Monday, December 17, 2007

A Granddaughter Goes Home

My childhood is gone, and as a woman, it is important for to face the dark spots of life. My grandmother had always been there for me, from the happy times and even during the worst times. I needed to be there for her, and deep inside I realized that she needed me as well.
A friend of mine recently visited her elderly grandmother. It is a very touching recount...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The end may be near

Saw my Mom earlier at the nursing home. She is getting weaker and weaker and isn't eating. She did drink a glass of cranberry juice but nothing else.

She told me she had tallked to Dad today. I said your dad or mine? she said my Dad. I said Oh what did you talk about? She said she couldn't remember but it was a good talk.

Then she asked me where her dad went. I just said he probably went back home. She said when did he come down here? I just told her I didn't remember when he came. Then she asked me if her mother came too and I said yes.

She asked me if her folks still fought like they use too and I told her I don't remember them fighting only Grandpa liking to tease Grandma a lot.

Then she told me her Dad looked so different. I said how did he look different and she said well he looked so happy. I never saw my dad look so happy.

So maybe her folks are calling her home. My Mother might soon join them.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Went and saw Mom Thurs. Sept. 27th. We use to go to the hairdresser every Thurs. then stop at the cafe and have sweet and sour chicken. Mom loved that meal. But now that I can no longer take her out she hasn't had it for a long time. So Thurs. I thought I would give her a treat so I stopped by the cafe and got a sweet and sour chicken to go and took it to the nursing home to eat. She and I always split this meal as neither can eat all of it.

So we were sitting at her table eating as they no longer have the seperate little family area they use to have so you could eat in private with family. The little demented lady sitting at moms table did not like me eating with Mom. She watched every bite I took and was calling me a pig a hog. Said I was swallowing everything whole and eating way too much etc. etc. She really ranted about me eating some of the food. Just as we finished the meal she said you make me sick eating that slop and she picked up her glass of water and threw it at me. Got mom all wet, got me all wet, got my purse all wet. All this time not one worker saw any of this and they were walking right by us off and on all the time. I kept hoping they would tell us we could have a table by ourself somewhere since this lady was harassing us but no. Didn't even see her throw the water at us. I told them what happened and only then did they offer us another table. I told them that I did not want Mom at her table anymore tho as they do serve hot coffee and hot chocolate to some of the people and what if she thre hot drink at Mom. Sure was a shock.

However even though Mom did enjoy the meal somewhat I don't think she really even knew what she was eating much less remember her and I having that before. So don't know that it was worth it to bring her something special as she seems to have very little concept of anything anymore.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Going Along

Mom can't see real well anymore so often brings an empty fork to her mouth so isn't getting any food. So the past 4 days I have been going to the nursing home to feed her at lunch time so she at least gets one good meal.

Every day is a new experience. Yesterday it was about people in the past. We talked of her husbands. She had no memory of being married and asked me how many times had she been married. I told her 3. My Dad (John Beaudette), Howard Krouth, and Norman Smith. She then asked me which one had she married first. I told her my Dad John. I asked her if she had any memory of John at all and she said no I don't remember any of them I just remember a tall, thin, frail man.

Today we were "at" J.C. Penney's the whole 1 1/2 hrs I was with her. She was office manager at Penney's for 20 yrs. She told me today that tomorrow she had some work to do. I said Oh what is that. She said she had to fire one gal because she didn't trust her and she was going to have to start cleaning house and getting rid of a few people and she hated that job. I just said yes it is hard to have to fire people. She said the gal she had to fire was destitute and had advertised in the paper that she was starving so she felt sorry for her and hired her but guessed she would have to go back on welfare as she just didn't trust her. I have finally learned to just go along with anything she says now instead of trying to bring her back to reality. Every day she asks me if her Mom is alive and I do tell her no she is dead or else Mom would wonder why she never comes to see her. The other day she asked me about Johnny and I told her he had died of cancer and she said then, well no wonder he never comes to see me. She has no idea she is in the nursing home nor how long she has been there she thinks she is in the hospital healing up from a fall she had. It is so hard seeing my Mom like this and I often don't go see her for a week or more but am trying to go more to at least see that she eats.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bad Day

