My mum has been in a nursing home for a little over 3 years due to the cruel condition, Dementia. When I last saw her, on the Monday just before we moved to Melbourne, she was her normal (well normal for her given her condition), self. I did notice that she was a little chesty and coughed occasionally but this is nothing out of the ordinary given it is winter and she is in a nursing home, many of the other people also had colds etc. As usual the conversation was hard as she was at the stage where she didn't really contribute to conversations as you could talk to her and she sometimes spoke back but nothing really made sense any more if you know what I mean. As I left, I had a sense of sadness, wondering if this might be the last time that I would see her. Normally I didn't feel this way when I left but I put it down to the fact that we were moving and I wouldn't be back to see her for a couple of months. I paused briefly after kissing her goodbye to take a photo. If I had known I would have made sure that I took a photo of the two of us together.
We moved on July 26 and was here until Saturday August 4 when we got a call from my brother that night, saying that Mum had been admitted to hospital with pneumonia. My heart leapt into my chest as I automatically thought the worst. Being elderly and with dementia, the word pneumonia is scary, but the doctors had assured my brother that it was only mild and she would be ok. I called back on the Monday and my brother said that he had just called the hospital and they said she had eaten and was doing okay. Well imagine my shock when the following day, I received a phone call from my Mum's doctor that had been seeing her a number of years, predominantly for her diabetes, saying that he felt she had entered the final stages of dementia and her days may well be numbered. He told me that she was beginning to refuse to eat and this was a sign that the dementia had taken over and he asked what we would want to do. I was shocked, one night I am told she will be okay, the next I am told she is going to die sooner than we thought.
Mum had signed a DNR (do not resuscitate) form a few years earlier and I knew her wishes were always to not have any elaborate measures taken to keep her alive should it come to that. I told the doctor this and he said that the only option they had anyway was to put a feeding tube in and that these were not very successful very often anyway. I called my brother in Adelaide before the doctor could call him (my brother was meant to be his first call but he had accidentally rang my number instead). My brother said that he would wait for the doctor's call. He called me after talking to the doc and said that he was going in for a meeting the following day but he said not to worry as the doc said it could take weeks, it wasn't going to happen overnight.
Well the next day was Wednesday August 8. My brother went for the meeting and came out devastated. The doctor he saw was a different Registrar and she told him that it would most likely only be a matter of days until she passed away. He immediately went to see her and he said he was shocked by her condition. He had seen her Sunday night and he said the change in her in 3 days was terrible. He asked for her to be moved back to the nursing home and this took place at approximately 6pm Wednesday. He said her colour was pretty bad when he saw her, just very pale. She didn't open her eyes at all but kept saying "help me" but wasn't able to say what she needed help for. I am glad I wasn't there at that time, as I know I wouldn't have coped with that too well. I felt and still feel terrible that I wasn't there to at least hold her hand and support my brother. That night I was trying to work out a way to get back to Adelaide. I was in turmoil and didn't quite know what to do. I didn't want to tell the kids as I didn't want them to see her like this. I didn't know what to do as they had only just started their new school and had both in fact been off sick for this week, Mr12 had Monday and Tuesday off and Mr10 had been off this Wednesday and was looking like he wouldn't be at school on the Thursday either. I couldn't really leave the kids here with Hubby either though as he had only been in his new job for 6 days and he was working long hours trying to learn the ropes.
Thursday morning, after a sleepless night, I got Mr12 up for school and Hubby was organising himself for an overnight trip to Sydney for work. He was due to catch a plane at 5pm. He took Mr12 to school and was then off to work. I wasn't expecting to see him again until about 8.30pm the following night. I walked back into the house to find a missed call from my brother on my mobile. I tucked Mr10 up on the lounge with a glass of juice and then was about to call my brother when he called me back. He had the news that Mum had already passed at about 5am that morning. I held it together not wanting to upset Mr10 and called Hubby who promptly returned home. He cancelled his trip to Sydney and then he went to pick up Mr12 from school. We shared the news, the kids were devastated. Mr12 had only asked me on the weekend how long it would be until they got to visit Nanna again.
We organised to stay with my brother and we left here on Monday morning August 13. Mum's funeral was on Wednesday August 15. It was very hard having to tell our other kids on the phone as they are still back in Adelaide. I helped my brother do the final arrangements for the funeral and I wrote a eulogy for her. I accompanied my brother to the funeral home the morning of the funeral to do the final identification check. I felt I needed to see her. I saw my Dad and my gorgeous baby Joshua just before their funerals and while it is not a nice thing to do I feel it does give closure, particularly with my Mum as it was all feeling very surreal at that point. I guess since I wasn't here when it happened and because it all happened so fast, part of me didn't truly believe it. I amazed myself at how strong I was able to be though. I guess finally she looked at peace, after years of looking at her and feeling guilty for putting her into a nursing home, finally she was set free of the dementia and free of the restrictions her body had placed on her.
