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As I replay the 5 years of caregiving for Mom - I replay and agonize each mistake I made - hating myself. Mom passed 5/26 , and since then it has been a total life review for me and my caregiving for her - very, painful process.


One thing that torments me is not responding fast enough when she suffered a cardioembolic stroke. I was at work that day. I had gotten her a Medical Alert system - one in the kitchen, buzzer on her walker. I always told her to use it in emergency because I worked about an hour away . She was using a walker then and the doctor said it was ok for her to be by herself during the day because we lived in a rancher.


Anyway, the day of the event, she called me about lunchtime and said she had eaten breakfast but was not feeling great. I asked her if she wanted me to come home - or wanted to go to the doctor's - she said no - she was going to take it easy, rest in bed a bit and read. I called her several times through the afternoon and she said things were the same...that if she still didn't feel good, she would let me take her to the the doctor's the next day . I called and made an appointment with the PCP for the following day for her to get checked. She had so many chronic illnesses( especially gastrointestinal) that her not feeling well was pretty normal actually - so I did not take it as seriously as I should have I think...especially, now that I think back ( it was about 2 years ago), she might have said her arm hurt or was feeling weird/numb - I didn't connect maybe stroke/heart attack ????!!!


Anyway I left work a little early just to be safe ( should have left at lunch - and will always regret that decision......) when I got home, she was on the floor - she had fallen ...she was awake/ alert, etc...I was crying/screaming why she didn't call me or use the Medic Alert button -- she just said she decided to wait until I got home ...I called 911 and they saved her - immediately did a stent and anticoagulants - but she was left with damage and left side partial paralysis ... I replay the conversations over and over in my head ...and WHY i didn't think things were as urgent or serious as they were...Why I didn't just leave work to go home and check on her??? Why I thought it was ok to just call every 2 nours to see how she was doing and if things changed...


I regret this every day of my life...wondering/knowing that if I had left work sooner it might have made some difference in the outcome...though she even denied the ambulance when it came ...until they yelled at her to lay down and be quiet and go to the ER ...


Please, please give me some advise on how to forgive myself for this decision and the responsibility I bear...

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You have such beautiful responses here that there is really nothing I can add to them except my own sympathy for your loss and my assurance that your Mom was so exceptionally lucky to have you; make no mistake, I bet she knew that and would be the first to try to comfort you now.
This is what each of us has within us. There are always regrets that we were not PERFECTION at all times and in all things.
Please consider a grieving group so that you can get help of others who are going through this. You will find that you are not alone. Also a licensed social worker who works with life changes can be such a help. I am currently going through the grieving process now, and I am finding there are times I just need to "write to my bro" things that I think of, want to tell him, of feel just bad about; I collage in the book that now constitutes my letters to him. I also read again Joan Didions book about the loss of her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking, and the book about the loss of her daughter very soon after, Blue Nights. I find sometimes that only the grief of another helps. Allows yourself to have those moments of pain when you can do nothing but curl into a fetal positions and say aloud "Oh, Mom......Mom........" Don't be afraid. That awful pain won't last. Let the tears wash you clean when they come. And begin to move on. See the world for your Mom. Whatever she loved. Roses or dogs or a good plate of food.
I am wishing you peace, but allow yourself the process. Each person does it differrently. Be easy on yourself.
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Remember too that your life has been lived around your Mom for the past years. Now there is a void and presumably a lot of free time to fill and due to COVID, a lack of activities. You might benefit from creating new memories, take a [safe] trip, take up a hobby, rearrange the furniture, something to move you forward into a non-caregiver world. Best of luck!
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Laurabelle, the reality is there could not have been a different outcome because the outcome you really want is for Mom to survive as a somewhat independent person. It doesn't usually work that way. Our parents grow old, they fall and suffer health declines, often steep declines, and finally they die. There is a time to be born and a time to die. No matter how much we love them or how good the care we provide, someday the time to die still comes.

If you had come home at lunch, Mom would not have been on the floor and you would have spent the afternoon with her until something made the stroke apparent, then you would have called for the EMTs and they would still have had to convince your mother to accept transport.

Your mother would not want her time with you to cripple your future or your ability to enjoy your own senior years. Please let go of the guilt for something your could not change and try to go "over and over" all the good times you spent with your mother over the years.