Mom had a very bad day Thursday, July 5th. The nursing home called me as they couldn't calm her down. She insisted an operator had called her from Grand Forks and told her someone in the family was trying to get ahold of her as her brother had been in an accident and that she had been trying all day to call someone but they evidently had cut off her long distance service. I tried to tell her on the phone that her brother has been gone 53 years but she insisted he had been in an accident and she had to get ahold of someone to find out how bad it was. So I went to the nursing home and spent 3 hrs. with her trying to calm her and tell her there is no one left to call her as they have all passed away. But she insisted she had called her Mom several times that day.

When I convinced her, her brother John died 53 years ago of drowning her come back was "I wonder if Mom knows about it I better call her and tell her."

So had to tell her over and over that her Mom too was dead and she almost started to cry when I told her that. Then later in her room she saw her Mom laying beside her. It was a very rough day for her and for me.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

St. Vincent Cemetery, Dad's grave, June 21, 2007 - Spreading Mom's ashesAs I promised Mom, I spread her ashes on Dad's grave (June 21, 2007); her footstone will be set by his, on her own lot - empty with no coffin, but then, neither of them are really there, are they? The stones and records are for us. They are free...

Soon it will be 6 years since Dad left us.

"If I could talk to Mom--A Wistful Conversation"

Oh, Mom, I miss you so much. I wish you were still here. But you really began leaving us years ago when you saw Dad fading away before your eyes. I miss your engagement with life. I always looked forward to calling you on the phone every weekend - checking in to see how you and Dad were doing, to share how I was doing, and to seek your ideas and thoughts on life.

I am so thankful for those weeks and months that you came to visit me after Dad died. But even then, you were longing to join him in heaven and less interested in living here on earth. The following song/poem expresses my feelings and says it so well:
by Hava Alberstein

And on Saturday morning there's no one to call.
To tell how the performance went.
And Dad doesn't ask: "Was there a crowd?"
And Mom doesn't say: "You sound tired!"
But when anyone writes anything bad about me.
I still tremble.
That Dad shouldn't hear it.
That Mom shouldn't read it.
I want to be a good girl.

And I don't go home on my way to the north.
And I don't stop there when I return.
And the porch from which they waved goodbye to me.
Is suspended like an empty crib.
But when anyone writes anything good about me,
I still hope.
That Dad already heard.
That Mom's so very proud.
I want to be a good girl.

I don't cry - I only yearn.

So many faces - so many ears.
But when we sing - we're always only singing to two.
And when the two disappear - We sing to the heavens.
Mom, I know you're happy now. You are with the Lord and you are with Gordon, the love of your life.

Your "good girl,"


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Harriet: Ephemera from a Life

Mom was an avid scribbler all her life. Notes, thoughts, lists, poems, doodles. She kept her hands busy whether it was work, playing solitaire, or gathering her busy mind down on paper.

The note here is one of many such notes she wrote in the last 6 years of her life after Dad died. It was her way of staying in touch with the love she had with him, the most important thing in her life. It was also a way of grieving, of coping with the loss. She wanted us to know, and that he would not be forgotten.

I put up a memory board with photos and cards, as well as ephemera she or Dad had written over the years, in her last living spaces. One of the items I discovered recently had faded so badly it couldn't be read. I took a black light to it, and was able to recover most of it, but some of the words are lost to time...
Gordon, I miss you so
You must know
Your loving hands
No more caress
No kiss thee dear (?)
Lord for the years, they
passed by so quickly
My love for you
Will never cease,
Your loving wife
Must find the peace
That passes all understanding...
Your Loving Wife, Harriet

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Walk in the Rain

Arrangements were made for the cremation. This morning it took place. Christopher and I met Tom at Riverside's crematorium at 8:30am.

