The end of suffering

Note: Not a gaming related post.

My mom, who was born in 1928, didn’t even really understand what the internet is, yet it was the source of so many good thoughts and kind wishes directed her way.

Her struggle ended this morning at 10:20. Unfortunately she was alone at the time (or maybe she planned it that way) but the nurse on duty said it was very quiet, very peaceful. She just slipped away. Yesterday she was lucid, or at least semi-lucid, and insisting that we not hook her to any machines or take any further action to prolong her life. She was ready to go and just wished it would all be over. And now she has her wish and I’m refusing to look at this as bad news for her, even if it’s bad news for us. But we knew it was coming…

It’s always awkward knowing what to say in times like these, so I’m closing comments on this post. So many of you have already sent along prayers, vibes, good wishes and just a general wave of positive thoughts. I really appreciate them and I still have them; there’s no need to reiterate and they get me all choked up anyway.

So I’ll just say thank you one more time. You’ve all meant a lot.

Now I’m going to lose myself in virtual worlds for a while. The arrangements are such that we can still attend PAX and I’m looking forward to that escape/distraction.

Dying and the kindness of strangers

Note: Not a game-related post.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about getting old and the ordeals my elderly mother is going through due to illness. It has obviously been a difficult and painful process for her, and it’s been a confusing, frustrating and sad process for the family. Since then I’ve sent a few updates via Twitter.

In response to the post and the tweets I’ve received a lot of support and advise from established blog readers, twitter friends and complete strangers. A lot of it has been carried out through private channels. People I really don’t know have contacted me and offered professional advice that has been very helpful. Other people have offered support and sympathy which has also been very helpful.

I’ve been moved more than I can say by these responses. You’ve renewed my faith in people, a faith that has really taken a beating over the years. Granted I generally lose faith over silly things, like trolling in MMO message boards, but I’d started to assume that was just how people are. But now I am reminded that when the topic turns serious people are inherently good.

For all the advice, support, positive vibes and restoring my faith in people, I thank you all.

Yesterday we put my mom on Roxinal, which is what they call an end-of-life tranquilizer. Its purpose is to take away her pain and distress during her last few days. On Thursday the hospital discharged her to the care center she’d been at since they couldn’t do anything for her the care center couldn’t do, and she’d be more comfortable there. Unfortunately we took that as a good sign, not understanding what they meant was that she was dying. Friday afternoon the nurse at the care center called to tell us she was in a very bad way. They could send her back to the hospital for “aggressive treatment” but the chances of a recovery were very slim. In the meanwhile my mom’s mental state had deteriorated to a point where she was terrified, not knowing where she was, crying and screaming in fear. Her physical state was continuing to deteriorate as well. My brother made the call to go with the Roxinal, supported by myself and my mom’s younger sister. The process my mom is going through is very similar to the process her mom went through and she made the same call in her mother’s case.

So now we wait. She isn’t on feeding tubes or anything of that nature (she always told us she didn’t want to be kept alive via machines) so I don’t expect it will take long. I can only hope that her end comes quickly, but if it doesn’t we at least know her fear and pain has ended.

Getting old FTL

This is a pretty personal post, so y’know, feel free to skip it. It isn’t anything to do with gaming but sometimes it just kind of helps me to throw things out into the ether…

I tell ya, I don’t want to get old(er). My mom (82) went to the hospital a week or so before Christmas because her back hurt and she couldn’t move (she had to use Life Alert since she couldn’t get out of bed). Since then she’s been bouncing from hospital to a physical rehab center for the elderly, and back again. Every visit to the hospital (the rehab center had to call 911 Tuesday night become mom couldn’t breathe) reveals a new ailment. Now it’s high potassium levels, to go along with her congestive heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and of course the back trouble is still lingering.

Before this last trip to the hospital she could walk about 30 feet without having to rest, but needed an oxygen tank (and y’know, that loop thing that you see old people wearing). Now she’s bed-ridden again and needs a full oxygen mask to breath, so she can’t really talk very much.

She keeps on fighting though and her mind has been as sharp as it has ever been, until today. Today she asked my step-sister where the horses were. She was worried about the stables. (My mom is the daughter of a fisherman and she grew up on a family farm. When she was young – remember she was born in the 1920s – everyone still kept horses.) Now it’s hard to say if that was from the many drugs she’s on, or if her mind is finally going.

