But we know enough to know that my mother is dying, and is likely to die sooner, rather than later.
What I’m struggling with is how to be a good son to my dying mother. I know how to do many things, with various degrees of comfort and competence. I can, with fluency and grace, coordinate the IT policy of a major Federal agency. I do a passable job as partner to the love of my life. I rock wearing really good suits, and know my way around menus and wine lists like no one’s business. I’m an OK friend, and a not particularly good godfather (yes, that’s my assessment of what I’ve done for you, Cord).
The problem is, for me: what can and should I do for Virginia Jean Kuehner Fusick Cory?
I’ve established her care goals as being “providing comfort and reducing confusion,” know that my mother’s tolerance for discomfort and change is shrinking every day. I’ve tried to bring the right people together to ensure that she’s doing what she needs to do every day, and that she can’t badger, bully, or plead her way out of doing what she may not want to do.
So – I’m flying once again to Oregon, trying to get sorted my mother’s collapsing world. After having a episode with wheezing and shortness of breath which lead to an ER visit and a hospital admission, my mother will move from the apartment in which she has lived independently for the last 10 years to an assisted living room. I know there will be tears, and complaint, and resistance, but the only way I can ensure that my mother’s days are comfortable and create minimal confusion for her is to provide round the clock supervision for her. Without that, her chances of having an injurious fall are certain. Without that, her failure to medicate or refuse medication would lead to more trips to the ER and hospital. Without that, my guilt is unbearable.
I do know that I can’t do this myself. This is work that has to be shared with the team – the professionals who understand how to provide care to the elderly, and how to work with the families of the elderly, and with my family and friends, who know how to tell me what I need to do, and when I’m trying to do too much.