30 October 2007

Slowdown/Shutdown

There are many things over the last week or so that I've wanted to write about; but I've been too exhausted to actually write the posts. And my focus over the last week has been entirely on my Aunt and my mother's family, some of whom are dealing better than others, so that's what's been on my mind.

I realized a day or so ago that I didn't even write a Brain-Dump post last week. Something I wanted to be sure I did this week before things get more crazy than they currently are.

I spent a total of 5 nights sitting with my aunt overnight, and the result of having my usual routine turned on its head was about 3-fold. One, as I've already said, I'm beat. Physically, yep, but emotionally, too. Two, I wasn't eating much...and I lost about 2 pounds. Three, I didn't get to the gym but one or two days last week, which I firmly believe contributes to the exhaustion.

I'd come home from the hospice each morning and climb into bed after a shower and tossing a load of laundry into the washer. I'd sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, get up in time for DH to come home from work, get something to eat, spend a few hours with him, and head back to hospice. Turning that back into my usual routine of sleeping at night has thrown off my body's internal clock.

On Friday last week, they moved my Aunt from the local hospice house to a nursing home. Why? Honestly, I don't have much of an answer for that. There are a few contributing factors, but when you add them all up, they don't make much sense to me. The local hospice facility is small; they have only a few more than 10 beds. So they only have room for those who are very close to death. I've always thought that once you entered a hospice facility that you stayed there until you died, but it seems that such is not the case locally. The next thing was that she stabilized; by the time Friday rolled around, she was at a point that, theoretically, she could have stayed at for several more weeks. Then there's some complicated bullshit with Medicare only allowing hospice time for a certain amount of time unless you're critical; I don't pretend to have any comprehension of that at all.

Once at the nursing home, she lapsed into a non-responsive state. She isn't sleeping, exactly, but neither is she awake and alert enough to answer any questions or respond when you talk to her. She opened her eyes for her kids and grandkids yesterday, and for a minute for my mother, but it seems that she lacks the strength to say anything. It also seems like she wants to say something.

The hospice nurses and social worker will continue to track her, and she still has the morphine pump. They gave the family two books about the physical process of dying after a long illness, and she's exhibiting several of the signs that both books talk about. It is simply a matter of time. While I thought that she could have stayed in the state that she was at the hospice for several weeks, her current condition is something that I think will not last very long at all. A day. Perhaps two. Not much more.

The majority of the family gathered at the nursing home yesterday, and the atmosphere was understandably grim. I mourn the loss of the more relaxed mood that we had at the hospice. The nursing home staff is nice, but...it is far noisier there than at the hospice house, and it seems that not all of the nursing home staff knows, or perhaps they haven't been told, that she's dying. While standing in the hallway yesterday, my cousin stopped several aides from going in to the room for blood work (which we stopped a week ago), to give medication in pill form (dude, she can't swallow), and even to deliver a meal tray that she wouldn't have touched even if she was awake.

I'm tempted to print out a big sign on my home printer that says something like "Knock on this door only if you want your head taken off by one of the family." No, it wouldn't help, and antagonizing the staff isn't a good idea, but it would make me feel better to be able to lash out at someone. It is easier to be angry than it is to be sad.

In reality, I don't want to be sad or angry. My Aunt isn't old, at 70, but neither is it like the work that I used to do with terminally ill children. Losing a six-year-old is tougher, in my eversohumble than an older adult. I want to be glad for the life that she's led, sad to lose her, but able to accept it.

Everyone is asking what they can do. That's the hell of it all, there isn't a damn thing that anyone can do at all. Perhaps that's the worst part of losing someone, the feeling of powerlessness that we all have. I'm a take-charge kinda gal. I fix things. If something's going on that I don't like, I DO something about it. Rarely do I adopt a wait-and-see attitude about anything. Looking at all that, you have to wonder how on earth the demons of depression ever managed to take up residence in my head. Ah, just add that to the ever-growing list of things I don't understand. So when someone is dying, I can't do anything about it, and that frustrates me. A. Whole. Lot.

Time to go. My mother just called with the news that she's instructed my sisters to get home from New York and Los Angeles. There are phone calls to be made and a few things to be done. Sadly, that soothes me a bit, that I can do something, anything.

Please don't allow this post to make you sad. Celebrate your own life and the lives of those you love. It is short and precious, and to be treasured.

Update: She passed away about 15 minutes after I originally posted this. Peacefully, surrounded by her sisters and her daughter. I wasn't there, but I didn't think I wanted to be there when she actually passed anyway. Thanks so much for all the kind wishes you've all sent over the past few weeks.
~LA

4 comments:

Dawna said...

Aww... well. She isn't suffering anymore at the very least. Hrm. I have nothing original to say as far as sympathies go.

Now you have one more angel looking over you.

Celebrate her, she loves you!

John said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time of grief.

John

Jeff said...

Lucy,

I googled "Well behaved..." today to find the author and landed on your site. I'm so sorry for you loss. It's been a rough month for me and your story brought me to tears. I am truly amazed that in this world how connected we all are.

Jeff

Lucy Arin said...

Thank you all so much. I am not eloquent enough to express adequately how much your sweet sentiments mean to me.

Jeff, should you return---Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is the quote's originator. I thank you as well for your kind words; I too am astonished at how we are all connected through the web.