My mom is dying. She turned 88 the last September and she is dying. The woman who she is now is not the mother I remember, a vibrant woman full of the enjoyment of life. A person who could see the funny in any circumstance. I am not sure when she began to change as the changes were so gradual that they remained hidden or perhaps my life was so busy that I failed to notice the little things.
She entered the hospital the Tuesday before Thanksgiving dehydrated and complaining of feeling lousy. The Emergency Department nurses, staff and doctors greeted her by name as this was not her first rodeo. She has esophogeal stenosis diagnosed several years ago which limits her ability to swallow food unless it is pureed or chewed very, very well. Although this is debilitating it is the total loss of smell and taste that has led to her decline.
When you have a very small opening in the esophagus leading to the stomach you have to eat high carbo and high protein to maintain strength. Ensuring that the foods you eat meet these requirements can be done by eating ice cream, milkshakes with extra protein, protein drinks, chocolate mousse; well you get the idea. The one problem for my mom is that she can’t taste or smell so she has no incentive to eat this way.
My Dad and I have tried to get her to eat to maintain strength and energy but she has consistently refused to eat much more than a few bites. Pressing her to drink Ensure has had some success but even that is a chore. A Ear, Nose and Throat Doc told her that what to him was pleasurable would be work for her. She would have to eat despite no taste and no smell.
She has lost about 25 lbs in the last year and jokes about trying for her birth weight. She was never a Big woman and now she is skin and bones and as she says “her skin doesn’t fit”.
Her last trip to the hospital resulted in surgical implantation of a G-PEG or stomach feeding tube and continuous feeding through the tube. After a hospital stay of 11 days she was release to go home where according to she and my 88 year old father they would be able to handle her recovery. One problem, she was too week to walk even using the walker.
First night home and they both fell while my Dad was helping Mom back to bed after using the commode next to the bed. ‘This won’t work, Dad. You can’t take care of her if it means lifting her or supporting what is dead weight as she has no strength.
We spent two days getting her admitted to skilled nursing where they would be able to care for her and help her with rehabilitation. It was a respite of worrying about her and spending the night at my parents home to help if she got up during the night.