The life lessons from the flock are back.
As you know, I spent the better part of the last 2 months with my mother while she lived until she died at a residential hospice. It was my first introduction to such a facility and I learned so very much both from the experience and from just being with my mother. I’m a writer and teacher. I give honor to my mother and this journey by writing about it so it can be shared with others – that you may learn.
Many people my age whose parents are just starting to die do not know what a residential hospice or even what at-home hospice is. The end of life to us was reserved for older people, relatives we weren’t that familiar with. Unlike generations before, we moved out as soon as we got out of college. Death was a phone call that Grandma or Grandpa had passed – please come home for the weekend.
But now we are finding ourselves at the stage where our parents, our parents for crying out loud, are passing. We knew them, we grew up with them. It’s now up to us to take care of them.
And so we do.
During my mother’s stay, I made mistakes. I made a lot of mistake. You don’t go from 0 to 100 without losing your grip a few times. I’m passing along some of these lessons learned. Those who have already gone on this journey will remember these phases and lessons. It’s my hope that those who have yet to travel the road to hospice will be able to learn from these lessons and put them to good use as needed.
These lessons are widely out of order. I’m just writing bits when I think of them. Perhaps at some point I’ll compile them.
Oh, and next week we are getting 9 baby chicks so I’ll also be writing about them.
I have a lot to write about.
As my mother got close to dying, she became more confused. It’s her body shutting down – it’s the toxins in her brain, I was told by nurse after nurse. The more she became confused, the more agitated she became “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I can’t do anything anymore” and of course the more agitated mom became the more anti-anxiety medication was administered.
The goal at hospice is to keep the patient comfortable. Part of keeping a patient comfortable is dulling the self-knowledge and fear that they dying. I understood this, I agreed with it, hell I was wondering if I could have some of that medication myself. But I also knew that the anti-anxiety medication along with the ever increasing pain medication was taking the last of my mother’s mind away. As the nurses kept reminding me – it’s a double edged sword. Comfort vs. lucidity.
Mom couldn’t do her beloved word searches anymore. She couldn’t work the TV. She couldn’t circle the items she wanted on the meal menus. One morning I watched as she tried to draw a circle in pencil around the food item “cranberry juice” Her pencil went all over the paper, leaving tiny graphite stains here and there. I gently took the menu and pencil from her.
“Mom, let me help.”
She huffed and then deflated with a sigh, knowing that it would be easier this way. She knew that she could no longer self-choose what she was going to eat. Another loss.
“Mom, do you want the pot roast, chicken soup, or tuna salad on lettuce?”
My mother wrinkled her forehead, a movement that had previously meant she was deep in thought and which these days meant she was thoroughly confused.
“I know you asked me a question but I can’t figure it out.”
I repeated my question – pot roast, chicken soup or tuna salad. I knew she would choose the chicken soup because she often said that she loved the soup at hospice. I also knew that for one meal they served her burned pot roast and she never ordered it again and that she was never keen on tuna salad. But, as I kept emphasizing to her, she was still the driver of her life. I didn’t want to make any decisions for her if she still could still make them herself.
“Oh Wendy, I don’t know.”
That’s when I realized I was offering too many choices. Mom’s mind could only handle one thing at a time. Giving her a choice of three things was overwhelming.
“Mom, do you want the pot roast?”
“Do you want the chicken soup?”
“Do you want some tuna salad? “
I ordered her the chicken soup and from that point on only asked questions that didn’t demand she compare or remember things. She was still the driver it’s just that we needed to move into the slow lane.
We had reached yet another milestone on the hospice journey.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
Also, join Wendy on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.
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