Sharp Decline

May 25, 2006

The last few days have seen a sharp decline in my mother's health. She is now sleeping nearly all the time, and has stopped eating. Her disorientation in terms of where she is, and even sometimes when she is, is increasing in frequency. She is so weak now that she is no longer able to walk or even stand on her own. Assisting her is becoming an impossible physical burden for my father. Yesterday they were forced to call upon the fire department to return her to bed after she was unable to help my father move her.

The hospice nurse indicates that a decline in her vital signs (blood pressure and the oxygenation of her blood) will be the signal that she has entered the final week of her life. So far her vitals have been consistently good; as one visiting nurse put it, "she's a tough old lady." Until she reaches that final week moving her to the hospice facility is not an option. Admitting her to the hospital is fraught with difficulties, not the least of which was her express desire to not die in the hospital. Hospitals view their purpose as doing everything they can to keep you alive, to prolong your existence. In my mother's case there is nothing that can be done to cure her, so any measures taken in a hospital setting would only prolong the inevitable. The remaining options, then, are: hiring round the clock caregivers to be at the house with my mom or to admit her to a nursing home.

A catheter has been employed in a delaying action against making the decision about the next stage of her care. I am honored that my father has called me and talked to me about the choices, and their associated impacts. I cannot imagine the stress he must be feeling at having to make these calls, especially without the counsel of his wife of 45 years.

Sometimes, being an adult really sucks.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.