The Snowman

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you! Friends, family and blog readers, thank you for reading and sending me messages this year. I know that I don’t write as often any more, since the blog was about my mom and I but every once in a while I think of something that is important to me or that you may relate to in some small way. This has been on my mind this week.

This is a hard time of year for people.

I know that there are articles about grief, sadness and loneliness this time of year and I won’t bore you or try to replicate them. I just know and feel how hard it is for people around the holidays.

To the woman in the elevator this week at the assisted living building I was visiting. I understand.  It was just she and I in the elevator and I could tell she was sad. Really sad. She looked so lonely and broken. I was trying to think of something to say to her as we slowly made our way to the 7th floor. Her face full of wrinkles and the saddest eyes. I finally ended up saying, “You look nice today.” She looked at me and nodded. Maybe she had recently lost her husband or maybe her children could not come for the holiday. Maybe she was in pain. I kept thinking about her during my day.

To the family of the people we have lost over the past month. I understand.  It’s never easy to lose someone you love. Ever.  But it is especially hard over the holidays. Your family is not the same and it is supposed to be a joyous time. Waves of grief fall over your heart. I have lost young and old over the past month. Cancer, the main thief, stealing the ones we love.

Many of you read The Piano Player that I wrote last December. Sadly he passed away last month and I miss his sweet smile, his laughter and gentle teasing. The hard part of the job is not to become attached. There are important things to remember called boundaries. He was one of my favorite visits and he is missed. I think people come into your life for certain reasons. He and I shared a few family issues that I didn’t share with him but I watched him handle his issues with grace and strength. There’s my lesson. Grace and strength.

To the husband of the wife I take care of who hasn’t been my easiest family member. I now understand. When I first met the husband in a rehab center, I could immediately tell he was in control of his wife’s situation. He was rude to his daughters and frankly, wasn’t listening to anyone that was trying to help him. When we got his wife home, we had a rocky start. He continued to be rude, condescending, demanding and highly opinionated. I had to deep breathe with him on all of my visits. I really needed to understand him and realize where he was coming from. I will admit that I lost my cool with him on one occasion. And I’m not proud of that.

Over the last few months I have realized that if I suggest things to him and make it seem that it is his idea, things work out much better. I let him talk and listen and I try to understand where he is coming from. Normally it is from a place of love and concern for his wife. I just know that he likes to be right and does not like to be challenged. I have worked around this since my dad was the same way. I finally look forward to my visits with him and he isn’t even my client/patient. My heartbeat does not accelerate as much as it did before when I would have to see him.

Last Friday we had a nice chat together. He brought up my comment I had made to him last month about the fact that I am adopted. He had asked what my nationality was I told him proudly that I had just found out, via a DNA test. He asked if he could ask a few questions and I was fine with what he was asking. Normally I would not answer those private questions to a stranger but I felt alright with where he was going with it.

He shared that he too was adopted. His father had up and left him when he was a baby. It was late 1920’s and he never knew why he left. He knew that he was a successful attorney in St. Paul and that his mother remarried and the new husband adopted him as his own. He never ever saw his father again but had heard that he had been hit by a train and died. Never once did they ever connect. As he was telling me this story, his daughter was standing on the stairs just listening to him tell me this story. She called me afterwards and said that he only told them that story once and that he doesn’t talk about it. She was surprised he told me the details. That story also stayed with me. We are surprisingly connected.

When I was about to leave he gave me a bag with a gift in it. We had just talked about the fact that he doesn’t think he will be around this time next year. He didn’t really want to put up his old tree but he did for his wife. He’s much more frail and I know that he thinks about his mortality and worries about his wife. Somewhat like my father thought about my mom before he died.

I told him I had to get going since I was already running behind. He waved me goodbye and told me, “Merry Christmas! See you next Friday!” I got in my car and opened it up, hardly believing he gave me a gift. After our many months of “debate”. Here is what he gave me:

 

 

 

I am hardly the world’s greatest nurse but you know what? I’m going to keep it in a special spot and when I’m feeling like I am the worlds worst nurse I will turn it on and see the colors flashing.

