Family on Little Friday (Thursday): Hi, Honey, I’m Home!

I’m about to leave Jackson for Memphis this morning, after a week of being here with Mom while she was in the hospital. She returned to Lakeland Nursing Home yesterday afternoon, and to a reception I wasn’t prepared for.

It’s not that I haven’t been pleased with the care Mom has received at Lakeland, because I have. But with her severe decline over the past few weeks—a fall, urinary tract infection, pneumonia—her Alzheimer’s seemed to have escalated. At one point I wasn’t sure whether or not to have a PEG (stomach feeding tube) put in, but that was done successfully last Friday, and she’s tolerating the feedings well. But she has forgotten how to eat, orally. I was able to feed her some soft ice cream the last couple of days, but she doesn’t hold the spoon herself. Yet. She’s pretty much been in a fog, only responding briefly when I look in her eyes, but not following me with those eyes when I step away. Sleeping a lot, with a glazed-over look.

Mom was evaluated for Hospice care on Monday, but she didn’t “pass.” The Hospice nurse said she just didn’t have a clear diagnosis of a six month or less life span. Her only option was to return to the nursing home.

My concern was that, while the ambulatory residents at Lakeland seem to get good care, the folks who are bedridden might be ignored. I was so saddened by images (in my head) of Mom lying in her bed with no one paying attention to her. The discharging physician sent recommendations (to Lakeland) that she receive physical and occupational therapy, as well as help from the speech therapist, to try to get her up and around and feeding herself again. I wondered if the folks at Lakeland would follow up.

So, yesterday afternoon after the ambulance arrived to take Mom back to Lakeland, I followed in my car. As I arrived, the EMTs were transferring her to her bed. I spent a little time cleaning out her closet, putting some new toiletries in her drawers, and chatting with various staff. Finally the EMTs left, and I was with Mom in her room. I held her hand, got right in her sight-line, and told her I loved her and that she was “home” now. She didn’t respond.

Half a minute later, Lashonda, the head nurse on Mom’s wing, was on the other side of Mom’s bed, in her face, saying, “Hi, Miss Effie! How are you today?”

The biggest smile I’ve seen from Mom in days spread across her face and in her strongest voice she boomed out, “Well, hello! I’m fine! How are you?”

Mom recognized Lashonda. In another minute three aids joined Lashonda at her bed, all fussing over her return like she was a rock star. The nurse checked her all over for skin breaks. Only a small sore on the heel of her right foot. “We’ll treat this right away.”

“So, what are your plans for helping Mom get up and around again?” I ventured.

“We’re going to have her evaluated right away—PT, OT and Speech.” Lashonda answered without a pause in the care she was giving Mom.

I backed away from the bed and watched as Mom continued to respond to these familiar caregivers, and tears filled my eyes. What a great team. She really is home.

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