My mother completes her 98th year this coming Tuesday 10 November (having been born on that date in 1916) and heads into her 99th in good spirits. Her memories can be very jumbled and she becomes confused more easily this last year, but still seems to enjoy her daily routine and the people around her.
It is almost ten years since Dad died (Alzheimer’s) and Mom had her heart attack a month later (March 2005). She pulled through, though at the time we were second guessing our decision to keep her alive and install the pacemaker. Within a few months, it became apparent that we made the better choice.
Then three years ago (November 2011), she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The first prognosis was that she had six months to live unless she had major surgery and months of chemotherapy. She was surprisingly coherent (being in the hospital and kept hydrated on a saline drip will do that) and calmly decided that, as she was turning 95, she would rather not go through all that. She returned to her apartment at the Kenney (assisted living) and was admitted into hospice care through Group Health. But when six months had passed, she “flunked” out of hospice since she was not really using or needing their services.
A year later, when Mom’s dementia started to become more noticeable and she was also taking the occasional tumble, it was felt that she needed to be in a setting with more supervision – assisted living with a higher ratio of staff to residents and open doors on the rooms rather than private apartment. Mom’s care was taken over by Providence Elderplace , a PACE program through Medicaid. She had to give up her Group Health care after 60 years but she was able to stay at the Kenney albeit in a different part of the facility – the same section where Dad had lived out the final years of his life.
And, so, Mom carries on – always glad to see you though she may not remember who you are from moment to moment. We are thankful she has been living at the Kenney (West Seattle retirement facility) since 2000, when she and Dad sold their three-bedroom, waterfront condo and moved into a one-bedroom apartment there.
I joined some of my brother’s family to have a little birthday celebration with Mom yesterday. She enjoyed herself very much. May we all, when we reach that age.
(photos by my brother, Larry Commeree)