I understand all of the feelings this month, more than you know. The fragility of this season. The high and lows, the great expectations, the missing of loved ones, the pressure, the sadness, the grief and the longing. It’s alright to feel that way. Really.

Know that I am wishing  you the best holiday possible.

Jodi 🎄 (The World’s Greatest Nurse)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End

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I am up early on this Saturday morning. I can hear the birds talking and can see the beautiful sky slowing waking up. I can’t sleep. Sleep has been my enemy this past week and I can feel that I am exhausted while I type this.

Early Wednesday morning, my Mom left this world. 4:20 am to be exact. I’m now up at this time and I feel she is shoving me out of bed. I feel she wants me to write but I’m not sure quite what she wants me to say. I will do my best.

For the past year she has wanted to die. This is a fact she has repeated over and over again along with wanting to go to bed. She has asked me this questions in the car, in her bed, on the toilet, watching the birds and at meal time. Sometimes she looks at me to say, “Hey, I’m talking to you. Yes, you!”. I’ve talked about this conflict in past stories.

Last Wednesday, she was not feeling good. She was sick at dinner, refusing her medications and getting weaker. Friday, Cathy the nurse, talked about starting a little Morphine for her but I wanted to use Tylenol first. I don’t think she has ever had Morphine before and I was worried it would sedate her too much and if the Tylenol helped, lets start with that.

Saturday came and I was really worried about her. We had taken her off her Aspirin and I was worried she had a small stroke since she was leaning so much. We couldn’t get her to eat much and her head was tipped down so it made it hard to feed her. We were having a birthday party for her on Sunday since most of the family could not see her on her actual birthday. I called the family to update them and hope that everyone could come.

On Sunday, we got her out of her beloved bed and put her in a tip back chair so we could attempt to feed her. Most of her family came and we sat in a lovely courtyard with the birds flying overhead and the breeze on her face. She would wake up every once in a while and I would tell her who was there. It’s the last time she also had her beloved coffee, only taking small sips. It was nice to spend this time with her, along with her family.

On Monday, I knew that it was serious. I found her in bed with my bright shirt on, hair neatly combed and she looked like the bed could swallow her up. Her mouth dry and we worked on getting small sips in her. Through out the day, she kept trying to tell me something. I could tell she was frustrated that I didn’t understand her. At the end of the sentence, what came out clear was…I love you. A little garbled but I got it. Over and over again.

I had a special moment with one of mom’s aides when she told me that Mom was her favorite. She said that they didn’t hit it off at first but that they grew to love one another and spar back and forth. We had so many people checking on us. My Pastor Beth came to see her and gave her a blessing and anointed her. That was a very meaningful moment since her faith has been so important to her. I left about 9 PM, telling her what was in my heart and not expecting her to be alive much longer. When I left, she just patted my left cheek, the same one that I had dreamt about last week.

When you are a nurse, you are the one to get the call that a Client has died and its so difficult making that call to let family know of their loved ones death. All night, I kept listening for the phone to ring. It didn’t.

Tuesday, I got my kids to school and headed over there right away. When I arrived, a male volunteer was holding her hand. He really loved my Mom and he came in early, before work, to say goodbye. He liked to call her Mean Jean. It was a very touching moment.

Mom was now not able to talk. We had started a small amount of Morphine for her to keep her comfortable. When I would say the word “Mom”, her eyes would flutter. What an important word for her. Mom.

It’s hard to express how kind people were. We had a busy day of people coming and going. The nurse, the social worker, massage therapy, music therapy and two Pastors that again blessed and anointed her. I love that she was blessed twice. The room smelled of oil and lavender. I swear a bird came to the window and knocked as if to say, “Hey, I’ll fly with you when you are ready.”

When I left on Tuesday, I was exhausted. My enemy, sleep, was winning. I had fallen asleep twice in her chair and tried to lay by her side but the bed was too small. They traded out her normal bed for the hospital bed. All those months of crawling in with her, I could only sit by her on the bed.

