Saturday, June 12, 2010

Death isn't so scary if you believe in something greater.

I've seen two people die - my uncle and then my father - and learned a lot from both.   Neither death was horrific but peaceful; neither left me a weeping mess because I expected it.  Both situations were very different.  My father had been home for weeks gradually declining and in pain.  We moved him to the hospital to better control his pain; we knew he'd never come home.  He lasted 2 1/2 days after he was admitted and we stayed with him the whole time.  My uncle was diagnosed with terminal cancer and in a nursing home. We expected he'd have another few months but got a call one evening that he was in rapid decline for unknown causes.  We rushed to the hospital to find him unresponsive with no idea how long he would last.  I opted to stay with him and sent my Mom, father and brothers home for the night and he passed away 2 hours later as I sat with him.

My uncle died first and I was amazed just how easily it was for him to simply sleep and not wake up.   I didn't hear a last gasp, I didn't hear a thing.  The nurse came in and said his heart was barely beating and his breathing was very shallow.   He was very cold yet his internal temperature was quite high.  The nurse disconnected the monitors, the oxygen and then his chest just stopped moving.   He looked at peace for the first time in a long time.  The year before his death had been emotional due to his anger and frustration.  He refused to address the fact that he was terminal.  He refused to discuss his business affairs, to tell anyone about debts, savings accounts or anything like that.  He bought woodworking tools from HSN and QVC, wood and materials from catalogs, magazines and Christmas gifts.  He was in denial and we didn't have the heart to force him to face the truth.  After he passed, his peaceful appearance actually made me feel better; I was relieved for him.  

When my father died we were all exhausted.   My family and I had gathered at their home daily for a week or so.  We knew my father didn't have long so we wanted to make the most of it.   When it was time to go to the hospital, my nephews, my Mom and I went with him.  My brothers and sister in law were waiting there for him.  He knew we were all there and it made him feel better.  We created a plan to ensure he was not left alone and then began our "shifts".  My Mom would not leave his side so we tried to tend to her as well.  She is an epileptic and prone to grand mal seizures so we - and my father - were very concerned about how she'd handle things; we worked hard to ensure she felt loved and supported.   My father had terrible pain in his shoulders due to tumors and had to receive ever-growing doses of morphine to keep him comfortable. ( I often wonder if he didn't pass from morphine over dose but that's another blog post...) After 2 1/2 days, he would not respond when we spoke but he squeezed our hands now and then.   About noon on day 3, a nurse came to me and said his heart was beating so seldom that he would soon pass.  I did not want Mom to see his moment of death so I positioned myself between her and my dad, holding his hand. My nephew was on the other side of the bed.   After taking my dad's hand, I noticed that it slowly began to turn grey. Then the grey color quickly traveled up his arm across his shoulder and to his neck.  As it traveled up into his face, he began to gape - his mouth opened then the grey color moved from his forehead down to meet the grey color that moved up from his hand.  At that moment I felt something rise up from him and move past me.  His body exhaled deeply and his mouth closed.  

I remember this so vividly and 14 years later can still see it in my mind but it lasted only a seond or two.  My nephew who was right there didn't see it, he was focused on my mother.  I am sure I witnessed his soul passing from his body.  A week after his death, I dreamt about him each night.  In my dreams we talked about many, many things.  After the dreams I felt there was nothing left unsettled between us and I only felt disappointment that I couldn't enjoy his humor and ask his advice - for now.    This experience left me sure in my heart that this existence is temporary and that there is a spiritual world - our REAL existence - just beyond our ability to physically see, hear or feel it.    Our loved ones are all there, close by, waiting for us.  I am in no rush to leave this lifetime to get there and I would hate to have a lingering illness on the way to that place.  

The next death I witness may be completely different but I will try to approach it with love.  I will be confident that the person will soon be with other family and loved ones and that I will get there some day too.  The most important part will be to ensure my loved one feels loved and supported.   There are all kinds of ways to do that and it really depends on the person.  I've found some good advice in all kinds of places.  One place where I find great spiritual support is Hay House Radio or Hay House Publishing.

