A Day of Clarity for my Family

Please forgive the lack of graphics on this post.  I didn't want to dilute the content at all.  For those of you who regularly read my blog, you know that my wife Pam and I have been trying to help my mother-in-law, Jackie, as she has gone from being completely self-sufficient a few weeks ago to being in a nursing home, ostensibly for rehab following her recent back surgery to correct a collapsed vertebra.  The past three weeks have been increasingly stressful for us, since Jackie has had some days when she seems utterly confused. 

We noticed a pattern emerging – she would be essentially fine during the week, then on Saturday she would become paranoid and delusional, thinking that there were "corporate secrets" at the nursing home, or that someone was talking about tying her up, or that they were filming a movie in her room (this is just the tip of the iceberg).  This pattern held for two weeks, and on the third week, it started up again on Saturday, but the past few days she has been rapidly declining in her mental capacity.  She still knows who we are, but most of what she says is not based in reality at all.  It is discouraging to see someone so intelligent struggling with her mind like this.   

Pam attended a "care plan" meeting during which she was basically told that her mom would soon be discharged if she didn't show progress.  The maddening thing about this statement was that her progress sort of stopped once she was admitted there. 

Today, Pam spent the entire day (her birthday, no less) dealing with this situation while I stayed with our kids.  She took her mom to see her primary care physician, who suggested that Pam take her to the ER, because her case is so complex and her decline seems so rapid. 

The ER wasn't very helpful today, although they seemed to sincerely try to help.  When they initially arrived, Jackie's blood pressure was dangerously low, so they immediately started working on her, which is a little scary in and of itself.  I spoke to Pam during this time and she honestly thought her mom was going to die.  Jackie was stabilized, and she was resting pretty comfortably the remainder of the afternoon.  Unfortunately, they didn't have a staff psychiatrist, which is what we desperately need.  In fact, it is apparent now that we need multiple specialists to help with this case. 

Needless to say, this is exceptionally difficult for my wife, who is an only child and who was raised exclusively by her mom.  The entire burden for Jackie's care has been placed squarely on our shoulders now, and we feel that the nursing home is simply not making things better.  With that in mind, I recently suggested that we bring her into our home to see if things would improve.  Honestly, even if things don't improve and she continues to decline, we would both rather have her here than allowing her to waste away in a place where they are not helping.

So, my wife made an extremely difficult decision today, and we will be welcoming Jackie to our home tomorrow evening, following her dialysis appointment.  We have no idea how long she will be here, and we also don't know if she will be getting better.  What we do know is that we love her, and we are going to do our best to help with her care.

Tomorrow will be spent getting a hospital bed delivered to our house, along with a wheelchair and (hopefully) a small ramp.  We can probably manage without the ramp if necessary for awhile, but it would make life easier.  We are planning to have at least two home health nurses working different shifts here, and we have another caregiver who can assist us.  We will discuss the scheduling with her doctor to see if we need overnight help as well. 

We talked to the kids about what to expect, and my son got pretty emotional because he really loves his grandmother.  He is trying so hard to be brave in the face of all this, and it is touching and poignant to watch.  We levelled with them about the realities in the softest ways that we could, but we also told them that ultimately God is in control of this situation and that if He chooses to take her home, then she won't be suffering or in pain anymore.

While this seems overwhelming in some ways, we both feel as though we made the right decision.  I think it will set a good example for our kids as well.  We just can't let her continue to decline without working harder to figure out what is actually causing this mental decline and trying to help her get better.  I know that she always seems to do better in my wife's presence, and she specifically mentioned me and our kids by name today.  I have a feeling that she may perk up a little if she is around more familiar surroundings and people who love her.

Please pray for our family during this time of transition.  It seems like our plates were already full, but this is something crucial that we felt we needed to do.


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