After moving to Iowa and getting settled into her senior living apartment, our mother eventually settled into something of a routine (for her, anyway). The senior apartment complex was actually quite nice, with spacious accommodations and the opportunity to socialize when she wished to (which she usually did not).
The arrangement provided the independence Mother treasured while also having a staff present on-site 24/7 to periodically check on the well-being of all the residents and provide any assistance that was needed. It was an “independent living” facility, catering to elderly people who were still able to function on their own but who would benefit from trained people being there should anything happen.
Naturally, as the years went by, Mother began to decline physically. She eventually reached a point where, as her family, we became rather concerned about her well-being in the independent living facility.
That year, Friday the Thirteenth was a momentous day for all of us in the family. We had been researching options for a more assisted environment for her, and it was sounding like hospice care would be the best option for her. After a consultation with their staff, Mother was turned down from hospice because she was too sick. They believed she needed more care than she could receive even from them.
My sister Abby and I were at a complete loss for what to do next. We were devastated and confused. Thankfully, the hospice staff sat down with us and we devised a plan where Mother would be admitted to the hospital for a “tune up”. Their expectation was that the “tune up” would result in hospitalization for three days, followed by “doctor’s orders” that she be moved into a nursing home.
The hospice staff told us that this was a very common method of evaluating a senior citizen who was failing physically and then getting them into the best place for them. Our plan was in place. The day of admittance to the hospital would be on Friday the Thirteenth. Very ominous!
Thanks to her doctor, the hospice staff and Abby’s son Taylor, it worked out in the end. But we ran into a couple snags along the way. We arrived that day at the apartment complex and told Mother that she was going into the hospital for the aforementioned “tune up.” Our plan was to travel in a small caravan down to the hospital:
- My sister Abby, her son, and his girlfriend would drive the lead car carrying Mother
- My husband, our daughter, and I would follow in a second car
- Another family member and an aide from hospice would follow in a third car
The plan seemed to be going off the rails before we even left the parking lot of the apartment complex. A bit earlier, Abby’s son had asked his mother Abby if she knew how to get to the hospital. Taylor and his girlfriend were not very familiar with the area, and of course my mother had not driven anywhere for years.
So he was checking to see if one person in the car would know how to get to the hospital. Ever the optimist, his mother’s reply was an emphatic
Right before we departed, I asked to confirm with my sister Abby before she got in the lead car:
Okay, so do you know how to get to the hospital we are going to?
Her son overheard Abby’s reply:
He smirked and then called what in football is referred to as an “audible”: an on-the-fly change in the play just before it is executed:
Okay. The last thing any of us want is to be circling around downtown aimlessly. Aunt Lindy, you live here, so you take the lead car position. I will follow you in my car with Mom and my grandmother. Our cousin and the hospice aide can take third spot.
And off we went. We felt like we were back on track. But then we pulled up to the Emergency Room entrance. We opened the passenger door and attempted to help Mother out of the car. We could not move her, and despite being awake, Mother was neither assisting nor resisting. She was just absolute dead weight, sitting there, staring off into space.
Abby came over to help, as did Taylor’s girlfriend and the hospice aide. No luck. Taylor jokingly suggested under his breath that perhaps his grandmother was performing civil disobedience by “going limp” in the way that protesters often do at organized demonstrations.
After a period of struggle, several very big security guards who had observed our plight came to our rescue. As the uniformed guards struggled to pull her out of the seat of the car, we wondered if maybe this was a passive protest by Mother.
They pulled and tugged until they were able to free her body. This was a monumental task, even for four large hospital security guards. But eventually: plop! Down her body went into a wheelchair so we could push her in.
After a visit to the ER, Mother was admitted. She spent several days there and was released for therapy to a nursing home/rehabilitative facility. My sister and I knew some dark days were ahead once Mother learned that she would not be going back to her apartment. But the time had come for her to accept her frailties and appreciate the care she was receiving from the staff.