I sit and write this at 5:30 am; after a sleepless night, tossing and turning, and it feels good to finally be up.
My mother was discharged yesterday afternoon. A Nurse called me; the Doctor said there was nothing more to be done...Mom may as well go home. But she would have to be on oxygen, and would be set up with a tank.
I asked the Nurse...how could this be? What was wrong with Mom? She halted in her litany of instructions for Mom's care...and said...Nobody has spoken with you? I said, No. She said that was bizarre.
When Graham and I visited her two days ago, Mom wanted to go home. We assured her that we would take her, when the time came. Mom was still on a catheter, and on oxygen. I tried to find her Nurse; she was unavailable. But I spoke with another, who said she did not know anything about my mother, since she had just arrived on the Ward, but that she would send Mom's Nurse to me when she returned.
Gray and I waited; it became obvious Mom was tiring. Once more I wandered the halls in search of her nurse, once more I had no luck.
My mother seemed slightly better, the swelling in her face had receded a bit; she seemed mostly lucid...but it is hard to tell. Mom's very, very good at hiding her confusion; she presents herself as knowing exactly what she is saying, and she uses manipulation with great success. This is survival to her; she has learned this manner of behavior very well.
As we left, we told her that if she waited until Saturday or Sunday, Graham and I would take her home, if indeed she could be discharged, never believing that she actually would be. But we wanted to give her hope, we did not want to take that away from her, we wanted to leave her with something to look forward to.
As I spoke with her Nurse on the telephone, my mind became blank and my body stilled. I felt nothing...it was as if a flat line was running through my mind. I have felt this way, before, at times. I think it is shock.
Without any notice of any kind to the family of this aged, ill person, my mother arranged for this particular Nurse, when her shift was complete, to return to the hospital and drive her home. The Nurse had arranged Home Care to be there, and Mom had called a neighbour to turn the heat up in her home. Mom refused to let the Nurse call any member of the family, she would not give the telephone number of two other sisters who might have been able to help. The Nurse said she had to beg her for my telephone number.
She had already called my sister...the one who had her number down as contact person. This sister has been battling the flu; she was in bed with a migraine and sore throat. Mom had spread her demented poison well; she used what had worked before...nobody cared and nobody would help. My sister was not even able to take the call; her husband, who at the age of seventy-five and wracked with arthritis, was asked to set up the oxygen tank. He refused, knowing Graham and I had already said we would take her home on the weekend. He believed, as we all did, that the hospital would not discharge my Mom until family members could be there to take her home.
Especially when she was discharged with an oxygen tank, when she lived alone and only received care three times a day, for four or so hours spread over the three visits.
I had the presence of mind to ask...what about food? There was no food in the house...the fridge had been cleaned out. The Nurse paused and said she hadn't thought about that. Would there be a can of soup or something similar that she could eat until I could get there?
I stammered, I was not thinking straight or at all.
The Nurse assured me it was no trouble; Mom wanted to go home and she could not place her in a Taxi, with an oxygen tank. So she would drive her home, set up the tank, and leave her. I was to pick up iron pills, she would give her enough for the weekend. Mom was still in pain, she said, and Mom could no longer live without the oxygen. But Mom had managed to get out of bed by herself, and was as ambulatory as when she had entered hospital. I was to call the Doctor on Monday, if I needed more inform- ation.
I was being rail- roaded and there is no way to tell you how helpless I felt, how lost and without direction.
I asked...But how could my mother manage, how would she be able to maneuver herself when she was attached to an oxygen tank? The Nurse asked if we had thought of care homes. I said...Many, many times, but Mom refused and we cannot place her anywhere without her consent. The Nurse, becoming irritated with the huge complications of what she had assumed to be a simple thing, said...well, if she falls again, she will be back in hospital and then she would have to wait for a long term care bed.
What transpired between the Doctor and my mother? How did she manage to convince him that she was perfectly able to take care of herself? How?
Mom will use any tool...lies, charm and laughter, and careful monitoring of her confused state, to achieve her goal...and her goal was to return home right that minute, no matter what chaos she might cause by doing so. But how can a Doctor not see through this behavior...why did he not ever call us? There is no answer I can see, other than Mom's manipulation of the mind of an educated Physician.
One sister, who had not been called by the hospital, called my mother last night. She was the only one able to talk with gentle sense to my Mom, at this time. I would have called; but my sister called me and told me to take the night off, to rest, to return to the wars tomorrow. I was thankful for this...I did not want to badger my ill mother, and I was afraid I would have, I was afraid I would have lost control through my fear and anxiety for her well-being.
We don't know why she is on oxygen. We don't know anything about her health, other than that the Surgeon did not find anything more than Thrush in her throat. Is she still bleeding internally? Is this why she is on Iron pills?
When my sister called, she said Mom could barely speak, she was so out of breath. She said Mom told her she felt so nauseous and tired. And Mom told her that she was getting tangled in the oxygen lines when she attempted to walk to her wheelchair. My sister tried to tell her she needed twenty- four hour care; Mom refused, saying she knew how to take care of herself...there was no problem.
My sister was right when she told me to distance myself; last night, I had to accept that there was no more I could do to help Mom, if she did not want to help herself and work with us, instead of against us. She has convinced herself we don't care...such a false assumption, I can't even begin to tell you.
My mother, I believe, has finally fallen victim to dementia. Confused before, aged and forgetful, the black cloud of dementia sits on her shoulders now, colouring everything with counterfeit deception.
Once more, I will travel today, once more taking up cudgels on my mother's behalf. Once more, as my mother declines, I will try to convince the caregivers that she is not herself, no matter how well she hides her confusion and illness.
We have decided that we must hire twenty-four hour care for my mother, whether she agrees or not. I will have to make her see, somehow, that she must allow this. She pushes us away, now, in her frightened state. We are suddenly the enemy army.
But I have forged a new relationship, a better one from before, with my mother over the past year. I will use the tools I have in understanding dementia to defuse Mom's protests. I have hope that she will understand, after a night alone, that it is impossible for her to live like this.
But I am left with the questions. What was wrong with Mom in the first place? Did she have a stroke? Why is she suddenly on oxygen? Her breathing was fine before the hospital stay. What happened?
Until the Doctor deigns to speak with us, I have no answers.