My last 24 hours with Mom...
I want to share the last night with my Mother while here.
The day before she left us she wanted to get out of bed and get dressed. She wanted to stand, so my son helped her up and she stayed in his arms for like 10 minutes. Meanwhile we kept asking her if she wanted to sit in a different chair; she said "no". We asked if she needed to go to the bathroom, she again said "no". We asked if she wanted to lay down and I'll never forget that stern look she gave us, a look like "what are you crazy, that's all I do." After however many minutes she was in my son's arms, she then said she wanted to sit. So she sat and I sat next to her, my son on the other side. She wanted to change, when I asked to what she said it didn't matter. She kept saying that we had to go, we have to go. In hindsight, now I know what she meant. I showed her a different pajama top and she said that was fine. So she was now changed. She said she was tired, so we laid her down. She wasn't eating or drinking, she had thrush (horrible sores in and around her mouth and under her tongue). We had a 24-hr nurse in the home then. In the middle of the night, she was in pain and breathing really bad. It seemed that she was choking and making rattling sounds. In the book that Hospice gave me, it said that these are called "rattling of death" (yes, terrible name) and that it normally bothers the caregivers more so than the patient. I showed this to the nurse and my brother, they didn't want to believe it. I guess I was just providing a fact, I'm not sure if I believed it either. I don't quite remember. Anyway, we called Hospice and asked what can be done about it, so they prescribed something and my brother went and picked it up. It was a patch. We placed it on the outside of her neck as instructed, the rattling stopped. Once we felt she was breathing okay, we went back to bed. The nurse had to leave at 8am, but the other one was running late so when I got up the night nurse was still there. She told me she was breathing okay and that she had giving her a sponge bath and changed her top. She seemed peaceful, so I went back to bed for just a bit and when the new nurse came around 10 or so I was up again. She looked at my Mom's breathing and she said "I don't like this, I don't like this at all". I had heard this before as many nurses said that because they didn't really knew Mom's background with COPD so her breathing was always irregular. Although, now that I think about it, her breathing was really shallow and very slow. I had given her a kiss and a "good morning" as I always did. But when I sat next to her I guess I just knew that something was not right. The nurse was right, her breathing was not right at all. She took slow breaths and I can see her neck pulsating ever so slowly. I left the room and woke up my son, I told him "Richard, I think it's time and you should go say your goodbye." He was up really quick and went into the room. I'm not sure if I stayed behind for some reason or I was just sitting thinking, I don't know but he went into her room and came back just as fast and told me with his look that she was gone. I don't know why I didn't stay there, I don't know why I didn't held her hand I don't understand why I left the room. I asked this of myself over and over again and I think she should have felt the warmth of my hand when she left so she knew she wasn't alone. I feel guilty about this. I questioned myself about what I did all the time. I don't know if God does have a plan and he felt it would have been too much for me to see her take her last breath. I don't know.
Please keep the signs of your loved one in mind, if she says and feels anxious because they feel they have someplace to go. It is a sign! And don't forget to always tell them you love them and thank them for what they've done for you. Ask, if you can if there's anyone in particular they want to see. Try and make it happen, even if it's a phone call. My mother wanted to see her sister one last time, we had a call via Skype. So they actually did see each other. God bless you all caregivers and be strong and patient.