Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mom's Passing

My mother died on March 12th.  Though it did not seem so at the time, she passed relatively quickly.  My brother flew in that night and helped us arrange for the burial.  The funeral took place on the following Friday after the Monday on which she died.  Though my father was still very frail, he attended the funeral as did all of the children and their spouses and the grandchildren and one daughter-in-law.  Though there was sadness at losing Mom, there was also a sense of relief.  Especially at the end, Mom was suffering so that it seemed almost a blessing when she finally passed.  It took my dad most of the week to have some closure as the calls drifted in and the cards, flowers and donations kept coming.  What a tribute to a couple in their nineties that so many people would send their sympathies.

Two weeks have passed since the funeral and we are all trying to return to some form of normality.  My father, still in Hospice and housed in assisted living, is on oxygen, confined to a wheelchair, and totally reliant on my husband and I for his entertainment and supervision.  At 96, he's entitled to just sitting, but it's a huge burden on me and one that I'm still trying to deal with.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


January 4, 2012

It's January 4th and I am very happy the season is over.  It was a bittersweet season as we celebrated the holidays with family and mourned the sudden death of Keith's sister and the passing of Keith's aunt and Mom and Dad's close friend, all in Chicago.

My husband's Aunt Marion died at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.  His sister called to tell us the news from her hospital bed in Chicago.  She had come down with pneumonia and was confined to her hospital bed for the funeral.  My husband went to the airport with our Thanksgiving company to take a plane to Chicago.

Upon his return, we sat vigil waiting for news as his sister went in to an induced coma and then was treated by various machines that tried to maintain her systems and ultimately revive her, none of which worked.

The week before Christmas, Keith, myself and our children and daughter-in-law all went to Chicago for the massive funeral of Keith's sister, age 71, beloved by so many that the shiva went on for four days after the funeral.  We stayed for all four days, but our children went back home after the funeral and our Denver children kept looking in on Mom and Dad who were at that point in a holding pattern.

The holidays were a mixture of mourning, celebration and worry over my parents' declining health.

We attended a very funny bell concert at my mother's dementia unit during the week before Christmas.  The residents had been rehearsing every Saturday for over a month.  My father came down from his 16th floor apartment and we all watched as they took turns ringing out Christmas carols with their bells.  Unfortunately they had to take Mom's bell away.  She kept ringing it no matter whether it was her turn or not.

On Christmas Day, I hired a caregiver (double time for holidays) to bring Mom to the house for brunch and to celebrate Chanukah, Christmas and Mom's and Dad's birthdays.  I obsessed about whether this would work for days prior to the event, but it went off without a hitch and I think Mom and Dad both enjoyed getting gifts and watching our grandchildren open all eight of their Chanukah presents.  They didn't mind the rich chocolate birthday cake from Whole Foods either.

On the Monday after Christmas, Keith and I started looking into Assisted Living options for Dad.  He was showing serious signs of being disoriented and needing more help in getting through the day.  In our running clothes (it was a spontaneous decision), we visited three different facilities in the area where we live.  We also looked into assistant living in the facility where Dad currently resides.  After the first of the year, we decided we would take Dad to visit one of the facilities that we thought might be a better fit for him

On Dad's birthday we took him to Elway's Steak House and watched him indulge in fried onion rings as others looked around admiring him walking with a cane and having a good time at the ripe old age of 96.

We spent the rest of the week including New Year's in the mountains with the kids and their friends, two psychoanalysts from San Francisco.  They added a sober twist to our otherwise raucous get-togethers.  We did some baby-sitting while the kids went skiing with their friends.  I talked to Dad daily to see how he was getting along.  Despite hiring caregivers to walk him each day, he was not a happy camper.

We received notice that Mom and Dad's closest friend, Carolyn had died.  I did not tell Mom, but I did tell Dad who was very

January, 2012

It all began when Keith took the family to Mexico for his 70th and Dad was left behind.

We left on Thursday for six days.

On Friday, our son and daughter-in-law received a call that a pipe had burst in their house and that my daughter-in-law's siblings were on the scene trying to salvage the flooding that followed.  On Friday my daughter-in-law returned to Denver and left all of us remaining, i.e. son, other son, other daughter-in-law, husband, me, in charge of the two grandchildren, ages 4 and 9 months.

On Saturday my daughter-in-law began moving all of the salvageable belongings into our home in Denver including their family dog who died on Saturday night just as she arrived.

Then I received a phone call from my father that he had been rushed to the emergency room with a urinary tract infection.   My husband informed me that are housing arrangements in Mexico were non-cancelable and encouraged me to stay and manage the situation from there.

I immediately hired round the clock caregivers at the independent living facility where he lives and they remained with him until I returned on Wednesday.  In the meantime I was in communication with Dad's doctors to oversee his situation.

The catheter that was inserted into Dad on Saturday was not large enough and so he was returned to the ER on Sunday where they inserted a larger catheter

Home Health from the ER room was to do the follow-up, but the Home Health arm of Dad's housing unit took over his follow-up care.  I might add that they weren't very good at it.

I returned on Wednesday and started to pick up the pieces and have been doing so ever since.  (see next addition.)

The week of January 21st, 2012

I read A Bittersweet Season for direction and comfort.

The catheter remains in Dad after I return on Thursday. We continue to hire round the clock caregivers for Dad. Mom is somewhat neglected but seems to be OK. I take Dad to the urologist on the following Tuesday to remove the catheter. On Wednesday he tells me he doesn’t want the caregivers around. I have set up an elaborate system for them to report. One of the comments is “why am I here?” I then limit the caregivers to meals after the catheter is removed on Tuesday. We go back to see the doctor for another check-up on Thursday. Then I check on him and there are Depends all over the apartment and I discover him naked on the toilet with no caregivers around. He’s shaking his head and moaning, “I don’t know what to do.” At that point I try to regroup. I don’t want to change his diapers. It is late in the afternoon and I call all the people at Park Place for help and noone returns my calls. I go home and drink wine and fall asleep and wait for the call. Late in the afternoon I get a call from Stacy who I presume to be the Stacy at Park Place. She’s a sort of administrative assistant. I’m not sure of her title. I tell her my sob story and she recommends “respite care.” “I didn’t know you had that at Park Place,” I reply. “Oh,” she says, “This isn’t Park Place. It’s Sunrise of Cherry Creek.” By Friday afternoon Dad is enrolled in Sunrise’s respite care program, all the papers are signed, the nurses have evaluated him and he’s out of Park Place.

March 2012

Haven't entered any submission since December, although my notes are too copious to record in a succinct manner.  So without further adieu, let me rag.  It's been three months of constant issues and incidents for both Mom and Dad.  Bottom line is that both were very recently entered into Hospice at the assisted living and dementia units in the same building where they are housed.  Dad's been to the ER twice and Mom has been there once.  The calls have come frequently for Mom as she becomes agitated which we think is due to either pain or frustration.  After the two ER visits, I hired a geriatric care manager to help me navigate through the maze of caring for two elderly parents.  I had already transferred Dad to a respite care facility and was contemplating whether to send him back to his original independent living apartment.  The final choice was to move him back but place him in assisted living.  He is now permanently on oxygen and very depressed.  Mom often rejects her pills and is on morphine for pain and atavan PRN (as needed) for agitation.  Everyday I wrestle with the bureaucracy that comes with putting my parents in a private assisted living facility that is understaffed and incredibly disorganized.  My brother has come to visit and my husband helps me regularly.  My children and grandchildren come sometimes to visit but they are very busy.  In the meantime I try to do something for myself as frequently as I can.  Yesterday I got a manicure and pedicure and took myself out to a leisurely lunch.  The saga continues.