God bless and comfort you.
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When my son, who's 35 now, was 7 years old, we had good friends visiting from out of state. My son fell off of a 3 foot tall fence in our yard and hurt his arm. He seemed fine, so we didn't immediately rush him to the ER. We had fun with our friends instead. My son woke up at 4 am crying in pain and his elbow was swollen and purple. Turned out, after an exray, he'd broken his elbow and it required a cast. Fast forward to when he turned 21 and the arm was STILL a problem. It shouldn't have been cast; it should have been operated on immediately but wasn't. He had an operation and it's STILL not fixed; he has limited mobility in his left arm as a result, to this very day.

Should I feel guilty and torn up about not getting him to the doctor immediately that day? Maybe. I don't feel GREAT about it, but I don't dwell on it either, and he doesn't blame me.

Why are you blaming yourself for something you had no control over? You called your mother every 2 hours all day long. She was chronically sick and symptomatic as it was; so how were YOU to know THIS was different? Do you have a crystal ball? I didn't, or I would have seen the damage to my son's elbow bone and taken him in to the ER right away.

My point is, we're human. And as such, we are imperfect. Even doctors are human and imperfect. As in the doctor who cast my son's arm when he SHOULD have referred us to a surgeon. Trouble was, he was human and made a mistake.

You, on the other hand, did not make 'a mistake' at all. You did ALL you could do under the circumstances. Your stubborn mother even refused to go to the ER with the EMTs and had to be forced to do so. And yet YOU are still to blame for her situation?

Her age and her health history, in reality, is to blame for her situation. And God decided it was time to take her Home when He did. Nothing you or any doctor could have done would have saved her from that journey Home

Now is the time to forgive yourself and to move on with your life. If you're unable to do so, then it's time to get counseling and help in order to properly deal with your grief and to realize you are not to blame for your mother's life or death.

Wishing you the best of luck moving forward, and sending you a hug and a prayer for peace.
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Laurabelle, I'm so sorry for your loss...I'm more sorry that you are punishing yourself in a way I'm sure your dear mother would be grieved about. Please know that she had a stroke, therefore her symptom would not have been her arm or heart hurting her -- that's a heart attack. If she had any dementia she may not have been able to express more exactly what she was feeling or understood the danger. And some it was her just being your mom and trying to respect your time. Just last week my mom confessed to me after I came home from work that she had a "spell" in the morning and it could have been a TIA. So I whisked her off to the ER and it was discounted but...she has done this to me over the years and no amount of explaining (and demonstrating) to her that she needs to tell me immediately has changed her stubbornness on this. She was an RN and hates when people fuss over her health. Also, everyone dies of something eventually...if she had died in her sleep would you still be beating yourself up? Please, please don't. Your intense grief is clouding your heart and mind. I sincerely wish you gain peace in your heart that none of it was your fault.
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"... I replay the conversations over and over in my head ...and WHY i didn't think things were as urgent or serious as they were...Why I didn't just leave work to go home and check on her??? Why I thought it was ok to just call every 2 nours to see how she was doing and if things changed..."

You did the best you could, with the information you had at the time.


The fact that she already had gastro issues, gave you every reason to think that this is what was happening that day. The fact that the EMTs had to yell at her and be forceful to get her to go to ER, lets you know that she wasn't wanting to go and was downplaying her symptoms. Absolutely nothing you could do about that -- short of mind reading.

But even with all the facts, our hearts try to mess with us -- that's where the guilt comes. Just try to heal a little from it each day. Remind yourself that you did the very best you could, I'm sure you went above and beyond on many a day!

I fight a similar battle with my MIL, only in reverse -- she fusses and whines about this or that all the time, so it's more of a "boy who cried wolf" situation. The guilt comes from the times that it is serious, and we blow it off as just her complaining :( But the facts are still the same: did the best we could with the information we had at the time!

Hugs to you, as you grieve the loss of your mom -- that is hard enough on its own. Do try to be kind and loving and forgiving to yourself -- I bet that's what your mom would want you to do also!
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Laurabelle01 Jun 2020
Thank you so much ... 6 months of co-caregiving my Dad as he died from colon cancer, and 5 years of mostly "hands-on" caregiving for my Mom -broken back, neck, hip, cancer,stomach resection, bezors, stroke, heart attack, so much intensity constantly - internal bleeding,bowel issues, then end of life hospice, etc..so much suffering I experienced and lived through and with them ( my brother was always missing in action - never there), think I now have PTSD after Mom's death....started seeing a grief counselor to help sort it all through and attain some peace. I replay so much mentally- guess my way of thinking we could have had a different outcome...grief sucks. Thanks for understanding and listening.
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