When I left her, I knew. I knew that she wanted to die without me there. I told her she could go and that her job here, was done.

My phone rang at 4:20 am and she was gone. Her soul at peace.

As you go about your days and weeks, remember my Mom when you see or smell:

Lilacs. We had them on the farm and she loved to put them in a pretty vase.

Fresh brewed coffee. Black, as it should be.

A Snicker bar. You can have more than one, my Mom says its ok.

A rhubarb plant or stalks. I think she would love if you made some for me!

A child’s laugh. She loved kids to the moon and back.

A Dairy Queen. Boy, did she love our hometown DQ. A small cone or if she was really crazy, a Snicker’s Blizzard.

Lemon Bars. I made her recipe yesterday and it filled the house of her memory..

A choir singing. Picture her humming along.

Any kind of book. She taught me that the best escape is a book.

Finally, do some random act of kindness. She was all about helping her family and friends.

Thank you for all of your sweet messages via FB, email, texts and calls. I only can read a few at a time. Your words are important in getting me through. One of my friends said, “You loved her well”. I love that. We both loved one another well.

Jodi

The end of hospice.

The Return of Hospice

wpid-img_20140905_191738.jpgToday, for two hours, I signed papers for the restart of hospice for Mom. She has been off of it for two months but the nurses feel that we should restart it again. She is not eating very much, has had three falls in the last few weeks, not verbalizing as much and has lost a few pounds. The spark is slowly fading.

I met the hospice intake nurse in a quiet back room, telling her about Mom. Her name is Chris and she is gentle and very kind. She has heard about Mom from her last hospice term. I hope I am that understanding and gentle when I open my own nursing cases. We discuss starting massage and music therapy for Mom. We didn’t utilize that before and I want someone to rub her back, like she always requests from me. We also get to have Cathy again, Mom’s primary hospice nurse.

On the first admission, I was not emotional. It was something that needed to be done quickly and I guess I didn’t have time to process the whole thing. Today when I arrived, I went to see Mom first and she is sound asleep on the bed and very pale. She doesn’t respond to my voice, she is in such a deep, sound sleep. I return to see Chris and start the paperwork.  I’m listening to her but I can feel the warm tears slowly start. I’m embarrassed that I start to cry in front of her but I have also watched the same thing with family on my own case opens. I’m not sure, but for some reason today is different from the last open with hospice in September.

A few months ago, a woman I respect greatly, told me that its ok to tell your Mom that she can go. I completely understand what she is saying but those are hard words to say. For seven years, since my Dad has been gone, I have taken care of her. I have grocery shopped in my small town, set up meds monthly, fought incorrect bills, paid bills, moved her twice, bought her clothes when she has lost weight, taken her on trips, yelled at people for her and loved her. How do you tell someone you love that its ok to stop living? I’ve thought about that conversation a lot.

When we were done with the paperwork Chris and I return to her room. She is in the same exact position. Curled up in a ball. She is wearing my old sweater that she loves, she has a huge hole in her nylon, crazy hair and blue puppy in her arms. She refuses to open up her eyes, even when I kneel down beside her. I introduce her to Chris and let her know what she is doing. Listening to her lungs, checking her feet  and looking at her swollen leg. In the middle of her assessment, still with her eyes closed, she states…

“I think I love you.”

We both start to laugh and I tell her, “I think I love you too!” She says she doesn’t hurt anywhere and she is very loving with Chris, repeating thank you, all with her eyes shut.

If I could show you what this disease is about, today would be the perfect day. The feeling of uncertainty, loss and grief mixed in with a whole lot of love for a woman who doesn’t want to open her eyes today.

As I was driving home, I was thinking about a book I read a few months ago about a woman with ALS. She wrote about the song in Wicked that described her relationship with her daughter. It’s called For Good and I thought of Mom.

It well may be

That we will never meet again

In this lifetime,

So let me say before we part

So much of me

Is made from what I learned from you

You’ll be with me

Like a hand print on my heart.

