When my sister and I brought my Mummy home to my house last week, she was still able to walk with the aid of a walker, say a few words, eat and experience some basic interactions. We both sensed Mummy was happy to be at my home and she looked relaxed for the first time in a long time.
We’d moved Mummy into my master bedroom so she would have a private bathroom. That afternoon, Mummy sat in her new chair, wrapped in a fluffy afghan and holding her baby doll as my sister and I hung pictures and rearranged the room.
I’m not sure what Mummy understood, but she seemed content and that is all that mattered.
In the early evening, the three of us had cocktails — a cold beer for my sister, a scotch and water for me and an orange drink for Mummy. We toasted and together we ate dinner at my dining room table.
That first day home was the high point.
My sister departed the next day and Mummy and I were alone for the weekend — until hospice and the caregivers started on Monday.
On Saturday, it was as though a switch had been turned off. Mummy was no longer interested in food and mainly kept her eyes shut as she sat in her chair. Within a day, I couldn’t get her out of bed to use the bathroom. She was coughing heavily during the night and seemed agitated. She was obviously in pain when I had to move her in bed.
I would say she felt miserable. I know I felt miserable.
Early Sunday morning, around 4 am, I awoke to coughing, but this time it was a different type of cough. Transfixed, I watched her labored breathing, her chest heaving up-and-down, up-and-down in a horrible, rattling rhythm.
I felt she might die at any minute. I willed her to die. She didn’t.
When the sun came up, Mummy had rallied and would live another day, and then another and another. Today, she smiled a little and perhaps she knew I was her daughter.
Yet, there is no denying the end is near. I see it and I feel it.
With the help of a caregiver this morning, we cleaned mom up as best we could. When we must move her in bed, I give her a small dose of morphine and wait 10 or 15 minutes for it to take effect.
The word ‘morphine’ is sobering.
Mummy is not eating and is probably losing the ability to swallow. She has her eyes shut most of the time. One moment I believe she is stable and then in the next moment I feel her hovering between this life and whatever is beyond.
What is beyond?
Being close to death is forcing me to examine what I believe, as well as what I do not believe. I sit by Mummy’s bedside. Watching, waiting, thinking.
Dating Dementia is the creation of Nancy Wurtzel, a public relations professional and sometimes creative writer formerly based in Southern California and now living in her native Minnesota.
Nancy sincerely hopes that people will read her blog posts because she has a lot to say and she will say some of it here.
What would Nancy like to share with you?
“Born and raised in a small town in central Minnesota, I moved to California in my early 20s thinking that I would only stay a year. Flash forward 33 years: I’ve recently left sunny Los Angeles and have moved back to Minnesota to help care for my aging Mom who has dementia. I’m an ‘older mom’ with one wonderful college-age daughter. You will notice that I use a variety of names when I refer to my darling daughter in blog posts — this is mainly to protect the innocent. Recently divorced, I am now looking at the next phase of my life. What will I do to make a living? Will I stay in Minnesota? How do I balance work, parenting, a social life and still find time to exercise? How do I deal with my 92-year-old-mother and her significant memory loss? Can I finally tap into my internal spirituality? And most importantly, will I ever have sex again?”
As you can tell by the lengthy quote, Nancy indeed has a lot to say and she often shares just a little too much (in the third person, of course).
By now you have figured out that this blog is really all about Nancy, and this pleases her to no end!