Tough Decisions

May 23, 2006

My father called me this evening. He is now faced with some brutally difficult decisions regarding my mom. She is weak enough now that she is no longer able to stand or walk. Getting from her bed to the bathroom is extremely difficult, and my father is afraid that it is rapidly becoming more than he can handle. He called so that he could voice what he thought were the options out loud, before asking the hospice nurse tomorrow what options they could provide.

I agreed with his assessment of the situation and tried to bolster his morale as much as I could. The last eighteen months have taken their toll on him, and the last six weeks have really worn him down. I know that he only wants to do what is right for her, and that he would (and will) do anything for her. The reality is that she is fast approaching the point in time where he can’t help her safely anymore. And it maybe that this Rubicon has already been reached. Several weeks ago, as her decline really started she made him promise that she would die at home. As he put it that was a promise made to be broken.

Her periods of disorientation are increasing, and some of the things she says now are barbed so he is dealing with conflicted emotions. Intellectually he knows what is going on, but emotionally this is proving to be very trying. As I said in a earlier posting, I can see now why the survivor often doesn’t last very long; caring for the first to die wears them out and leaves them dangerously vulnerable.

I don’t know if she will be placed in hospice for the final days of her life, or if he’ll admit her to the hospital for a couple of days to give himself a chance to recover a bit. Or maybe hospice will have a way to ease his burden of caring for her at home. Unimaginably tough decisions to have to make.

Over the Memorial Day weekend I will be traveling to Illinois once again. Already the anticipation of what I will find there is leaving a knot of anxiety in my stomach. I don’t want to go; I don’t want to see my mom suffering or delusional. But my sense of integrity and character demands that I go, for it is the right thing to do.

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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.