Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Surprised by Hospice

I stopped by my mother's residence for a brief visit at about 2 pm, not planning to stay long because on Tuesdays she has a caregiver 2-10 pm. I took a few Easter cards and cards for upcoming birthdays for her to sign.
But the staff flagged me down with alarm: "She didn't eat any breakfast or lunch, and she's refusing liquids too. She won't drink V-8 or orange juice."
I tried to get her to drink and found it to be true. She was refusing meds and liquids.
"Okay, I'll make an appointment with her doctor," I said, thinking it would be within a day or two.
"Ask for an appetite stimulant," suggested Chandita, the meds dispenser.
"Okay, that's a good idea," I agreed.
At 3 pm I called for an appointment, saying she was refusing to eat or drink, and the receptionist offered me an appointment at 4 pm.
So much for the rest of my day, I figured.
I called my sister Emily to consult with her: "I know the doctor will urge hospice," I told her. "She suggested it a year ago and six months ago."
"Well, maybe it's time," Emily said. "I'll support you if you feel the time has come to start hospice."
Indeed, shortly after 4 pm Dr. Rosen was laying out our choices: either hospitalize her in order to do hydration and blood work as well as x-rays to determine why she's not eating--or accept her decline and make her comfortable by using the services of hospice while keeping her in her familiar surroundings.
The main indicator was that she weighed only 92 pounds--down from 102 on January 16. She had lost ten pounds in two months.
The best choice was clear: hospice.
Dr. Rosen wrote out a referral to Roze Room Hospice, saying: "End stage dementia with functional decline and weight loss."
I wheeled Mom back to her residence shocked by this sudden change.
Sadness filled me: we had just celebrated her 89th birthday a week earlier. I'd been wondering how to make her money stretch out another 2-3 years. And now she might have just 3-6 months... or less.

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