As I watch Grandma get progressively weaker I know that the end can’t be too far away. Since her fall a couple of weeks ago she’s proceeded to get weaker and more frail. I watch at night as her breath gets ragged and I wonder “Is this it..?”
Then she’ll wake up and grunt and groan as she moves her arm a few inches, sounding like it’s taking everything she has.
I ask her how she’s doing and invariably the answer is the same: “Tired”.
I’m starting to be able to relate. I haven’t slept much since her fall. Every sound brings me to hyper-alert wakefulness. I throw on my bathrobe and run downstairs several times a night. I’ve been surviving on a combination of caffeine and adrenaline for days and my body and nerves are starting to feel it.
After waking me up last night at 11:30 by doing circles while sitting on her walker in the living room (she was trying to push herself with her feet, but socks on hardwoods and little teeny old ladies on wheels don’t push very well) I came downstairs after a fitful sleep to see her sitting up with a furrowed brow…hands picking at her blanket.
She was clearly bothered by something…
“What is it, Grandma?” I asked.
“Choking” She said.
“Are you not getting enough air?” I screamed into her face (pretty much the only way to get her to hear me at this point).
“I don’t think so…”
Grandma rarely complains about how she feels, so I was immediately concerned for her. I held her hand and asked her to take several deep breaths. Wide-eyed, she took several shallow gulps. Clearly she was getting air, but not very much. I did the best to calm her. Then I called the Hospice triage nurse.
She asked a variety of questions and listened to my observations of Grandma’s condition. She recommended that now would be a good time to use her med kit.
Hospice is all about comfort in the last days of your life, so when you enroll in hospice you’re given a med kit that contains a variety of painkilling and anti-anxiety medications. It’s pretty heavy-duty stuff and I don’t take administration of it lightly.
Normally, I’m not a fan of pills, and I know that Grandma doesn’t like them much either. However, given Grandma’s apparent anxiety I thought it might not be a bad idea in this case. The nurse talked me through dosages and told me to feel free to call back if I had any questions.
I thanked her, hung up the phone and walked into the other room…preparing to administer the drugs that the nurse thought would be most beneficial. While I was in the other room talking to the nurse Grandma had pulled the covers up under her chin and gone peacefully to sleep, exhausted from the stress.
I put the medications back in the med kit, relieved that I didn’t have to give Grandma any drugs, but starting to wish that there was a med kit for caregivers as well.