Day 1 of the second round of hospice and her 89th birthday is this Sunday.

Jodi

The Hospice End

On Thursday of this week, I met with our wonderful hospice nurse, Cathy. I had been prepped last week that Mom would not qualify for hospice any more. I know the rules have become much tighter regarding who can stay on the program and you must be actively dying to be on it. I understand it, but to be honest, a part of me is happy and sad all at the same time.

Actively dying is such a funny term we nurses use. I think we are all actively dying to some extent but some of us are really, really dying. Like today. Mom has not lost any weight, has been feeding herself (!) as of late and just keeps holding her own. With the highs and lows of this year, I can hardly believe she is still here. She is a wonder.

The wonder of her going off of hospice is, that I still have her. I still get to see her, hold her hand and just love her. That part of me is overjoyed. Almost like we jumped a high hurdle and made it. Success. We beat the odds and I know how rare it is to go off of hospice. In all my years of nursing, I would guess I have had five people discharged from hospice. They just weren’t ready to leave this world.

The hard part of her going off of hospice is that she is still here. I can hear my Dad somewhere yelling “BOOOOOOO!” I know he is patiently waiting for her, along with all of the friends she has lost. She sits in her chair and states every day that she wants to die. Every single day. I know it, I feel it and I understand it.

It’s not that I want her to go, please don’t misunderstand. I’ve spent all of these years with her and watched what an amazing life she has led. She will be eighty-nine in April and has graced this earth with all of her being. She’s made an impact. She has loved to love.

But as a nurse and a daughter, its hard for me to watch her. Slow, weak, disjointed at times, foggy, displaced, sad and overwhelmed with her life. She is not who she used to be and even with her confusion, she is justified in wanting to die. I can’t bring her back to where she was ten-years ago, but I can be with her and peacefully get to the end. It just isn’t going to be right now.

There is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t think of loss.

Over the past two weeks, my mom’s roommate has died, along with the loss of four Client’s plus someone important in our office. Even my favorite Parkinson’s patient had to put his beloved dog to sleep last week. This dog had been very important to him, 15 years of love and companionship. We have watched the dog suffer over the last few months and its been hard for him. I sat with him the day before and he was struggling. He said, “I’m the only one who wants him to live, none of my family wants to keep him alive.” I reminded him that not being able to get up any more is not living. The dog was helpful in getting him through sobriety and had a purpose. He was a very loved dog. I have heard before that we treat our pets much better than we do humans. Somewhere that all connects with Mom.

So on we go with the days, weeks and months. The paperwork will return and I will continue my fight with Hennepin County and the hours spent figuring out her medical assistance and waiver status. Last Wednesday I was on the phone with them for two hours, including hold time. Crazy system.

She was on hospice for officially 171 days and we continue to live. ❤

Jodi

The Momma

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This has been a long few weeks for Mom and I. We have both felt the good days and the bad days and in the last few weeks, she has started to call me Momma.

It started when she saw me from afar and said, “Well, there is my Momma!”. She continues to see me coming or watches me and calls me by that name. I feel the term is a comfort to her and in a way, very endearing. There have been many names she has called me over the past few years. They include:

The Girl

The Flower Delivery Lady

Her

Gloria (her sister)

Jodi (on really, really good days)

And now…Momma.

I went through her pictures today to show you what her own mother looked like. The first picture is from 1925 and pictures my Mom sitting on her Mom’s lap, along with her sister Gloria. My Grandma had three children in three years, and as you can imagine, was very busy. The second picture is of Mom with her own ailing mother. Gloria, my Aunt, has said they both took care of her until she died and that she was a good Momma, in her own right. I love both pictures…

Over the past few weeks, she has had a very swollen hand and it has caused her discomfort. We had to take her ring off and she now holds her hand differently. Her palm was bruised up to her wrist. I’m not sure what happened and I hope someone just accidently squeezed her hand too hard, getting her up. I worry about things like that. I have put her wedding ring in a safe spot and I may just keep it for now. She hasn’t asked about it yet, but her hand does look different without it.