We met the two men who do the cremations. We watched as the box with Mom's remains was taken and placed in the furnace. I thanked the men, and Tom, and we walked away.

It was gently raining, and as we approached the car to leave, I asked Chris if he'd mind taking a walk through the cemetery. We got our umbrellas, and proceeded.

I don't often have a chance to walk through a cemetery when it's raining. No wind, so amazingly quiet, peaceful, and empty...except, of course, for the silent city around us.

The huge, old trees throughout the cemetery made me think of home, the home my mother lived in most of her life. It, too, had great old trees surrounding it. There's something amazing about trees, and seeing such trees gave me comfort as I glanced back at the crematorium and saw the waves of heat rising out of the chimney on top.

As we walked past the gravestones, we noticed white-tailed deer further on, one standing, and one beyond that was laying down under a tree. Chris took photos as I watched them watch us.

We turned a corner, then another, heading back to the car, when we noticed a small flock of birds in the distance coming out from behind the mausoleum. Wild turkeys, a small band of males. We headed up the small hill and around the building, and caught them as they disappeared behind, shaking their feathers, looking up, and stepping ahead under the falling rain.

It was a magical morning walk, a very special walk I will never forget...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Harriet's Obituary

Harriet Ellen Fitzpatrick Short
March 30, 1922 - June 11, 2007

Harriet Short passed away on Monday, June 11, 2007 at Eventide Nursing Home, Moorhead, Minnesota. She was 85 years old.

Harriet Ellen Fitzpatrick Short was born on March 30, 1922 in St. Vincent, Minnesota. She graduated from Pembina High School in 1940, then worked for Bell Telephone in Bemidji, MN. She was at her switchboard on December 7, 1941 when it lit up with calls; she soon found out it was due to the news of the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.

She married Gordon Short in February 1943 at the end of his basic training, and too soon said goodbye as he went overseas for two and a half years. After the war, they made a life in St. Vincent, raised three daughters, and retired to New Mexico in 1987, moving there permanently in 1998.

Although Harriet never had the chance at higher education, she was well-read all her life, and an inveterate letter writer to those she cared for. Throughout her life, her love of the written word and for writing itself was passed on to her children and grandchildren. She shared her passion for homemaking not only with her daughters through her amazing skills as a cook and seamstress, but also professionally as a Homemaker for Kittson County Social Services in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In that capacity, she traveled the county helping individuals learn personal finance, housekeeping, and other much-needed skills in many lower-income, rural areas.

Harriet learned from her parents that faith was important, but that asking questions was not wrong. Her intelligence, curiosity, and energy inspired her daughters to work towards their goals. Her pragmatism and Irish dark humor also tempered their own characters as they faced life's challenges. She always said, as her mother before her, that life could be hard; but on the other hand, there was much to be thankful for.

Harriet was preceded in death by her husband Gordon Short, her parents Albert and Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, and three siblings. She is survived by her three daughters, Sharon Hannaford (Darien, Illinois), Betty Thorsvig (Glyndon, Minnesota), and Trish Lewis (Fargo, North Dakota), seven grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren. There will be no public services; family have decided to hold a private Irish wake. Memories and condolences are warmly welcomed, and may be sent either via email or mailed to: Trish Lewis, 107 1/2 Roberts St N Apt 2, Fargo ND 58102.

A Grandson Reflects

Randy is my sister Betty's boy. My first nephew. The first grandchild of my parents.

He has this to say about Mom's passing...
She loved playing cards, any card game you mentioned she played it but one game she could never beat grandpa at was [Liverpool] rummy, NEVER and that pissed her off so much it was knee slapping funny, she would accuse my grandpa of cheating all the time (which he never did except count cards…LOL he told me)...
Well blow me over with a feather, I never knew that! I must admit, that tickles me to read that. He never told her - I admire a man who can keep a secret! And for all those years...! *Laugh* Man, that sure sounds like my Dad...what a character.

