On December 22nd, my 89-year-old mom fell. It’s the worst phone call a daughter can receive from your mom’s aide and the attending EMT who was about to transport her to the hospital. This was my mom’s third fall over a several-year period.
Probably her double hip replacement saved her this time as the result of her fall was just a fractured femur bone and a cut on her arm. Fortunately, no surgery was necessary and this was a miracle we all needed.
On that day, my sister-in-law met my mom in the ER and stayed with her till she was admitted. My sister drove 3 1/2 hours to be with her for the next two days and left on Christmas Eve to be with her family. My brother took the weekend shift. Not only did we want to be there for my mom but someone must be with her as she is profoundly deaf. While hearing aids assist her, with hospital staff wearing masks, mom can’t understand what anyone is saying.
Fortunately, I was able to hop on a plane Sunday evening December 26th with a family plan to get her discharged ASAP. When I arrived at the hospital early Monday morning, I was immediately given a letter that stated the following: due to the rise in COVID cases as of 7:00 pm, Monday, December 27th, no visitors would be allowed in the building but I had just arrived. I was supposed to be there for my mom. I even spoke with the head of ICU to advocate for my mom given her hearing disability but the only exemptions the hospital was making was for the family of “patients expiring.” I’m typically a very optimistic person but at that moment, I thought this would be the last day that I would see my mom, and here's why.
While I was flying from Boston to Fort Lauderdale, my mom was transferred to the ICU as her oxygen levels were fluctuating. My family knows that my mom has COPD (in fact, a few weeks prior, she was hospitalized for cellulitis and sent home with a prescription to begin daily oxygen). When I arrived, my mom was very weak and delusional. She said things that didn't make sense. I had to explain to her where she was and feed her too. I had never seen my mom like this before and I was scared. I found myself in a new and unfamiliar role as her advocate and my tasks were to stay calm and work with the staff to get her discharged from ICU (her tests were normal and her oxygen levels were stable) and then discharged from the hospital all in one day.
What I learned from this one day experience~ you don’t have to say “yes” to every test that a doctor recommends, nothing happens quickly in a hospital, you have to continually speak up for your family member, nurses are amazing, be persistent in what matters most, it takes a village (my family) to make changes and as Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never give up.”
On Monday evening, I left the hospital sick to my stomach as I didn’t know the next step. My mom was theoretically out of ICU but with no bed on any hospital floor. Again, I felt like I was not going to see her again. I had no faith in the hospital staff that I had been working with earlier that day. Once I arrived at my mom's house, we got a call that they found mom a bed on the floor she had been admitted to. YES!! Then it took all day Tuesday with four family members making continuous calls to the hospital social workers to have my mom discharged. Our family set up 24/7 care at home, a wheelchair, commode, and hospital bed. This was a BIG adjustment for mom but my family decided that she would recover quicker at home than at a rehab facility (and with COVID, she would probably have no visitors). Several days later a Physical Therapist started working with mom. All of her home health aides were amazing (she would disagree) and mom adjusted to having many people in her home caring for her.
Fast forward to the present. Mom was in a wheelchair for 6 weeks as her bone healed. While she couldn’t wait to get out of it, she did accept her situation. In late January, we had a big family celebration for her 90th birthday. YES!! 90 years old. Mom has gained her physical strength back and her mental acuity. She no longer requires 24/7 care but has an aide with her 9-7 pm daily. Her PT has helped her pace her recovery and learn to walk again using her walker. He takes her outside too which is something she didn’t do before her fall (she’s an indoor person). Inside, mom is more independent with some of her daily living skills and always wants to do more. She still balances her checkbook and answers questions on Jeopardy. Mom also knows every item that she has in all the draws throughout her house.
When my mom fell, I wondered if this was the end of her life. I honestly did. Let’s face it. Many elderly people who fall show a fast decline. She did not. My mom is back better than ever! I am in awe of her strength, tenacity, perseverance, and will to live. Mom is our matriarch and has raised the bar for living life.