Monday, January 21, 2008

Old Age and Death

I am blogging by myself for now as Sheri had a death in her family today.

For quite some time her in-laws have been living with them at their home -- the "oldies" as Sheri fondly refers to them. While it was not the best of living situations, I don't think Sheri was prepared for what happened.

Suddenly, the mother-in-law became ill with pneumonia and landed in the hospital. Then the father-in-law had to go into temporary assisted living as Sheri and Dan could no longer physically care for him. The mother-in-law then gradually went down hill and was placed in hospice this past weekend. Today she died. Just like that.

All of my closest friends are in the midst of varying stages of elder care. It's so very hard. It's like becoming a mother to your own mother and father. I experienced a bit of it last year but luckily just hit the tip of the iceburg. I think about it every day. My heart jumps when I see my parent's phone number on caller ID at night -- wondering if something has happened.

Our friend P. lost her mother-in-law a few weeks ago. Our friend M. lost her father-in-law this weekend. Our friend C. has a 90-something mother who will outlive us all. My friend S. has a 90-something mother who has had numerous bouts with "death" yet is still alive in a nursing home.

It's such a reality check. How do we prepare ourselves for this task and dealing with the caring of, death and dying of our parents?


Anonymous said...

Even though we think we are prepared for the death of a loved one, when it happens we quickly find out that we are not. We weren't as lucky as Sheri, in that they were told her mother-in-law had a few hours, to a couple days at best, so they were able to say their goodbyes. We didn't have this opportunity as we were told on Thursday my mother-in-law had a couple weeks, so we, as a family, were going to say our final goodbyes on Saturday. She died on Friday. This continues to make us all very sad.

So, I guess the lesson here is, visit and enjoy those you love whether they are sick or healthy. Live life to it's fullest as we never know when our last day on earth will be.

....I know I'm a bit strange, but I truly believe we have a pre-determined number of days on this earth. I also wonder if the life we live on earth really isn't the hell we all dread. When we die, we are either reincarnated (if there is such a thing) to return to this hell, or we are blessed to go to a much better place. It's something to think about.

Love you!

Anonymous said...

It is not easy being old - nor is it easy being the "child" of an elderly person. No matter where they live, it is physically, emotionally and financially stressful.

How do you balance their needs with yours? How can you be respectful of their needs and desires? How long does this part of your life go on?

As the previous commentor said, we never know when life will end and we should live life to the fullest. Sometimes that is very difficult advice to live by when life seems so overwhelming.

So be in touch with yourself and figure out how we can honor and respect those we love and that includes ourselves.

sroman said...

Thank you all for the strong shoulders and the support. It matters and it helps tremedously.

Anonymous said...

The Voice of Death, I Must Accept

I look back and remember the death of my blessed mother, I can only rejoice. I know that may seem strange. When cancer pronounced its impeding plans to take her from me, I tried to deny it the right to do so. What would I do without her in my life? Her smiles, wisdom, and thirst of life, surly could not be robbed from me so soon. The voice of death spoke, I could not accept.

Thanks to the hands of so many caring angels disguised as nurses, doctors, and hospice care assistants, her passing was a time full of personal growth and joy. Joy that I could share memories; share the experience of her leaving this world and embarking upon her journey to heaven. As she so gently told me, “Honey, I have never flown first class or non stop, this is my time. In the final leg of my journey of life, make it first class, no pain or sorrow. Make it non-stop, don’t hold on, escort me to my fight and kiss me goodbye, for we shall met again.” The voice of death, I must accept. The care and concern of the nurses and doctors helped me to let go, helped me to accept what was coming, understand the journey and be content that both she and the family was in caring hands. They were there for me in my times of weakness, to offer tender hands, a cup of coffee or just a simple visit to her bed side to be sure she was comfortable. Her passing was as beautiful as her life. She left me in peace, sweet beautiful peace, reassuring me that I had indeed made her journey first class, the voice of death I did accept. My mother, my dear sweet mother with her beautiful eyes closed, took her last breaths and left this earth “first class” The voice of death I did accept.

When death came once again to lay claim to the life of Daddy, many of the fears of death were diminished for I had learned “the voice of death, I must accept”. Daddy had also asked us to follow his wishes in his last days. He asked not to be put on a ventilator. When it was time for him to be removed we were sure his last breathes were soon to come. Again the nurses, doctors, and assistance were with us as our angels in disguise. The voice of death did not call that day, Daddy remained with us. The next few days are such a blur, his time is here, it is not, he needs therapy, more lab work, no lab work, such a moments in time, such confusion, but most of all I remember the care. I remember the angels, once again. The tenderness as they cared for Daddy, the constant monitoring of his condition and comfort. The gentle way they always turned to me and ask, “What can I do for you” Will they ever know what those few words meant. In my heart, each time, it was saying you are not alone, we understand, we care. The voice of death, we must accept.
A new team of angels was sent to us, palliative care, what a blessing, their tenderness, concern, and professionalism soon put all back on track. The confusion was gone; we once again had a team working together. Time was then a fog, one day, two, when does one day end and another begin nothing is clear.

