Things are bad with Mom

Mom had another stroke this week – it was a doozy. She’s pretty much lost the ability to swallow. She doesn’t understand most of what we say. She doesn’t say much besides “Mom”, “help”, “yes”, “no”, “OK”. Sometimes I can get an “I love you” out of her, but I don’t know if she’s saying it out of reflex/mimicking, or if she’s expressing actual emotion. She’s lost about 10 pounds in a little over a week. She’s bed bound now. We have a meeting with palliative care on Monday. I’m going to push for hospice. I don’t think Mom will last long.

Today when I was visiting – which is really just sitting by the bed and rubbing her leg/arm when she calls out – she reached for my face and held her hand to it. She said “love you.” I knew that she was expressing real emotion there. I cried bittersweet tears. I said “I love you too, Mama.” Then she went back to snoring.

Losing a parent is hard. I’ve sought help with a psychologist to help me through this. My husband is great and so supportive. I know things would be 10 times harder without him. (I Love you babe!!!)

So… that’s what’s going on. NO new quilting. No training for the half marathon. Just a lot of panic, fear, worry, sadness, and a tinge of relief.

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Mom again

Mom’s back in the hospital. They took her by ambulance to the ER after calling my sister. When my sister saw mom, she wasn’t responding to most stimulus. Mom wasn’t responding to words, sight or touch. She just kept shouting “Mom” like she does when she’s deep in distress and suffering another stroke.

I wasn’t there, but my sister called. I beat the ambulance to the ER. The paramedics had trouble getting her to sit still to get any readings. But by the time they got to the ER she was a bit calmer. I walked up, rubbed her arm and said “Hi Mama, how are you.” She smiled and said “Hi. OK.” That was the first thing she’d said besides “mom” in almost an hour.

She has improved a bit since then. The doctors say that she has an acute UTI, which caused stroke-like symptoms. The problem is that she’s had so many TIAs that they can’t see new ones because of all the damage from the old ones.

Once she wakes up, I’ll do her memory exercises again. Before we left last night, she remembered her own Name. She also remembered she had 3 kids, but could only really remember my name with any regularity.

Us kids have a meeting with her doctor and care team in a couple hours to talk about next steps. Hopefully her prognosis is good.

Dreaming of Mom

Mom had a second stroke this week – yesterday, in fact.  It’s weird how much can change from one moment to the next.  I was counting the money for the cash register yesterday morning when I got the call.  My sister said Mom couldn’t say anything but “Mom” and “Dad.”  They called 911 and I was on my way.

So, Mom’s back in the hospital.  She was admitted yesterday.  If she does well, she’ll be released tomorrow.  She’s super confused, talks like she’s had way too much to drink and lacks coordination.  We’ll see, right?

The ER neurologist showed me Mom’s CT scans.  She walked me through all the damage that her previous 7 (?) strokes have done, the damage the blocked carotid artery has done, the damage caused by diabetes, cholesterol, etc.  Almost the entire back of her brain on the right side is dark gray – a sign of damage.  There’s similar, but less widespread damage on the left side.  There are black pin-pricks in other parts of her brain.  The arteries are very narrow leading up to and through her brain.  The doctor said that there is so much damage caused by her previous strokes that it’s difficult to find the new damage caused by the stroke on Sunday and yesterday.

After Mom was admitted I went home to relax and sleep.  After my dad passed away, I dreamed about him.  I told him how much I loved him, he gave me words of warning and I woke up at peace.  I had a similar dream about my mom last night, but she hasn’t passed on yet.

My dream last night was peaceful, beautiful, touching and sad all at the same time.  I don’t remember all of it, but I do remember the most important part.  My mom, sister, brother and I were all standing in a field filled with yellow and white daisies.  It was sunny, but not hot and I wasn’t worried about us burning in the sun’s rays.  We were all so happy and calm, but there was a touch of sadness too.

