I should have come up with a better title for this post. Getting knocked down is meant to be metaphorical, not literal. Perhaps I should have used, “Cracks and Falling Through Them.” But of course, that would only tell half the story. Or maybe “When Things and People Fall Apart.” At least temporarily.
Anyway. My mum is in the hospital. She has been since last week. She’s in hospital down there… in New Brunswick. And my sisters and I are up here… in Ontario. Which does not make for an ideal situation. To say the least. It wouldn’t be bad if we could go down there, but we can’t. At least not without self-isolating for two weeks. Unless the situation is very grave. Trust me, I have researched all the possibilities, all the work-arounds if things go badly, how to get there, who has to be contacted, what authorization we need to be able to go, how much time we’d have to isolate, then take a COVID test, then wait for results etc. etc. We’re hoping it won’t come to that.
Anyway, last week my niece called me to say that Mum’s care worker had called her and they made the decision to call the ambulance. The paramedics found Mum upset, unable to get up from her chair, and very, very shaky. So they took her to hospital. Of course my niece was unable to go in the ambulance, due to COVID. So after she called me and I called everyone else, we all just waited to be able to call the hospital.
Then when Mum arrived at the hospital, due to a paperwork glitch, no one would tell any of us anything. None of us was listed as Mum’s next of kin. And we didn’t know who was. Took me a bit to get that info from the receptionist. Finally, after I gave her chapter and verse about our situation, how we all lived up here, and what were we to do, against hospital rules, she told me. “It’s someone called Mary,” she whispered.
Mary, a family friend and Mum’s regular driver and grocery shopper, was as surprised to find out that she was “next of kin” as we were. Turns out that one time when Mum was in hospital for the day for a test, she gave them Mary’s name to call to pick her up, and somehow that morphed into next of kin. And it seems we can’t get it changed without a lot of rigmarole.
Anyway, I finally connected to a lovely nurse who gave me the lowdown on Mum. After I gave her chapter and verse on who I was, how COVID and living in Ontario meant I couldn’t come to the hospital, and why I was not listed as next of kin. She just wrote my name next to Mary’s, and that put paid to all that palaver. You have to love nurses, don’t you? Saved me from retelling that tale every time I called.
So meanwhile, in the emergency department, Mum was given an IV to get her fluids up; she was dehydrated and her potassium was low. They admitted her. And the next day the doctor gave her new meds to alleviate her arthritis pain, and adjusted all her other meds. Which should help a lot. And is something my sister, the pharmacist, has wanted to happen for ages. But there was never an opportunity to talk to a doctor. And Mum…. well… Mum doesn’t like change. Especially changes in her medication. And since she is 93 and living alone, you can’t blame her for being nervous over a possible reaction to a new medication.
The whole situation last week was precipitated not by illness as such, but by extreme fatigue and weakness on Mum’s part and, on the day the ambulance was called, an inability to get up out of her chair. This has been coming for a while. I knew she was frail. When I talked to the Extramural Occupational Therapist last summer, she said Mum was at risk of falling because of her arthritis. And that Mum knew the risks. We all did. Lately I knew she hadn’t been eating enough again. And I knew she was in pain and feeling discouraged, and as a result, was not moving around enough, hence the muscle weakness. And so slowly she slipped and slipped.
Until she just fell through the cracks.
Her care workers encourage her to eat, and drink, and make her meals. They are very good to her. I nag her to drink water, and eat, and always, always ask her what she had for supper the night before. I ask her to ask her worker to take her outside on sunny days. Even if just for a stroll around the deck with her walker to get some fresh air and a little exercise. In fact, when I was there last, she was doing laps around the island in her kitchen with the walker.
But none of us is there all the time. Not me, nor my sisters, nor her care workers. So she will eat or not eat. Go outside or not. And exercise or not. And lately with all her pain, it’s been not. She is an adult and in full command of her faculties, and she’s always been going to do what she wants to do anyway. A nurse from the hospital’s “Extramural Program” visits her at home regularly to take her blood pressure etc. In fact, the nurse had been to visit the day before Mum went into hospital. And I was a bit surprised that Mum’s shakiness did not set off alarm bells for her. But Mum says she was having a good day when the nurse visited. And they had a lovely chat. She fell through the cracks, as I said.
So. She’s safely tucked up in hospital for the forseeable future. She’s sleeping well. They are feeding her up. Physiotherapists are getting her up, giving her exercises, making her walk. She is allowed to have one masked visitor at a time, and I do believe that there has been a steady stream. My two nieces, several family friends, and even two nurses who work at the hospital who are the daughters of friends. She’s quite content, really. Cared for, and getting lots of love. Her nurse told my sister today that Mum is a “hoot.” Yep. She’s a hoot alright.
But I do wish I could be there to share some of those laughs. Mum and I always have a good laugh. And I’ve needed a good laugh this week. Not to sound dramatic or anything, but while she is doing well, it’s me that’s been falling apart. Not exactly falling apart, just feeling the pressure of trying to manage things from far away. Talking to nurses. And the social worker. And the care agency. Trying to set things in motion so when she is able to go home again, her increased care will be seamless.
And of course we can’t really set up anything definite when we don’t know how long she’ll be in hospital. Or even if they will allow her to go home without 24 hour care. And we don’t know if the care agency will have the workers to fill the extra hours the social worker and I have planned on paper. And if they don’t, I don’t know what we’ll do. Normally one of us would have gone home and been there to stay with her for a few days, or a week or two, for her transition. And given the life circumstances of my two sisters that would have been me. But, as I said, that’s not going to happen.
So that’s my tale. What I have been busy doing for these last few days. Talking on the phone to whomever (family, social workers, hospital staff), texting, talking, texting, feeling utterly useless, going for a walk, sitting down to read, getting up again, calling my sister… again. The pandemic has made us all less resilient. Less able to handle that one more thing.
Still, things are moving forward. I talked to the social worker and the nurses again today. And the discharge coordinator called me just to reassure me about the release process which won’t be until the physiotherapist says Mum is strong enough. Mum’s nurse had told the discharge coordinator I was worried, and she called me, like, twenty minutes later. Isn’t that nice? I swear, nurses are my new favourite people.
And I was so relieved after all my conversations today. Particularly the one with Mum.
She’s feeling way better than she has in a long time. She loves the nurses and the physiotherapist, and they love her. She can’t figure out why everyone is so nice to her. Today I heard all about the exercises she’s doing. And what she had for supper, without even asking. It’s all been delicious, she says. Except for the soup. She doesn’t like the soup. My sister teases her that she’s at the spa. Ha. I’m happy that her fall through the cracks resulted in such a soft landing.
So yeah, Mum’s been knocked down, kind of. But she will get back up again, if guts and willpower have a say. She has a ways to go to get her strength back, but she is determined to go home. And I am, in fact we all are, determined that she will get her way. If at all possible.
We all get knocked down in one way or another. At one time or another. But we get back up, with lots of love and support. And some guts and determination. If we’re lucky. Sometimes we fall apart, and then we go for a walk, or read a good book, or call a loved one. And then we put ourselves back together. If we’re lucky.
So I guess, all in all, I’m feeling pretty lucky tonight.
Now, I’m sick of talking about me. So, please don’t give me kindly words of advice, my friends. I’d much rather hear about you. About whatever is keeping you busy these days.