I am sorry for making this so long but I feel the need to give my Mum a post of her own.
Here is the eulogy I wrote for Mum's funeral:
As a kid I remember Mum and Dad never had a lot of money but they always made me feel loved. Mum and Dad always strived to keep our family together. My earliest memories are of trips to Queensland to visit Dean and Karen and to Melbourne to visit Lee and Rae. Every Saturday dinner was spent with either Mum, Dad and I visiting Allen and Lynn or them visiting us and I also have memories of spending time at Kingsley’s house too.
When I was a kid, mum was very involved at my primary school, listening to kids read or helping out with various activities. She loved being involved with the school, she even got into the act and dressed up as witch at one school event!
Being older parents by the time I came along, Mum and Dad had to deal with the music of the 80’s at a time when I am sure they would have rather listened to their older style of music rather than Culture Club, Wham or Michael Jackson. I remember mum’s favourite line when it came to me and my loud music……it was “Can you turn that music down, I can’t turn my hearing aid off like your Dad does you know!” and it was true, that is exactly what Dad used to do, as my music volume got louder his hearing aid got turned off. Mum just had to put up with it.
I think the two things that stick in my mind about mum in my younger years was her passion for baking and gardening.
She dragged me around plant nurseries many, many times much to my horror as a child. She also loved the floral displays at the Royal Adelaide Show and would spend as long as she could there ooohhhhing and aaahhing at each flower or so it seemed to me. Even in the last few years living in her unit she was determined to get certain colour petunias etc to go in her pots at the front of the house. Even though this used to frustrate me at the time when I was trying to find the right colours, I can look back now and laugh about how particular she was when it came to getting her garden right.
With her baking, well she had her specialties which would each be made for different occasions. For any parties that came up I remember the endless trays of cream puffs, chocolate snowballs and bumblebees, she would make dozens of these things! I can still vividly remember the day of Lee and Rae’s engagement party, Mum making cream puffs and the cream curdling as it was so hot. She would send Dad off to the shop to get more cream but it curdled yet again. I don’t think I had every heard Mum swear until that day! Her boiled fruit cake was the best and always seemed to turn out perfect, something I definitely can’t seem to make happen myself, even with her recipe! Then each winter the home made apple pies would appear, oh yum. I remember how she would always try to make sure she had apple pie for Allen when he came over. No school fete was ever complete without Mum churning out dozens of toffees in little patty pans. She used to make several batches so that there were varying shades of toffee available, each topped with hundreds and thousands.
Mum, you were always adamant that you wouldn’t go into a nursing home but I guess life never quite goes as planned and we had to move you into Bupa. This was something that we, as a family, struggled with immensely. We are so sorry that we had to go against everything you wanted and move you into the nursing home but at the end of the day, we did it because we loved and cared about you and wanted you to be safe. The last 3 or so years have been hard. It has been so hard watching the dementia take over your mind and body and losing the part of you that made you who you were, our Mum. Up until the end we still got glimpses of you to let us know that you were still there but we all know that living like this was never what you wanted from your life. Now you have now moved on to a better place. You are reunited with Dad, Auntie Bette, Uncle Alby, Joshua and all our other loved family members who have passed before you. Thank you for being a terrific Mum, Nanna and Grandma to us all and our children, you will be forever in our hearts.
Mum we all love you and will always miss you. Take it easy on the other side and like you said to me every night of my childhood “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!”
|Mum and Dad in their younger years|
|Mum Dad and I on their cruise to Japan - I had my 3rd birthday on the ship|
|Mum striking a pose in the late 80s|
|Mum Hubby and I at our wedding almost 5 years ago|
|Mum last Christmas|
Mum, I hope you know how much I love you and I sincerely hope that you realised this over the last few years in particular. I know a nursing home was never what you wanted and I know that living out your days like you did, was also never on your agenda for life. Forgive me for forcing the nursing home issue with you and forgive me for those times when I didn't have the strength to make it in to visit you as regularly as I wanted. Seeing your mind being taken over by the dementia was so hard and I had to limit the kid's visits too because losing their Nanna that they knew and loved was so hard on them. When you were unable to hold a conversation any more, that was so hard for the kids and so I did hesitate to bring them up to visit you, maybe that was wrong, I don't know. What I do know is that you were a wonderful Nanna to my kids and they couldn't have asked for a better one.
Rest In Peace Mum, you will always be with me, I love you xxxxx