Last night, Steve dropped the girls off at church and I spent some time with her. She was very sick and threw up all over her bedding and pillows, all the while saying she was sorry. We cleaned her up and we watched TV until I had to pick up the girls. Its hard to see her so sick but again, she kept calling me Momma.

Last night was harder for me, probably because she was sick. Where do we find the most comfort when things go wrong? Our Moms. I think she knows me as the person who comes to see her, brings her things, cuddles with her and comforts her. To her, that is “Momma”. I’m sure her mother did that to her, she continued to do that to her own mother and my own self, taking care of Mom. What a circle.

This morning, I brought her new pillows and a banana. I found her at exercise class, but fast asleep in her chair. So very, very tired. She gave me a big smile and eyed the banana. She was pale and wanted to go to bed so I transferred her into her chair and covered her up. While she sat in her chair, I asked her if she remembered my name. Easy as can be…Jodi, not Momma.

When I was telling a friend yesterday about Mom calling me Momma, she reminded me that there is no better name to be called. She is totally right. ❤

Jodi

Hospice continues…I’ve lost track of the days. 🙂

The Phone

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I arrived today to find Mom exercising (well, somewhat) in the courtyard. All the residents are in a circle and working hard with the activity person. I’m so glad to see her out there, she is normally in her room or refuses to exercise. There she is, in her black wheelchair, lifting her little arms and clapping when the staff person says to clap. I can hear her say, “I want to go to bed!” but still continues the arm lifts. I laugh to myself, knowing those familiar words.

Its nice being able to watch her without her seeing me. It’s hard for me to watch her complete these simple, limited exercises knowing that in her past, she was an exercise queen. Walked for miles, always moving and stretching in the morning. I should be glad that she is doing them, but sad all the same.

Finally…she sees me and smiles. I smile too but I notice that she is really not looking at me, per say. She is looking at what I am carrying. A huge bunch of bananas. I can hear her say…”Look at those bananas.” Again, I start to laugh. She is not looking at me, her loving daughter, she is lovingly looking at her favorite food. She is pointing at them and she finally looks at my face and recognizes me. I feel like I’m not “The Girl”, but I am “Banana Girl”. She motions me over and tells me she wants to get to bed but she’d like a banana first. It’s the start of a good morning for her.

When I get to her room, I am reminded that I can’t use her phone. I have removed it a few weeks ago because I was worried that when she heard it ring, she would get up and fall. There was also a Russian man calling her phone and I could not get him to stop calling. This decision to remove her phone was a very hard one to make.

With this progression of this disease, I have had to stop or end many of her favorite things. Driving her van, balancing her checkbook, going for walks, cooking or baking and taking her own medications. The list could go on but you get the picture. One of the last things that she could do on her own was talk on the phone. Lately, she had been answering the TV remote and we had a laugh about that. There are such few  things to laugh at, but we both found it funny after I told her.

The use of her phone goes way back. I asked her sister a while ago if they grew up with a phone in her fathers store. They did have a phone and I can imagine how many times she has used a phone in her life. I even remember on our farm, the party line which some of you will understand. She would be amazed of how much we use our phone in 2015.

I think of all the time I have spent on the phone with her. People make comments of how close we are, the phone has been and important factor in our closeness. I have called her for almost every important moment in my life. Getting an A on my nursing paper, car problems, pregnancy updates, labor progression, heartbreak, money requests (!), updates about my Dad, medications questions and the start of repetitive questions. She would call me and then 5 minutes later call me again with the same thing. The phone being our moderator.

When Mom moved into Holly Ridge in my home town, I would set up her meds monthly and instead of paying the cost of having the staff give her the meds, I would call her every morning and remind her. It was my time to connect with her and see how she was doing. It started to get hard with the girls and I would forget and panic. Plus, she would tell me she took them and I would find them still in the box.

