Advocacy, Real life, Toward better care

sometimes nothing works: august 4, 2016

“Your mom’s in the sunroom,” a caregiver told me when I arrived on the second-floor.

“Thanks,” I said, and walked down the hall past the nurses’ station.

Mom was lying in a recliner with a pillow under her feet. Crusty yellow something ringed her mouth. Egg? A football game played loudly on the TV. In French. Another resident sat in another recliner across the room. She appeared to be asleep.

I greeted Mom:

After I cleaned her face with a warm washcloth, I tried every tool in the box to lift her spirits. I began with some apple juice in a sippy cup; she drank a little.

“Would you like some more Mom?” I asked several times before she answered.

“I don’t know, it doesn’t matter to me,” she finally said. Oh dear.

I got up and switched off the TV. We sat in silence for a while.

“Are you comfortable Mom?”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“You don’t look very comfortable. How do you feel?”

No answer.

“Do you want me to read to you?”

“Well, what would you read?”

“I thought maybe Jillian Jiggs.”

No answer. Mom stared at the ceiling. That scary fixed stare.

I read Jillian Jiggs.

“What do you think of that story mom?” I asked as I closed the book. “Is it a good story?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re speaking very quietly today, Mom.”

No response.

“Shall we hold hands mom?”

“We didn’t hold hands before.”

“No, we didn’t. Is it okay if we hold hands now?”

No answer.

I continued sharing my news in a one-sided conversation: “It’s a nice day out there Mom, but we need rain, we haven’t had much rain lately.” She said nothing, and neither did I for several minutes, and then: “I played golf yesterday, Mom. It was very warm we had to take a cart.” I paused to see if she might reply. She didn’t. “Nevertheless, I shot a 47 for nine holes. That was good eh, Mom?”

Nothing seemed to work. On the plus side, she finally closed her eyes. I soon abandoned the monologue, and sat quietly beside her, listening to her breathe, trying not to worry about her legs and feet and the rest of her.

I’d been there about three-quarters of an hour when Nurse R. came in. She gave the other resident a pill, and then came over to us.

“Hi Patti,” she said. “Hey look at that pink on you!”

Mom didn’t stir. Nurse R. lifted Mom’s right eyelid with her thumb, applied some drops, and then repeated the process on the other eye.

“Do we know what’s causing the swelling in Mom’s legs?” I asked as she worked.

“I have no idea. I wasn’t even informed. I’ll find out,” she said, and left the room. Yeah right.

“I’m going now, okay Mom?” I said fifteen minutes later. “I’ll come back tomorrow when you’re awake.”

“Okay,” she said, without opening her eyes.

“I love you, Mom” I said, in case I never saw her again.

She didn’t answer.

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Image copyright: shaiith / 123RF Stock Photo

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