Here's a link to a Hay House Publishing online webinar that might help us understand what someone needs as they "pass over" from this physical life to the spiritual.  Though Hay House does not produce materials for any specific religion, the information found there is loving and kind, thoughtful and helpful for anyone.   I suggest that you copy and paste this link, or if it's broken go to and search for "death and dying".
Hay House seminar on death and dying
copy and pate this:

is there life after death? dealing with death, dealing with death of a parent, what happens at the moment of death, what's it like to watch someone die?
what dan i do for my dying mom, how can i help my dying parent,  what happens when we die, What should I expect as mom dad dies?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Emphasyma & lack of oxygen can cause confusion & seems like early dementia

Lately I've noticed my brother (18 years older than me) struggling to make sense of basic details and I fear that emphysema limits his ability to get enough oxygen. He seems confused easily; he has difficulty remembering conversations, newer businesses around town and where he put things.  He seems less able to understand basic issues related to his medicare coverage and banking.  He is also struggling to breath after even the most limited activity, like walking up a few steps or to the mail box on level ground.    He was diagnosed with COPD - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a less scary term than emphysema - last year.  He was surprised at the diagnosis though it was clear to those around him for a long time.  He's been a heavy smoker since age 19, worked around all sorts of chemicals and vapors and has bad allergies.  I believe his confusion is caused by a lack of oxygen due to his severly diminshed lung capacity.   If he can't get much air into his lungs, he can't get much oxygen into his blood stream.

He went for some breathing tests last week and said they want to do more tests.  I urged  him to follow through and not to be afraid to discuss using oxygen or a small oxygen concentrator  especially when he goes out.   I looked him straight in the eye and said, "It's better to use oxygen and be able to get around the store yourself instead of waiting for someone to do shopping for you."  We can't have direct conversations about his condition - or failing condition.  He just ignores me or he gets angry and leaves, so this indirect approach must suffice. I can't lead him to water, so to speak.  If he doesn't realize that he's ill, that he's become severely limited, I won't push it. To do so might be too cruel.  It might mean he passes away sooner than later but it's his choice. Deep inside I trust he knows something is wrong and perhaps he doesn't want anything that will prolong his life and his struggle.

Death and emphysema? Death from emphysema. Does emphysema cause dementia? Does emphysema cause alzheimers disease?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Talking on the phone good for Mom but makes me crazy!!!!

When I can't visit my mom I try to call every couple of days.  This has become torture for me and those around me because Mom just can't hear.   She won't wear a hearing aid and the longer she talks the farther down her face - and away from her ear - slides the phone.   After 15 minutes I end up screaming the same things over and over, finally saying "never mind".    When i want to hang up it's a three stage process.  Stage 1, I tell her I need to get going for what ever reason then she asks what we'll be doing for the next few days.  Stage 2, I tell her I need to get off the phone for what ever reason, then she tells me what she's been doing - this is all after about 30 minutes of the very same conversation.  Stage 3, I tell her again that I'll have to hang up and she asks again where we'll be going next, her voice waivers and I can tell she's ready to cry.   By stage 3, she is asking, what? what? again and I'm yelling the same thing over and over...  I'm ticked off, my voice is louder and the tone lower.  Anyone around me is ready to grab the phone from my hand and slam it to the floor.

It's like having a little kid, I can't be mad at her because she just doesn't understand.  She NEEDS the calls and the company. She can't hear well, she's just happy to have a conversation with someone she loves and she knows loves her.  How can I rush that?  How can I hang up?  How can I NOT feel like crap for getting so frustrated.  I can't; it's just one of those things I have to live with .  I try to call her only from home where the only ones bothered are my husband and me.  I know it will take 3 tries to get her off the phone and I know she'll get weepy so I brace myself and get ready for the stages.  When she gets to the point that we DO NOT go through all 3, I'll know something is really wrong. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Financial assistance for caregivers hard to come by...

Caring for elderly parents often means financial hardships and sacrifices for the elders and their families.  In my own sphere of the world I've spent more money than I can count on travel to help my parents. My husband put a new roof on his mother's home and bought appliances as her old ones gave out.   Friends have taken their parents into their homes, paid supplemental insurance premiums and prescriptions.  Now some purchase clothing, shoes, personal care items and goodies once their parents go on medicaide.  Medicaide permits the elder to keep between $30-50 per month for personal expenses but often it's not enough even for a little splurge.

I  read articles and questions/answers on and just noticed that they have a special section specifically for care givers and finances.  See it here:  Aging Care, financial articles. Remember that financial resources for care givers are FEW, someone might find some assistance so I feel it's important to share.

Can I get paid for taking care of mom dad? Can i get paid for staying home with husband wife? Can daughter get paid for taking care of grandma grandpa grandmother grandfather? Will medicaide medicaid pay me to stay home with mother? will medicare pay me to stay at home with parent spouse?