I commented on Randy's reflections, saying, "You hit the nails on their heads with all your points, Randy. You WERE paying attention all those years...*laugh*...yep, Grandma could sure get on your nerves sometimes, but man, she was a great person. She loved deep and hard, and as we all do, had her faults. I see now her life in a much better context than when I was growing up, but even then, I knew for whatever reason, despite her ticking me off, I loved her fiercely. There was something amazing about her..."

We're cremating her. We're holding an old-fashioned Irish wake for her. And we're spreading her ashes on Dad's grave and the old homestead. It's the way it should be.

Mom is Gone...

Mom passed away tonight at 7:00pm. Daniel was coming to visit her when it happened. He arrived just as the nursing staff had discovered she was gone, and were removing the butterfly from her chest. I'm glad someone from the family was there.

Such a long day, so many emotions.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Visiting Mom Today

Mom in 2006 - Laughing at stories we are sharing...
Trishymouse says:
Are you there?
I visited Mom this afternoon.
Betty says:
yes i am
Trishymouse says:
She was awake when I got there.
Betty says:
ohhhh, go ahead
Trishymouse says:
She didn't say much at first, I think she was awake but not focused. I talked to her, then put my hand in hers and man did she take ahold of it.
Betty says:
Trishymouse says:
I told her it was beautiful outside but the river was high, and it was June. June?, she said, amazed to hear the river was up that late, and I said yes, a lot of rain. She told me I looked tired, and I laughed, because she always used to tell me that.
Betty says:
still has a good mind lol
Trishymouse says:
I told her I love you, Mom, and she said I love you, too.
Betty says:
I am so glad you have a good talk with her
Trishymouse says:
Her mouth was very dry and I gave her water and she took a lot through the straw. I told her you wanted to come but your darn knees were killing you but you'd come when you could.
Trishymouse says:
It could tell it was hard for her to concentrate and talk...but she definitely was trying...maybe part of it was the pain meds.
Betty says:
write every word down, every word
Trishymouse says:
I will.
Betty says:
love you trish and I am glad you went
Trishymouse says:
Me, too...

Monday, June 04, 2007



Our family got a call last weekend (Memorial Day...) They said Mom had a very wet chest and periods of apnea lasting 15-20 seconds in length. We were told we should come.

We raced to get to Mom before it was too late. Once there, we were told she had been given meds to alleviate the fluid in her lungs, was in a semi-sitting position in bed, and was breathing more normally. Her eyes were rolling back in her head a lot. We were there three hours, waiting for the Hospice nurse on call. Once she arrived, she examined Mom and took her vitals. She said her lungs sounded good and so did her heart. I was only able to get one response from Mom when I talked loudly to her and said "Hi!" and she said "Hi" back. It was more of an automatic response, but I do think she was trying.

This past week, we've been in touch with her regular nurse, who had this to say:
I am your mom’s primary nurse and have just gotten back from vacation. I saw her today to assess her considering all the changes that have gone on while I was away. I was very pleasantly surprised to find her sitting up in her wheelchair waiting for supper. She answered all of my questions in full sentences and even tried to smile. Her lungs sounded clear but she would cough at times. She hasn’t eaten much today but took some small amounts of fluids. She denied pain. I ordered her pain meds orally again and I will call there in the am to see how she did. They have the injectable, too, to use if she doesn’t take the oral. We will see how she does and then look at her other meds. I will not restart the Flexeril as that may have contributed to the changes over the weekend.
I responded:
I really appreciate you communicating with us this way. All three of us daughters are busy working women but want to keep close in touch with what is happening to our mother and email is an amazing tool we all use a lot to keep in touch.

I'm thrilled to hear that Mom is doing better. What did you think Flexeril was doing exactly?

