Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Mom passed away

Well, I guess you all knew it would happen, and what an update, huh? I knew things were getting bad, she really wasn't talking much any more, and then they changed her to pureed food only, because she seemed to eat more when the food didn't have to be chewed up. A couple of months after that change, she was pretty much refusing all food except yogurt and ice cream, but she was drinking plenty of fluids, so the nursing home made sure that she got her calories in that way. She (of course) wasn't gaining any weight, but it made me feel better to know that she was still taking in sustenance.

One night I was at the nursing home feeding her and she aspirated some milk. I hadn't been able to tell if she had swallowed or not, so I stopped giving her the milk. I'm glad I did that because she still had milk in her mouth and must have forgotten that, because she inhaled. Then she started coughing and it sounded like she was drowning. I was so scared! But the nurse said (after checking her out) that nothing went into the lungs, it all just kind of was in the throat. Whew. But about a week later, I got a call from them, because it happened at lunch time, too. They were feeding her yogurt and she aspirated it, and couldn't swallow. They ended up having to use a suction machine to suction the yogurt out. At that time, hospice decided that they were going to stop offering her foods and only offer thickened liquids. At this point, hospice told me that if my mom continued to drink enough, they thought she could last "for a few weeks" but if she was not able to swallow the fluids, then it would only be a matter of days.

On April 21 I got the call, that my mom was choking on everything that they offered her--water, juice, etc., so hospice thought that it would make things worse to try to get her to drink any more. I knew this was it. I took the week off work and spent the rest of the time with my mom. I was with her 24/7. My brother came with his family to visit, but he was so busy keeping track of his kids that he really didn't get much one-on-one time with her. I was glad he came though. That was on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, after listening to my mom's breathing, the hospice nurse predicted that it could be any time. But it wasn't. There was no change throughout the night, and the same on Thursday. I told my mom that her brother wasn't going to make it, as he was having health problems too. I couldn't think of what she could be lingering for, except that maybe she wanted to spend more time with my brother, but he didn't seem inclined to come back. I did keep him updated every few hours. On Friday, there was still no change. When I talked to my brother on Friday night, he said, "some people at work said I should go back up there, what do you think?" I said I thought they were right. So he came up Friday night. He got to the nursing home at about 10:30pm. I left for a couple of hours to make sure he spent time and talked with her etc. I came back at about 12:30am. My brother left at about 1am. I said to my mom, "He went home now, but wasn't it great that he came?" I was holding her hand. The hospice nurse had given me a cd with old hymns on it, the same hymns that we sang every week at the church service at the nursing home. I played the cd and sang along. When I realized I didn't know all the words, I ran and got a church hymnbook and used that to do a better job of singing. At about 2:30am my mom's breathing changed, and I stopped singing. I told her I loved her and I knew she loved me. I was still holding her hand, although it was very very cold. Then her mouth moved a couple of times, not in a painful way, though. Then, although she had not had any movement except eyelids in days, my mom pulled her hand out of mine and was gone.

I am still heartbroken. I thought that I had already done a lot of grieving, but boy was I wrong. My mom had become such a part of my life, visiting her, going to the church service with her, taking her for walks, feeding her, I am lost. The funeral was on April 30. I'm back to work and just try not to think about it while I'm there, as all it takes is one "I'm sorry to hear about your mom," to bring the tears back.

I still have some thank you notes that I need to write, to the nursing home, to the hospice, and to a couple of caregivers at the nursing home who really provided care far beyond what was expected. I learned so much through this journey, and I am sure it will continue to be a learning process.