Mom was standing tall without her walker.  She looked so vibrant and alert.  She was smiling.  Her hair was done like she used to do it before all these strokes.  Her face looked younger too.  She spoke to each of us kids and told us that everything was going to be alright.  She said that she loved us very much, but that she had to go away for awhile.  She would see us soon so we shouldn’t worry and we should always remember that she loves us.

Then I woke up.

I don’t really know if this dream is a precursor of things to come; if she’s telling us goodbye before she’s gone for good, or if she was simply talking about her stay in the hospital.  I do know that when I woke up I felt a little bit lighter and sadder all at the same time.

I don’t know what I’ll do when Mom passes on.  For a long time, she’s been mostly gone but bits and pieces of her have shown up and they remind me of what I miss.  As frustrating as they were at the time, I miss our “noon-thirty I love you calls” that came about as a mutual check-in from 2005-2008.  I would be so annoyed because she would panic a little if I couldn’t answer the phone.  After her stroke in 2008 the calls stopped because she was confused by the phone.  And now she’s confused by talking.

I know that death is another part of life, and that Mom has not passed on yet.  But knowing that it’s basically around the corner for someone I love so much is very difficult to handle.

So Mom, I know you can’t read this, but please know how much we love you.  Please understand how much we miss your guidance and nosiness.  And how much I’d love to hear your stories just one more time.

TIAs: God’s Little Reminders

Yesterday started out really good. My husband and I got up, went for a Starbucks breakfast, hiked part of the way up Mission Peak, did our grocery shopping, visited his parents, and then came home to cook a Mexican meal. About 8:30pm I got a call from my sister saying she was calling 911 for Mom. Mom’s speech was slurred, she got lost inside the house (a house she’s lived in since 1978), and wasn’t self correcting when she got stuck with her walker.

Yep. She was having another stroke.

Mom has been having mini-strokes (TIAs) since 2005. We’ve gotten used to spotting them. Her first good sized TIA was in 2008 – that’s what got me started with losing weight and being healthy back then. It was my wakeup call.

We met the ambulance at the closest Kaiser hospital with a stroke center. They were wonderful with her last TIA. But this time was different. The doctors didn’t seem to want to understand that her speech isn’t normally slurred, that she doesn’t normally get lost inside her own house, and that she’s normally aware enough of what she’s doing that she can call for help if her walker gets stuck somewhere. We had to argue because they said she seemed “fine”. I finally looked at the doctor and said “My mother doesn’t normally sound like she’s downed a 5th of whiskey. She doesn’t normally think she’s at Oak Knoll and living in Oakland. She doesn’t normally get lost on the way to the bathroom at home. This is not normal. We are not taking her home until we know she is stable.” Sometimes being the health care advocate and having Power of Attorney means being forceful.

Around 2am her memory showed improvement, but not her speech. My sister said that she felt like she could take care of mom if she were to go home. I didn’t see mom getting any worse, and she was in much better condition than she was during her last ER visit. So we took her home.

Mom doesn’t remember anything about last night and her speech is still slurred. She’s still having problems with walking. We know that she’ll show improvement over the next month until she reaches her new “normal.” We’re old hands at this, right?

Is it bad that I use my mom’s strokes as a reminder to live healthfully? Is it bad that I use them as a reminder to live life to the fullest? Probably not. But every time they happen I think of them as God’s little reminders; another kick in the pants to keep me going and to remember what’s important.

Picking up Mom

It is with mixed feelings that I’m bringing my mom home today.  Physically, she’s OK.  She can walk, talk, feed herself, sit up, lay down, etc.  She’s a very strong woman.  Mentally she seems OK until it’s time to get out of bed or go into the bathroom.  Those are both places that she fell and that remembered trauma makes her anxious.  It takes a few minutes to calm her down and assure her that nothing bad will happen.  I’m sure that with time she’ll “forget” the anxiety and be closer to her old self.

