Friday, August 21, 2015

I Was Only Trying To Help

So before The Husband's mother passed away I tried to go to the old folks home early in the morning to see if she'd eat.  At that point she'd stopped eating & drinking pretty much anything.

On a side note, I don't know why nobody says "died". Because that's really what happens isn't it?  But nobody wants to say it. They want to sugar coat it to make it sound more appealing...we're so worried about how things sound that we even want "death" to sound good.  Sometimes people just say someone "passed". I don't like this because it always makes me think they passed gas.  Then I start to laugh which is always the most inappropriate thing you can do when someone is conveying that a loved one has just died.  And if I manage to suppress the laugh I get that weird scrunched up face that people get when they're trying hard not to laugh.  Kind of like the "ugly face" you get when you try not to cry... only for laughing.

Oh, another thing people say is "they crossed over the rainbow bridge".  I don't hear this much anymore...probably since the rainbow has become a gay symbol and it could have an entirely different meaning.

But back to my original story... The first time I went, the little aide was sitting at Alyce's bedside trying to feed her.  She got up and I sat down.  The feast was three piles of mush.  One pile of scrambled egg mush, one bowl of oatmeal mush, and another pile of mush that I had no idea what it was.  It looked exactly like the stuff in the oatmeal bowl but it was on the plate beside the scrambled egg.  It was also drizzled with some kind of red droplets of what I assumed to be some kind of jam in an attempt to make it look appealing.  An attempt that failed miserably...just saying.

So I started in with the oatmeal.  I'd take a spoonful and hold it up to Alyce's mouth and was instantly overjoyed because she acted like she wanted to eat it. She kind of sucked a little bit off the spoon.  At least in my mind that's what she was doing. In hindsight she was probably trying to tell me to "take that fucking shit away from my mouth".  Only I'm pretty sure, she would have left off the "fucking shit" part.  Even I feel the need to sugar coat things... in my own way.

So after numerous attempts to get her to eat a minuscule bite, I started on the apple juice.  One of the nurses told eldest daughter Kathi that it was easier to get Alyce to drink by putting your finger over the top of the straw while it was in the glass, put the straw in her mouth, and then take your finger off, thus allowing the liquid to drain out of the bottom.  And it worked!!!!  Woo hoo...she was drinking.

When eldest daughter Kathi got there  I was so happy..."She's eating and drinking" I told her.  (At this point it hadn't occurred to me that she may have been trying to tell me to take the fucking shit away.)

The next day, Brother John was there when I got there.  He was sitting next to the bed with his iPad on his lap.

Me:  "Did she eat anything?"

Brother John:  "No."

Me:  "Did she drink anything?"

Brother John:  "No."

Me:  "She drinks it if you put it in her mouth with a straw, like this"...

And I proceeded to show him how you could put the water in her mouth with the straw.  And it worked...sort of.  The first few straws full went well.  I should've quit while I was ahead.  Which is kinda the story of my life...

But did I quit?  Fuck no...if one is good, two is better, right?  So it stands to reason that if four is good, five is better.

That fifth straw was the clinker.  Alyce started to cough a little so I put the straw back in the glass and wiped her mouth with the ever ready wash cloth.  She kept coughing a little more.  Not big coughs, but she couldn't really cough big because she was so frail.  And because she was so frail, it's not like I could roll her over on her side more and thump her on the back.  The whole reason she was being spoon fed in a semi reclining position was because she had so much pain in her back.  So back thumping was out of the question.  And because it hurt her so much to turn her over I couldn't even try turning her.

Brother John was standing behind me.  Thank God...otherwise he would have seen the look of sheer panic on my face.  All I could do was silently pray..."Please God, don't let me kill her...especially with Brother John standing behind me".  In hindsight, just the fact that I killed her should have been horrific enough, but I was more worried about having Brother John watch his poor old bedridden mother choke to death after being "nursing home water boarded" by some well meaning schmoe...namely me.

Fortunately for me, and more importantly, Brother John, Alyce quit coughing and all was least as well as it could be considering her circumstances.

