Caregiver's Diary: No Grieving Please

I did once. She was badly constipated at the beginning of the morphine regimen (we found out later it was the intestinal blockage). I had the bright idea of trying Magnesium Citrate, an industrial-strength laxative given before barium scans. Mother wisely suggested she ask her doctor first. I got impatient and called the palliative care doctor, even though it was Sunday. I couldn’t stand the thought of mother being in pain. The doctor wasn’t in, was on vacation and wouldn’t be back for a week. My sense of control was slipping.

I called mother and left a message that I had left a message with her doctor. The next morning I got a phone call from mother and such a tongue-lashing as I’ve never had in my life. I was not to call her doctor. I was not to involve myself in her care anymore. I was not to speak to any of her caregivers, only her and dad. I was mortified.

So it was very clear. They had a small, fragile routine built up around mother’s increasing infirmity, with Kathie Rose and the dog and the nurses and the palliative care physician all pieces on the board, and they didn’t want any grieving children upsetting that. And mother didn’t want to find herself in hospital bed surrounded by pitying faces. And she didn’t want a memorial of any kind.

We were five children in our fifties, just doing what our mum wanted us to.

But, as my wife said to me “What does that leave? You get a call one night that she’s died, and that’s it? You go to work the next day, you don’t gather at the bedside?”. No, we don’t, that’s not what my mother wanted, but I think, if she is not in command of her faculties anymore, and she’s in the hospital, then all bets are off.

I’m waiting to hear from my father. If mother is still in the hospital tomorrow, and likely to stay there, I’m buying a plane ticket to the Maritimes.

Update. My mother died at 10:45PM EDT on September 20. She went peacefully, a minister by her side. My mother was a great woman, and she had a rich, full and exciting life. She served overseas in the war, and she traveled to every continent including Antarctica. Now I will learn what it means to care for an aging widowed parent.

Keywords: caregivers, diary