It’s been over two weeks since my last “real” blog post. My hopes and intentions are to be active at a minimum of 2 times per week. This holds me accountable but life has nonetheless been hectic and I haven’t been able to write in my personal journal or on this blog. I’ve been a journal writer long enough to know that during the times I haven’t written, life has either been really good or not so good. Even when the words are not down on paper (or computer), I’m able to know where I was emotionally.
So where am I now?
I could give you a humorous response or the honest one – so this blog will likely be a combination of both. Remember that as a former Hospice employee I’ve learned that a good way to cope with death is via humor. My goal in regards to writing this blog has always been to be helpful to others in learning healthy ways to deal with difficult situations. If I’m able to help even one or two people via my posts then I feel I’ve been successful.
A few weeks ago my Nanny was admitted to the hospice in-patient unit due to her nausea and vomiting being out of control and becoming dehydrated. She spent 10 days there but her goal was to always return home. She had been hesitant to go as this is the same place my Mom died but we had reassured her at that time she wasn’t going to the care center to die. She was never completely happy as she felt trapped in her room (although we were able to wheel her bed out on the patio of her room and several days I was able to get her in a wheel chair and take her out). She didn’t like the fact that she was no longer independent.
Her goal of being able to return home was accomplished on Sunday afternoon a week ago. My aunt took leave from work and my husband and I went on with our plans to take a short trip to the mountains of Tennessee. (We had originally planned to go to Las Vegas but after Nanny was diagnosed we knew we had to be close). I did have some reservations about going but my Nanny told me to go and I had been sitting with her every day at the Care Center while my aunt was working. Additionally, I had asked multiple Hospice employees and friends if I was doing the right thing by going away. The decision was to go. I needed to get away. (More about the cabin we stayed at later)
Nanny was only able to stay home until Friday morning of last week as the home Hospice nurse felt that she was declining and death would likely come soon. As a result of this, my husband and I came home late on Thursday night. I had this fear that she would hold on because I wasn’t home.
Of course, today is now Monday and very little has changed in the way of her physical condition. With end of life care, one can never be specific in regards to when a death will occur. I’ve seen patients who I expected to be around for some time, die suddenly without any signs and I’ve seen patients with every sign of impending death hang on for weeks.
My Nanny is ready to die and has told all of us that she loves us and that she is ready to go. She’s a little angry that she’s ready and she’s still here. (This is so much like her personality) In fact, over the weekend as she was drinking her apple juice she looked at her cup with a glare and stated “This apple juice is keeping me alive.” It truly was a funny moment as she is only taking in 4 ounces at the most.
The reality is we are waiting for the end of her life. She has become more jaundice and is sleeping more on a daily basis. She is comfortable with only bouts of nausea. Her death could come tonight or it could be another week. (I certainly hope not) Today I have witnessed bouts of apnea (where she stops breathing for several seconds). This is a new sign.
A friend and I were talking today in regards to being a grief counselor and former hospice employee and grieving. It makes it easier in some form to understand what is going on but at the same time it can be harder. I know the signs to look for that others do not. I know what is happening within her body that others do not.
I do know that I am tired – on a physical and emotional level. I want a day where I can sit on my couch and be catatonic and stare at the TV. However, I also know that when that day comes I will no longer have my mother or grandmother.
I’ve wondered what the lesson is to be learned here. Why is someone who is ready to die still here? I do not believe she is waiting for anyone to come see her or for anything specific to happen. For those of you in the Hospice world, I’ve reread the book Final Gifts, hoping that maybe I am missing something. I don’t think that I am.
So, it is what it is right now.
Perhaps it is to simply make me slow down (once again) and reevaluate life.
What is important? What isn’t?
I’ve begun a list of things I would like to do for myself on a regular basis – when I don’t feel that I need to be here in her room with her – when she is no longer here with me. Believe it or not, I hope to be able to sit for a while and do nothing. For I know that I have the tendency to do too much and that a strong coping mechanism could be for me to finally throw myself into my Mom’s estate work, planning for the Fall semester of teaching, losing that 20 pounds.
We will wait to see what happens…….