My mom was in and out of the hospital this winter and with me the second closest in distance to her and my dad, I’ve been heavily involved in updating the rest of the family as to her current health. I am lucky that my brother, the only son, married a wonderful lady who has also been very hands-on throughout the ordeal. She and my brother live the closest to my parents, only a couple miles up the highway on their own farm so they check on my parents to make sure they have groceries and are eating and especially that my mother is taking her medications.
I went with my mom to see her family doctor who runs the tiny clinic in the town near the farm. He’s run the clinic for a few years now and they are very lucky to have him. The rubberbanding my mom was doing, the repeated hospital admissions, was most like due to her unchecked depression. The problem was cyclical:
- Not eating or keeping hydrated
- Sepsis set in
- Sepsis treated (but not the depression)
- Depressed about the admission
- Not eating/hydrating
This last time she was taken to the emergency department at the hospital in the city I live instead of the very tiny critical access hospital in the above admissions. When I caught up with the ER doc, her analysis, which was backed up by lab work, indicated that all physically was fine with my mom. The infection from the sepsis was gone; blood pressure and thyroid levels good; but psychologically? She was “dead”. She wouldn’t look at the doctor and she wouldn’t answer any questions. It was following this appointment that we met up with the family doctor I mentioned previously.
If we didn’t get the symptoms of depression under control, she would continue the cyclical pattern already well established. He had a wonderful way of describing the depression to my mother, who I recall telling me many years to “get over it” when I was diagnosed with mild depression.
Diabetes is a chemical imbalance in the pancreas. Renal failure is a chemical imbalance in the kidneys. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s a disease of a major organ and shouldn’t be stigmatized, even though he knows it is, especially when one lives in a community made up of mostly farmers and their wives who never saw a need for a secondary education, at least in the peer group of my parents.
We reviewed her meds, one by one, discontinuing a couple and adding a couple in the hope that once her depression becomes manageable, her health (and memory, which has been declining in a frightfully rapid manner) would level out. In fact, he told us that one of the first signs of depression is memory loss or the appearance of senility especially in a geriatric patient. I have to believe this as my mom’s memory and recollection has improved, but I definitely see the early symptoms of dementia. I have to admit that I’m so glad Aitch is old enough to self-entertain herself on the days my mom comes up to spend time with her. In other words, she will tell grandma that her diaper needs to be changed instead of me coming home and finding her diaper heavy with several hours of urine.
I see a little back-sliding in the improvements that had been made after her hospital admissions due to her rapidly deteriorating dental health and related mounting expenses. A couple weeks ago, one of her front teeth broke. According to the dentist, it had failed due to fatigue. An odd, but fitting description. My mom was faced with making the decision to get a partial bridge or a permanent one (a cost difference of a couple thousand dollars) when even more problems were found. Unfortunately, antidepressants can accelerate dental decay.
The decline of my mother’s health has been gradual but steady. I have a couple of siblings who see her very rarely as they live overseas and while I think it’s hard for me to see my mom like that, I can’t imagine what it’s like for them to see her age so drastically and radically between the time they saw her last and now.