Dementia Exiled: Part 3
Updated: May 16
Once I had made the decision to admit Mom to the hospital, Michelle, our wonderful hospice nurse, got busy securing admittance, contacting the emergency triage nurse to confirm comfort care measures only, and arranging transport.
She found a bed at the hospital in our neighborhood, Perfect! Between Dad's death from pancreatic cancer and Mom's dementia in the four years since, I was familiar with the joint and comfortable with the care Mom would receive.
I let Michelle do her thing while the other household denizens took turns keeping Mom on her backside. (No easy feat there!) Meanwhile, I gathered up what I would need to accompany her. Michelle informed me that by law the transport would arrive with sirens blaring and lights a-blazing. Boy howdy, did they!
We not only got a two-man ambulance crew, but the local fire truck also joined in the fun, manly behemoths spilling out of every mechanical orifice.
When I had all Mom and I would need at the ready, I looked in the bedroom to see Michelle surrounded by a towering forest of virility. She was holding her own answering their questions until I heard a male voice confidently proclaim, "We aren't going all the way out there. We'll take her to the nearest hospital."
I weaved my way through the testosterone in to the room. What ensued was a polite but firm conversation on my end against the ambulance driver's baritone petulance. He proceeded to list all the reasons why they would not be taking Mom to the hospital where arrangements had already been made, beginning with it would take 45 minutes to get there (uh... not at 11 o'clock at night unless we were walking her), and ending with everyone else on the planet also needing emergency assistance that night.
While his other arguments were ridiculous, I thought long and hard about tying up an ambulance for the next 40 minutes (total round-trip time, not his supposed one-way scenario), for only one broken old lady
I finally said to myself, "Sorry, humanity. It's Mom's turn to be the priority. You're gonna have to take another ambulance, and you'll probably have a better time of it without this grumpy f%@k by your side."
When they finally got around to getting her loaded up I cordially told him he would be taking Mom to the hospital we had specified, and thanked him for his understanding.
He hadn't expressed any understanding. And I hadn't meant it. So we were even.
And the trip took 24 minutes.
Like always, the emergency room was COLD. The morphine Michelle had administered at J&D's had helped Mom settle down, and the heated blankets the emergency room nurses wrapped her in when we arrived were great, but still she shook with chill. I was terrified she had gone into shock and wasn't going to survive the wait for the emergency room doctor. A nurse reassured me that was not the case - then made the mistake of compassionately inquiring how I was holding up.
My stoic calmness dissipated as emotions flew out of my face, "Terrible! My family has spent 9 years, sacrificing so much to allow this woman to die in her own home. And now, because they can't get the f%@king power back on she's going to die HERE!" And then I broke down.
That nurse never came back.
The emergency doctor arrived about 40 minutes later with a still-alive Mom who had successfully managed to live through the wait. I had somewhat successfully managed to dry my eyes and had dragged myself back into the competent caregiver game.
The doctor was comforting and soft-spoken, which shouldn't have been a problem except she had a slight accent and was masked up making her difficult to understand.
Eventually I caught on that she was telling me the only bed they had for Mom was in an area of the hospital that they had cleared for elderly members of our community; a warm place to shelter until their power was restored. That seemed fine by me until it became clear that there was no medical staff in attendance. Those folks didn't have fractured hips, they just needed heat and hot meals.
Incredulous, I asked her just how she thought a late stage dementia person in immense pain was going to fit in with her healthy geriatric peers? She required morphine to stop the screaming, and nurses to ensure she did not attempt to get up and walk.
"Let me talk to my staff and see what we can do" she said gently.
A half-hour later we were wheeled to a private room on a fully-staffed floor. A utility cart stocked with various healthy snacks, a carafe of coffee, and a pitcher of ice water sat outside the door with a sign that said "For the family in room 104." That was us! I knew I had made the right decision in bringing Mom here.
At 2 a.m., after having met the three kindhearted night nurses and discussed the comfort only measures they would be providing I gave my drug-induced mother - no longer in pain and sleeping soundly - a soft kiss on her forehead and whispered in her ear that I would be back tomorrow.
The Boyfriend in the Basement had waited up for me, greeting me on J&D's porch with a glass of wine, ready to listen to our hospital adventures. Sometimes I really am a lucky girl.
As we parsed out the events of the day he told me that earlier in the night when he saw me outnumbered by heroic he-men in the bedroom and overheard the destination dispute he felt powerless to help.
I laughed, gave him a sloppy wine kiss, and told him I was not the one outnumbered in that room. I had known full well who was going to win that battle.
I cannot discount the massive relief I felt the next day knowing Mom was safe and I was temporarily relieved of my caregiver vigilance. But I didn't have much time to enjoy it as there was still half a tree crushing our carport, freezers and refrigerators that should have been cleaned out about a year before Dad died now oozing foul smelling goo from their interiors. The power still wasn't back on although my daily call yielded hope - crews had now been assigned to our particular outage.
I spent the next two days dropping in on Mom while trying to manage the other facets of this disastrous week. She was rarely conscious, the morphine doing its job keeping her pain-free at the expense of wakefulness.
To me, it seemed as if overnight she had dropped 20 pounds, so deadly thin, her mouth gaping open as she slept. It reminded me of Dad a couple of days before he died, already walking the final steps to death's door while still present in body with us. My heart sank that she would not make it home.
Home. Getting her home. I just had to get her home. Even as I started digging other parts of our lives out from under this catastrophe thoughts of getting her home consumed my every waking minute.
Friday afternoon I was heading back to the hospital feeling encouraged by how much she ate during my morning visit; I had taken advantage of a little eyes-wide-open time to fill her to the brim with applesauce. My phone rang. It was our next door neighbor Dave.
"I was sitting here eating my lunch and saw your porch lights on. And then I thought, their porch lights ARE ON!"
We both spewed hallelujahs to each other through the phone. I turned the car around and immediately headed home where I ran about flicking lights on and off, giddy with actual POWER!
Hospice and I worked out a plan to bring Mom home the next day. We had a lot to do to get the house warmed up and ready for her, including having someone come out and reassemble the hospital bed in the front room. While I was desperate to get her home, I was also relieved that she had responded well to the hospital care and was pretty sure she wasn't going to zoom on down Death Drive overnight.
Saturday afternoon she was home.
Mom was home.
Mom. Is. Home.