Thursday, October 13, 2011

They've promised my mother that she can go home.

The other day on the phone, my mother asked why was she still here. "Why didn't I die when I fell," she said.
It's been a rough couple of months for her after a fall in her kitchen in July that broke a hip. She had hip replacement surgery and has been recovering in a convalescent center since. Her living space is a small room with a bed, a table, TV and no real privacy. She's been going to physical therapy, eating in a lunch room three times a day with other residents. Last night, a music group entertained.

A few nights ago, she fell again while trying to get to the bathroom when no one was around. So now an alarm goes off if she tries to get out of bed. She hates the prison-like confinement. She hates the alarm.
Before the fall, she'd made good progress with her recovery. Now she seems tired and a bit discouraged, which for her is saying a lot. She has just never let much get her down...she's a steel magnolia, a Scarlett O'Hara, a woman who grew up in the Depression and never looks back.
Now after three months, she's pretty much used up her Medicare rehab coverage and very much wants to go home. A lot of people have been trying to make that happen by building a ramp to the front of her farm house door, making some changes in the bathroom, helping my sister clean up the house and hiring care givers to help her get in and out of bed, to dress, bath and make it to the bathroom when my sister isn't there.
I didn't have a good answer for my mother when she asked why she was still here. Why are any of us here? It's just not her time, I told her. "We still have things to learn from you," I said.
Maybe it's just genetics... both her parents lived into their 90s, so no surprise...here she is.
Mom has had a great life as farm wife and mother, active in her church, women's groups and the community. She lived independently until her stroke at 83. Even after that she had Howard, her second husband, who provided love and companionship. They got along well until his death at age 93. My mother was 89.
She's been widowed twice, the first time when my father died 20 years ago. She was 76 and still a vital and independent woman. Now she's using a walker and a wheelchair to get around. When I visited her at the care facility a few weeks ago, I saw what old, really old, looks like.. tiny white haired women, wrapped in blankets and shawls, sitting in wheel chairs. In some cases, too weak to feed themselves.
Old is old when you get to be over 95.
Mother is trying to stay positive and engaged. Tonight, we talked politics. She's stays up on football (Go Boise State!) and told me about the visitors who recently have come to see her. Next Friday, they've promised to let her go home. For how long, I don't know.
According to the latest Census Bureau stats, there are more than 1 million women aged 90 to 94 alive in the United States as compared to 424,387 men in the same age group. Another 288,981 women are aged 95 and above, my mother at 96, is among them.  Do I want to live that long? Nope. The scary part is that I might.

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