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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Quality vs Quantity of life

An update on my mother.  Yesterday I had a meeting with her doctor and the nursing home staff.  The years and years of living with strong anti-psychotic medications along with tons of other medications have started taking a toll on her physically.  I had to make a decision about her care which I really didn't want to do. 

The medications are basically killing her.  A combination of several medications over a long lifetime is a lethal cocktail of poisons to the muscles and organs of the body.  Mom takes 5 or 6 anti-psychotic medications along with medications for diabetes, Parkinson's, and other things.  In all, I believe there are about 40 medications she takes every day.

Mom has been on anti-psychotic meds for about 40 or 50 years.  She started taking medications way back in the days when mental patients went through horrible medical things.  Shock treatments and experimental medications were normal back then.  Many mental patients were locked away in asylums and treated like animals back then.  My mother was lucky in that she was never left in places like that for longer than a few months. 

I recently told you she had slipped into the next phase of her dementia and altzeimers mentally but now she's slipping more on the physical side as well.  Her kidneys are shutting down and her bones have become very brittle.  She's also loosing weight at an alarming rate. 

I could have her taken off some of the medications which would stop the lethal trouble temporarily.  Doing this she would become so paranoid that life would be miserable for her.  The staff kept her off the meds for a couple of days and my mother started seeing snakes and other monsters which was miserable for her.  She spent her time huddled in a corner of the day room too scared to move.   No way could anyone coax her to go to bed because there were "snakes in her radiator".  It was actually the heating element hissing steam around a pipe.  I had the maintenance man seal the leak and told my mother he was killing the snakes for her. 

The doctors asked me to make the decision about whether to withhold her medications or not and to sign a DNR (do not resuscitate) order.  I chose to give her quality of life rather than quantity.  Keeping her on the medications may shorten her life but the time she has will be much nicer.  Who would want to live a longer time only to be too scared to move all the time? 

There is also the problem of her brittle bones.  If she was to have a heart attack, the CPR would kill her.  Just the act of compressing the chest to do CPR would break her ribs.  If she were to stop breathing, putting a tube into her throat to help her breath could tear her throat tissue and cause bleeding.  She takes blood thinners to prevent blood clots.  Taking blood thinners means she would bleed to death from trying to save her life. 

Choosing to sign a DNR is an extremely stressful decision.  I didn't want to be the one making this decision but someone had to do it.  It was especially sad seeing my mother after making the decision to sign the papers.  She was like a child sitting in a wheelchair, with a bib on, begging me to take her home with me.  I'm sure she is aware of her physical condition and is scared.   I did what I could to comfort and reassure her that she would be fine.  It was a very long walk to the exit door with her pleading behind me to not leave her there.

I don't know how much time my mother has left.  It could be days or it could be weeks or if we are lucky it could even be years.  I plan to spend as much time with her as I can.   I can't stop the inevitable but I can do something to make the end a little more comforting.  I can ask her to say hello to my sons when she gets to heaven.

Ok, it's time for me to get away from this sad topic.  Time to go clean, or cook, or quilt, or organize.... something to get myself out of this depressed mood.  Why do sad things always happen to me at Christmas?


gail.designs said...

Anita, I'm so sorry that you're having to go through this by yourself and especially at this time of year. Just know that I will be praying for you. I do know what you're going through, if that helps at all. Those are difficult choices to make, but be confident that you're following your heart. God Bless you.

Caron Mosey said...

Anita, Hugs to you (and to your mom) for staying strong and undertaking such a difficult decision. The last time my mom was in the hospital, the struggle was so hard. Docs told her there was nothing more they could do for her, and said she could go home and rest there or go to hospice. She chose hospice so she'd be out of pain. She just wanted to be comfortable and not prolong the inevitable. I'm sure your mom knows you're doing what you know is best for her. Find solice in your time together with her, and talk about your favorite memories with her. Even if she can't participate in the discussion, it will bring back happy times.

Dora, the Quilter said...

My heart goes out to you and your mother, Anita. Hard decision to have to make, but you've done the best anyone could do.

Quiltin' LibraryLady said...

You had a tough decision to make, and for what it's worth, I think you did the right thing. There comes a point when quality is much better than quantity. Your Mom has led a long, rough life, it's all catching up with her, and there isn't anything anyone can do to change it. Just spend the time you can with her while you can and know you've done your best. Hugs.

Dolly said...

God be with you during this trying time.....maybe it happens this time of year to remind you that He came ONCE to help us for ALL TIME.

Anonymous said...

Praying for you everyday that whatever happens to your mother will be what is best for both of you. I lost my mom just this past summer, she hadn't been well for a long time and then everything bad seemed to happen at once. My mother did what was best for all of us, and went to sleep so my dad wouldn't have to make the decision you are now having to make. I miss her so much, but she is now with family passed and I am sure laughing at us trying to do what she did so well and with little effort. Everything will be OK.

Kristie said...

Oh you dear sweet lady, you are going through so much. I can't imagine how hard this was on you, but I'm sure you did the right thing for her. Hang in there and know that we are all here for you.

Joan J said...

My heart goes out to you, and my prayers are with you and your Mom. From what I read, you made the right choice keeping her on her meds. I would not want to go thru the last (days, wks, months, yrs.) of my life in terror, and I doubt she would choose that for herself. Just take comfort in knowing you are doing your best for her and you're doing it with love.

lw said...

As hard as these decisions were to make, I believe you made the right ones. If it were me, I would not want to live an extended life only to be terrified the whole time. And I would not want to be resuscitated if I had the quality of life that your mother is living with now, or if my bones were so brittle that my bones would break with chest compression.

Don't second guess yourself. You are doing the right thing, the loving thing. I am sorry it's at Christmas, but life sure doesn't seem to wait for holidays, does it?

rnmom502 said...

Anita, All that you are doing you are doing because you love your mother and want only what is the absolute best for her. It is never easy when one is placed in the position that you are currently in. I agree with your decisions and would choose quality over quantity if I had to make the same decisions concerning my own mom. I'm here if you ever need someone to talk to.