Our only frustration has been that we hear about these periods of wakefulness and communication, but since they are intermittent and erratic, we never seem to find her awake, and we'd dearly LOVE to talk with her again. It's definitely been weeks, but it feels (and may be) months since we had much conversation with her. If there is any way that staff at Eventide and/or Hospice could make a note of what they
observe and let us know your best guess as to when to visit and find her awake, we'd be eternally grateful.
Susan, the Hospice nurse, responded again:
We will restart the rest of your mom's oral meds today. She did well with the pain meds we restarted yesterday. I talked with Dr. Martindale's nurse and they agree with the plan to restart meds except for the Flexeril. It can cause sedation especially in combination with the pain meds and Seroquel that your mom is on. She might do ok with a lower dose, but for now, we'll not use it. As for when to visit her, I saw her about 5:00 pm just before her eve meal. That seems to be a good
time for her. I know it must be frustrating for you to not find her awake. Yesterday was by far the most talkative I've ever seen her. I have also contacted Dr. Xie, the psychiatrist to see if she wants to reduce/change any of her psych meds. The NH or I will let you know if there are any changes...I did contact Dr. Xie and she ordered a significant reduction in your mom's Seroquel and Effexor. Your mom may not need as many pscyh meds now that her pain is in better control since pain may have been contributing to her behaviors. We shall see how she does. We can always go back up on
her psych meds if needed. It's just so nice to see her so alert. Pam, another Hospice nurse, will be checking on your mom for me today. We'll update you with changes.
Good to know. I must get up there as soon as possible late in the afternoon and visit Mom! I pray she is awake...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"...a sort of spendid torch..."

"This is the true joy of life, the being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making me happy.

"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and, as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.

"I rejoice in life for it's own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I've got to holdup for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

- George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Better Than Ever

I want people to talk to one another no matter what their difference of opinion might be.

A hero of mine, Studs Terkel turns 95 today.

He's publishing his first memoir later this year - now THAT'S when you should publish a memior, after most of a life has been lived!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

My Generation

Some amazing photos of the Zimmer's first 'live' gig.

An article about the group.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Looking Back: 2002

After I came home from visiting my daughter on May 19th, 2002, Mom was very glad to see me. She had missed me terribly. I don't know why I should think that strange, but I did. I was very touched at her expression of love, explaining to me that she had thought she had 'lost' me once, when I went to California. That time seems so long ago, like another person, not myself. I returned, and for a year and a half, Eva, Daniel, and I lived with Dad and Mom and began recreating a life.

I really have enjoyed tremendously the time I have been getting to spend with Mom this past year and a half. I always imagined what it would have been like living closer to her, and never had a chance to know until now. It's definitely a unique time in both our lives...

Friday, May 04, 2007


She is losing a lot of weight, refusing to eat, and is on strong pain meds due to pain from muscle rigidity/cramps, part of being bed-ridden, arthritis, etc. She sleeps a lot, but has moments of lucidity and has spoken a few words to us. My sister Betty has a hard time visiting her. I have to admit it's getting to me, too, but when I do visit her I just want to bury myself in her arms, but that's not possible because it hurts her to do that...I loved my Dad a lot and it hurt a lot when he died in 2001, but I know it'll be worse with my Mom.

I used to take comfort in what I was taught in my faith, but I have always had doubts and the one sure thing I know is that no one knows until they pass on. I will miss her. I already do so much. Even though she was a pain in the butt many times I loved her fiercely. Strange how that is, isn't it?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cameo: Arthur Wallace

By the time I met him, Arthur Wallace had no teeth, continually chewed on a cigar and kept his money in a velvet Crown Royal pouch. He was living at the Duplex Nursing Home in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Though neither of us knew it, he was in the last year of his life.

