Dec. 25, 2013—
Christmas Day may seem like a bad time to introduce your Mother to hospice care.
Do you hear what I hear?
But my brother and nephew have Dec. 25 obligations in Nashville, Tn. so we usually don’t celebrate Christmas until Dec. 26 when they come to Chicago. Medicare for Mom’s tool box of pills runs out at the end of the year and the results from her echocardiogram come in on Dec. 26.
Mom’s dementia has gotten worse over the last few months. Her 92nd birthday was Dec. 10 and that was a fleeting moment. Forgetting birthdays isn’t such a bad thing. Baseball poet Satchel Paige asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”
She has trouble distinguishing her right from her left and the gotcha moment was Thanksgiving when she fell in my former bedroom of their west suburban home. The caregiver and I took one of those wide beige leather belts you use to move furniture, wrapped it around my Mom’s waist and lifted her up off the floor.
I knew it was time.
Mom still knows who we are and she loves posing for the camera. There is a calm radiance about her pure smile.
She likes to eat ice cream.
On a good day she can still crack a joke and then I feel guilty about our recent decision. She has at least a half-dozen health issues and on a bad day I think I’ve waited too long. Over the last couple weeks I’ve visited with Rich the hospice social worker. I told Rich I try not to get too high and not get too low. He says that is a good approach.
Rich has coached me on the next transition.
When the snow has cleared on Christmas Day I will hold my Mother’s hands as she once held mine. Her eyes are filled with a trust I was too self-absorbed to recognize as a younger man. I will speak to her in soft questions, which gently opens the door for her thoughts. There will be love in the room.
These steps will be supported by the arrival of my brother and nephew as it has been by visitors she has seen in recent days. The modest house rings true with a caring choir. Good family and friends are a year round thing.
I’m not going to be filing a journal or Tweeting about my Mom’s decline like NPR’s Scott Simon. I respect dignity and privacy too much. I also try to live in every moment of this journey and not to be distracted by outside forces. That is often very difficult, but I try. But if there is a note I can share with a wandering reader along the path of this holiday season than it is worth it.
The course of action , I am told by the social worker, is basic:
Gather all information.
And then make decisions with love.
And isn’t that the best Christmas gift of all?