Some days are great. Some days are not so great. Some days are rather dark. Today was a dark day. We had my mom’s doctor’s appointment today. First of all, we had to deal with showering. Mom gets so confused about shampoo and soap, which direction the hand-held hose should go (I am eternally soaked!!) or if she needs to use the washcloth full of soap on her head. That is such a long process, and it is draining for us both. I had laid out her clothes and when I went to check, she had changed tops and it did not match. I know now she definitely cannot tell the difference between navy blue and black.
We got to the doctor’s appointment on time. Which was miraculous. We are having another gorgeous Alaska day, full of sun and a slight breeze. So the mood was bright. Mom was on her game. She had put make up on, even blush, and her eyebrows were decent, too. LOL. We had a little wait, but with this doctor, I don’t care. Because she is the sort of physician that will sit with you and chat with you until she feels she is done. That can be 20 minutes, an hour, and even once, it was 3 hours. She is an incredible gerontologist who takes her role seriously. Today we chatted and she assured me that when she accepted my mom as her patient, she also accepted me. We were at this point in our conversation that I was concerned she could not always be mom’s doctor. And I actually started crying. She assured me that she knew she was my anchor and she would remain my anchor, to the end. And she sat there, hugging me and reassuring me as I cried. Because some days, crying is all we can do.
You see, today we had that hard conversation about the end. I had so many questions about who I call if this happens, or who I call if that happens. What do I do if I wake up tomorrow and she is dead in her bed? What do I do if she is having a heart attack but has a DNR in place? What do we do when we think we need HOSPICE? Who makes the determination, and who do I call? What happens when mom dies? Do I call you (the doctor) and are you willing to sign her death certificate? Do I have to call the paramedics? Coroner? Mortuary? What paperwork do I need to have out and readily available? What if paramedics want to do more than mom wants? We have nutrition and hydration selected for her; is that a good thing or bad thing and why? So many questions I have had. Because I can see the end of the road. Mom has declined so much over the past month. She has lost so many abilities in such a short time. I know there is not a lot of time left. And I keep having nightmares with all sorts of different endings. So I needed today’s chat. But it was a heavy conversation. And so we made hospice plans. My God. I did not think I would be doing this so quickly. She is not ON hospice, but it is all ready to go. Because it is coming.
One of the things I have learned so far in this journey with mom is that we cannot do this alone. We are blessed beyond belief with our gerontologist. I did not realize what a difference using a gerontologist would make. And she has made an incredible difference, because she understands how the bodies and minds of the elderly function. She understands diseases of the elderly, and how medication affects them differently. And she does NOT overmedicate. Which I love. In addition to that, we are blessed with a support team around us. A care coordinator and a care provider who work together to ensure mom has all she needs. They work with her doctor, the state, and all the various and myriad agencies and their endless forms, helping us navigate our way through. And we are working our way through it.
Doc told me today that mom’s highway no longer has lines, or edges, or anything. That I need to expect nothing. Her car is traveling down the road, ignoring signs, no lines, no shoulders, no stop signs or signals. And she is progressing to the end, in her own way. The only thing we can plan on is that there is an end and we have a game plan in place for that. It reminds me of those emergency exits for trucks who have lost their brakes, that are on the side of the road. That is basically hospice. We will catch you when you run off the road, and we will be there for you. Your safe place to land. Sigh. Heavy day today.