My caregiving days have ended....
Not entirely unexpected...my Mother passed away yesterday. No more pain, no more suffering, and I am sure she is now rocking her angel-baby (my youngest brother was stillborn) and filling him in on all of the details of the life and family he was unable to experience for himself here on earth. In my heart, I knew it was coming, and I was already making preparations for the inevitable - as a matter of fact, I was just getting ready to send an email to the mortuary for more information on pre-need arrangements when the phone rang. Ironic, huh?
Mom was admitted to the hospital on Sunday with another hypoglycemic episode - her sugars dropped to 23 this time around, and it took them awhile to bring her around. She had a couple of the same episodes in July, and they had noticeably taken a toll on her, especially on her cognition. She was "awake" but talked about things in her past..asked if my father was "still here, or did he go home already?" (he's been dead for 20 years), talked about a church she used to go to as a child, family members who have passed, etc. The doctor at the hospital was planning to keep her for a couple of days to stabilize her blood sugar and get a jump on the persistent UTI that had been plaguing her for over a month now, and then they were going to transfer her back to the nursing home, since she was on limited intervention with a DNR in place (I can not express how thankful I am that she signed that paperwork!). My sister actually came to the hospital to see her (first time in over a year) and had a good visit - Mom was happy to see her. All seemed to be going "okay" at that point, but deep down I knew the time was near.
Yesterday morning I was just getting ready to head to the hospital when I received a call from the hospitalist. He told me he made his rounds and spoke to Mom. She seemed to have had a good morning, she ate breakfast, said she was feeling better, wasn't in any pain, and that she was ready to go back to the nursing home so she could get some sleep...she can never sleep in the hospital. He said she looked better than she did the day before, her numbers were all good, and he was planning to call me with her discharge information later in the day. About an hour later, the nurses called him and told him her heart monitor readings were off - she had inadvertently disconnected a couple of the leads the day before, so they thought that had happened again. When the nurse checked on her, she found that she had passed. He believes the "funky" readings were the result of her pacemaker still pacing away.
The doctor told me he didn't see this coming at all, or he would have called me sooner to come in. He said it appeared as though she nodded off for a nap, and that was that. When my daughter and I arrived to sign paperwork and to see her, that is exactly how she appeared - no trauma, no scared expression on her face - just peaceful sleep. I thank God for that visual.
Some of you have seen me at my worst - venting like there's no tomorrow from exasperation and frustration in caring for my (stubborn as a mule) Mom. I feel that caregiving is not something that I was meant to do, and I feel that I didn't do it very well. Of course I took care of my Mom and did what I had to do for her because I loved her, but when things got so bad that I could no longer care for her here I would be lying if I said I wasn't relieved. Having her in the nursing home these past 5 months gave me my sanity back...well most of it...and I felt again like I was her daughter who could have nice visits with her and calmly talk to her instead of feeling like a raving lunatic from the stress of doing everything on my own, without the help of my siblings. I will not and do not feel guilty for that...at least the last few months have been filled with better memories than what would have been had she remained here.
Just a week ago my family and a couple of my Mom's sisters gathered at the nursing home (in their private dining room) and we had a birthday brunch/party for her - she reached the milestone age of 75 years and after all she had been through these past few years, we were determined to celebrate it with her. She enjoyed the day as much as she could, and we got some pictures of her with her sisters before she said she was tired and asked to go back to her room.
I miss my Mom more than words can say. I especially miss the Mom I used to have...the one I had before chronic pain and disease overtook her body, her life and to a lesser extent, mine, in these last few years. Happy memories....that is what I will focus on from here on out....nothing can take those away from me.