Someday...maybe I'll learn to quit while I'm ahead.  Probably not.  In any case I think it's another fine example of my theory that "God watches over fools and children".

Lord knows I'm no's the stoopidist thing.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Saying Goodbye

The Husband's mom, Alyce, went into a care facility last year.   She'd developed pneumonia last winter and ended up in Intensive Care at a local hospital. Nobody thought she'd make it until Christmas but she did...and then some. Slowly but steadily she kept getting better until finally she was released to a long term care facility.

Alyce had her share of physical ailments but who doesn't when they're 87? Arthritis, broken hips, breathing problems...comes with aging, right?  So does dementia.  For the lucky ones it's mild, you forget where your keys are or can't remember why you walked into a room...for the unlucky ones it's worse...a lot worse.

Before she came down with pneumonia Alyce lived in her own home with the help of her daughter, Penni. The pneumonia left her so physically frail that Alyce needed professional care and her family had to make the decision to leave her in the care facility.  It wasn't a bad was nice...there was a recreation room, a dining room, physical therapy...and a big room for parties and family gatherings.  It was clean, the staff was caring, but it wasn't her home...and even though they knew it was the right choice for their mom, it was tough on all of them.

When she first got there, Alyce was able to wheel herself around in a wheelchair, chatting with the other patients, mostly talking least that's what The Husband called it.  But then, The Husband is pretty hard of hearing so it's entirely plausible that they were making perfect sense and he was only hearing every other word.  In any event, it wasn't nonsense to them.

Since her dementia was progressing I don't think anybody really knew for sure if Alyce was aware of what was happening to her.  Occasionally she would cry, but most of the time she was smiling.  Anybody that spoke to her got a smile.  She was just a sweet lady.

After awhile, the pain in her back got so bad that she couldn't wheel herself around anymore.  The staff would help her into the wheelchair but she wasn't mobile and eventually even being put in the wheelchair became too painful and she became completely bedridden.  As her pain got worse, medication got stronger and she spent more and more time sleeping. She barely ate or drank anything.  God only knows why she kept hanging on.  But she did.

Alyce was one of the few old folks in the home whose family visited daily. There were pictures of her kids and grand kids on the nightstand. The walls of her side of the room were decorated with bright butterflies flanked by warning signs of what the staff was and was not to do.  The warning signs were designed, posted and updated frequently by eldest daughter, Kathi.  Woe unto the slothful staff member who came under her scrutiny.  The eldest daughter was fierce when it came to the care of her mom.  Every mother should be so lucky.

When he came home from visiting his mom I'd ask The Husband how she was doing.  "About the same" was the usual reply.  But sometimes he'd say "She recognized me".  He always seemed a little more cheery on those days.  The Husband isn't one to wear his heart on his sleeve but you could tell that seeing his mom like this was hard.

Brother John, the youngest son, wears his heart on his sleeve.  I think it bothered him most when his mom didn't recognize him.  Your head knows it's the natural progression of the Dementia, but it still hurts your heart.

The last week Brother John wore dark glasses a lot when he visited his mom. He puts on dark glasses and thinks nobody knows he getting all teary eyed. Nobody's really fooled but nobody says anything about it.

Alyce took her last breath a few days ago...and she wasn't alone.  I don't know why, but it bothered me to think she might be alone when she died.

Kathi and I talked about it later trying to make sense of the way her life ended. We wondered why God would let a woman like Alyce suffer so much.  She & her husband raised five great kids, The Husband, Kathi, Brother John, Pam, and Penni.  These are some of the most wonderful people I've ever known.

Kathi thought maybe she really left a long time ago. I kinda like this.  It's comforting.  Maybe the reason she didn't recognize anyone was because it wasn't really her anymore.

I thought maybe it wasn't even really about her.  Maybe she was hanging on for someone else.  Maybe someone in the family wasn't ready to let her go. Maybe it was so someone at the home might learn about kindness in caring for her. Maybe it was so someone could see how a family loves and takes care of each other. Who knows?

Maybe next time we see her we'll find's the Stoopidist Thing.