Saturday, April 05, 2008

Moment of Panic

Today Mom was almost dead when I arrived at 10 am, hunched over in her wheelchair with her head almost touching her knees, phlegm blocking her throat, her upper plate of false teeth in her lap.

The morning caregivers were nearby busily serving breakfast to their 28 residents, unaware of her condition. Mom had pushed herself away from the table, trying to leave and go back to her room, but she'd only gone about ten feet away.

When I tried to talk to her, she was nonresponsive and as limp as a rag doll. Her eyes were rolled back so only the white was visible.

I called the meds person to take her blood pressure. She couldn't get a reading, but Mom was still breathing lightly and had a pulse. We were all panicked.

"Today's the day," I thought. "I didn't think it would come this soon."

We managed to wheel her back to her room and stretch her out on the bed.

Beulah, one of the caregivers in the dining room, said that Mom had not eaten any breakfast but had coughed up a large glob of yellow phlegm. More phlegm was still in her mouth, but she wouldn't open to let us clean it out.

Finally we got a blood pressure reading of 102 over 61. Her pulse was 74. I called my sister and told her, "It's today, I think." Emily cancelled her plans to do a wedding rehearsal and drove up to see Mom, arriving at 12:30 pm.

Realizing that Mom was not going to get individual supervision from her residence, I called the caregiver agency and changed our request from eight hours a day to twenty-four hours in two shifts of twelve hours, 7 am to 7 pm and then an equal shift at night. Mom is probably going to die in the next six or seven days, but she will not die unattended, hunched over in a wheelchair or alone in her bed at night. Someone will be with her.

The agency would have coerced someone into appearing that night at 7 pm, but I told them we wanted the two twelve-hour shifts to begin on Monday. For the weekend I would stay with Mom overnight as well as during the day, with breaks provided by Emily on Saturday and the scheduled caregiver 4-8 pm on Sunday.

At 2 pm Mom's blood pressure was still 102 over 59. I left Emily in charge until 7 pm, when I would be back to spend the night in Mom's room.

We changed her into her nightgown and tried to squirt a little water into her mouth to freshen it.

Then I said, "Goodnight, Mom. I love you."

"I hate you!" she said vehemently.

"That's okay, you can hate me," I answered. "Is it okay to put music on?"

She nodded. We listened to hymns on the CD player.

Meanwhile, I called my brother Bill to discuss the day with him.

"It would have been an easier death for her to go today from lack of oxygen than to do organ failure," he commented. "There's a lot of suffering with that."

"Yeah, I guess it was kind of pointless to revive her now so she can die in four or five more days," I confessed. "Oh well...."

After talking to the nighttime caregivers. I turned out the light about midnight, sleeping on a futon on the floor.

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