Finite Tomorrows

No real news today. Everything is as stable as it can be with my mom right now. She’s had an increase in her pain medications so she is sleeping more and when she is awake she’s pretty loopy and incoherent. I was sitting there watching her today thinking if I will ever have a regular conversation with her again. Then I started thinking about everything I meant to say to her but kept putting it off until tomorrow.  I wish I hadn’t waited because, as I should have learned with my dad but obviously didn’t, as our parents grow older we only have so many tomorrows before they are gone. That may seem obvious to some but I think many of us put thoughts of losing them off to some vague future time in the distance. A future that we can almost see like a mirage and think, in some way, it’s never going to come. It’s just a shimmering image on the horizon. Until that shimmer becomes a wall of cold hard reality that you run into and bump your nose on. I don’t think I’ve bumped my nose yet but I can sense its cold stone surface looming up over me. That might be the most difficult thing with this whole experience, not knowing what is going to happen next. Or when it will happen. She might have months left and she may have days left, we simply don’t know. When I let my thoughts stray to the idea of losing her, I think about how her passing will be the hardest on me because I will, in a sense, be losing two lives. My mother’s and the life as a caregiver that I’ve known for the past 20 years. When my thoughts start going there I kick it down the road, towards that vague shimmering day. I keep telling myself you can deal with it then. There will be plenty of time for tears and grief later.

Please! Help Me!

Today’s visit with mom started out overwhelmingly rough. She hadn’t had enough pain medication and was in excruciating pain. When my sister and I got there she was screaming “Please! Help me!” over and over and over again. My other sister and brother were already there and they had called the nurse but she was busy. I felt so helpless watching my mom in so much pain and being unable to do anything. My mom has always had a very high threshold for pain so I could only imagine the level of agony she was experiencing. At one point she was calling for my sister and her lifelong best friend, who are both dead. There were several moments where I wondered if the pain was going to kill her while we stood helplessly by unable to do anything to help her. It was so difficult to keep it together but my crying would have served no purpose at that moment. Thankfully the nurse finally came and gave mom the pain medications she so desperately needed. After a little while, my mom fell into a deep sleep, exhausted after the morning’s ordeal. My sisters, brother, and I left while she was sleeping just to give her the quiet she needed. I hope the doctors can figure out what her pain needs are because I don’t think she can survive another episode like that one.

Sassy

You’re never too old to earn a nickname. Today my 87-year-old mom earned “Sassy.” When she is awake and a little more energized, she has been doing a wee bit of talking back to the nurses. This morning the nurse was feeding her pancakes and she declared them to be “terrible” and had them taken away. And then when the nurse was drawing blood she informed mom that she would be careful and my mom responded with “You better.” She meant it as a funny but I can see a less patient nurse taking that the wrong way. So, my sisters and I were trying to explain that to the nurses today. They seemed to be understanding, which made us feel more comfortable thinking that my mom’s comments would not be taken the wrong way. Mom is still getting tired very easily, especially after eating. The good news today was that she was only on a nasal cannula today and not on BiPAP or the face mask.

We were surprised when the social worker came in this morning to talk to us about rehab. We feel like mom is still pretty far away from being ready for that and I guess that’s how the doctor feels too. It was more of a preliminary talk, nothing set in stone yet. My mom took her usual stance of saying that she just wanted to go home. So my sisters and I talked to her about how she wouldn’t be ready to go home and after some effort, she seemed to agree with us. Let’s hope that mentality remains because she definitely needs some rehab to regain some of her strength and agility. She’s been in bed for over 4 weeks now and has lost a lot of muscle mass and strength during that time. Never a dull moment in this journey. I’ll post tomorrow’s adventure, well tomorrow.

Lean Mean Eating Machine

I went and saw my mom today in her new room at the hospital. She was sitting up in bed with only the oxygen mask on and the BiPAP was sitting off to one side. She looked much better and her voice was stronger than it had been on Wednesday. A few minutes after I arrived, the nurse came in with her breakfast. There was a plate of pancakes that had been cut up into tiny pieces and looked like it had two cups of syrup mixed in. It looked so overly sweet, but my mom didn’t seem to mind it. There was also some yogurt and a cup of thickened cranberry juice. Over the next 45 minutes, she ate more than I thought she was. My sister has been comparing her to a baby bird when eating and she definitely fit the description today. There were points when I couldn’t get the next bite to her fast enough, although she was very careful when chewing and swallowing. It was so good to see her eat again.

After she finished, we were chatting and she kept showing signs of mental confusion that threw me off balance in terms of how to respond to her. She kept asking me how “mama” was and if she was worried about my mom. Her mother died in the late 1980s, so I really wasn’t sure how to answer her. Do I tell her that her mom was dead? Do I play along with her and respond as if she was still alive. I wrestled with that dilemma for a few seconds when I decided that the best option was to play along. So I simply told her that “mama” was worried about her and hoped that she was getting better. She looked at me for a moment in a very confused way and I had to wonder if she thought I was the one who was having a mental lapse. Finally, she just nodded and moved onto the next subject. I had never dealt with mental lapses in my mom before and it was very surreal. I just hope I made the right choice to play along with her at that moment.  A very short time later she began to doze off so I decided to leave. She asked me if I was coming back tonight and I told her I would see her tomorrow and she asked if she was going with me and I had to explain to her that she needed to stay in the hospital. She asked me why and I told her that the doctors were still very concerned about her breathing and swallowing and if something went wrong that she was in the best place to get a quick response. She weighed that response for a minute and then nodded and we said goodbye to each other. I’ll update again tomorrow and relay what new adventures awaited me on this journey.