My mom has been here in town for one year and a couple of days now. She moved into the skilled nursing facility a day before her 87th birthday. At the time, I wondered if she’d see another one. Yesterday, we celebrated her 88th. (Lovely coincidence – she and Edward Gorey were born on the same day.)
Over the course of the year, she’s made a couple of friends and seen a few of her neighbors die. The nurses and aides know her routines and needs, and she has learned theirs. I have learned how much you can come to adore someone for taking good care of your mother.
I worry that her money is running out. She’s on the waiting list for a Medicaid bed in her current facility, and it’s a race to see if she gets to the top of the list before she can’t pay any more. I think we have her securely in place for a few more months, at least.
Some days, Mom seems to be doing so well, I think she could soldier on for another three or four years. Other days, I go home convinced she’s down to mere weeks. She’s recently experienced recurring, brief episodes of severe disorientation. But they clear up and she can then describe what happened, e.g. she couldn’t remember how to tell time. They’ve ruled out infection, but we have no real answers about a cause.
I realize most how much her health has deteriorated when I speak with my oldest sister, with whom my mom lived before we brought her to stay near us. My sister remembers Mom with the capabilities she had a year ago, things I’ve forgotten she used to do so recently. I’ve seen Mom two to four times per week, and so the changes have snuck up on me. Mom has lost a lot in the areas of fine motor skills and finger strength. She can no longer button buttons. She has difficulty signing her name sometimes, even (on a birthday card, for example.) She can still move around with a walker, but it’s slower all the time, and she gets winded a lot sooner.
The day before her birthday, a blizzard moved through, leaving us with 11 inches of snow. It was unclear whether we’d be able to get out to see her. But with everyone in the family wielding snow shovels, we managed it to dig out the cars and driveway. We made it to the nursing home in the evening to have cake and punch. Thank goodness the route is all on major roads, so the entire way had been plowed.
Will my mother make it to 89? Who knows? One thing about reaching this stage of life, it helps you focus on the here and now.