Arranging Hospice Care

Mom's College Graduation Picture

Mom’s College Graduation Picture

I met with the Hospice Social Worker yesterday to sign the necessary paperwork to bring in hospice care for Mom.  Bless those sainted workers.  I don’t know where they find them but all of the ones I’ve met so far have been so caring and kind.  I walked her to the facility’s library and we sat down.  I was familiar in general with what hospice provides but didn’t know specifics.  She proceeded to explain all that they could do for Mom.

They would have nursing staff check on her daily and provide additional care for her.  Hospice workers would come just to visit her.  Their chaplain would visit regularly and read Scripture to Mom and pray over her (with her, if by some miracle she decides to wake up). They would bring in a harpist to play in her room on a regular basis.  A massage therapist would provide light touch massage for Mom.

She told me that the average time that hospice spends with a terminal patient is around six months but, given my mom’s advanced age, it could be much shorter.  One of the hospice nurses arrived and also sat down with us and told me what I’d start to notice as Mom further declined.  She said that in 99% of her cases, it isn’t a sudden abrupt death but a gentle slowing down of the body functions.  She said once the patient is no longer eating or drinking, then it is usually a matter of days before their death.

They asked me if I had any concerns.  I explained (between sobs) how this was just all so new to me and how bewildered I was how things could have gone downhill so quickly when I was just talking to her early last week.  I told them how I want so much to be a good daughter to Mom in her last days and how I’m afraid that my emotionalism might get in the way or my anxiety issues that I’ve struggled with around sick people ever since my initial cancer diagnosis and hospitalization years ago.  I  also told them how I had the feeling that Mom has hung on this long because she’s afraid to die.

“My mother was always such a perfectionist and she was hardest on herself.  I think she is afraid that she hasn’t been ‘good’ enough to get into Heaven and that’s why she’s afraid to die, even though she’s been a wonderful Christian for so many years,” I explained.

They gently reassured me that first off, I WAS a good daughter and that I should just do what I could do; no more.  Second, they told me that fear would not hold my mother on earth one second beyond her allotted time.  When the body decides it is time, it takes over whether the person thinks it is time or not.  If they detected fear on her part, they would do all they could to assuage it.

“You don’t know my mother,” I replied.  “She’s very strong-willed.”

Mom with little Sweet Pea

Mom with little Sweet Pea

Finally it was time to sign the paperwork and head back so that the nurse could examine Mom and so that the social worker could meet her.  As has been the case since late last week, Mom wasn’t responsive.  She was hunched over in her wheelchair, not talking or opening her eyes.  The social worker introduced herself anyway and stroked her arm.  The nurse gently explained what she was doing for each procedure.  I sat and cried.

It was decided to stop all of her medications except for the pain meds since the staff have been unsuccessful in getting Mom to take her medication lately.  I also talked with the nurse about the possibility of just letting Mom stay in bed.  She looks so uncomfortable hanging over almost doubled in a wheelchair when she could be snug in bed.  The hospice nurse agreed with me and wrote down the change in orders.

When they had all left, I read some more of our prairie story to Mom before heading home.  Today was much of the same.  I came and found her in bed and again, not responding to me.  She won’t open her eyes or speak.  I tried to read, cried, and read some more.  A new hospice nurse arrived and found me crying and she assured me that she was here not only for Mom but also for me.  We talked about our grandchildren and our pets and we showed each other pictures of them all.  It was the distraction I needed.  As we talked, Missy, the nurse, would stroke Mom’s arm.  When she took her arm to clean her nails, I was struck again at how skeletal my mother has become.

In the meantime, June, Mom’s roommate had awakened from her nap and was chatting away.

“Your mom and I talked last night,” she said.  “We had a nice chat and then she said she was tired and I was too so we just sat here and snoozed.”

“She’s a sweet, little thing.  I like her a lot.  You know,” she assured me, “I’ll be here for as long as she needs me.”

“Thank you, June,” I replied.  “You’ve been a good roommate.”

New Life

New Life

It had turned into a beautiful day when I got home this afternoon.  I decided to get some fresh air and take the dog out for a walk.  As we circled the neighborhood, I listened to music on my iPhone.  Suddenly Amy Grant’s song, “Love Has a Hold on Me” came on.  There is a stanza that says “Someday when I breathe my dying breath, love has a hold on me.”  I remembered singing along with that song as the kids and I drove on Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean many years ago.  It was a pleasant and vivid memory.   I hope that Mom, as she lies there in bed, is reliving many wonderful memories.

Dream on, Mama, dream on!

 

 

  • Jason

    Thanks for the update Mom. Hang in there.

  • Jeff Taylor

    Hi, Dee!
    I was moved by today’s blog. I have, in my nearly 60 years, been present at the last hours or even seconds of the lives of a number our Graf relatives, including my Mother. It has been my observation that the Grafs are not afraid of death. They just don’t want to go. And it is not that they don’t feel worthy of Heaven, but I truly believe that they are convinced that there could never be anyone on this earth that could love their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. as much as they do. And that is why they don’t want to go. My grandmother, Marget, though not born a Graf, lived for almost 100 years, and I will bet that a majority of that time was spent in prayer, asking God to protect and bless her loved ones. Who else will do that in their absence?
    The answer to that question is- you and me. Our ancestors provided us with all the background that we could individually absorb, and eventually it becomes our turn to take their places. We just need to be as “strong-willed” as they are. It is greatly difficult to be able to count your many blessings in these distressing times of transition. Be assured that a great many folks love you and will hold you and your Mom tightly in their hearts.
    Blessings!
    Jeff T

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