Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hospice, Hospitals and Headaches

Nothing in the world is more stressful than end of life decisions.

Unless you are involved in two of them at once.

Until my early 20's, I had three grandmas. A great-grandma on my mom's side, mom's mom (momom) and dad's mom. Super Granny (as I named her when I was three or so. I think I had her confused with Super Grover) snuffed out at the age of 94 or so. Dad's mom lasted until 90. She died in the nursing home up the street from dad's house, right after I told her that she looked funny with her teeth out (why would you hold on to life after that?). My last remaining grandma, Momom, checked herself into hospice on Thursday.

She had been in the rehab center/nursing home but to stay there and have insurance pay, she had to do therapy and make progress. Momom's lungs are shot from decades and decades of heavy smoking. Even with 24 hour a day oxygen, the lungs aren't working. Ain't no amount of therapy in the world going to make those lungs start pumping again. She's frustrated, and tired of needles and the blood samples and the restricted diet. She's ready to die - not because her brain is giving up, but because her body has given out on her. She still wants to travel, and see the grand canyon, and ride the train across the county, and cruise with the elderly through the Mediterranean... But she can't. She can't walk across the room to pee, let alone pack a bag and plan a trip.

So, she signed up for hospice, where she can eat what she wants and do what she can, until she can't do it no more. Which honestly, might not be that long. While I definitely have mixed feelings about this, I am happy for her. Happy that she made this decision consciously and happy that her last days will be free of needles and doctors and worry. I am sad for me because I won't have her anymore. And sad for me because I know she still had stories to tell that I never heard, and probably never will due to the fact that she has discovered that hospice nurses give you whatever pills you want, whenever you want them, and that some of them make you feel very, very, good.

On my way to visit her on Thursday evening, I dropped by my dad's house to deliver some pills he needed and some other stuff I picked up at Fright Aid. He looked like he needed to be hospitalized. His leg is swollen. He's in pain. Dialysis isn't keeping up with his fluid buildup. Yet, he is unwilling to do anything about it. "Dad, do you want me to make an appointment? Do you want to go to the ER?" "No, I'm just going to go to bed..." Nice. You just go ahead and get sicker and sicker, so I can run around more and more trying to meet your needs. And when you are finally sick enough to not protest an emergency room visit, the nurses and doctors can judge me for being a bad daughter. Thanks.

I took Friday off so I could visit Momom and be ready to take him to the hospital. Of course, he didn't want to go. So, I cleaned his kitchen (it was dangerously dirty. Couple a man who never learned how to take care of himself with a case of blindness and you get some sort of black mold buildup in the sink..) and made him lunch (had I not been there, he would have eaten a pack of crackers). My mom is on my ass about getting him into a nursing facility. Problem is, he's gotta get sent there by a doctor or the hospital, and to do that, he would actually have to go to one.

Its stressful. I've got a dying momom, a mom who is doing everything in her power to avoid dealing with the fact that her mom is dying, a dad who needs to be in the hospital, a job that I keep missing to deal with all of these things, and a house that just won't clean and organize itself. Strangely enough, despite the stress and the strife, I had no headache yesterday. Perhaps I am getting this thing under control a little bit.

1 comment:

DocJohn said...

One of the hardest things anyone can live through is the decision to call it quits and have to check a loved one (or make the decision to check yourself) into a long-term facility, basically to die.

There are no clear-cut, right or wrong answers to such decisions. You should give yourself credit in spending so much time in taking care of your dad during these difficult times, and give yourself a break for not always "feeling it" when it comes to wanting to be anywhere else but there.

As for his reticence in just going ahead and doing it, well, it's a hard decision to make. I'm sure when I get to that point, it's not something I'm going to just wake up one day and say, "Hey, let's go into the nursing home and die."

But if my daughter was spending a lot of time taking care of me, you'd better believe I'd be quicker to make that decision than if I were just on my own...