Three Years Later…


Today marks the third anniversary of the fall that broke Mom’s hip. I guess another way of looking at it would be 1,086 days since my new normal began. Mom’s still in hospice at home with me. I used to think hospice meant someone had six months to live but that was back in September of 2012 when we brought her back from the rehabilitation facility. Now I realize the definition covers a disease which will result in a steady decline and end in death. Her decline has been very, very gradual–possibly because she’s surrounded by the people and the things she loves. Maybe it’s because being at home has shielded her from the medications and the mistakes that occur in nursing homes that are overburdened and understaffed or maybe it’s just her outlook on life. Mom was always afraid sign up as an organ donor. She never wanted to be kept alive by “unnatural means” but she also wanted to be able to go on her time and her terms and not be “rushed” into it. There’s a fine line of distinction there but I can tell Mom is doing it her way. She always found joy in the smallest things so I can only assume that, as her quality of life changed, she adapted to the simplest feelings of peace and pleasure.

I’ll never forget that muggy, hot July afternoon. It was a Friday the 13th. I remember looking at the clock around 3:00pm and thinking to myself: “I’m almost out of paper towels, maybe I should load Mom into the car and drive over to Stop & Shop?” (Usually a low supply of paper towels signaled other imminent  shortages.) On second thought, it was “Jinx Day” as I’ve come to know it. I rationalized that, by waiting until Saturday, I would avoid some kind of hit and run door dent in the parking lot. Besides, Mom was starting to really slow down and any shopping trip would be a long one. We were sitting in the den together while I was working at the computer. She complained of being thirsty. Mom never asked for much so I knew she must have felt dehydrated from the heat. I got up to go to the kitchen not realizing she was going to follow me. When I opened the refrigerator door, I heard a loud thud and moans. I rushed into the den and saw our loyal dog next to her. Good old Toby, our Boston Terrier with cataracts, was always getting underfoot so it was hard to know if he was the culprit or giving her comfort (as he often did).

The frenzy that followed was life altering for all of us. I hope you or your loved ones never need surgery on a summer weekend because the hospitals are backed up like an airport runway. Mom had to wait four days for surgery, two weeks to get placed in a rehab facility and another week before physical therapy began. By then, she had lost precious time in muscle atrophy, physical strength and the memory of how to walk. Rehab involved my being at the nursing home daily, all day, because there never seemed to be a set time for physical therapy. If she fell asleep, especially after lunch, the staff would not wake her for her session and she would only fall further behind. I would even sneak in a Coca Cola with a little caffeine to help keep her alert enough to participate. I was warned by the social worker that she needed to show steady progress or her insurance would not cover the $479 a day cost that was being charged for her recovery.

I motivated Mom to try her hardest, promising that they would let her come home with me if she proved she could walk. Mom wanted to go home so badly that she applied herself with more diligence than patients with all their mental faculties. In the end, she passed the test and was released but you could hardly call it “walking.” She required the assistance of two people and a third following her from behind in a wheelchair. Not long after she returned home, Mom was simply too exhausted to stand and we were too exhausted to encourage it. Her left leg was starting to contract first and then it was her left arm .  She’d became bed bound. At that point, I started getting her up twice a day using a Hoyer lift. I wanted to keep her lungs clear and let her dine at her familiar kitchen table where she could watch the birds in the bird bath.

So my “new normal” continues, just like I described in my post Two Years Later. I’m housebound unless there’s an aide here and even when there is I am always rushing, rushing, rushing to get back home so that an aide can sign out. My car is like Cinderella’s coach and I must get back by noon or it turns into a pumpkin. I find myself speed shopping through stores and coming home with mis-marked sizes or simply leaving my purchases in a shopping cart because the line is too slow at check out. Last month, I tried to meet a friend for lunch but when she ran late we ended up passing each other in the restaurant lobby… No time left to talk, must run back to the house. I think that’s what wears on me most of all. The actual job of caring for Mom has gotten easier in many ways than before the fall. I no longer run after my giant toddler or worry that she will hurt herself on something hot or sharp or trip on the dog— my worst fear happened and we survived.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.