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4

No Children, No Problem

Lynnelle here.

Barb and I are in the minority on this one, but less so today than yesterday. Neither of us have birthed a child; we are childless, we are women without children, we are child-free. <Gasp>

There was a time when I, personally, felt it was something I had to explain when asked – “Do you have children?”  Early in my career, it was not an issue; there was always time. Then, as 40 approached and sailed by, my response of “no, it didn’t happen for me” hung in the air as if I had stopped in mid-sentence and crossed my eyes.  Everyone seemed to expect more of an explanation as to why I remained childless.

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Ohhhhh, Rob!  (You’re never childless when you have a husband.)

One Door Closes and Another Door Opens

Early May I knew my corporate career needed to end and I gave notice. There was stress in making the decision to quit. Even though I knew it was right, there was grief ending a long and meaningful life chapter. On 1 August that door officially closed.

16 August Barb and I launched this wonderful blog and the door to my new career opened: Writer.

Sometimes we decide when a door will close, sometimes not. Sometimes we take action to open a new door, sometimes we are fortunate enough to recognize the door ajar and walk toward it.

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It’s nice when we recognize the correlation, matching an end with the new beginning. It’s particularly nice when you recognize the bookend events when it’s the universe in control. This weekend is one of those perfectly matched bookends.

After almost 4 years, Karen and I reunited Mom and Dad. You may have read my earlier posts about Mom’s fall and subsequent decline.

After her fall on Friday, 22 September she passed away on 10 October. Today as I write this it is 27 October. We interred Mom’s ashes with Dad’s. It was a door that moved slowly, but today it closed.

Tomorrow afternoon we’ll attend a baby shower for Kurt’s daughter, Shandi.  Last week I was thinking about the upcoming events and it struck me how ironic it was; Mom’s service on Friday – Shandi’s shower on Saturday. But then I smiled and knew, life was unfolding in the best way. A very important door may have just closed, but a new door is about to open. I’m going to be a Nana.

 I love my life  

9

Thank you for Caring

This post is brief and won’t be shared outside this blog, because you’re a special group.  We love Facebook and we love our Facebook friends and HaT page followers. But being part of the HaT Tribe, visiting here on the blog site and through the email updates connects us in a different, special way; at least it feels that way to me. I appreciate you all very much.

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My Mom passed away yesterday just after noon. Karen and I had been caring for her since bringing her home from the hospital on 30 September.  Mom would not eat nor drink nor take any of the meds she was prescribed on the day we brought her home. The next day we were able to confirm Hospice would support us in caring for Mom going forward and, shortly thereafter, Mom was not responsive and could not eat nor drink.

A hospice organization helped us with Dad’s passing four years ago, but each hospice organization is not created equal. While we were thankful to have the support with Dad, it was a far different level of care, or more accurately, it was a far different level of CARING we received recently for Mom. The people helping us from Guiding Hospice‘s Glynn, Holly, Mellisa, Marrietta, Susie and Phillip were a blessing.  Mom would not have been as comfortable nor passed so peacefully without them. Karen and I cannot thank them enough for helping us navigate such an emotionally and physically draining experience.

Thank you for all your notes of love and support. Karen and I are humbled and honored that so many of you have reached out.  No matter how long one has to get ready and no matter how difficult the transition, you can never be prepared for the loss. Preparing to lose your Mom is not the same as having lost your Mom. I’m sad and appreciate all of you. 

8

Transition Planning

In my post on Monday, I mentioned Karen and I are familiar with the signs of “transition”, having cared for my Dad during the last weeks of his life. Transition is the term used to describe the phase of life when one –well – transitions from this world, the world of the living, to the next world, the world of the spirit (or whatever that other world is according to your beliefs).  Depending on a number of factors, transition period can be an hour, a day, a week or longer. A doctor or nurse can consider a few factors and make an educated guess, but you never know how long.

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Coming Home

Mom was released from the hospital on Saturday evening, 30 September. We had a hospital bed. I stocked up on bed pads, alcohol wipes, gloves, and the applesauce, soup and juice. We were ready.

Please know I am not a doctor, a nurse, nor do I have any professional experience in the field of medicine. All I share here is from my personal experience only. Helping my Dad transition was a blessing. And now, we are with Mom for her transition. Sadly, we won’t need the bed pads, hospital wipes, applesauce, soup or juice.

As difficult as these experiences are, they are even more profound. Helping Dad and Mom has enabled me to see life as the natural process it is. While we might think we can control the course of our lives, any control we may have is limited, at best. Life runs its course regardless of what you do or what you want. The saying goes, “All good things come to an end.”  

  • The sun rises and the sun sets.
  • The leaves fall from the trees at the end of the year and leaf out again the next spring.
  • A college graduate is hired, promoted, named CEO, and then retires to have a previously hired, trained and promoted college graduate take their place as CEO.

This isn’t a bad thing, just a truth; a natural evolution. It goes against the grain of our culture to think of or plan for anything other than reaching the next mountaintop, but at some point we all fail to reach the top or we reach the top and then fall down.  

