My mother’s blood sugar spiked to 400 on Monday and 520 on Tuesday. She was fighting a UTI and ecoli. At 92, her body tried to fight it off. The doctor said the antibiotics would either work in two days or she would go down hill fast. It was the later.
The care ambassadors and nurses at Freedom Village were amazing. I lost count after twenty-three staff came in to say good-bye and provide loving care. One care ambassador said, “I’ve known your mom for two years and she was my family.” Another said, “Everyday she would greet me in the hall and compliment what I was wearing that day.” My favorite was someone reminding me of her love of cats and how she usually had one with her or would respond to the mechanical one that meowed, purred and moved. Her face would light up with joy.
My mom lived in a higher level of care for nine years. Seven years in assisted living and almost two years in skilled nursing in Lake Forest, CA. Six years ago, a doctor made a comment that her life was not worth living because she had dementia and couldn’t remember anything. I replied, “How many of your patients said thank you and complimented you today?” The doctor sheepishly said, “Only your mom.” I said, “Then she still is fulfilling her purpose isn’t she?” The doctor backed off and gave the best care until my mom left that Seattle hospital.
Through nine years of advocacy for my mom, I have done the best I was able, making decisions with the knowledge that I have. I am not a nurse and based my advocacy on her wishes and trying to keep her comfortable.
Extraordinary Versus Comfort Care
Hospice began on Tuesday and they were a Godsend. My husband was in Seattle saying goodbye to his dad on hospice when everything happened. A nurse, a social worker and a chaplain came from hospice to support my mom and me. I learned the differences between extraordinary care and comfort care at the end. The IV’s, antibiotics and unnecessary medicine disappeared. The morphine and adavan began.
Final Burst of Energy
After the chaplain said some beautiful words, my mom had what they call a “burst of energy.” I was holding her hand when she opened her eyes half way and said, “I love you,” seven times and “thank you” twice. Then she closed her eyes and the energy was gone. I will treasure that memory.
After she choked while attempting to eat, I said no more food. A caregiver patiently helped her drink some juice even though it took 15 minutes. That was the last time I saw her drink because she could not swallow again.
The turns every two hours caused her to cry out. The repositioning was to prevent bedsores. I called hospice when the gentle turns seemed to hurt her more and they said to reduce the turns to every three hours and give the morphine 20 minutes before. The nurses and care ambassadors were outstanding. This little tip made the gentle turns easier for her.
The last day, she started to moan with every exhale. I called hospice again. The gurgling in the throat had started and it was time to start the medication that helped with that. The director of nursing arrived before hospice and we started the PRN of morphine and adavan that had been preapproved by her wonderful doctor. Hospice increased the frequency of the medications to once an hour and said she was not to be turned again. Alleluia.
The director of nursing was there every hour to administer the comfort medications. I cannot say enough about the staff of Freedom Village Health Care Center and how they supported and loved my mom and I, to the end.
My husband came back from Seattle and the room filled with music. When the chaplain arrived they sang together and it felt like a send off party. Her doctor entered about this time, gave me a hug and said, “She is going out in style. I am so happy that she is comfortable.” A priest came to give her last rites. I said and prayed everything I wanted to with my mom and have zero regrets.
After nine hours, my husband and I decided to take a dinner break. The director of nursing said she would not leave my mother until we returned. Another change happened right before we got back.
The chaplain and hospice were called. The moan on each exhale came back and I requested more morphine for her. Her doctor gave permission. Chris and I sang a couple of songs to her. The chaplain arrived. I requested scripture and the chaplain was reading from the Gospel of John when she passed. God’s presence was in the room. She was comfortable and at peace.
Today is Sunday and I would normally go and visit with my mom. I wrote this blog to help me with my own grief today.
It seems ironic now, that my new book is dedicated to my mom. Writing this blog has been therapy for me over the last three years. After sharing numerous stories about my mom, several senior living people said you should write a book to help other seniors and their families. So I did and “Your Senior Housing Options” was published recently.
I love you mother and hope your stories in the book can help others learn their options and plan ahead. So many seniors wait until a crisis and lose their ability to choose like my in-laws did. The greatest gift my mom ever gave me was to plan ahead and move into a Continuing Care Retirement Community. Over 16 years, my mom had good transitions through three levels of care.