The phone rang and the recorder picked up at 3:00 pm on October 27th, 2020, Mom didn’t answer and she didn’t call back. I had spoken to her at 8:00 that morning and told her I would be over later that day. By 3:05 I felt sick to my stomach and called again at 3:20. Something was definitely wrong. Mom had been living alone well into her 89th year. This was always a worry.
By 3:30 I phoned a good friend and asked him to swing by and pick me up, as I didn’t want to go alone. To tell you the truth I didn’t know what I would find and I was scared. We walked into my Mom’s dark house at 3:50 pm. She had all of the blinds closed. I called out to her but no answer. We found her on the bedroom floor, a small delicate figure, like a porcelain doll, this woman, my Mom. She was alive. She had fallen sometime that day and broken her arm. She could not get up to reach the phone.
My common sense and solid upbringing kicked in that Mom and Dad had instilled in me my entire life. Do what needs to be done. I made the call to 911. In what seemed like seconds, our paramedics showed up to take over. All I can remember them saying was, “What hospital does she want to go to, and where are her insurance cards?” I felt numb, I knew this day was coming. She was in shock from the fall and had no idea how long she had been lying there.
What an amazing woman, born in the 1930’s, with five brothers and sisters. She managed to make it this far, the last living person in her family.
She did take the time to argue with the paramedics that she did not want to go to any hospital. They all towered over her small frail frame. She finally agreed. Off went the ambulance from her home she had known for 24 years, a piece of history for our family.
Parents often hide things from their children when their health is failing, this was no exception. We found out that she had endured three silent strokes that presumably caused vascular dementia. My Sister and I knew her memory had been failing and opted to keep “an eye on her,” since she did not want to go to a doctor.
Fast forward three days later and out of the hospital with her arm in a cast, she was taken to a rehab center. She wanted to go home. She was confused as to where she was for those couple of weeks. Our family could visit her and take her personal belongings to make her feel more comfortable. We didn’t know at the time that our future visits would be zero due to the pandemic.
The discharge came too soon, we should have known she was not ready to go back home, even with 24 hour care, it just wasn’t enough. Dementia is tricky and my Mom is an expert at covering up what’s bothering her. She has always been there for my Sister and I to hear us out. Now it was our turn.
The at home care was just not enough. The trauma from the fall and the dementia, had taken a toll on her. She did not realize she was home. We thought, in “our minds,” that home would be of comfort to her, but we were wrong. She was confused. She was vulnerable with people coming in and out to take care of her. So we made our next move.
Within those three days at home we decided that she would need 24 hour skilled nursing care at a facility, the very words that my Mom never wanted to hear. It was too late for assisted living. She was a master at hiding things from us.
I cannot stress enough, have a plan for your parents. Believe me, they will thank you for it. It’s a difficult conversation to have when parents are mentally and physically failing, but just do it. I was able to be frank with her about doctors and memory loss. But she just refused to accept help.
I pushed for a plan for my Mom for years but was met with resistance by other family members. They thought they would see the signs, and be able to handle it all in due time, life doesn’t work that way.
Now as my Mom settles into a nursing home, with Covid knocking at the back door, we are unable to visit her. My Sister and I hope she recovers and can live out the time she has left, comfortably, safe and well taken care of.
This has been a hard lesson for my family. Listen to your gut feelings and have a plan in place. Your parents deserve the best that life has to offer.