My mom stopped eating last week. The staff kept trying to feed her, or at least when the hospice nurses weren’t looking. It’s interesting how philosophy meets reality. They all know it doesn’t make sense to feed a dying person. And yes, though Mom has been on hospice for a handful of months and was not at all dying, it seems that the time may be here.
Last night I sat up with her after Hospice was able to remove the fluid that had filled up her lungs. I suspect someone tried to push food or drink. I was only told that she “threw up” something that had been ingested and it went into her lungs. And I didn’t ask.
I’ve struggled a lot with my anger with the “system” and all the things I’d like to do differently that I can’t control, so I’m getting a little smarter about what I let myself find out about these days. What can I do now anyway? Did I want Mom to keep living a 1% life like she was?
Though I wish they hadn’t tried to feed her when she wasn’t interested, I can see that the staff has developed relationships with her and they want to see her bounce back and smile again – laugh at their jokes. They have good intentions. …….And they’re driving me crazy right now.
Last night I sat up with Mom as she slept after hospice had given her morphine to help her regain her breath. Another drug dried out her lungs successfully. Though hospice will let her die, they don’t want it to be torturous, and suffocating slowly is not in their plans, so I was thankful to see Mom come to a place of peace again, even though she’s barely responsive.
Staff and nurses and directors who I’d never seen kept coming in to fill their needs to show they cared and were involved. Every 10-15 mins. there was a knock at the door. They wanted to stroke her hair, sing to her, get a verbal response from her. It felt very much about THEM to me, while in great contrast, the amazing Kenyan hospice nurse I sat up talking with all night was only present for Mom’s needs, and had very good boundaries about not disturbing her for anything unnecessary. She used a low voice (Mom hates noise and yelling) – almost a whisper, and was concerned only about keeping her comfortable and peaceful.
One of the nurses who visited shared that yesterday my mother had yelled “Get the hell out of here!” when she came in to check on things, and was laughing about it. I couldn’t help notice how loud this lady was, and wished that she hadn’t dismissed it as dementia, because after she was in the room a few moments, I started to feel the same way. I think she called this stage my mom is in “crisis care.” Whenever the facility staff were in the room bustling around and asking what they could do next, I felt my heart rate go up and could see Mom fidgeting and ill at ease. They kept entering in twos or threes, filling up the little room. It felt oppressive.
The hospice nurse was great at getting them out of the way and preventing them from interfering in unnecessary ways. Each time they left, the three of us (Mom, me, and the lovely hospice nurse) settled back into a restful calm.
Today my very small family will be coming in to town – my sister and my nephew – that’s all we’ve got left. Fortunately I have a small, but incredible circle of dear friends in the area, and will call on them if it feels right.
I feel fortunate that I’ve been through many family deaths before, in the sense that I don’t feel compelled to do anything a certain way these hours. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I want to be with Mom all the time, and sometimes I waste time checking unimportant emails and Facebook and filing my nails and little piddly things around the house that you’d think someone whose mother might die any moment wouldn’t be doing. Like writing this post right now.
Life is so weird, and I’ve become more comfortable with that, thanks to this experience with Mom. The strangeness of it all feels okay, and I’m relaxed into the reality that nothing I do will ever feel exactly right or perfect, but I can at least be kind to myself and real and go with the flow, wherever it takes me.