I mean, it isn’t like we can find a doctor to talk to. Two days she’s been in this new hospital and the doctors all continue to evade my step-sister (who is the only family member still living in the area). The nurses aren’t allowed to tell us anything. Mom might have hours to live and she might have something that they can clear up in a couple of days…we can’t nail down anyone who can answer questions.

In the meanwhile the family is running around in circles trying to find a way to pay for all this care. If she’s going to go home we’ll get a reverse mortgage (she’ll need 24/7 care even at home, at least for a while), if she’s going to wind up in a nursing home then we’ll have to sell the house to pay for it. Mom makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but far too little to pay for the care she needs.

Either way, getting the money takes time, and at-home care providers ($250/day) aren’t going to take care of her for free; in fact they require an advance deposit before they even consider it. So do we start rolling on the reverse mortgage, which mom would have to understand and sign (it’s a 96 page form!) and hope she’s going to come home? Will they even approve it without her living at home?

Next week we’re seeing a lawyer to help sort all this out… but damn, the not-knowing just drains you. And wondering if she’s even going to be alive by the time we meet with the lawyer (and next week was the earliest appointment we could get…we made it about a week ago).

And then of course you start feeling guilty because you’re worried about money when your mom is fighting for her life… but without money she won’t get the care she needs, so… it’s a big circle.

But man, nothing prepares you for this stuff. No one teaches you the skills of dealing with the health system, y’know? Much of what we’ve learned has come from word of mouth from other people who’ve gone through this same process, and it’s a process that most often ends with funeral expenses.

It’s like death and dying is a dirty little secret in our society.

Now there’s me, my older brother, my younger step-sister, and then a 2nd remote step-sister who I rarely talk to. NONE of us have kids except the distant step-sister. And I keep thinking “Who is going to be our advocate when we’re getting shunted from hospital to hospital? While we’re all alive, we can take care of each other, but one of us will be the last..”

To quote The Who: I hope I die before I get old.

I wish I had the choice for a peaceful, pain-free death at some time of my choosing, when I can start to see the end and feel like life isn’t really worth the pain any more. I’d estimate that’s at 75 or so, depending on health. I really, really don’t want to be so old I can’t feed myself or move around. Let me die with dignity. Maybe I need to move to Sweden.

But for now, I just wish my poor mom would slip away, or come back to us. Her hovering in this twilight place where she “wakes up” and is in some strange hospital room, over and over… I hate that she has to go through that.

And there’s a point to this post besides me being a whiny bitch again.

PLEASE, if you have a single parent who is elderly, have a talk with them about situations like this. We should have done this; we should have bought the house from my mom and let her live in it for free. That would’ve protected some of her assets. It’s worth talking to a lawyer who specializes in elderly law, too; they can suggest other ways to both protect assets and be prepared for a situation like this. If you don’t handle things the right way, the health care system in the US will just bleed you dry of all your assets then toss you in the cheapest nursing home that is available.

My brother and I talked about taking these steps many times but we were always too squeamish about bringing the topic up with my mother. And now she’s paying the price. Don’t make the same mistake we did. I know this isn’t an issue for many of my readers (most of your parents are probably still quite young) but do keep it in mind when the time comes. Hell, maybe make sure your parents have had these kinds of talks with THEIR parents, if your grandparents are still around.

Age and blogging

I’ve been thinking a lot about age and mortality lately, and the shifts that have happened in my perceptions of the world as I start to see the first glimmerings of the light at the end of the tunnel that is my life.

Seriously…I look at all the unread books I own and wonder if I’ll live long enough to read them (definitely not, if I keep buying new ones). Things of that nature. Now my mom is in her 80’s; if I live as long as her I have plenty of time left. But I’m the age that my dad died at now. If I follow in his footsteps I don’t have long at all.

Anyway, I was thinking about blogging about these changes in attitude that creep up as we get older.

But I’m not sure if I should do it here, or if I should start a new blog. I’m not sure most of my readers really care about this stuff that they won’t have to worry about for 20 years or more.

I think, once I’m gone, that it might be interesting to read an online journal of a person slowly coming to grips with mortality and then passing on. Jeez, that sounds really morbid and I don’t mean it to be at all. But I wonder if other people think the same things I do.

Y’know the old “You kids get off my lawn” attitude that we joke about…that’s becoming reality for me, in a way. I find it interesting, when I can look at it dispassionately.

Anyway, what do you readers think? Do it here or keep it separate from all the gaming and puppy talk?