- David Greenberger, from I ain't Coe

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Went to see Mom again

Since she was seeing elephants Tues. I went to the house and brought up 2 stuffed elephants she had and layed them on her bed. Today she is In an "I am not getting up" mode. They couldn't get her up to go to breakfast I was going to go to lunch with her and help her eat again but she was still sound asleep at 11:30 when I was there so I left.

My Mom

I went to see my mother Tues. She will be 95 July 13. She is in hospice care now in the nursing home. She has gotten into a hallucinatory state. Tues I took her outside to sit in the warm sun and she kept seeing cockroaches all over. Told me they keep falling all apart and that they can do it to themself noone does it to them and when they make themself fall apart like that it makes that animal mad so he eats them all. Then she kept reaching in the air and grabbing things. Finally told me Oh look a little elephant I love my little elephant. (she does love elephants and has a large collection of ceramic and marble carved elephants at home)

Wed. the nursing home called and told me they were going to give Mom an adovan (anti-psychotic) as she was really delirious and very agitated and was in my daughter-in-laws office. (Both my son and his wife work in the home) So I went up to see what was going on. Mom said she was mad at me vecause I had been writing bad checks all over town. (she now has an obsession with her check book) I assured her that I had not written any bad checks, then she kind of giggled and said Oh I know you haven't.

It was lunch time so I decided to take her to the dining room and help her eat. I took her in at 11:30 and she didn't get any food til 12:15. But it was unreal as that whole 45 min. we waited she ate imaginary food. The pantomime was so good you would swear she was really eating. At first she picked something up in her hand and actually "bit" it off and chewed and chewed then kept licking whatever she thought she was eating off her fingers. Then she picked up a fork and she ate and ate and ate. Chewed like she really had something in her mouth swallowed it and even picked some food out of her teeth. It was so bizarre and so heartbreaking to see my mother behaving like this. Finally her food came and a CNA came over to help me and Mom was still "feeding" herself so every time she would open her mouth to eat her imaginary food as she was bringing her hand to her mouth the CNA would hurry up and put a spoonful of soup in Moms mouth. In doing so she managed to get a half bowl of chicken noodle soup into mom then they brought her some pureed peaches and she got that all down mom. By this time the adovan was kicking in and mom was falling alseep so the CNA took her back to her room and put her to bed.
It was a horrible thing to see my Mom like this and I don't think I will ever eat another meal that I don't see my mom eating like that when there was nothing there.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Friends to the End

Date unknown, this old photo-booth shot is of Betty Clinton and Harriet Fitzpatrick, best friends. Betty was a close neighbor, just north of Harriet's parents' home. They went to school together, and also flirted with Gordon Short together. But when Gordon asked Betty out first, she declined, because she knew how Harriet felt about Gordon. Now THAT'S a real friend...

Ironically, even to this day, Betty and Harriet are neighbors. Harriet lives at Eventide in Moorhead, and Betty still lives in her home, only a few blocks away...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Elderly Women...

...Behind The Counter In A Small Town
By Pearl Jam

I seem to recognize your face
Haunting, familiar, yet I can't seem to place it
Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me

All these changes taking place, I wish I'd seen the place
But no one's ever taken me
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...

I swear I recognize your breath
Memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
Me, you wouldn't recall, for I'm not my former
It's hard when, you're stuck upon the shelf

I changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate
Perhaps that's what no one wants to see
I just want to scream...hello...

My god its been so long, never dreamed you'd return
But now here you are, and here I am
Hearts and thoughts they fade...away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...

Hearts and thoughts they fade...away
Hearts and thoughts they fade...away

Friday, January 26, 2007

Winding down...Together

Alberta, taken 1/26/07Today

Delphine: Here is a picture of my Mom taken today. I brought her some dinner as something different than nursing home food but she was real tired and wouldn't get up and kept dozing off so ate very little. She is down to 107 lbs.

Trish: Amazing. They are both losing weight and changing so much. Give your Mom a loving hug and kiss for me and tell her that her niece Trish is thinking of her. Wish I could see your Mom again. I'm sure you feel the same way. We take those we love so much for granted.

