The Final Chapter

As shared in my prior post, mom went into the memory care facility in September of 2017.  For the first three months, things went pretty well.  Visits were friendly and family nights were fun with entertainment and a chance for everyone to interact.  Then the problems started happening.  She fell from a sitting position (assume she passed out) and did a face-plant into the floor.  She looked much worse than she was injured.  So a couple days in the hospital and she was back.  Then the big fall .. she broke her hip.

A major surgery at the age of 89 is no small feat.  She took it like a trooper but her mobility was all but gone.  Rehab looked promising at the beginning but her will ran out before her recovery.  This all happened a little under 5 months into her stay at memory care.  Now she is in a wheel chair and she has suffered another significant decrease in her cognitive abilities.  She no longer recognized me or anyone else.

About this time, I attended a class given by a hospice nurse for the facility.  In this class, she outlined the stages of Alzheimer’s and they rang all too clear.  I had an insight into what was to come.  Confusion gives way to anger and smiles turn into a social disconnect.

So now the challenges are not only getting her to eat but also controlling her outbursts and disruptive behavior.  At times she would be taken to her room for what the caregivers called “respite care”.  This is code for she is too disruptive to the others and we are putting her to bed in her room.

Three weeks after the surgery, the facility nurse suggests hospice care.  In her case, this means an outside nurse comes to the facility to provide more personalized care and to manage her transition to death.  The only silver lining in this cloud is that Medicare covers 100% of hospice care (but the facility costs remain unchained).

From this point, things deteriorate rapidly.  The hospice nurse calls me an estimates she has less than a week to live.  We get all the family to come and say their goodbyes and two days later she is gone.

It is hard to reconcile my emotions at this point because I felt relief.  I felt guilty for this but I was tired of seeing my mother suffer and lose her dignity.  One thing that helped me was to write her eulogy.  I described her life from childhood to parenthood to retired life.  It was an opportunity to celebrate her life those who only knew her in the later stages or a reminder to those who had forgotten what a wonderful and cheerful person she was.

That’s what keeps you, as a caregiver, going through this painful experience .. memories of wonderful times.

Being a caregiver is not easy but there are many of us who have been through the same challenges .. and some who have had it much worse.

Through this blog, I hope I have helped with ideas, knowledge and experiences.  Let’s cure Alzheimer’s!

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