Slice of Life Tuesday: Personal Effects

Over the last month, I’ve written several times about a health crisis our family had with my mom. It is now four weeks after sepsis landed her in an ICU bed for a week. This was followed by a step-down inpatient unit for a few days, until a rehab bed was secured in a transitional care center, all on the same hospital campus near my parents’ home.

I’ve used nursing lingo and skills that are more than 30 years old, admittedly rusty, but not gone, to explain, comfort, communicate with medical personnel, and trouble-shoot my mom’s care from a daughter’s view point with a base of experience in healthcare than spans both intensive care and rehab. It’s felt odd and good at the same time. I really feel for those who do not have that base. Healthcare and hospitalization can be highly intimidating and foreign.

Honestly, the last month has felt like being on a wild roller coaster ride, similar to the old rickety types of amusements at a place like Cedar Point in Sandusky Ohio, where the old wooden coaster was bumpy enough to throw your back out after being slammed up against the side or back of your seat, let alone filling you with terror as the coaster crept up the steep incline. Anticipation was filled with fear of what was to come when at the bottom – which like the coaster was followed with more steep inclines and drops. The highs were high and the lows were low. In this case, however, the screams were all silent, taking place in the privacy of my own head.

It’s been so very tough to arrive where we have today with my mom being sent to a nursing home. Don’t get me wrong, it is what is best in this situation. But arriving at that conclusion for my Dad has been especially hard. He has done an outstanding job trying to handle this life-altering month, but he’s been torn between doing what my mom asked (which was to come home) and doing what is best for all (having her placed in a nursing home). After changing his mind many times over the last few weeks (after we knew she’d survive coming off the ventilator), he finally realized the best thing for all involved (which includes him and his quality of life as well as my mom’s heavy burden of care) was to place her in a nursing home. Thus, later this afternoon, she’ll leave the transitional care unit where she’s been for a little over two weeks to cross a parking lot and be admitted as a long term care patient. Luckily, it is still all on the same hospital campus.

Despite being back in Wisconsin, I’ve given some thought this morning about what personal effects my mom might like in her room. We’ve been reluctant to leave anything but her clothes due to the unsure nature and length of her stay at the hospital and in rehab. But, now we know. She’ll be staying. What would make her room more home like?

Plants

My mom loves plants. For years, she’s maintained a four season room at her home. It is filled with Christmas Cacti, succulents, and African violets – some of which were started from offshoots of my grandmother’s (her mother’s) plants. I think she’d like to have a couple of these in her room.

African Violet. Pixabay Free for Commercial Use License.

Photos

Of course, having family photos near is important. My sister did provide some recent photographs for my mom when she went from ICU to the step-down unit. There were only a few – photos of my mom and dad on a recent trip with my sister. They are very nice photos and will serve to remind her of better times. I am also working on gathering some family photos in a shutterfly book. Our immediate family is small – two daughters, our husbands, and five grandchildren between us. Each of my parents are only children. Yes, photos will be important.

One set of my Grandparents. Circa 1950’s.

Things

My parents both have lots of material possessions but aside from the plants and photographs, I cannot think of what else she’d like to have. Books, magazines, and word puzzles are a possibility but she’s not reading as much as she used to and now finds the word puzzles hard. This is a fact that makes me really sad for my own love of words and literature came from my mom, who at one time had an extensive vocabulary. It is rare now days to have both a mother and daughter take latin as a foreign language, but it is true of us!

I’ll have to give this some more thought. Having just stayed at my parents’ home for over two weeks, I know there are a lot of knickknacks and material things – but how much of it has just sat on a shelf for the last thirty years and how much is an item that really means something? I do not know the answer to this.

All I know is that we need to provide some of my mom’s personal effects to adorn her new living space. It will make her feel loved and comfortable. At least, I hope it will.

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday. This is a weekly forum created and hosted by TwoWritingTeachers.org. Thank you for hosting this community of supportive educators and writers each week!

6 thoughts

  1. I’m so sorry for this hard journey you are on – I know it well, I lived it just a few years back. You capture the emotions of supporting an aging parent’s health issues so well with your metaphor of the roller coaster and I was really moved by this addition “however, the screams were all silent.” (On a much lighter note – we loved Cedar Point!! – a visit we made with our kids years back.) Your ideas of special things for your Mom to have are excellent; I hope, in addition, she has many, many visits from loved ones – opportunities to stimulate her, help her feel very connected and loved. You have beautifully described such a hard, hard passage in life – but you and your family are doing your very best for and by her; this is all we can ask. Best wishes!

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  2. So many decisions as you consider your mom’s wants and needs. Not so much that it creates confusion but some small reminders to add familiar touches.

    You’re on the right path though it feels foreign and uncomfortable. Peace and Love

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  3. Such a heartrending post, this long, arduous journey of your mother’s illness. I celebrate that she recovered, and I know that bittersweet decision of the nursing home. I accompanied my grandmother there, when she needed round-the-clock care. How lovingly you approach the task of making her new place feel home-like – the violet, so gorgeous. The plants, photos, and things will surround her with love, indeed. Oh and I so remember those rickety wooden coasters! One of my uncles had the job of hammering the loose nails back in after the day’s runs (!!!)

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  4. Carol, I truly understand the issues that you speak of. My mother also had to reside in a nursing home after she suffered strokes. It was a very difficult decision our family had to make, especially since my mother also did not want to move from our home where she lived for years to a facility. Life is fragile and uncertain. Your post speaks of difficult decisions and deep pain. I appreciate your thoughtful response to the situation. May there be a certain amount of peace surrounding your mother. My thoughts and prayers reach out to you.

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