Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I am not ready for this

I have mentioned before that my mom is in a nursing home after she broke her leg last August.

Since then, life has been a roller coaster of figuring out what to do about her apartment, packing her apartment, purging a lot of stuff and storing the rest, my sister (and Mom) deciding that Mom would, after all, go "home" from the nursing home, into new apartment with my sister (Donna) to look after her, Donna and Mom finding and signing a lease on a nice apartment downtown, getting Mom's stuff moved there, and all the ups and downs of Mom's medical treatment, including surgery to get her leg fixed.

During the nursing home stay, Mom started having problems with eating. She would eat, then gag and throw most of what she ate back up. This would happen after a bite or two, or sometimes she just gags even when she's not eating. She's lost a lot of weight.

So a round of medical tests, to see what is causing this. During this, it was discovered that she had "gallbladder sludge." So surgery was suggested, and Mom wanted to have it done. But when the surgery was supposed to happen, she had a minor medical issue that required antibiotics and the surgery was postponed.

It was rescheduled for Dec. 27. Her ability to do things on her own had waned. She had gone from using a walker to move from her lift chair to her bed, to then requiring to be pushed that distance in a wheelchair. On Dec. 23, Donna and I were helping her to the wheelchair from her lift chair, when Mom stopped in a nearly upright position but her arms and legs were trembling, and she didn't respond when we talked to her. This lasted maybe a minute. I went to fetch a nurse, and when we got back, she was in the wheelchair. Another episode happened on Christmas Day, but the nursing home staff finally witnessed one (just the non-responsiveness) on Dec. 26. They sent her to the hospital. Surgery was canceled.

In the hospital, it was discovered that she was dehydrated, anemic, and had some kidney issues. She stayed there from Wednesday until Sunday. Her alertness came and went, even during the course of a day. On Saturday, she went from being incoherent when my niece Jessica was there in the morning, to sitting in a chair and reading (although I'm not sure if she was actually reading or going through the motions) when I was there in the afternoon, to (the nurse told me the next day) removing her IV and taking the monitor leads off and throwing them across the room in the evening.

The hospital sent her back to the nursing home on that Sunday (Dec. 30).

The next four days she was in bed. On Thursday, they used a Hoyer lift to put her in a special wheelchair to see if she would be able to be transported to her follow-up doctor visit on Friday (Jan. 4). Donna went to the visit. One thing the doctor suggested to get more nutrition into her was a feeding tube. Donna and I both agree she would not want that, but we were willing to consider the idea if it could possibly bring her back to the mental state to be able to refuse it. (Does that make sense?)

We've had a couple more visits with Mom since then, and on Tuesday a visit with a pulmonologist to talk about palliative care. The doctor talked about Mom having dementia for a long time - there were signs like auditory hallucinations, forgetfulness, her falls. He said that her body is wearing out and the gagging/swallowing issues are a sign of that. He said that a feeding tube really doesn't prolong life if the problem is because the body can't process food - that sometimes people with feeding tube end up vomiting anyway.

The doctor expects that Mom will probably not last longer than six months.

I have told my girls - when I got home from work tonight. Amanda didn't show much emotion, but Cayla was visibly upset. It's hard, but I had to tell them because we have to prepare ourselves. I think it would be worse if she died suddenly and we didn't have a chance to say goodbye. Yes, I know people have to deal with that all the time.

Donna and I have an appointment with a person from hospice on Wednesday to see how it works, and possibly do paperwork.

I have to call my Aunt Diane, my mom's only living sister.

I am not ready for this.


Ann Michelle said...

So, sorry to hear about your mom,Carol.

Carol Foltz said...

Thanks, Ann Michelle.