Mom Was Gone?
It’s been ten months since my mom passed away. In an instant, my entire life totally changed. My life changed from one extreme to another in the blink of an eye.
One minute I am on 24/7 alert. I’m making sure my mom is fed, trying to manage pain and illness, changing soiled clothes and bedding. Making sure she is not trying to get out of bed so that she doesn’t fall and hurt herself. The next minute, mom was gone!
I Lost Control
For a few moments, I lost total control and screamed for her to come back, and to not leave me! Even though it had been a long hard road of being her Caregiver, I wanted her back. Though she was really not my mother mentally and she was suffering from cancer as well, I didn’t want her to go.
Suddenly I started questioning myself. Did I do a good enough job taking care of her? Even though I got frustrated with her at times, did she know I loved her? Did she know we (me and my husband) did everything we could to care for her and love her?
I Didn’t Get To Say Goodbye
All of these questions were running through my head, and I couldn’t ask her if I served her well as her daughter. She passed away in her sleep when I wasn’t right there in the room with her. Therefore, I didn’t get the chance to talk to her. I didn’t get to say goodbye! That still weighs on my mind. You see, she passed away unexpectedly that evening.
A Little Background
My mom had Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Later on, about 3 years before she passed away, mom was diagnosed with cancer. At that time, the doctors said she would maybe live 3 to 6 months. Due to being diagnosed with cancer, she was put on hospice care. Mom still lived at home, but hospice made their visits to our home.
So a hospice nurse came to check on mom once during the week. A CNA came three days per week to give mom a bath. That was very much welcomed because if you know anything about Alzheimer’s/Dementia patients, they are not interested in personal hygiene.
Accidentally Found Cancer
It was a pure accident that we found out mom had cancer. During one of our sleepless nights, mom decided to chase after a spider (that wasn’t there) that she saw on the ceiling fan. We think it was the pull chain that hangs from the ceiling fan. She stood on the bed to do so and feel off and busted a gash on her head on a table.
So, off to the emergency room, we go! During x-rays and CT-scans of her head and neck, they picked up some spots on her lungs that they advised us needed to be checked. One test led to another and that’s how we found out about her having cancer. Cancer showed up on her lungs, liver, and thyroid.
A Blessing In Disguise
They diagnosed it as pancreatic cancer, however, the PET Scan didn’t pick up any signs in the pancreas. I never understood that one, but their diagnosis was always pancreatic cancer. The funny thing about all of this, well I guess it’s not funny, but mom never remembered that she had cancer. No matter how many times we told her when she was feeling sick and having pain, she kept asking why. We would ask her if she remembered that she had cancer? She didn’t remember. I guess that was a blessing in disguise.
Long Painful Day
Mom had been awake and in severe pain for at least 48 hours, and I had been up with her the entire time as I always was. I had been in constant contact with the hospice nurse. The low dose of morphine mom was on was not touching her pain. After several calls back and forth, they increased her dosage.
We were hopeful this increase would cut the pain and get her to fall asleep. Well, it did not do either of those things. Apparently short-staffed, it wasn’t until later that night that the supervising nurse came to see mom. Her vital signs were checked and all were strong. The color on all her extremities was good. She was just still in severe pain with morphine not doing its job.
Another Increase In Pain Meds
They got the approval from the doctor to up the dosage again, so we gave her more. She still continued to cry in pain all afternoon. I felt so bad for her. It was a Sunday so even my husband had been up all night the night before. We were all so tired and worn out.
Mom’s regular nurse came by the next morning, well around noon to check on her. Mom was still in pain and we were to give her pain meds on schedule to try to get control. All of her vital signs were good and strong.
Finally, A Little Sleep!
Mid-afternoon mom finally drifted off to sleep. The sound of snoring coming from her room was a welcomed sound. The nurse told us in order to keep the pain under control we needed to religiously give her the morphine every 4 hours. So, we needed to wake her at 8 pm and try to get her to eat some jello and give her the morphine.
My husband and I kicked back in our recliners to grab a nap while mom was sleeping. We were beat after being up for over 48 hours. After dozing for a little, it was time to wake mom so we could get her ready for her dose of morphine. We really didn’t want to wake her because we knew she had to be tired too but we wanted to keep that pain managed.
Can’t Wake Mom
My husband went in to wake mom while I went to the kitchen to grab some jello and get the morphine ready. Suddenly, I heard my husband calmly call out to me, “hey honey”? As I walked into mom’s room I answered him and he said, “I can’t wake mom up!” I instantly felt all the blood rush out of my head. This couldn’t be happening!
Why Did I Go To Sleep?
I threw the stuff down that I had in my hands and went over to mom’s bed. Touching mom’s face, her skin was so cold. She was laying on her side and I could already tell that her face was really sagging. Then I threw her blankets off so I could see her hands and feet. Just what I expected, they were blue. Mom was gone! She left me! No notice, no warning! Why did I go to sleep? I should have stayed with her in her room.
After my moments of losing control and begging my mom to come back, my mind started going all different directions. Then it hit me, I have two daughters to call, mom’s granddaughters. One of those granddaughters lived out of state and was in the Air Force. I was supposed to give her warning if her grandmother took a turn for the worse so she could come to see her! It didn’t happen way! I’d have to call and tell her that her grandmother is gone!
I’m Already Lost
By midnight, when everyone was cleared out of the house, and mom had been taken to the funeral home, the house felt so hollow and empty. The house was only missing one person but felt like everything had been taken out. This small two-bedroom house suddenly felt like it was a large 8 bedroom mansion that had all the people and furniture taken out.
