Saturday, July 26, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes

It's been a rough year for my siblings and I as we've watched the rapid decline of our Mom. This picture was taken in June of last year when I met up with my sisters and Mom at our annual family reunion. She knew it would be her last one but we were hopeful she'd see a few more. I visited in September and she was doing fine. She took Russ and I outside to give us plants to take home and showed us her flowers. I took her and Angie out to eat and she served herself at the buffet and talked to us. She seemed to be acting like her same ol' self.

In October, Barb called and said that she had to start taking over Mom's financial stuff because she had forgotten to sign checks, missed paying a few bills and was seeming a little more confused. They took her to the doctor for some tests and he confirmed that she has dementia. From there things started happening at rapid speed and by November she needed someone to help her get dressed and fed. She started doing things that were uncharacteristic of her and would get into OCD types of loops and they'd have to redirect her.
She would have confused spells and then clear spells. By December she was even more dependent needing assistance for even the simplest of tasks. She was losing weight rapidly too. This picture is of us at her doctor's appointment after a CAT scan classified her dementia as Alzheimer's. I started checking out books from the library and reading up on what to expect. Her symptoms didn't mesh with most of the books I read on Alzheimer's. It was going way faster than they described and instead of talking a lot Mom had gone into a silent world. I would say "I love you" and she would say "Okay" and she would answer questions with either a "yes", "no" or "okay" but offer little more conversation. I was beginning to think she was having a bunch of mini-strokes. I was told these would not show up on any scans but it's common for the elderly to have them without anyone knowing.  It was just happening too fast for just dementia.

Angie was driving over to her house every day to get her up and out of bed and feed her breakfast. Richard would get her lunch and keep an eye on her and then Barb would get her to bed at night and bathe her. It was getting harder and harder to keep watch on her. She wasn't very steady on her feet anymore and a few nights Barb heard her getting up in the middle of the night and moving in a loop to the bathroom, back to her bed, pull the covers up, pull them off, and then back to the bathroom. Other times she would get up and be searching in drawers for something but not know what she was looking for. My siblings were starting to get concerned that she would fall during the night.

In mid-January their worst fears happened and she got out of bed and fell flat on her face. Barb heard it and ran in and she was bleeding and vomiting. They called an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital. She was bruised, had a big lump on her head and had a brain bleed. We were told rarely does anyone her age survive a brain bleed. They didn't give us much hope that she would survive it. She was immediately put into Paliative Care and taken off all her medicines. They stopped her IV's for fluids and were just going to let her go. But....they didn't know our Mom very well. She has a way of bouncing back. Prayers were being lifted up for her and she pulled through. Angie and Barb continued giving her water and feeding her. They eventually had to change her status back to Hospice care. She was amazing them. They then put her in a Rehabilitation Center to try to get her taking care of herself and walking again. She worked at it diligently and you could see in her face how hard she was trying to get back to normal.
They finally released her to home hospice care in mid February and they took her to Angie's house to live. Hospice provided a hospital bed and all the things she needs for at-home care. Angie is her full-time care giver   now and she is doing an amazing job. Mom continues to decline rapidly and
we're not sure how much longer we will have her with us. She is down to about 70 lbs and is eating very little now. She is more confused each day but some days she is very alert and we see glimpses of Mom in there. Hospice has told us several times that they don't expect her to live much longer and she continues to amaze them with rebound after rebound.

We've all prepared ourselves that she might not be here by her birthday in August but I would love to see her make it to 90. She's a fighter for sure but her body is failing her and I'm fairly sure she won't see 2015. But God can do great miracles and her time has already been determined by we will wait and see what HIS plan is for her.

I hate this disease called Alzheimers. It's hard watching her become something she never wanted to become. It totally scares me knowing this disease is strongly in our genes on her side and if any of us live to be very old, we too might follow this path. In some ways it's like looking at a mirror into our futures and it's not a reflection any of us want to see of ourselves. I love my Mama and I pray that God will give her a peaceful and pain-free departure from this life and wrap her in HIS arms as she goes to her place of rest.

It amazes me how rapidly this disease has attacked her as I write and compare the June picture at the top to the June picture at the bottom. In just 9 months we've watched her fade from us at warp speed. I guess in some ways it's more merciful than 5-10 years of this. If I had known then what I know now there are so many things I would have done differently. I would have talked to her more and asked more questions and had her tell me more stories. The stories and memories are all lost within the depths of her confused mind. I really miss talking to her now. To anyone who may read this, take time to hug your Mom and hear her stories. Take a lot of pictures and take her out to eat or let her show you her garden. Sometimes we all get wrapped up in our busy lives and forget about our elderly. They have so much to teach us about life. Knowing how much she loved her crafts and her genealogy it's sad watching her staring at a television now because that's all she can do. She kept busy in life and I had hoped with as much as she used her brain it would prevent dementia from finding her but it didn't. All the dates she had locked in her brain are gone, all the knowledge of sewing and crocheting and ceramics are gone. So she sits and watches TV or sleeps in her chair and waits......and occasionally she'll surprise me with an "I love you, too, Donna" when I'm visiting or saying hi on the phone and it warms my heart. I cherish those words so much.

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