Thursday, February 21, 2013

Decline and the End Game…

I’ve talked about it before – how decline can be achingly rapid or achingly slow.  But, like rust, it never sleeps.  It keeps trudging along, snagging more and more of Mom’s mind and ultimately impacting her body.

Over the last few months there has been a definite turn toward the end game.  She fought the pneumonia last fall and it was the beginning of the decline.  She has no symptoms now but x-rays show a small spot still sitting in one lung.
We kept the medications for the pneumonia to a minimum but they still caused issues with her digestive system and hemorrhoids.  It took another few weeks to get the hemorrhoids under control but it was just getting there when she was hit with the bout of diarrhea after Christmas.  The whole lot was enough to cause damage to her skin which has required treatment with medicated creams.
The next stage was going from continent to incontinent – although sporadically.  As I’ve said before, a person with dementia is like a toddler in reverse.  Mom was lucky enough to be continent to the age of 96, almost 97.  Like a toddler, she knows when she needs to use the bathroom, she just may not be able to control everything the way she did before.  The good thing about dementia is she doesn’t realize it is an issue and has no problem allowing us (Tina or I) to help her.
There are also the other changes happening as Mom’s dementia progresses.  Just before the pneumonia was diagnosed last fall, Mom stopped wearing her glasses.  She said they made her face hurt.  She was still able to read words on the daily news sheet or on my t-shirts and, since she doesn’t always remember what a word means, it wasn’t a problem.  Lately, she has worn them a few times but not consistently.
Early last week she took another step.  She has an upper plate of teeth and when handed a sucker one day, she took her teeth out.  She refused to put them back in and for the better part of the last two weeks she has been without teeth.  This past Monday I arrived and she had both glasses on and teeth in.  Today she refused both and told Tina she didn’t know what to do with them.
Mom’s face is showing signs of the decline also.  Yes, she’s old and wrinkled – she’s soon to be 97 after all!  But the skin around her eyes has been darkening for months now and today I noticed the skin above her temples is beginning to darken while the rest of her face looked pale.  There is also just a touch of blood settling in her hands also.
Finally, Mom has moved more solidly into the “who are you” phase.  She doesn’t recognize me as hers and more frequently now she doesn’t understand if I try to tell her who I am or that I’m her daughter.  Luckily, I’m not bothered by it.  Daddy gave us good practice at accepting that.
I’m not saying the end is imminent but I can see Mom steadily making her way toward the end of the game.  And Tina, who has lovingly watched over many making that last journey, also says Mom is declining.  How long?  Only God knows that!