Among the Things I Wish I Knew…Ahead of Time
Helping parents age well doesn’t end until their heart beats its last beat, to my way of thinking. I didn’t realize I thought (or felt) this until Mother rebounded amazingly for three months after successful heart valve surgery, then went into a coma. (We’d been warned the surgery could stress other parts of the heart and end in heart failure, which it did.)
Mother was already hospitalized when I raced (flew) cross country, rented a car, and broke every speed limit to be at her hospital bedside. Half hour later she was in a coma. Something in me (and I think in Dad) wanted her to be able to die at home. But it was Memorial Day weekend and we learned, upon asking, that getting any kind of caregiver etc. help immediately was out of the question.
An attractive room in the mostly-empty hospice section of the hospital was available and was suggested to us as an option. Local designers had decorated each room individually–very pleasant atmosphere. Regardless of Mother’s state of functioning, she would like this pretty room I thought. She was moved there. Perhaps it made only Dad and me feel better.
Never-the-less I remember going out within the hour and buying fresh fragrant flowers for her bedside table. I wasn’t in denial. She’d always loved the fragrance of flowers and although they say hearing is the last to go, I was uncertain about sense of smell. Looking back, I realize I would do what I could to help my parents age as well as possible until the very end. Today I think that would have included palliative care. We would have been better prepared. If Mother and Dad wanted it, Mother would have been at home and not in the hospital at the end.
This outstanding (to me) NPR radio segment, “How Palliative Care Helps–One Iowa Family’s Experience,” features a family and the physician supporting them. A rare front-row seat, so to speak, of palliative care in action. Those of us who have been helping our parents age well (whether on-site, or from far away like myself), help both our parents and ourselves when we understand outside sources of support (palliative care and hospice) and their differences–way in advance of ever needing them–if possible.
“Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely research and information from highly respected universities and professionals, plus some practical stuff, to help parents age well.