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How Hospice Helped Us Through My Mom's Last Ten Days
I was told my mother's dying just ten days before she passed away. I can't begin to understand why these health care professionals couldn't tell me sooner. It was a shock to both her and her family.
Mom Started Feeling Poorly
In May 2006, my mom started having health problems. She battled problems getting her bowels regulated and had a problem with her eyes burning. No matter how much anyone begged her to go to the doctor in the past, she'd continue to try curing any illness with home remedies or over -the- counter medication, but this time she agreed she needed to see her doctor.
Mom's doctor sent her to a specialist nearly fifty miles away. Not wanting her to go alone, my sister and one of Mom's granddaughters drove her there and went in the office with her. They ran all kinds of test on her that day. Several days later she was to return for the results and further examination. They told her that she had a liver problem. They also told her it was already damaged long before this new problem occured. The specialist gave her fluid tablets to control any fluids that were sure to be present.
Withdraw from Family Events
My mom began to withdraw from family events that otherwise she would have never missed. She missed birthday parties, weddings, and even a family reunion at her brother's house was missed for the first time. She stopped going to the grocery store. She stopped doing her own banking and paying her own bills. As independent as she had always been, was no more. She had no choice but to let people help her with everything. Even when she didn't want their help.
In July 2006, my mom had so much fluid on her abdomen that she looked like a pregnant woman. Her doctor increased the medicine to relieve it. It didn't help much. She was to go back to the specialist where they drained fluid from her. Because of medical reasons that would harm her they could only drain a small amount. They continued to run more test on her and told her they would let her know the results by mail. Again a family member had been with her to the appointments and testing. No questions were answered with any clarity
A letter arrived a few days after the appointment. It said although Ascites are seen they see no masses present and she was to call and make a follow up appointment. The appointment was set up for October. It sounded like good news. Nothing suggested to us that she was terminal. We were no strangers to terminal as my brother died just three years before that in 2003 with lung cancer.
Signs Things are Worse
By August my mom started failing fast. She was becoming more confused everyday. We could see her mind going. She would refuse to eat because she felt full all the time due to the fluid. Nothing tasted good to her. She had lost a lot of weight despite the big belly. She was losing her hair. She was losing control of bodily functions and refused to let anyone help her bath or dress.
My family and I knew this looked like Cancer. We had seen it a lot in the past few years. Not only did we lose my brother to it, but a lot of other relatives as well. We looked things up on the Internet and all signs pointed to Cancer. Until we heard that word from the doctors we refused to be worried by the notion.
September 8,2006, Mom became so weak she could not get out of her chair. She had lost full control of her bowels and her confusion was extreme. Against her wishes we called 911 and she was taken to the hospital. This was not where the fancy specialist were but at a local hospital where her regular physician worked out of. The doctor at the local hospital admitted her . He got in touch with her specialist to find out what was going on with her. He had the answers within minutes. Answers to questions we had been seeking for months. After his own examination of things he told us she had fourth stage Liver Cancer. He said she had less than month to live. He said only God knows for sure but his guess would be a couple weeks. We were in shock. We couldn't believe it was so close to the end and nobody told us. Nobody told her either that we know about. It's unreal to me that it wouldn't be the right of anyone to know they are dying. What gives health professionals the right to keep that information from anyone? I wish I knew.
Sent Home to Die
Mom spent just three days in the hospital. Because of insurance reasons they could not keep her longer. They urged us to put her in a nursing home. Mom wanted no part of that. She wanted to go home. The doctor sent her home to be cared for by her family who had no idea what they were doing. Hospice was sent in to help. I don't know what we would have done without them. They supplied everything from the hospital bed to the pain pills.
My sister and her son lived with Mom. The rest of her children and grandchildren took turns staying there to help my sister tend to her. There had to be more than one person there at a time. It was so hard to move her because of the extra big belly full of fluid. She was so frail that she hurt just to touch her. Keeping her changed and comfortable was a big challenge. She was against taking strong pain killers and seldom would let us give much for the pain. She said she wanted to be in her right mind, not doped up. She had people she wanted to talk to and she couldn't do it all doped up.
Mom's minister came for a long visit. We prayed with him for Mom. She talked to him about the old days when he was fresh out of college and a new minister. She had a picture of the day he baptized her.
Mom's brother and sister came to visit. She had cousins, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and many friends come to see her. We all had a good visit with Mom. She was even able to tell us exactly how she wanted her Funeral to be.
A Hospice nurse would stop by every other day or so to see how Mom was doing. They gave us advice on caring for her. Each one that came had so much to offer. They told us what to do the day she passes away.
On Sunday night September 17, 2006 my mom was slowly leaving us. The moaning I'll never forget. We managed to get some strong pain killers in her that night. My sister and I were alone there. All the noises she made really freaked us out. Around midnight I called my brother to come over to be with us. We took turns checking on her until she took her last breath at 3 a.m.
My sister called Hospice as they asked her too and then the funeral home director who had been notified of Mom's condition earlier that week. By the time anyone got there the house was filling with a smell that was overwhelming. We had to go out on the patio to wait for them.
The Hospice nurse told us that Mom had bled out. That was the reason for the unpleasant smell. She had bled from every port in her body and the enormous belly had ruptured. We had not been prepared for this event. It was bad enough to lose our mom without more surprises. The nurse cleaned Mom up and changed her for the funeral director. I had no idea what these nurses have to do.
This was a major event in my life that I'll never forget. I hope and pray I never have to put my children through something so horrible. R.I.P. Mom September 18, 2006.