My mother’s health started to fail in 2019. I could tell that she was getting weaker and her heart failure was progressing. She had little energy to participate in activities at their Independent Living apartment that she shared with my Dad. My parents moved there in 2013 and they depended on me to help them. I couldn’t do all that they needed of me and helped when I could. There was a point when it felt like she wanted me to live their life with them but knew that I had to live my own life. Eventually they hired caregivers to help with daily tasks.
In March 2019, I flew to Mexico City with my sister and niece for a short vacation. I started receiving calls and texts from the caregiver who came in to help my Dad. ‘Are you bringing your mother something? She says you’re coming back to the apartment. No, I’m in Mexico City.’ The texts continued over the next several days. ‘Your mother rode her scooter to the front desk in her robe and said she needs help. I can’t seem to control your mother.’
When I returned to Houston, I took her to the hospital to see if the doctors could determine what was going on. I hoped it was something that could be cured with an antibiotic. She was clearly having some hallucinations and her personality changed in just a few days. Her doctors ran tests and didn’t come up with anything. She had heart failure along with rheumatoid arthritis for years. They said she might be approaching end stage heart failure. Her doctor told suggested I move her and my Dad to Assisted Living to save money.
Once she returned to their apartment, her symptoms continued and she asked to see the nurse practitioner who visits the facility. Thank goodness I was there that day! The Nurse Practitioner pulled me aside and said this is definitely End Stage Congestive Heart Failure. Your mother has all the symptoms. I think you should put her on hospice. I was enormously relieved to hear the truth!
It was a whirlwind but we started hospice the next day. I had no idea what this journey would be like but kept telling myself take one day at a time. We added 24/7 caregivers. Mother’s personality continue to change but she let go of the angst and anger in a few weeks. She became happier and lighter. Usually she could only tolerate the news or sports on TV but I was surprised to see her laugh while watching a sit-com on TV.
On April 17 they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. Dad wanted a big celebration on Easter Sunday. Mom was continuing to weaken. She told me she didn’t want a party. I knew I couldn’t get 20 family members or friends to come at the last minute on a holiday! Dad ordered a huge cake and asked the facility to reserve a private room for 20 guests. I felt reassured that Mom had said she didn’t want a big event. On the day of the lunch, it was our immediate family. We had lunch then ate some of the beautiful cake with their photo reproduced on it. Mom wasn’t hungry and had trouble holding her head up for the photos, but she had a big smile on her face. Once we got back to their apartment, she asked when the next party started. What??!! I asked if she wanted me to invite her close friends to the apartment for cake. She said ‘oh no, I don’t want people in the apartment’. She was satisfied for us to send some cake to her friends.
She continued to weaken and passed on May 30, 2019. She was a wonderful and loving mother. She had high standards for us but I know she wanted the best for us. She told us how much she loved us often. I miss her very much but feel like she’s with me everyday.