Hide and Seek is a favorite game of children. One child is designated as “It,” and while the other children run and hide, “It” stays at “base,” hides his eyes, and counts. When he reaches 30 or 50 or 100, he yells, “Ready or not, here I come.” Those few words evoke lots of emotions in the other children. If they’ve not yet found a suitable hiding place, they feel panic as they realize they’re completely exposed and in danger of being caught. If they have hidden daringly close to base, they feel a thrill of fear and excitement as they anticipate that mad dash to safety, trying to avoid being tagged. And if they found the PERFECT hiding place, they may be overcome with giggles as they realize that “It” has no chance of finding them. I don’t play Hide and Seek much anymore except with my grandchildren, but through the years I’ve encountered many situations that yell “Ready or not, here I come.”
Mom’s in the hospital. She’s been in the ER a couple of times in the last couple of months, and she was admitted for a week. She was sent home, but within another week she was back. This time it looks like it will be a longer stay. She’s already been there for two weeks, and the charge nurse says she’ll be there at least two more. I gave the details of her issues in a previous post called “The Phone Calls I Hate,” so I won’t repeat myself. I’ll just say it’s been a rough few weeks, and yesterday we met with hospice.
Nobody has given us a time line or pointed out an expiration date on the bottom of her foot, but she’s in a long-term care wing of the hospital now. My brother and I, along with our super supportive spouses, have been looking at care options for when she’s released. We’ve visited with the staff at the assisted living facility where Mom lives to discuss care options if she returns there, and we’ve visited a skilled nursing facility nearby about their services if she needs more intensive care. But, at least in my mind, we’ve been talking about how to get her back to the place she was before she went into the hospital, how we can get her back to feeding herself regular food instead of being fed purees and nectar thickened drinks, how to get her walking again instead of sitting in a chair a couple of hours a day with help. The hospice nurse we met with put a great big pin in that bubble.
I thought I was being realistic and that I was ready to face the inevitable. I wrote a blog about getting ready to say good-bye, and in the “hated phone calls” piece I wrote that, although I fear the process, I’m not afraid of death. But that was before the hospice nurse started talking about end stage dementia, in-patient hospice, and other emotionally charged subjects. I maintained control, but tears rolled down my face as we continued to discuss options and ask questions. The nurse took contact and other pertinent information and said he would have a note added to Mom’s chart. When she’s ready to be discharged, the hospital will call hospice to come in and do an evaluation to see if she qualifies for their services and how to proceed. It was hard to think about before, but it was harder when he put Mom’s name on the form.
We visited with Mom a few more minutes, and as I sat on her bed, holding her hands, she looked at me expectantly.
“Are we ready?” she said.
She raised her head up off the pillow a little bit as if she was trying to get out of bed, and she looked toward the door. Since losing some of her social anxieties to Alzheimer’s, she always been ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“No,” I said. “We’re not ready yet.”
I said it gently, but inside I was screaming. No, I’m not ready. I’m not ready for that nurse to say it’s possible that no amount of physical therapy will get you back on your feet again. I’m not ready to hear that you may have to eat pureed food from now on. I’m not ready.
When we got back to the house, I started writing this post, and I called it “I’m Not Ready.” But after I re-read my previous posts, I stopped writing and spent some time examining my feelings. I thought about the changes I’ve seen in Mom in the last year and how the things the nurse talked about are the next steps in a natural progression. I thought about sitting on Mom’s bed on Friday as she drifted in and out of sleep and thinking If she closed her eyes right now and simply stopped breathing, I could handle that. I thought of all the love and support we have, and I thought about all the systems that are in place to help us through the process. I realized I was feeling the panic of the child who feels exposed when the call comes. I’m calmer now, and like it or not, when “It” calls out Ready or not, here I come, I guess I’ll be ready.