When I moved her closer to me, I got her a phone. We could still communicate every day when I could not get up to see her. It was also my brothers way to communicate with her. I love how the girls would call her and talk to grandma. Over the past six months, its been more difficult. Not remembering how to answer it, getting weird calls and not knowing who I am on the phone. Sometimes she would answer it and set the phone back down. Her memory care unit was used to me calling, can you hang up Mom’s phone?

I thought long and hard about cancelling it and so I have. I don’t think she knows its gone. But I do…one more thing that has disappeared with this disease. Our frequent communication and connection via the phone is gone. Sometimes I forget and think, I haven’t checked on Mom today.

In conclusion, I just want to say a huge thank you to the people who have reached out to me to tell me their stories. I am not surprised at how many of you are doing the same thing I am doing and handling it with grace, strength and love. Your notes and emails inspire me. Thank you…

Jodi

The Singer

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It didn’t take me long to find a picture of Mom singing. There were a few to pick from and I almost picked a picture of Mom wearing a sparkly tree outfit, guiding the Sunday School choir. I’m not sure of the year, but I would guess early ’80’s. This picture is perfect and I hope the other ladies are ok that I am using them. I’m sure it is for some event and I like that she looks healthy with her Cool Watermelon lipstick, perfect hair and she must have just returned from Yuma because she looks tan.

Music has always been important to her. I love that she helped with the Bible School choir, Sunday School choir and sang in the Fron Choir. She was a soprano, always in the front and I remember as a girl, waiting for her Wednesday after school, as they practiced in our churches high balcony. Even when she baked or made dinner, she hummed. It is a very distinct memory for me.

A few months ago, I visited Mom on a Wednesday, her church day. It is a non-denominational service and I know she enjoys going to it. I sat with her for a while and I noticed she was softly singing. The song ended and the pastor was going through the service and she was repeating every word, word for word. I was very surprised since I didn’t even know or remember the words to it. Mom was always a devoted Lutheran and I loved the fact that she could still sing and remember the verses.

Music continues to be a part of our family. Sophia made All District Choir this year, as a 5th grader and we hear her sing every day. She loves music as much as I do, with participating in our own choir and our Starbuck Buck N’ Aires. (Some of you are giggling right now!) Music is good therapy, I think.

Last month, Sophia and the AD Choir sang at Orchestra Hall. It was just beautiful and so well done. As I was sitting there, the high school did a performance of Handel’s Messiah. I could almost hear my Mom’s voice singing to her favorite concert. Her own choir putting it on a few times. I was nostalgic also thinking of how much my Mom would have enjoyed watching Sophia sing and also listening to her favorite songs. Before her memory loss, she attended almost all of Sophia’s preschool events, even going to a music class with Sophia and I that my Dad had deemed “waste of money”. She has missed a lot since those days, and its not her fault. It is the disease that invades her and has taken her away from so many of our activities. I really hate that.

I was telling her music teacher how much we enjoyed the concert and how much my Mom would have loved to attend it, if she was able. I think I shared a little about how much my Mom enjoyed music and how proud she would have been of Sophia. And then you know what?

Magic.

Barb and Beth organized that the choir come and sing for Mom and the other residents. I know it took a lot of work organizing, getting parents slips, bus schedules and parents picking up their children, but they did it. My Mom’s sister attended, along with my neighbors Mary and Glenn (my Grandparent savior) and our family.
I wish you could have heard them sing. Mom was having a more alert day and I was trying not to tell her too much information. She gets very confused quickly if I rush her so I just said that Sophia was coming over to sing for her and she was bringing some friends. That seemed to get her interest and then she was rushing and telling me to hurry.

She sat in the front and was a little cold and at times she wanted her bed, but overall I could tell she loved it by her clapping and her toe tapping. I know she asked her sister a few times, where Sophia was. She was standing in the back and I think it was hard for her to see. I wish you could also see the expression on her face. Music just erases memory loss, it really does. Other people were clapping, tapping and loving it. It was such a beautiful thing to see.