The night is coming the shift is changing another “angel “to be sent our way. The shift begins with small talk. Not many patients for our angel, seems like a well deserved easy night. Daddy seems to be more intense, the sight increases in struggling for each breath. The voice of death I must accept. I can’t possibly push that call light. I know that things are not that bad… the voice of death I must accept. I think I will ask the nurse to stop in. An angel standing over Daddy, so it had always been in the past? The words she is speaking, are they real? I must be confused, she really didn’t,……… it can’t be……... I hear it again and again. “I am in the middle of passing meds, you do understand, I do have more important things right now.” A fog comes over me. I stand up to clear my thoughts. She touches Daddy’s shoulder, “you do understand I have more important things then this”. The voice of death I must accept…. My mind is screaming, don’t touch him, get out, why do you need to share the fact that the healing is more important to you then his dying. The voice of death I must accept. She will call the doctor in 45 minutes but there is nothing more she could do.

Another angel appears, Dr. May. We share with her our experience. I ask that she not bring up our experience with the nurse. She assures us she will educate, update, and review with her the plans and comfort measures that are to be taken while reviewing the charts. She did not receive a call from our nurse? Why did I not ask for another nurse? Why did I not want the nurse disciplined? Daddy is leaving me, the voice of death I must accept……… I need calm outside, inside I am falling apart, death go away, I am not ready, why is this suddenly so hard? Where is the beautiful experience that I had with Mom?

The nurse soon returns and administers more meds. Dad is comfortable once again. The screaming in my head and heart has calmed. Time stands still……..

Daddy’s body begins to shake with each breath, his shoulders and body lurch forward as he struggles; his fist and legs tighten and shake. My mind and heart race. I still struggle with the voice in my head, the voice of death……. You must accept. I watch for several minutes trying to deny what I see. I race to the nurse’s station and slow the last few steps. I struggle to seem calm; I can not let that inter voice out, it is so out of control. It pounds in my head, come help him, come help him, it should not be like this. I approach my nurse at the nurses station as she sets there doing paperwork, I reach deep inside and gather strength I didn’t know I possessed and said, “Things are really getting worse, is there anything else you can do?” She states there is not. I stand there numb. The voice of death you must accept rings so loudly in my ears. I ask again, no there is not anything I can do, is the reply. I return to Dad’s room once again. His body from head to toe, tightens, pushes, pulls, his eyes opening, rolling, shutting, his breaths using every muscle in his body to no relieve or gain. The voice of death you must accept… the voice of death you must accept. Time blurs, how much can one endure. I return to the nurse again setting at the station, “I will not be able to live with myself tomorrow if there has been a misunderstanding, he is much worse, are you sure there is nothing else we can do” I will call the doctor was her reply. . I feel that the strength of all heaven rushes over me as I insist she call the doctor. The reply is that there is nothing to do, but she will call. I rush back to Daddy, wishing I can somehow make it better. Where is the peace, I feel for his heart, it is beating so wildly. I try to hold him, keep his body still. I pace the floor, go in the hall, pace and pace. I pray for strength, this is so hard. The voice of death, I must accept. I try to take my mind back to better times. I look at his hands; they worked so hard all his life. Then it stops. His journey has come to an end. Peace beautiful peace. The voice of death, I do accept.

I turn, and head to the nurses station. My steps this time do not hesitate. I feel my heart racing once again. I approach the nurse and state, “you know the patient you did not have time for, you know the patient you would not even come and check on, he is gone, my daddy is dead”

There is a frenzy of action. She follows us to Daddy’s room. I quietly watch as they confirm what I already know. So many angels appear. Hugs, tears, compassion once again. A nurse asks me what happened. I start to tell her, tell her we tried to get help, we told our nurse, she would not come. I look at the shocked faces in the room. She would not come, I hear myself saying again. Why didn’t you tell us, we didn’t know what was going on one of the angel nurse said. The whole time the nurse that had no time, the nurse that would not come, tried and tried to get someone, anyone to understand, “But I called the doctor liked you asked me to do” What else did you want, I called the doctor right when you left” I hear voices, I hear her repeating her empty words, what else did you want. I started begging her, not now, I do not want to talk about this now. Over again she repeated, “I called the doctor, what else did you want me to do. I remember replying to her once, I wanted you to care, and I wanted you to check to see if there was more we could have done, what were you going to tell the doctor anyway, you did not come and evaluate the patient. Over again she asked, “What more did you want me to do” Such empty words. We ask her to leave. She continued on and on, we asked one of our angel nurses to get her out of Daddy’s room. Why could she not leave when we asked? Why did she have to keep pushing us, why could she not have a little respect?

The angel nurses stayed with us for sometime. Calm is back. My heart has time once again to leave the experience that should not have been, to gently realize Daddy is gone….. She is back in the room that nurse with no heart, no compassion, no skill, no experience, just gives a phone message to one of the angel nurses……… I go totally numb… time stands still… why… why… why could she not respect our last few moments.

Peace beautiful peace, the voice of death I do accept.

The actions of one nurse, one nurse that did not react, respond, did not feel comfort measures for her dying patients high on her list of priorities, did not follow reviewed procedures, did not evaluate her patient, did not administer prescribed comfort meds, or simply care, that I do not accept.

I will learn to accept that my mind was screaming the voice of death I must accept……. my normal responses were disabled. I will learn to accept that I was not thinking clearly. I will learn to accept not all nurses are angels in disguise. I should not have relied upon that nurse to act, I should have done more.

I do not accept that my experiences will go unheard. I do not accept that I will not try to be the voice for others that are hearing the voice of death as it calls upon a loved one and clouds their minds. I do not accept that someone hearing this someday will not be changed for the better. Peace beautiful peace.