Delphine: I am so glad I had so many happy years being here at the same time your Mom was. Lee and I had your Mom and Dad and My Mom and my kids here for a couple Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. And enjoyed it so much. Also Bob and I used to go to your folks and play cards now and then. Was such a good time.

They knew so many people here and I have people asking all the time how your Mom is doing and remembering their bridge parties together with your folks and how every one got such a kick out of your dad. Where did all those years go to bring us to our Moms now looking like this. It is sad. Love, Del

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Betty and I visited Mom tonight. Betty brought her camera and had me shoot some photos. Later tonight she sent me copies and said...
She knew us, we could tell. At the end of our visit when we each said "I love you Mom," she replied softly "I love you, Betty" and " I love you, Trish"...t'was all she said...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mom's Care Plan Review

Today was Mom's first Care Plan Review under hospice care. I participated from my office via conference call. To sum up what was covered:

Mom’s current weight is 147 pounds, down 9 pounds in the last quarter. She has trouble chewing, so they are changing to all ground/pureed meats. They are using liquid supplements between meals which Mom takes readily, but sometimes has trouble swallowing. Her leg muscles are contracting so are curling up, in turn causing heel pressure sores. They are not erupted, and she wears pressure boots in bed to minimize the problem. Pain is better, but still significant. Therefore, they are stopping the patches and changing to liquid Methadone, as well as twice daily Morphine. Within two weeks they anticipate her pain level to drop significantly. Behavior has already modified somewhat with pain control, i.e., less hollering. Volunteer companions and staff observe that Mom’s eyes convey recognition and cognizance, and she will attempt verbal communication with groans/moans, but no talking. They agree with me that talking with her is a definite comfort, and she likely hears everything and understands a lot. I asked for email addresses for Hospice team members and team leader took mine and will get them to me later today.
The last time I visited Mom (last week with Daniel) Daniel and I both got responses from Mom with her eyes and verbally, but only when I leaned over her, talked loud, and asked direct questions – mostly moaning a positive or negative but no words. The time before that with Betty, Betty and I heard her talk a little. No one at Eventide or Hospice has heard her talk in a month, they said.

While Daniel stepped out of the room for a moment last week, I leaned over Mom and told her how much I loved her, admired her, etc. She looked deep into my eyes, and I looked back, and it was such an intense, incredible moment. I leaned over and kissed her, and held her hand…then Daniel came in and I acted like nothing happened – it was something I wished to keep for myself and not share, at least not then.

While this article refers to President Reagan, it’s actually a general guide to anyone with advanced dementiaMom’s condition, and offers some of the most specific information on what to expect, including life expectancy.

The information below is an extract of an article documenting a recent study of patients with advanced dementia...
BACKGROUND: Nursing homes are important providers of end-of-life care to persons with advanced dementia.

METHODS: We used data from the Minimum Data Set (June 1, 1994, to December 31, 1997) to identify persons 65 years and older who died with advanced dementia (n = 1609) and terminal cancer (n = 883) within 1 year of admission to any New York State nursing home. Variables from the Minimum Data Set assessment completed within 120 days of death were used to describe and compare the end-of-life experiences of these 2 groups.

RESULTS: At nursing home admission, only 1.1% of residents with advanced dementia were perceived to have a life expectancy of less than 6 months; however, 71.0% died within that period. Before death, 55.1% of demented residents had a do-not-resuscitate order, and 1.4% had a do-not-hospitalize order. Nonpalliative interventions were common among residents dying with advanced dementia: tube feeding, 25.0%; laboratory tests, 49.2%; restraints, 11.2%; and intravenous therapy, 10.1%. Residents with dementia were less likely than those with cancer to have directives limiting care but were more likely to experience burdensome interventions: do-not-resuscitate order (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.12; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.09-0.16), do-not-hospitalize order (adjusted OR, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.16-0.66), tube feeding (adjusted OR, 2.21; 95% CI, 1.51-3.23), laboratory tests (adjusted OR, 2.53; 95% CI, 2.01-3.18), and restraints (adjusted OR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.23-2.61). Distressing conditions common in advanced dementia included pressure ulcers (14.7%), constipation (13.7%), pain (11.5%), and shortness of breath (8.2%).

