Ninety-six and counting.
That was a year ago yesterday. Mother, as far as I know, has since escaped this planetary time zone and the warped agendas of those who considered themselves her medical caregivers.
She was an amazingly strong woman who survived a massive stroke that could have been treated properly but wasn’t due to her age. Didn’t matter that, except for knee and leg issues, she was still an engaged and responsive person capable of enjoying life with a little family help. She was written off and then starved for four days to “help us out”, I guess.
I fixed that protocol and got them to feed her again. If she was going to leave, it wasn’t going to be because she was covertly starved to death! Or had a “quality of life” banner used by the medical team to justify it. Especially since Mother’s medical team had chosen not to make available the shot they give younger stroke victims to reverse the damage incurred, and which they had not shared with us as an option!
Instead my daughter and I continued to battle for the next eight months to give and get Mother the care she deserved. Looking back it’s a blur of nursing home and hospital moments of marginal concern and care. Some facilities were more diligent and caring than others as were the individual team members at these facilities. But the only consistency we found in advocating for Mother’s care was that her being 96 was their excuse and permission to do less and be less of an advocate for any potential recovery. No question that this was a financial decision on the part of these facilities.
Be elderly, be gone. Period. An FYI for those of you who are seniors and/or caregivers to seniors.
At the last hospitalization, Mother was held in ICU for three days where she contracted multiple bed sores. Yes, in ICU! This after we had successfully healed her previous bed sores from her prior hospital stay. Those new bed sores, along with her borderline pneumonia upon admission, had weakened her ability to fight all the infection going on inside her. Still she fought to live in spite of everything.
But by this point my mother was talking to the other side.
My older sister Sherry had passed a few months before. We hadn’t told Mother because we didn’t want to negatively affect her potential to recover, and figured she would stabilize at some point when we could tell her. But in the last evening – a year ago last night – Mother kept talking to Sherry and calling her by name. Mother was angry at me, probably for not telling her about Sherry, but then her breathing and vitals started to fail according to the nurse in the room monitoring her.
Mother, whose bed sores had started to heal, was judged to be in crisis. The nurse had Mother in a standing position, holding her upright. She said Mother’s monitors were not registering even though I was looking at Mother and she was still conscious and aware. She was not properly hooked up but this seemed to be due to the failure of Mother’s lungs and irregular heartbeat per the nurse. The other nurse in the room said nothing contradictory.
The nurse walked Mother closer to me and asked if she should pull the plug since the oxygen wasn’t working. We had opted out of using CPR, our only remaining option. This was due to the damage it causes elderly bones.
In a complicated, angst-laden instant, I said “yes”. I didn’t want to. Mother was still fighting to live one fading breath at a time. But all I could think of was what she’d already been through and how little support she’d be given by the hospital for any kind of recovery and care. And how cruel it would be to prolong her battle. So I said “yes”.
Within a heartbeat or two, Mother was gone. I had facilitated her passing.
Being my mother’s daughter, this was against my inclination to persevere and overcome whatever hardship Life brought our way. It was against my nature – and upbringing – to give up under any circumstance, especially when I sensed the nurse might be playing me in that moment. But ultimately, it was about the quality of life I knew would not be forthcoming for Mother from any of the medical staff we’d encountered, and especially now that her pneumonia diagnosis had become complicated by other bodily infections.
To be at peace with Mother’s passing, we had her autopsied in case something medically undocumented or preventable had occurred. We were not entirely convinced that Mother’s condition was the cause of her demise at that particular moment, and wanted to have definitive medical proof in case we needed to take any kind of legal action. Sepsis had shown up in the autopsy but not in the hospital’s final report. We were advised that it was a complicating factor that may have contributed to her heart and lungs failing, but ultimately she would have passed away if not then, during a future hospital stay.
We had also received a letter from her pharmacy advising us that one of Mother’s prescriptions had been issued with the wrong pills inside, which meant she was taking an elevated amount of statins. This may have also been a contributing factor but no definitive proof from any current studies existed at the time of her death.
Mother was cremated according to her wishes. We have not yet scattered the ashes but have plans to do so soon. It will be by the beach but away from the ocean. She was very adamant there be no water where her ashes are scattered. Her wish was to be blown “where the four winds go” and, in her honor, I’m hoping the winds on that chosen day will oblige.
Rest in peace, Mother. We love and miss you. Your strength and indomitable spirit will always remain in our hearts and memories. You are legend.
A legend not only to us, but to the medical staffs who could not conquer, subdue or dismiss your will.