Two weeks ago, my 91 year old mother, who suffers from mid to late stage Alzheimer’s… was placed on hospice care, in my home… after a fall, from which she sustained a hairline fracture of her pelvis. The fall has rendered her now, completely bedridden.
In the course of setting up her care… I was spoken to, numerous times… by the hospice staff about something called “hospice philosophy”. From what they told me (repeatedly) their “philosophy”… consists of the following: Keep the patient pain free. Keep the patient calm. Keep the patient comfortable (clean bedding, etc). They also made certain, that I signed the “do not resuscitate” box. I was ok with that, because natural death is Almighty God’s realm. And that is what my mother has in her last will.
So far, it sounds ok. Right? But here’s what is troubling me.
In line with their “hospice philosophy”… they brought in some heavy duty liquid pain killers and an anti-agitation drug. I must mention here… that not once, did I request these drugs… but expressed numerous times… a preference to use Liquid Tylenol for my mother’s pain.
They were also very clear on one point: “If your mother improves… we may take her OFF hospice. And she’ll be back in your hands”. As a result, I’ve accepted the fact… that I may be forced to place her in a nursing home.
But, I obediently gave the hospice drugs to my mother ONE time. Over the next 24 hours, after receiving these drugs… she lay, nearly comatose. Her breathing was shallow. Her mouth and tongue were as dry as sandpaper. I was not able to feed her or offer her any water. Because these hospice drugs… had put her in a stupor, the likes of which I’d never seen. As memories of the Terri Schiavo case began to play in my mind… my Catholic upbringing and beliefs started to kick in. If I continued to give her the hospice drugs, she will be gone in a matter of a few days.
So I made the decision, as is my right… to stop those heavy duty meds… and start giving her the liquid Tylenol, again. After a few hours, she began to come around… and was aware enough to take some pureed food and some water, through a dropper. She is now taking small amounts of food and water on a regular basis.
I am suffering from no allusions about my mother’s recovery. She is getting weaker and weaker. She is dying. Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease. I’ve accepted this… and in fact, will be starting to make her final arrangements tomorrow.
In the meantime, while she is in my care… and until Our Blessed Lord calls my mother to His side… I will continue to make sure that she is offered nourishment, hydration and the pain med of my choosing (which SHE herself, gave me the right to… when this time came). She will get all of this, whenever she will accept it. I will keep her clean and comfortable, to the best of my ability. The rest is in God’s Hands. When He calls her, she will go to Him. But that is HIS decision. Not mine. And not hospice.
I guess the reason I’m posting this… is because I want other families, in this or similar circumstances… to be VERY clear about what doctors and/or hospice might be telling you. THINK about it, very carefully. Even though you’re under a great deal of stress… THINK about what our Church teaches. Human life is SACRED… even in it’s most fragile and helpless state. IT MATTERS.
As believing and practicing Roman Catholics… we do not “fall in line” with some other philosophy, simply because it is presented to us… as the BEST way, for our ill or suffering loved one to be dealt with.
Please keep us in your prayers. God bless.