Communion Of Dreams


“Close to the veil, but fighting with everything she’s got.”
November 25, 2007, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Health, Hospice

It was the second time I’d been in this morning, checking to see what the sounds I’d heard coming over the monitor were all about. My MIL was over next to the side of the bed, almost up against the safety rail.”Are you OK?”

“Yes. I was just trying to turn on the lamp.”

The lamp is deliberately out of her reach, otherwise she’d turn it on in the middle of the night in her confusion. “Why did you want the lamp on?”

“So that they could find me.”

“Who?”

“The people who are coming for me.”

Ah. “Well, until they come, is there anything I can get you?”

“Do you know where my toothbrush is? And toothpaste?”

“Yes. They’re in the bathroom.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I don’t want to forget them.”

“We won’t forget them. And we won’t let anyone else use them.”

“You promise?”

“Yes, I promise. Now, see if you can go back to sleep. It’s still early.”

“OK.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

After my last post, and other conversations, my wife’s sister decided to come in a week early, rather than wait until her scheduled visit starting the day after Thanksgiving. She didn’t want to miss seeing her mom one last time before the end, since it seemed so sure that the end was close.

She got in late, and we chatted a bit before she retired. She asked how her mom was doing.

“Not bad. Of course, now that you’ve rearranged your schedule to be here I’m sure she’ll live until January or something.”

“Yeah, but had I not come early, she would have died this week. That’s the way of it.”

“True enough.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

There’s a common phenomenon with Alzheimer’s patients which has been known to drive care-givers nuts: that for short periods, they can rise to a level of lucidity which makes it almost impossible to tell that they are suffering from the disease. This usually happens in response to the visit of company, particularly family members, whom they don’t get to see often. As a result those family members will have a decidedly mistaken impression of how their loved one is doing, and will wonder whether the care provider has been over-dramatizing things, or what. It is insidious, in that it undermines the support the day-to-day care giver gets from the rest of the family, who think that things really can’t be as bad as they say. And it leads to a lot of tension between the care giver and the patient, since the care giver will sometimes resent the ‘performance’ put on for other family members but not them.

The solution to this is to have a family member stick around long enough that the facade fails and the true condition of the patient is shown. Since my SIL usually comes to visit for a week or more, this always happens with her mom, and she has come to expect it. This time, however, the period of performance was extremely short, reflecting my MIL’s deteriorating condition. I think that, as much as anything else which has happened in the last ten days, told my SIL that she was right in coming early.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was the third time I came into the bedroom. “What are you doing, MIL?”

“I want to get up.”

“Well, it’s early still. You don’t get up until 8:00. See, the clock says that it is only 6:50.”

“But I have to get up early to get to school!”

“Don’t worry, today is Saturday. There’s no school on Saturday.”

“Oh, OK. ”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I was napping when the Hospice nurse came to visit this past week. Because of the holiday the schedule was rearranged, and she came in the middle of the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning. I’m trying to do a lot of sleeping now, banking it while my SIL is here to help out, because the coming weeks are likely to be even more demanding. So I didn’t get to hear what the nurse had to say. It sounds like it was the usual routine – slow decline, we’re doing all that can be done, let her know if there’s a problem.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

My MIL started choking and coughing at the dinner table, disconcerting the other family members who were over for the big Thanksgiving meal. As she coughed spasmodically, her face turning red, my wife and I looked at her, and in unison called out loudly “Take a deep breath. Real deep. Hold it. Now cough real hard.”She did, and it cleared the blockage caused by aspirating some of her food. In a moment she was back to eating, her attention focused on the food before her, mostly oblivious to the reaction around the table.

“That’s the best way to clear it – she just had a bit of something go down the wrong way,” I said to the others. And from the look on their faces I realized that my wife and I must’ve appeared unconcerned and relaxed in the face of what seemed to be a sudden crisis. My SIL nodded.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I came down from a nap this afternoon, came into the kitchen where my wife was doing some baking. The monitor to her mom’s room there on the counter, the sound of my MIL snoring emanating from it.

“Good nap?”

“Yeah.” I nodded at the monitor. “How’s she doing?”

“Pretty well. We got her up from her morning nap, and she wanted to know where her mom was. Said that she had been in bed with her just a little bit earlier.”

“That’s becoming pretty common.” It has – my MIL has said some variation on this almost every day for the last week.

“Yeah. She’s close to the veil, but fighting with everything she’s got.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to dKos.) 


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[…] she has once again proven to be surprisingly resilient. I’m fairly confident that she’ll make it at least […]

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