Kind of like my dad, she lost her independence in the blink of an eye, never to regain it, even though we had hopes that she would, at least to some extent. Kind of like my dad, she was in very good shape physically and mentally, until her illness struck. But unlike my dad, in addition to her physical skills, her cognitive abilities also were severely affected as a result of the stroke, and she did not have anyone in her area to take the kind of care of her that was required after that or the resources to have it provided in her home. And so, as her hospital stay after the stroke was coming to an end, a skilled nursing facility was strongly recommended by the medical staff, and my parents decided to move her to one that was close to their house, one state over from hers.
|QUITE THE DAREDEVIL IN YEARS PAST: With her younger brother Freddie, in Daytona Beach, FL ...|
|... and riding the bull at Gilley's|
About a month before Dad was diagnosed with cancer, he and my mom sat down with Grandmom's doctor to discuss her steadily declining condition. She had become completely dependent on others for everything, including feeding herself, and had been having some trouble with swallowing that seemed to indicate that she had had one or more mini-strokes that were hastening her decline. Because of the swallowing difficulties, she was at risk for pneumonia and she was also having bouts of depression and anxiety, even though she did not seem to be aware of where she was or what was going on around her most of the time. The physician recommended that my dad, who held Grandmom's medical power of attorney, enroll his mother in hospice care, which meant that she would continue to be cared for in the nursing home but that she would also be monitored by medical staff from a hospice agency who were specifically trained in end-of-life comfort care. Wanting the best possible care for his mom, Dad signed the papers with a heavy heart; he'd committed to providing for and to looking after his mom years ago and felt in his heart that this was the best choice for her, as did we.
Worrying about her, her prognosis, and her comfort continued to weigh heavily on my dad in the days ahead; in fact, the last text message I ever got from him, which was just before he was diagnosed, was about his concerns for her. He said he felt that she was declining so quickly that he didn't think she would survive even one month longer. He said that he was worried about how "the girls" (meaning my children and my nieces, all of whom had visited Grandmom in the nursing home recently but had not seen her in her present condition) were taking the news of her decline; the whole situation was both difficult and sad for everyone involved. Dad continued to visit his mom whenever he could, as did my mom; thinking about her was a part of their normal routine.
To Be Continued ... Not Knowing, Part 2