Sunday, October 23, 2011

The View From Hospice w/Update

Roger's 90 year-old mother* is dying. She's been actively dying since last Sunday, October 16th, when she ended up in the emergency room after a fall. We went to the ER, but she no longer recognized us, or Roger's sister and brother. Her mental capacity had been diminishing for several months, but this was a rather precipitous decline into full-blown dementia in a short amount of time. She had a compression fracture, but it was deemed not life threatening. She had bronchitis, also not life threatening. She spent the night in the hospital, and then Roger and I moved her to hospice care on Monday, October 17th. During the ride in the car she was like a child. She said, "Nice car. Pretty day. Nice car. Pretty day." The above photo is the view outside her hospice room. The double doors open and her bed could be taken out there, if she wanted to be in the sunshine. Last Monday, we thought that might be a possibility.

But on that Monday, she ate only four spoonfuls of jello and was deeply agitated. She could see the beautiful outdoors from her bed, but was not lucid enough to know she could go. On Tuesday, she had chocolate pudding and repeated "choo-choo, choo-choo" and "teacher teacher" for several hours. She no longer looked toward the doors or windows. On Wednesday, she had more chocolate pudding and drops of water delivered by a small straw, she said "I like to dress up" for several hours. Since Thursday- NOTHING. No food. No words.

She is on morphine and ativan.

We are waiting for her to die. She is on her own exit plan and timetable. It is an interesting thing to consider-- someone's permanent exit from life. Watching her do this is a lesson for us about utter stress and exhaustion; sadness and anticipation; love and forgiveness. We talk to her quietly everyday. We've read that the ability to hear is the last sense to go. She does stir a bit when people go to her bedside. But so much of her has already been relinquished that her eyes see nothing familiar when they flutter open for a second. She is a heartbeat in a body only, nothing else seems to be left.
And we are waiting for our first grandchild to be born some time in the next two weeks. Reminds us of Bob Dylan's: (s)he not busy being born is busy dying. Ain't that the truth.

*Roger's mother's 91st birthday is Tuesday, October 25th. We're wondering....

Update:
Roger's mom passed away Monday, October 24th at noon.

31 comments:

  1. Thinking of the three of you today. Sending love. Thank goodness for hospice care.

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  2. Reading this I feel a sob rising in my throat. After all these years and so many dying(s) the feeling of the first time never leaves. The sense of the absolute moment is so powerful. Our thoughts are with you.

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  3. My thoughts are with you and sending you much love. And, yes, thank goodness for hospice care.

    Sylvia

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  4. although I know this information, your post did bring the tears, finally, to my eyes. Yes, she is on her own journey, and you can't go there with her, only sit and witness.

    I thank the heavens for Hospices everywhere. I hope you take advantage of the services they offer to the family. It can be very helpful in coping with such loss.

    Love and hugs to you guys.

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  5. The rapid cognitive decline after hospitalization suggests she might be simply overmedicated. Did she get anesthesia when the fracture was being examined? Some elderly people respond poorly to it.

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  6. It's tough. The nature of life though is we go and we come. I think the kindest ending actually is to quit eating and just release life. It's not easy for the one going or the family but we all will end up there. Take care of yourselves through this.

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  7. Roger's mom took a trip back to the house her parents bought in 1938 at the coast in Capitola. She was there from October 11th through October 15th. All three times I stopped in on October 13th to see her, she was deeply asleep. When her middle son drove her back to her assisted living facility in Grass Valley, she was in a profound decline. That was on Saturday October 15th. She no longer recognized the house she had known for more than 70 years. I don't think she was medicated while in the ER. She did not have an IV drip, only devices that measured her pulse and blood pressure. We are not sure what happened on Sunday, but she took a major step out of the world. Roger doesn't think she's even on morphine anymore, just the ativan. She is drifting away. I guess it happens that way. Tuesday, October 25th is her 91st birthday. Maybe people really do die of old age.

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  8. Robin, being able to go through that process with her is a good lesson for you and Roger. The wait for the grandchild really does point out that life goes on, no matter what (Thank Whomever for that!)

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  9. Just hugs. My own mom went that way. I remember.

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  10. ((( roger )))
    ((( robin )))
    (((( mom ))))

    it sounds very much like things are shutting down for her, after a long and full life. wishing you all peace on this journey.

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  11. My heart goes out to you. It is so hard to see the decline. My mother has been declining for quite a while, and I find myself mourning the gradual loss of her over and over. It would be better if it happened quickly.
    Peace to all.

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  12. thinking of you, roger, and his Momma.

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  13. This is such a hard thing to go through. I've been there. As hard as it is and will be for you, I must say that I am grateful I was there when my own mother passed. She was there when I came into this world, and I was there to see her leave it.

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  14. There is a strange beauty in the approach to death, and in death itself. You capture it with wonderful compassion. Your story reminds me of my mother-in-law's graceful death, a number of years ago. I trust that Roger's mother will have an easy transition into whatever lies beyond.

    And by the way, Ellie and I are also expecting the arrival of a grandchild in the next two weeks!

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  15. It is strange how quickly one event can cascade to another, and how one medical emergency reveals more layers. The hospice workers are truly wonderful and they know all the right things to say. Yes, they have gone thru it with other families but they know how to personalize it. Roger's mom has lived a long life and yes, I do think our bodies just get worn out. Take care of yourselves through this challeging process.

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  16. My thoughts are far away from North Carolina this evening. They are with you both.

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  17. condolences and much love. xoxo

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  18. My condolences. What a strange journey this life is.

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  19. She was lucky to have Roger and you in her life ... that I know!
    Death pounds .. even with the slipping away .. I love you both.

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  20. Sorry, I just saw the update. My condolences.

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  21. My condolences and much love to you both, and to your family. I hope that when the failing go back to those scenes of their childhood, that they are in a place of joy and happiness.

    I cannot help but believe that even though she couldn't respond to the beauty outside her room, that the sunlight did touch her in some way that eased her passing. And for hearing being the last thing to go: Music can be a gift. There are a couple of harpers in this area who can be hired to play for the dying. It helps both the living and the dying.mismsych

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  22. I just saw the update. My condolences; you will miss her.

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  23. Just learned that your dear one had passed away on October 24. Still sending love.

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  24. I am sorry... My deep condolences.

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  25. One life is journeying ahead into other realms, and another is making ready to enter the world. Oh my dears, thinking of all of you as you walk this road together. . .

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  26. Roger and Robin, I'm sorry for your loss. I remember the week-by-week and then day-by-day of my grandmother's last couple months with us. It is hard. 'Sending all three of you love and peace today.

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  27. This is a beautiful, albeit sad, post. How lucky she was to have caring people near her as she passed. The hospice site looks like a lovely and peaceful place, may I ask which facility it is?

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  28. This is Hospice of the Foothills in Grass Valley, Ca.

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