You know what else I loved? The kids weren’t scared. I don’t think a bit. It’s hard to know what to expect with something you don’t know anything about or exposed to. My girls have really grown up with this disease and they are used to the loss and behavior that is not really their Grandma before, but it is for now. They had cookies and hot chocolate and we got to take a picture. I think I was more excited for them and how they got to make so many people happy for doing something so simple. I did tell people that my Mom may not remember those 45 minutes, but I sure will remember. Huge thanks to all that were involved in this, especially Barb, Beth, Clare Bridge, school for letting them out early and the talented kids. You all made a difference and our family is grateful. So grateful.
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Jodi

PS. Day 88 of Hospice Care

The Day Off

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Today has not been a good day for Mom. We sat on her bed this afternoon and talked about what was bothering her. She is a little clammy and I’m not quite sure she knows it’s me. Here is what she is trying to tell me:

I feel “cheesy” inside.

I wish I could die. (100+ times)

I’ve got to get to work…I need to get to work…It’s my work day.

I’ve got to get to bed.

Are you tired of me?

She is very out of sorts about work, which is very new. I try to calm her down and let her know that it is her off day and that they don’t need her. I also let her know it is Saturday. You know what worked?

Sophia

This picture says a lot. They are holding hands with Mom looking so sad. It speaks volumes about this disease. I really can’t make it all go away, but my soon to be eleven year old can for just a while. They talk a little and she is calmer. I wonder if she thinks Sophia is me at a younger age. She also has her doll and her blue dog. We lost it for a few days but when we arrived today, there Blue was sitting, waiting for us on the piano. Sophia said it was like magic, finding it right there.

There are many reasons to hate this disease. To watch her so worried about getting to work was very difficult for me. Something must have triggered in her brain that made her think that today was a work day. She’s always been a hard worker.

Day 23 of hospice care…I’ll be glad for her when tomorrow comes and it is a new day.

Jodi

The Roommate

Just for today, I’m not writing about Mom…I’m writing about her roommate.

I have just come back from a beautiful break with my family and I have not talked to my mom in over a week. I know that she is well cared for and I have not worried about her, though I have missed our banter back and forth.

So today after work, I had headed to Mom’s to bring her a treat. The good thing about memory loss is that I don’t think she even remembered I was gone. She gave me a big smile and I told her that we went to the lake and I showed her the video of Sophia getting up on water skis. She needed to get to bed and so we went.

I opened up her bedroom door and waved to her roommate and I did not get a response. I brought Mom to her chair and I went over to say hello to her. I could tell right away she had a stroke and I wiped the drool from her face. Half of her face gave me a smile and I know the nurse could not tell me much. There was a lone chair sitting by her bed and I know that someone had most likely used it today.

I don’t know much about Mom’s roommate but I know that she is beautiful, sweet, well dressed and always worried about Mom, especially when she came back from the hospital. Always worried about her and telling me about her cough.

I love to see her pictures on the wall of a much different looking woman, cheeks heavier, hair high and very blonde and with her handsome husband. I know that her sister has faithfully taken her out for lunch every Thursday. Her life, like Mom’s vastly different than it used to be.

My girls quickly formed a pact that they pretended to be her grandchildren. They would come in her room, shout a hello to her and Sophia would sit in her chair while she was in bed and they would discuss Mom. I loved that little relationship that they formed with her. I think children are always a highlight for the elderly. Remembering days that have long passed and how much noise they make, especially my girls.

I think Mom could not have found a better roommate and I also have enjoyed my time with her. I always gave her a mini snicker of Mom’s and she would make a basket with the wrapper. Twice, I have watched her fall while I was in the room. She was a sneaky one, transferring herself into bed when she should have waited. One time, she would have broken her wrist but I saw her out of the corner of my eye and picked her up right away, knowing it is sometimes an instinct to help when I shouldn’t at Mom’s place. I scold her kindly and tell her she has to wait! No more falls.

