We put my mother in the nursing home last Tuesday afternoon. This afternoon, six days later, she was taken to the hospital, and could die, with pneumonia.
Getting her to the nursing home was no problem. She was calm. She didn't even ask where we were going when my sister told her it was time to go. She went freely, smiling and content. She was still that way when we got to the nursing home, still that way when she sat in her chair there, and still seemed happy as we left, leaving her in the care of my sister-in-law, a nurse there.
She was asleep when we went to visit on Friday. And today she has pneumonia.
I can't help but feel that this is my fault. She may die tonight, and if she does, it will be my fault.
Monday, January 1, 1996
My mother is much better, and she got out of the hospital this afternoon. We told her that she would be taken to "another hospital" this afternoon, because my sister-in-law has told her when she asked in the nursing home that she is sick and is in a place where she can be taken care of--no one has mentioned "nursing home" to her.
An ambulance delivered her back to the nursing home this afternoon and we stayed an hour or so with her. It was so hard leaving her after we had taken turns watching her around the clock, day and night, in the hospital all week. And she is so much worse than when we left her in the nursing home almost two weeks ago. She hardly has any ability to communicate at all, she is totally incontinent, and it appears that she may not even be able to walk. She has been in bed in the hospital for almost a week, and has been hooked up to all kinds of tubes much of the week--even a feeding tube in order to give her medicine and some nourishment.
She was more alert this morning than she has been all week, but she still falls asleep very quickly. It's like she can stay awake for only a few minutes at a time.
Being with her this week has made it easier in a way. It has been like a second chance to do something for her. I've sat up with her in the hospital for the last three nights. But tonight, coming back to the house was terrible, with all the memories, and feeling like I've taken so much away from her, including this house, just as she often accused me of doing. I don't know how long I can live here.
Sunday, January 7, 1996
This week has been worse for me, especially this weekend--my first one alone here since we took my mother to the nursing home.
I felt even worse after we visited her today. She was almost totally non-responsive. She just held hands with me and moved her eyes, and she tried to whisper one word only once. Her face is badly drawn to one side--evidence of a stroke. She fell asleep while we were there. She didn't seem to show any kind of recognition of us at all.
I'm so afraid she won't be around for long. I think she's about to die, and I still feel that it is my fault. My sister and brother-in-law talked to me today about it-- told me that I am not to blame. But I still feel that I am.
Sunday, January 14, 1996
My mother is better. She has been getting angry with the aides and nurses, so there's still some life in her.
I'm doing ok, too. The weekend was awful, but keeping busy helps. I have a temporary job that started Friday. And I am invited to my sister's most every night for supper, TV, and a relaxing cup of tea, so I don't have to be alone in this house unless I want to.
I guess my mother is better off in the nursing home than with me. I was reaching my breaking point. I think she's being well taken care of. Something they are doing has even made the swelling go down, and she doesn't seem to have indigestion anymore. Could it be that they puree her food? They haven't tried to put her dentures back in. They crush her medicine, give her pureed food, and she gets a "health shake" between meals.
Still it hurts. The memories are all over this house. They are here, always right here.
Tuesday, January 16, 1996
My mother seemed less alert today than in recent weeks. She didn't know what to do with her birthday presents (Yesterday was her 80th birthday). We didn't wrap them but just put them in gift bags to make it easier. Still, she just pulled on the bag instead of understanding that she needed to reach inside to find her gifts. She hardly reacted at all when we pulled out her new dresses and gowns. It's like she's slowly falling into a deep sleep and losing more consciousness each day. Her periods of being aware of anything at all are getting fewer and less frequent.
For a few weeks she had seemed better. Sometimes she was even very talkative, although it was hard to understand anything she was trying to say. Two or three times when we visited, she even took walks down the hall. She has been different each time we have visited. Sometimes it seemed she was hardly awake, hardly aware of anything. Other times she has been chattering away (though she couldn't be understood), sometimes even laughing, and sometimes she seemed restless. Most of the time, though, she has seemed content. My sister-in-law says that she loves it when they take her in a wheelchair to see the cloggers/ line dancers that entertain in the nursing home.
I still feel guilty. I still try to escape it all. I have worked in four different towns and have now ended up in Huntsville, about as far as I can run away and still stay in the state, still close enough to visit her on Sundays.
Sunday, April 7, 1996
Sunday, April 21, 1996
My mother was different today. She seemed more like she often was when I was taking care of her. She had that worried look on her face. She was very out of it when we arrived. I think she had just waked up and may have been dreaming. She frowned and mumbled things we couldn't understand. I held her hand and told her everything was all right. Just once I could understand what she said-- something like "I just want to do what's right." I told her she was doing what was right by sitting there resting. And, because they have had trouble lately getting her to eat and to go for a bath, I told her it would be doing what was right for her to eat when they bring her food and to go get a bath when they come to get her for one. She nodded and said "Ok", though she didn't stop frowning. She seemed to relax just a bit and her worrying decreased a little, as it usually does, when I held her hand and stroked her arm.
I brought her flowers again, as I have on every visit. There is always something blooming that I can take--an amaryllis, some other houseplant, or some cut flowers from the garden. She didn't seem to see the flowers at all this time. She didn't smile or say they were pretty as she has sometimes.
When we told her bye there was no response. When I said I would bring her more flowers next time, she did say "Ok."
It felt sadder leaving today than at any time since she got out of the hospital and went back to the nursing home. For several weeks she has seemed better, but not today. I wonder if she has had more strokes.
Tuesday, April 23, 1996
My mother died early this morning, not long after midnight. She died in her sleep. The aides at the nursing home found her when they went to check on her and turn her over, as they did several times each night.
I didn't know until around 7:00 this morning, after I had already gone to work. My sister didn't want me to make the trip home from Huntsville until after daylight.
I didn't cry when I heard. But three times during the trip I started sobbing so much I could hardly drive.
I feel so numb. I can't believe this has happened. Of course we all knew it would. But not this soon. I expected many more Sunday visits to the nursing home, many more times of holding my mother's hand, many more times of taking flowers to her, perhaps a whole year or more of birthdays, Mother's Days, and Christmases.
I don't know if it's harder this way, with her being in the nursing home when she died, or if it would have been harder if I were still taking care of her. Either way, I guess I would still feel the guilt. The tremendous guilt I feel now is because I'm afraid I made this progress faster and that maybe she could have had at least another year or more if I hadn't put her in a nursing home--another year of walking around outside, seeing flowers, birds, kittens and farm animals, and special days with the family, maybe even another Christmas. I had read that there are those who die a short time after entering a nursing home, just from the shock of it and the change in environment. What I have feared so has come to pass.
Wednesday, April 24, 1996
My mother's funeral was today. My father's nephew, the same minister who had spoke at my father's funeral eleven years ago, did my mother's service as well. Eleven years ago he said that my dad was like Enoch who "walked with God and was not for God took him." He said the same thing about my mother.
It had been hard when my dad died, but then I had made it through the funeral without crying too much. This time I couldn't. Tears kept rolling down my face all through the service.
Afterwards, people hugged me and expressed their sympathy, and it stated again, rivers of tears that I couldn't stop.
I wish I could be with them, my mother and dad--the two people I loved more than anyone, and the two who loved me as only parents can. I feel so alone now. I know now what my mother longed for. "Home" doesn't really exist for me anymore, and now I understand that longing "to go home", back to the home of her childhood, to be with her Mama and Papa. I miss her so, and I don't know if the tears will ever stop for me, but she's home now.
Copyright © 1996-2005 Brenda S. Parris
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