CONCLUSIONS: Nursing home residents dying with advanced dementia are not perceived as having a terminal condition, and most do not receive optimal palliative care. Management and educational strategies are needed to improve end-of-life care in advanced dementia.
Mom is receiving wonderful care considering what many people receive. It is a blessing to have a well-established and well-respected hospice near Mom that can offer such compassionate care at this difficult time in her life.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Harriet's Memories

My Mom shared this with me in 2003...
When I was 8 or 9 years old, my sister Alberta left home to go to nurses training, I was so lonely without her. When Christmas time came she wrote home that she would come home on the train and had one big wish. The wish was that Dad would come meet the train with the sleigh and horses. So Dad put the big grain box on the four-runner sleigh and put harness on the horses. The harness had all kinds of silver bells on it. Mom heated up bricks to keep our feet warm and we got in the sleigh and had the fur robe with us to cover our feet and legs. The horses trotted over the snow and the rhythm of their trot made the bells ring out a beautiful melody that only you can remember if once heard! Just writing about it I can still hear those bells jingling in my memory. It makes tears come to my eyes thinking of what we are missing today!

My Dad loved to play pranks. Alberta and I had been uptown one evening and came home. There was no one home and we came in and lit the kerosene lamp and sat at the kitchen table by the window. She was reading stories to me. I was listening really good but also had my eye on a coat that was on the door knob of the door going into the dining room. I saw the coat move and told Alberta and she said it didn't and to be quiet and listen to the story. Previous to this something kept hitting the window and I was scared and Alberta said it's just acorns as it was the fall of the year. She went on reading and I listened and all of a sudden I looked and the coat was gone. I said how come the coat is gone now. Alberta picked up the lamp and held the bottom of the globe with me behind her, and bravely walked toward the dining room door. Just as she entered out popped our Dad with a big BOO!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

"...the grace of one hour"

1938 Harriet & Gordon
Impenitentia Ultima

Before my light goes out for ever
if God should give me a choice of graces,
I would not reck of length of days,
nor crave for things to be;
But cry: "One day of the great lost days,
one face of all the faces,
Grant me to see and touch once more
and nothing more to see.
"For, Lord, I was free of all Thy flowers,
but I chose the world’s sad roses,
And that is why my feet are torn
and mine eyes are blind with sweat,
But at Thy terrible judgment-seat,
when this my tired life closes,
I am ready to reap where of I sowed,
and pay my righteous debt.
"But once before the sand is run
and the silver thread is broken,
Give me a grace and cast aside
the veil of dolorous years,
Grant me one hour of all mine hours,
and let me see for a token
Her pure and pitiful eyes shine out,
and bathe her feet with tears."
Her pitiful hands should calm,
and her hair stream down and blind me,
Out of the sight of night,
and out of the reach of fear,
And her eyes should be my light
whilst the sun went out behind me,
And the viols in her voice
be the last sound in mine ear.
Before the ruining waters fall
and my life be carried under,
And Thine anger cleave me through
as a childcuts down a flower,
I will praise Thee, Lord, in Hell,
while my limbs are racked asunder,
For the last sad sight of her face
and the little grace of an hour.

By Ernest Dowson

House to Yourself

"...time apparently did nothing but blunt grief's sharpest edge so that it hacked rather than sliced. Because everything was not the same. Not outside, not inside, not for her. Lying in the bed that had once held two, [she] thought alone never felt more lonely than when you woke up and discovered you still had the house to yourself. That you and the mice in the walls were the only ones still breathing." - Lisey's Story Stephen King