Planning for Our Own Transition

As morbid as our culture may consider this, I believe we would all be well served to learn about the end-of-life process and to think about our own. We plan weddings, save for our children’s education, our retirement, who says dying is easy? I’m not sure any of us is a “natural”. Knowing the transition process can make the end of our life less scary and, more importantly, the lives of our loved ones less traumatic.  We should all be so lucky to live a full life and die in our sleep. Most of us will not be that lucky.

Talk to your kids, your spouse, or caregiver. Talk about the dying process and the physical changes to be expected. Give them direction as to your preferences – beyond the typical DNR. Should they keep you as aware as possible or keep you as sedated as possible? Should they use oxygen to keep you comfortable or avoid using the oxygen at the risk of discomfort to speed the process? Caregivers, talk to your loved one. Do you know how your loved one feels about these decisions you’ll be asked to make? There are no rights or wrongs.

As I write this just after midnight, early Friday morning on 6 October, my Mom’s breathing is has become more labored and her coloring is pale. We didn’t think she would make it through the night on Tuesday and here we are early Friday morning. Between Karen and me, Mom has not been alone since coming home on Saturday. Knowing Mom, we made the decision to avoid the narcotic pain medication unless she was in distress. We also elected to use the oxygen to keep her comfortable. If you have any questions about other aspects of this journey, or if you’d like to share your own story please do. I’m honored to have been with my Dad for his life transition.  I’m blessed to be with Mom now.

The books below are all helpful in directing you to the important areas you need to focus on for practical end-of-life discussions and planning. It isn’t only about the DNR or where the insurance policy is; although those are important. Just having the conversation is a big step forward. We’re providing these links because we think the information shared in them is good. 

Please know that if you click on one of these books and make a purchase, Heels and Tevas will receive a few cents commission. If you’d like more information about that, please send us an email or refer to our Disclaimers and Other Legal Stuff page.  

5

Alzheimer’s Symptoms – The Fall

 Hello ladies, Lynnelle here. 

Our normal schedule is to post our witty, sometimes humorous, always truthful take on an aspect of our over-60 lives twice a week; Mondays and Thursdays. Today’s post was to have been talking about our wardrobes. On my side transitioning a full-time, professional wardrobe to a working-from-home-in-the-country-casual wardrobe. I’m all about simplifying and have been making an effort to “capsulate” my wardrobe. On Barb’s side, she lives on a 40-something foot sailboat. Full-time.  Nuff said about her wardrobe challenges.

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We will be sharing our wardrobe projects and challenges, but it is going to be difficult for me to spend time or mental energy on anything other than caring for my Mom in the coming week. A couple of weeks ago I shared a bit about my Mom and our challenges with her progressing Alzheimer’s Disease.  Little did I know then that less than a month later my sister and I would be full-time caregivers and that she would be in such dire condition.

Elderly falls are the worst

Very early on Friday, 22 September, Mom fell in her room at Poet’s Walk, the memory care facility we called her “home”. The portable x-ray didn’t show any break, but she was in pain and couldn’t walk or even sit up. Friday and Saturday, she didn’t get out of bed. Sunday, the aides sat her up in a wheel chair putting her in excruciating pain. On the evening of Sunday, 24 September, to the ER we went.

In the ER, the CT showed a fracture in the pelvis. The MRI didn’t show anything more. The fracture is not operable and will take about 6-8 weeks to heal – a normally healthy adult to heal.  We are looking at 8-10 weeks for Mom. The ER doc wanted to admit mom to the hospital “for observation”.  FOR OBSERVATION is a critical differentiator for Medicare patients. There will be another discussion that addresses this and the quality (or lack thereof) of communication at the hospital (St. David’s Medical Center Round Rock).

Fast forward to 30 September; Mom is released from the hospital (having been officially admitted on Wednesday 27 September… again, the status of “for observation” vs “admitted patient” is VERY different.).  She has a catheter, cannot care for herself, cannot sit up on her own, can’t communicate well… unless she is unhappy about something. She can certainly communicate her displeasure and discomfort. Very well. 

Full-time caregivers

Having cared for our Dad full-time during the last month of his life, we are seeing familiar characteristics. While Mom has not eaten much of anything, has been bed-ridden for over a week and in a hospital for most of that time, she is AMAZINGLY strong. (It took 5 – FIVE – strong nurses and techs to change her catheter before being released yesterday.)  The woman can fight. She may recover and get through this. I wouldn’t be surprised. But, I also am not expecting her to get through this.

Karen and her husband are shouldering the load of her care, in that Mom is at their home. This afternoon we meet with a Visiting Angels rep to discuss help with Mom overnight.  She doesn’t sleep for more than a few minutes at a time and talks, talks, talks to someone we don’t see. But whoever it is, they are in regular communication. Mom has also pulled out her catheter a couple of times and needs to be monitored for that. Karen and I talked and decided we could help each other during the day, but we each needed overnight to make sure we are able to care for her during the day. We will meet with a Hospice organization and will hopefully have finalized assistance by the time you are reading this.

I don’t know what I’d do without Karen and I’m sure she feels the same. We are truly a team. We worked together through Dad’s last days and are together for Mom. If there is one wish I have for anyone is to have support and love as you help a loved one at the end of their life.   Thank you all for your virtual support, comments, likes and good thoughts. It means a great deal. For my upcoming posts I’ll be sharing glimpses into this journey, always looking for the silver lining, humor ,and truth. Thank you, again.