I am going to try to write this. I don't know if I can : it is 7:00 A.M., I just had nine hours of sleep, yet I am so very, very tired. My whole body aches. I am not sick, just tired.
It started five days ago, a day that began at 4:30 A.M. with a phone call from my mother. The ensuing scenario involved the rescue squad, an ambulance ride for her, eight hours in the ER, and the ending of a long, sad story that is repeated all too often in today's world.
My mother is in her 90’s and has lived alone since my father died seven years ago. I moved here to Florida from France in 2001 when it became apparent that she needed someone near at hand. My brother, my only sibling, lives 2,000 miles away.
I have never been my mother’s favorite child. Whenever my brother walks into the room my mother’s face lights up as if the sun had just come out, but I am the one she depends on to get things done. All three of us know this. That’s just background information.
My mother is in general good health for her age, but it has become increasingly harder for her to walk. A knee replacement in 1990 was redone in 2002 and since then she has been using a walker. Mentally, she has been very alert but doesn’t trust her memory and has had me handle her finances for the past 18 months.
When we had our first bad hurricane in August I insisted she go into a shelter for the elderly. She came out of the shelter three days later very angry as she somehow had the idea that she had spent several hours in the trunk of my Honda, in a parking garage. I put this down to stress, but began to think more seriously about Assisted Living for her. Like most elderly people, she was not receptive to the idea.
She has been wearing a LifeLine alert bracelet for several years as she cannot pick herself up if she falls down at home. This has happened every few months; she falls, she punches the button on her bracelet, and the City sends out a team of three rescue workers to get her on her feet again. Since earlier this month the rescue squad has been called out three times, the last being the other day when she was taken into the Emergency Room.
Fortunately, nothing appeared to be broken. The ER doctor who handled her case asked me if I thought she could function on her own at home. This was my cue.
”I’ve been told by someone in the medical profession”, I said, “that if her doctor will put her into the hospital for further tests, she can then be sent to a rehab, and eventually into a nursing home.”
He looked at me and nodded. “I just wanted to be sure we are on the same page.”
So it is done. She spent the regulation three days in hospital so Medicare can become involved, and is now in a rehab center. She should be there for 100 days, which gives me time to find either an ALF or an “extended care facility” for her. For the last read “nursing home”, which has become politically incorrect in today’s vocabulary.
Like most caregivers, I hadn’t realized how much ground has been lost over the past year, or how fast she has been going downhill in the past few months. She admitted to her doctor that she had been hiding the true nature of her condition from him as well as from me. He didn’t know, for example, that she was enrolled in the LifeLine alert program. I didn’t know that it was so difficult for her to get out of her recliner.
Looking back, I realize that whenever I visited her lately she would stay in the recliner. Earlier in the year she would come to the door when I left her house. I mentioned this to her the other day in the hospital. She grinned and told me that she did the same with everyone because “I didn’t want people worrying about me.”
”Yeah", I said, “it gained you a few more months at home and you could have ended up with a broken hip.”
”That’s okay”, she replied, “I was willing to take that chance.”
So there we are. My brother flew in for a few days. Once he leaves I have to put her house in mothballs, start looking for a permanent care facility, try to sort out her paperwork, and so forth and so on.
The last five days have been hectic. I filled the tank of the Honda three times, racing between home, office, hospital, airport, my mother's house, like a hamster in a cage. And it is the Happy Holiday Season.
I don’t know if I will be able to continue working, as everyone tells me that the only way to ensure good care is to visit her on a daily basis at different times of the day. I am so tired and it hasn’t even started yet. I am just going to take this one day at a time.