I didn’t know what to do. There was no way I could go to bed and go to sleep. That wasn’t my routine. After all, I was always on the job, Caregiver for my mom. This was a 24/7 job. Seven days a week, 365 days a year for the past 8 – 9 years. Now I’m feeling like I’d just been fired on the spot from that job.
One of the biggest problems that I had the first few days, was guilt. Well, to be honest, I still suffer from guilt on most days. Why didn’t I stay in my mom’s room with her that afternoon? Why did I have to go to the other room and take a nap? What if she tried to call out to me and I didn’t hear her? Did she try to call out to me? These are questions I still ask myself today.
Getting through the next few days with funeral planning was long and heartbreaking. My life feels totally empty with both of my parents gone now. It was such an empty feeling and still is. After spending a decade caring for my ill parents, now my job as their Caregiver was over.
My husband and I are living together alone for the very first time in our marriage. We were married about 8 months after I had to quit my job to care for my mom full-time. Therefore, when he married me, he also took on the care of a mother-in-law.
After we were married, life had pretty much just gone on as normal except for there were three of us in the house. After mom passed away and he went back to work, suddenly, I was at home all alone. I remember sitting there after he left for work, tears started streaming down my face. My thought was, I have no purpose! Mom is gone. What’s my purpose now?
Some Caregiver Patterns Still Exist
Due to the fact that I went years with very little sleep, I still get very little sleep. I’m still able to go all day and all night without sleep. Then I can get in my recliner and sleep a few hours and I’m fine for the rest of that day. Even though I’m now free to come and go as I please, I still hardly ever leave the house. I occasionally have lunch with my daughter.
I’m still searching for my purpose in life every day. Being in my 50’s I don’t know that I’m young enough anymore to start doing anything new. But I still feel in my heart that there’s a purpose out there somewhere for me. Something is driving me to search but I just don’t know what it is. Writing and educating in being a Caregiver may be part of it.
Other Possible Career Opportunities
There were so many nights when I was caring for mom when I could not sleep. Mom would be on one of her 48 hour or longer awake binges. During those times, I had to stay awake to make sure that she did not get into something that might hurt her. She would get up and roam around the house or just be laying in bed talking to people.
Amazingly enough, I got interested in Aromatherapy & Essential Oils. I spent my hours awake at night taking my on-line extensive Certification in Aromatherapy course. Previously, I had done some dabbling in essential oils and was really interested in them. Now I really wanted to learn more and I definitely had some time.
That was quite an accomplishment for me as I completed an 8-10 page research paper. That paper had me so nervous as it was required and I had never written a research paper. I passed that with flying colors. Another requirement was a number of case studies which I also completed.
A part of the certification was completing Anatomy & Physiology. I was a little worried about that part. This part of the course was very interesting as far as how the body works and how the essential oils work in the body. The accomplishments I received with this course are Essential Oil Specialist and Certified Aromatherapist.
What To Do Now?
When I was studying my course work or working on one of the oil blends for my course, I remember mom being so proud of me for doing something so interesting. She would always be so proud when I made a good grade on a quiz. Mom would get a huge smile and tell me she was proud of me.
I figured with this certification that I’d be starting a business. Starting a business requires money of course. Money is mostly what I don’t have. There’s something that keeps pulling me to write. I’ve never been a writer. Something inside feels the need to share the life of Caregiving. I’m not sure if Caregiving and my Aromatherapy business are going to come together somehow or not.
Expanding My Knowledge and Skills
After completing my Aromatherapy Certification, another interest came into the picture. Herbal Incense Crafting was introduced to me. After doing a little research as to what all was involved, I enrolled in a online school that was offering this course.
One word to describe this experience, wow! What an amazing course! What I ended up doing was going deeper into most of the herbs that I already knew about from aromatherapy and learning to use them in a different way. I learned how to make incense with them. Now, I am also a Certified Artisan Incense Crafter. I can craft loose, cone, and stick incense.
Just One More Skill
Well, I couldn’t stop there. My mind was so wrapped up in herbs from the incense crafting course that I wanted to learn more about them. Yes, I advanced into Herbalism. I started with Introduction to Herbalism and now in Intermediate Herbalism.
Mixing all kinds of remedies, my daughter is testing all kinds of remedies and skincare items for me at this very moment. Does she mind? She says it’s her favorite job! Besides studying the herbs, I love experimenting with them to see if I can come up with a miracle lotion, oil, or tincture for something that someone needs. We will see if that happens.
In conclusion, I’m still searching for my purpose. Since my mom left and my Caregiver’s purpose went with her, I’ve been a lost soul. I pray and ask God every day to guide me in the direction that I need to be going. Whether it be in the direction of Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Writing, or all of these together.
There is something calling me and I’m trying to hear what it is. I will find it soon. Things will happen when the time is right. I have obtained knowledge and skills in several different areas and I want to use them in areas that I can help others. I just don’t want to waste my life searching.
A Special Thanks
I’m so thankful for my husband and his support. If it weren’t for him, I would have never been able to make it through the past six years. There is no way I could have handled the position of Caregiver without his love and support. To my husband, Rick! You are my rock and my calm, always.
My husband’s love and support made it possible for me to provide the care to keep my mom in her home until the very end. He went above and beyond what I would have ever imagined he would have had to go through. My husband never complained but showed strength and honor. My mother loved him like a son. He made her laugh every day of her life, even on the final most painful days. You brought her smiles and laughter…thank you!