Don't understand what is happening to my mom.

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To make a long story short: My mom is in her late 70s and frail. Never took care of herself physically. Otherwise a healthy eater, although an alcoholic. 18 mos ago she had 2 sqamous cell growths removed from her face and head. The growths were there at least 10 years but she refused to have a dr look at them until one became infected and began to smell. She went through 36 radiation tx. Fell numerous times at home during the past 2 years, hurt ribs, back and neck. Would try PT but always stopped after the first few sessions b/c she claimed they were hurting her. She is now so stooped over she cannot see much above my knee-level and shuffles her feet to walk. Her arms and legs are so weak she cannot get out of chairs, off the toilet, or even feed herself very well. Her personality has also changed (for the worse) over the past few years.

Anyhow, mom fell down the stairs at home 10 days ago. Dad call 911, she went to the hospital, was transferred b/c of small bleed in brain. That resolved, but she has been in and out of consciousness ever since. Listens to my dad and will squeeze his hand in response, but does not open her eyes unless he opens them for her and then she will hold them open for 1-2 minutes. She had a UTI (rec'd antibiotics) and is now being treated for pneumonia. Has breathing tube and feeding tube (hiatal hernia - wasn't able to swallow at hospital - also an ongoing 30+ year old issue that she never sought tx for). I know she was frail going in, but I don't understand what seems to be a coma-like state. I don't mean this to sound odd, but is she dying? Is this what happens? She was not strong to begin with.
Dad keeps asking dr's at the hospital when she's coming home and I think he's being blind about the reality. I just wish I knew more about what to expect -- possible/likely outcomes -- when a frail parent falls and is hospitalized and suddenly starts sleeping / semi-conscious state.
I live far away and am trying to do as much as I can over the phone with Dad and occasionally talking with the nurses. What should I be asking? What should I be preparing for?

Thanks so much for reading this far!


Runner, your Mom is a very sick lady. She may be just trying to hold on or maybe it is her way of letting go. You should speak with the doctor who is caring for her and ask the questions you and your Dad need to know. It seems like she won't be able to come home without in home nursing care. The best outcome may be the hardest to face. She may be suffering more than you can know and needs to move on to her next journey. You are not alone here.
You may have to get your dad to sign a HIPPA release before you can talk to the Dr. unless you have medical POA.... there are ways aroung that law, but most Dr's will not take the chance of breaking confidentialty....She is very sick.. is she still drinking and are they aware of it at the hospital..??? There is alot going on with her body, and is normal for your dad to be in denial....unfortuntley the 'fact gatethering' is left up to you.... prayers for you to find out what is going on... come back and let us know how things are...and as Sheila said, you are not alone....
I am very sorry for the situation you are in, Runner. Hugs to you.

You say she went to a hospital and was transferred -- where is she now?

She certainly could be dying, although that is not necessarily the case. Your father could probably use your support now. Can you possibly go there? I know this is difficult when you live some distance away. And your mother has been having many "crisis" episodes with falls and medical needs. It is hard to know when you should drop everything and appear in person. If it is at all possible, I think this would be a good time.

Is her own PCP seeing her, or only hospital staff she hasn't seen before? I'd want to know from the doctor what the expected next step is. Are they waiting for certain things to happen before they decide? Is she likely to be released to a rehab center? Is Hospice appropriate? When Dad asks when she can come home, what answer does he get?

Hugs to you.

Oh my goodness, thank you so much for responding to me. It feels so good just to get this all out -- it's been eating me up inside -- and it's such a relief to hear from others. Thank you.

She is still in a hospital, but was xferred to one that could handle head trauma. Her own PCP has not been to see her. I don't believe he has rights at the hospital, but was led to believe that one of the dr's in the practice did and would see her. My dad never even called their PCP until I asked him about it 5 days after her fall. He just assumed the hospital had informed the PCP when they requested her records. It was also odd to me that the hospital didn't have her full medical history (no idea of the cancer, frailty, etc.) until I called and spoke with a nurse and gave her a whole bunch of background. I would think the PCP would be a good point of contact for my dad, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

To compound matters, my dad had open heart surgery in April to repair a heart valve, and I wanted the hospital staff to be aware of his status as well. (he's doing very well, but I understand full recovery can take 6 mos - 1 year for someone his age (79).) This is taking a very big toll on him. The hospital mom is in is about an hour away from their house, and it costs $24 for him to park when he goes to visits. He goes in once a day, but is usually there over lunch and has stopped eating lunch. He sounds very tired on the phone and it makes me sad. For what it's worth, I have a very difficult history with both my parents, so there are a lot of mixed emotions at work here.

I am planning to go for an overnight visit within the next few days. In the meantime, I'm going to try to telephone the hospital nursing staff again tomorrow and ask about hospice, etc. Jeanne -- thank you for the suggestion about asking if they are waiting for something to happen before they decide on next steps. My impression is that they are trying to treat the pneumonia, but I really don't know how well that is going to work. I've always had the impression in my head that elderly + pneumonia = bad outcome. When dad asks when she can be released, even to rehab, they say they have to clear the pneumonia first. Before that, they told him that she had to be able to eat and also stand up and take some steps. I'm just afraid they're going to suggest hospice soon and my dad is going to be blindsided. None of this is surprising to me, but my dad is being very blind to reality.

Again, thanks so much for listening! What a relief to have found this website.
Please let us know how you're doing runner. It's very hard to know what any of this means. I lost my father in April due to gall bladder infection that went through his system (sepsis, although sepsis doesn't mean death is imminent). When asked the doctor admitted that he wasn't stable and that if it was his father he would stop all treatment and allow natural death. Let me reiterate, this doesn't mean this is your mom's fate at this time but you need to talk to the doctor and ask the hard questions. Let him know, without your dad in the room if you can, what he REALLY thinks. The worst part is not knowing. I'll be praying for you and your dad. And Pnemonia and elderly doesn't mean the end. My mom was hospitalized in September with pneumonia and uti (septic), not expected to make it through the night and she's still here, with me no uti since Nov, and no other infection so far. Don't give up but get answers.
Quick update: Mom is still being treated for pneumonia. Is on a ventilator, and they take her off at points (?) during the day to test how well she can breathe on her own. The dr. talked with my dad today about doing a tracheotomy. Said he was going to call me as well. Does anyone know what this means? Better? Worse? than a ventilator? I have no idea what my mother's wishes are for her care, and other than asking questions of the dr., my instinct is to tell him to ask my mother what she wants. She's "alert" enough to respond to questions by squeezing her hands, and can respond to commands like wiggle your toes, etc.

Anyhow, nothing much else has changed. Going for an overnight visit in a week. I'm scared at what I'll see. Sorry to be blunt. Even when you don't have a great history with a parent, this is tough. :-( I can't imagine what it must be like if you have a loving relationship with a parent.
Find out if this is temporary. Then talk to mom. I would ask mom what she wants but not with dad in the room. She may not tell you the truth with him there. But make the nurse aware of what you'll be doing so you know what they need to make it legal. Be prepared to give bad news to dad.
Runner, this makes it very difficult for you, not knowing her wishes... I pray you get some answers, and you and your dad can talk about possibilities... like you said, it's hard no matter what.... but I always suggest that you do what is right for you as to not have any regrets... and as was pointed out, your dad needs you... please let us know how things are going..... we'll be thinking of you... angels sent to help you .....

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