I signed my mom onto Hospice yesterday.
This was not as traumatic a moment for me as it might have been because I volunteered with Hospice for three years. I know how it works, know the drill, and know how many of my patients and their families said, “I wish we’d signed on with Hospice sooner.” I don’t want to be one of them. It’s time.
What prompted this, of course, was her recent fall and the resultant pain. The nursing home has worked diligently to manage Mom’s pain and I fault them not at all. Break-through pain happens. But Hospice has more “tools in its case,” as it were. Besides, she’s frail and she’s clearly on the “failure to thrive” path (consistently losing weight, little appetite, etc). Her entire demeanor yesterday was different, more vague and less focused than she’s been able. Part of that might have been the break-through pain that was starting around the time I arrived, but part of it–as you might expect–is that the fall has had its effect in more than the obvious ways. A frail old person can’t take a fall like that and not suffer consequences of all sorts. Plus, as the wonderful Hospice nurse Elaine told me, once a person like my mom suffers a fall like this, it’s pretty indicative that the road ahead for them has changed.
I’d be inclined to think of it as a downward path, but my brain won’t let me. Mom is headed upward. A day will come when she’s free of the bonds of Earth, the constrictions of a crippled body and a tortured mind. A day will come when she’ll fly free, when she’ll whoop with joy to find herself unfettered. I’ve already begun to tell her that her family will be fine, that we’ll take care of each other and she doesn’t need to worry about leaving. And when she goes, I hope she grabs the first passing horse, flings herself on its back, and takes off on the wind. Those are the moments when I’ll think of her in the future and I won’t be surprised if I hear the sound of hoof beats.