The anxiety issues may be a deal-breaker with my sister providing care.  I don’t know if she’s unwilling or unable to put that much time into talking mom down from an anxiety attack.  I do know that her yelling in exasperation doesn’t help.  She wants to put mom on anti anxiety medications.  I want to wait until she’s home and settled before changing/adding anything medication-wise.  This disagreement is so stressful.  I know we’ll work through it, but I don’t have to like it.

And let’s say that we can’t work through it.  Let’s say that we try adding that medication and it doesn’t work.  What then?  It’s a decision I don’t want to have to make, but I know it’s an inevitability.

So, until then, I’ll celebrate that Mom will be home for Christmas.  She’ll be with the family, surrounded by love and secure in the knowledge that we all missed her and love her very much.  What more can I wish for this holiday season?

Sore

I’d forgotten what it was like to be sore after a good workout.  Have I really just been phoning it in this past year?  If so, it might explain my weight gain.  I couldn’t help but peek at the scale these past two days.  Well… not really the scale so much as the Wii Fit.  What can I say? My scale sucks and the Wii Fit will give me a pretty chart!  The Wii says I lost 2 lbs, and the tape measure says I’ve lost 1.5 inches in my waist.  I know it’s water weight, but it’s encouraging!

I woke up late, so no workout this morning.  I’ll have to do it later – sometime between talking some issues over with my sister and visiting my mom.

Mom seems to be doing well.  She keeps asking for pretzels (her favorite treat) and asking when she can go back to her bed (as in, not the hospital bed).  Mom’s roommate said she overheard the doctor say that she was very strong and her recovery should be quick.  That’s great news.  I’ll be talking to people at the rehab facility today to get a better idea of what needs to be done, what improvements they’re wanting to see and a general estimate of time needed. Mom said that they made her stand up at therapy, but she couldn’t remember if she walked or not.  I’ll ask about that too.

So far I like the facility she’s in.  There’s a very diverse (ethnically) staff and they all seem to be happy.  The patients greet them with a smile, and the staff greet the patients by name.

My mommy

My mom had another stroke on Sunday/Monday.  We’re pretty sure that it started on Sunday.  We took her to the ER and they sent us home because they couldn’t see anything wrong in her CT scan and blood work.  Monday my brother called 911 because she couldn’t tell that her left hand belonged to her.  They took her to the stroke center at Kaiser Fremont.  The ER doctors verified that she had an acute ischemic stroke, which has caused the brain to “neglect” the left side.

She’s doing better, but still has a lack of sensation and coordination with her left hand/arm.  Getting her out of bed is difficult; so far walking is impossible.  She’s much more awake and aware of her surroundings and she fed herself today.

After her last stroke we decided that it would be best to give me power of attorney over her medical decisions and my sister over her financial decisions.  On Monday I had to sign paperwork regarding resuscitation, feeding tubes, and breathing apparatuses.  It was heartbreaking.  Today I had to verify the paperwork that had already been signed.  It was so hard to read the decisions that had already been made and make sure that they follow along with mom’s wishes even though they go against my own.

I asked her roommate how mom did last night.  She said that mom kept calling for me and trying to get out of bed to find me.  Not my brother, not my sister… me.  Her roommate kept telling her that I had to go home and mom kept saying, “but Danie takes care of me, she remembers everything and she doesn’t get mad.”  Even though my siblings take care of her on a daily basis, she looks for me when she’s in distress.

She started yelling for me again today when I was on my way out to get lunch.  I felt so guilty leaving, but I can’t be there all the time.

My husband praises me for being so strong and loving.  He said today that seeing me at my mom’s side reminds him of why I’m the perfect woman for him.  I don’t know how much of this is strength because I’m weeping as I’m typing this.  I just do what needs to be done.  I call it being an adult, not being strong.

Time to dry my tears, blow my nose, and fix my makeup.  I told mom I’d be back to visit her in a little while – I don’t want to make a liar out of myself.

 

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