t there another way?
Actually, there can be. I had a wonderful talk with a friend who told me about the option of Hospice as a possibility for Mom. I will investigate the Hospice organizations here in Birmingham, hopeful that mom can have more of a say in how she chooses to spend her remaining time with us. I spoke with my sister Linda, and she is completely in support of the idea. I have been so thankful for her, having someone who loves Mom like I do, who is feeling the same pain that I am. It helps so much to talk things through with her, to feel like I am not always alone in making these major decisions.
Amidst all of the chaos, I still find bountiful gifts coming from this experience; family coming together, friends from all over appearing to offer love and support, the kindness of nurses and staff who go above and beyond their duties because they truly care. I see my mother through different eyes- not as some weak, elderly woman who will leave us soon, but as a beautiful spirit who has lived a long and full life, who gave so much to others, someone who deserves to live in dignity to the end. I will do my best to give her that gift, and in doing so, our love will only grow…the greatest gift of all.