Tuesday, August 26, 2008


We've been with my mother-in-law in hospice the last few days, and as of yesterday, they wanted to move her. She now needs round-the-clock care in the home, and her husband can't afford to pay a nurse for 24 hour care. As of mutual family decisions made yesterday with extended family, we'll be caring for her in our home, either for the duration or until she is moved back into a hospice facility, depending.

I've taken an open-ended leave of absence from work, which my employer has been very generous about, though it's not paid. Jack's working as much as possible so that he'll have some ability to take off in his mom's final days.

There's so much I don't know how to do, but they are sending in nurses to help me learn a few basics of adult caregiving and to help me get set up. I haven't been home in a while, and for some reason my house did not clean and organize itself while I was gone (those elves have some 'splaining to do...). I grabbed 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep In My Own Bed (oh, how glorious it is to be back in my own bed!) and now have 6 days worth of cleaning to do in 5 hours before our home is descended upon and the next leg of this relay begins. But how very happy we are to have this opportunity! There is a lot to do in a short time today before they transfer her here, so I'm trying to shoot for an adrenalin surge somehow to get what I can done with the cleaning and de-funking around here before my house needs to run itself and all focus is on the patient. I want to have enough of it set up that Rachel can give me some breaks in her off time to catch a nap here or there. The irony that my own daughter, who just got her LPN license earlier this year and is working at a rehab and enrolled in college fulltime, will now be teaching me some patient care is not lost on me :) This, from the girl who once wondered if she could EVER change a diaper or clean up unpleasant things...let's see now if I can keep up with HER... :)

Jack's mom took a turn I'm not sure anyone noticed yesterday. The chart will show she had soft food and liquids yesterday morning, but I saw within a four hours' time period a definate change. She simply stopped taking any liquids, said I love you to immediate family, and didn't try to do things for herself, like shifting in bed, like she had been doing regularly. The strangest thing for me, in talking with the nurses, is adjusting to no expectation of recovery. I never realized how much it's programmed into me to assist folks with only an eye to regaining health. It seems very foreign not to "fight" for a rebound...to allow someone to reject food and liquids, ultimately completely, and not try to assist them to somehow get nourishment and revive. For the focus to be on comfort, to the exclusion of health. I've seen so much of the abuses that come when people don't CARE whether their elderly decline, I guess I didn't really realize much about the reality of situations in which the end is near and the goal of healthcare changes to helping the passage be unobstructed. Maybe like a lot of folks, I've been unnaturally insulated and segregated from this aspect of real life? It has not escaped me the similarities between this and the general disconnect in our society in other areas as well.

So now, we'll learn.

I hope I won't make a mess of this, and that she'll be easy in her mind and her body as much as possible.

I hope I get everything before 8 AM that can whip this house into shape. I'm now off to do some seriously neglected housework, oy! :)

THANK YOU to each one of you who have stopped by to lend a word of encouragement, and for the prayers that are going up. I love you all dearly.


steph said...

Robbyn, you're doing just fine, and you will do just fine. You can't make a mess of it.

Phelan said...

I understand all to well. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Nita said...

Oh Robbyn, housecleaning in the middle of all this! Just give it a lick and a promise and get some rest.
How sweet your daughter will be teaching you, and I keep thinking how fortunate your MIL is to have you all.
It is hard to let go, because modern lives breaks up the generations so death is always off somewhere in the distance. In Oregon we have the assisted suicide laws and there is quite a few people against that. But, I believe when it is time, it is time.
Tough times ahead, be well.

farm mom said...

My thoughts are with you my friend, and thank you for giving us an update. You're doing a brave thing (by today's standards), and I know she loves you all the more for it. My FIL died from brain cancer in his own home, and he progressed toward passing on in much the same way you describe. His wife was with him constantly and the family was with him as much as possible. Sending love and fortitude your way. xoxo

Nola @ AlamoNorth said...

From my own experience, I know what you say it so true. It is uncomfortable at first to see health car professionals "allowing" someone to die. But it all starts to make sense after a while. Let nature take it's course; make your mother in law comfortable; and do not prolong her misery. That was hard for me to do, but then, I saw my mother's attitude change, and I saw how ready she was for the next step (dying). I know she was truly ready, and tired of hanging on. I accepted that, and helped her in whatever way I could. She passed away quietly, and I felt a sense of relief, that I had helped her to make that final journey. Our society doesn't prepare you for dying; what a shame, since it's something we will all need to know how to do! Just keep hanging in there, know you are doing what's best for your mother in law!

Kathie said...

Saying many prayers for you. You can never make a mess when its done in love, sweets.

Carla said...

..sending as much love as I possibly can via this message to you and you family, Robbyn. You will be in my thoughts and expecially my prayers in the coming days.
"May the Lord bless you and keep you"

MeadowLark said...

He will steady your hand and prepare your heart.

You are indeed a wonderful caring person.

Meg said...

Oh Robbyn, wow. I hope that you, Jack, and MIL find some peace through this. You're doing a really great and difficult thing, and I'm sure you must be grateful to have the opportunity. You'll do exactly what you need to do and it will be as good as it can be.

Carolyn said...

I am thinking of you and praying for you during this difficult time.


Country Girl said...

I would be more than happy to answer any questions for you if I can help.
My husband and I are both nurses. John works oncology and I in the ER.
I admire you for taking her into your home and caring for her in her final days! Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family! ~Kim