Now, her face is pale, her beautiful face drooping and she is coughing and no one is around. It reminds me of my nursing home days and wanting to be every where as a nurse and not being able to. I went to get her nurse and they helped her get comfortable, my Mom not even realizing what is going on. For a brief moment, I get to hold her hand. It’s always hard for me when family is not there and you are the only person with them. Knowing that her time is limited, I hope that she gets comfortable quickly.

Life changes so quickly…eight days ago my girls saw their grandma before vacation and got to talk to their grandma’s roommate. A kind and gentle woman that I hope finds peace and finds her handsome husband soon.

Jodi

The Gladness and the Sadness

Yesterday, I found myself thinking about one of the families we take care of. This family has been difficult for me and I had an uncomfortable conversation with the daughter on Friday. As you can imagine with nursing, dysfunction is something that is a part of every case, to some extent. Part of your job is to remain neutral, not judge and to just listen, even if you feel their choices are not the choices you would make. Their families issues have stayed with me, maybe because it is the holidays and their anger is felt.

Loss and grief is hard but then you add the holidays to the mix and it can be so difficult for families. In the last few weeks, we have lost five client’s. Some unexpected, some have been ill for a while. As you can imagine, their grief is felt. If loss were an object, it would be an ugly, prickly thing that never goes away. It’s always present for some,  and felt when you get up in the morning and when you lay your head down at night.

It’s hard for me at times, getting to know them for a short period of time, seeing them at their worst and then saying goodbye. It’s always hard for me to call the family and let them know how sorry we are. Grief and loss. Two difficult words.

With grief and loss come amazing stories, and I’ll just share a few that have happened in the last few weeks.

One woman we took care of for a short while, will stay with me. She was a dancer, theatre lover, painter and giver to the max. She declined very fast. Family surrounded her and not one ounce of dysfunction. It is rare that all family members are on the same page. Comfort, love and a beautiful view of the river, her one son sang show tunes to her all night. He was close to her in bed and she quietly died with him. What a beautiful way to go. When the son told me the story, I could just picture it in my mind.

One patient died a few weeks ago. She had a naughty cat that was, shall we say, misguided. I would tease her family and her caregiver Roberta that we needed to get rid of the cat. The client also declined which was difficult for everyone, she did not linger long. After she was gone, the cat sat on her empty hospital bed. Where is her owner? Is she coming back? Who can I scratch? Pets also feel loss too.

A few days ago, a sweet, loving woman who was very ill,  told her daughter that her son was waiting in the living room for her but he had to go away for now but would be back for her tomorrow. That son that was waiting for her died last year and he was indeed waiting for her. She died on Thursday. The story was a comfort for the family and I get goose bumps writing it.

So with their loss sometimes comes hope, love and comfort. It’s a hard time of year to lose someone but just hearing their stories brings me a little comfort too. Ask any nurse, they will tell you that the holidays are a tougher time of year.

With Mom, we go through the same thing. As in the last couple of years, she and I have written a Christmas letter and we sent out forty cards. She has now been receiving so many letters and I have been hanging them up on her wall. Thank you to all of you who have sent her cards. The disease is a funny one. When I call her at night, she will tell me every single night that she got cards today. Every day is a new day and she forgets about the cards. In a way, I have to laugh. Every day she gets to start over and she gets to enjoy her cards over and over.

Christmas was an important time for her and when I saw her on Friday, she was worried about baking, the girls gifts and what she would bring. Every Christmas for my forty years, she cooked, baked, shopped and wrapped gifts. She is still in that mindset of Christmas and “doing”. Her favorite things to make at Christmas was lefse, her famous cider and her treats. I don’t miss her Russian tea cake balls, which I teased her they were the worst cookies EVER! She’d always put some in a box for me and I would give them away. There is gladness and sadness that she still gets to come to my house but most likely will not remember it the next day.

With the holiday almost here, I am aware of some of your own grief and losses. I have friends who have lost parents, brothers and sisters and even their pets. I wish your heart comfort and peace. Someone told me the other day that with grief, you can’t ever fill that hole in your heart, but what you can do is cover your heart with love to protect that sacred hole.

Peace to you, my friends…