Notes from the Eldercare Underground: Final Edition
My mother passed away unexpectedly yesterday at the age of 93. I suppose at that age death shouldn’t be unexpected, but she had been doing pretty well right up to this week.
She attended the big Christmas wing-ding at the nursing home on Tuesday last, where they really know how to put out a buffet line. One that rivals Las Vegas.
All that was missing was Wayne Newton.
(Although, they did have their one-man-band of an entertainer, the erstwhile fourth grade music teacher turned comedian, musician and master of ceremonies of these events.)
And on Wednesday my mother got to listen to the Christmas concert performed by her two great-grandkids and their school, so that was a nice touch.
So yesterday it came as a surprise when the night nurse phoned me at 5:30 am to tell me they were transferring her to the hospital ER because her breathing was labored and rapid. After I got there (and after several tests) the ER doctor, whom we’d seen before on one of her other trips there, told me he thought she was just shutting everything down and all they could offer at that point was a room and comfort care. She was constantly administered oxygen and was given a small dose of morphine to quell any pain she might be having.
I was asked by a nurse if I wanted what they call “heroic” measures, like a ventilator or CPR to resuscitate her if her heart stopped. Fortunately I had her advance directive and medical power of attorney and knew that this is not something my mother would have wished.
So I said no.
Not exactly “pulling the plug on grandma.” More like not putting the plug into the wall in the first place.
My daughter spent the day there in her room with me (a great help) and around 5:00 pm my mother’s labored breathing slowed down and became more shallow. After about five minutes, it stopped altogether.
Last Tuesday, when we went back to her room after the party, she re-iterated that she really didn’t care for it here and said she was going to go back to California. I have heard this so many times in the 13 years she’s been in Texas that it didn’t bother me like it used to.
I just said, “Well, if you can swing it, I’m all for it.”
She’s getting her wish.
Her ashes will be going back to California (as per her request), probably this summer, when we go out there to visit my son and his family.
Before we left her hospital room so the funeral home folks could take her away, I bent over and kissed her on the forehead and told her good-bye. In my mind I added, “Say hi to Dad for me.” I know they’re together again after almost 15 years.
And that’s the one good thing to come out of all of this.
(Many thanks to my faithful “Eldercare Underground” readers. I really appreciated your comments and all of your encouragements.)