Skip navigation

Category Archives: heartbreak

A sharp pain echoes through my heart

Before the tears begin to fall.

And in the darkness of my room

I cry.

For everything that’s ever hurt me-

And all the things that ever will,

Alone in the blackness-

I cry.

And the tears become sobs

And the sobs become screams

And the screams become prayers-

That I cry.

Are Your arms wide enough-

Is Your love strong enough-

To comfort this child

When I cry?

Let me hear Your gentle words

Let me feel Your presence here.

Let me know I’m not alone-

As I cry.

But You are strangely silent

And I feel no arms around me

As I call out Your name

And I cry.

I wail until my heart is empty-

Till crystal pain no longer flows.

And fall asleep among the teardrops-

That I cried.

Your angels sang a lullaby-

Your gift of tears- a sweet release,

And You were with me all the while

I cried.            

Lonnette Harrell

Last night I cried, because I thought about my mother, as I often do. I know she must be sinking farther and farther into dementia, and I can’t do anything about it. I love her and miss her, and I wish things had ended differently. (But I guess she made her choice also.) I wish I could comfort her, in that far-away place she now dwells. How can you be angry with someone who is now probably like a confused child?

I cry because I remember her fear of dementia, and her fear of having to live that way. I cry because I tried so hard to care for her and please her, and she called me hateful names (while she was still in her right mind.) I cry because I’ve always loved her, and I just wanted her to love me back.

I cry because I wish that I could soothe her fears, and I can’t. All of this is progressing so rapidly, and I could see it plainly awhile back. We were told that it would not get better. I knew that her care needs were more than I could handle anymore, and I was already 3 1/2 years into total exhaustion, and sick myself. There should be no shame in saying that I could not continue on as I was. I simply could not. I knew that I was going to die.  But my brother didn’t get it. Now maybe he will.

How frightening it must be, to be trapped in your very physically ill body, losing your mind. It seems like some kind of cruel nightmare, that has no ending. She was so afraid of becoming like the people we saw in the halls of the nursing home (where she was for 5 1/2 months of rehab.) I always reassured her, and tried to help her through her confusion, and prayed that it would pass. It really accelerated after her hip surgery. She was never really the same after that, and we were warned by the Ortho doctor that many elderly people are affected that way by the anesthesia.

And now I can’t get to her. She might as well be in a castle with a drawbridge and a moat, instead of a small house in a small town with my angry brother, and a caregiver. She’s isolated. She probably wouldn’t want to see me anyway.

And I could not go back without becoming totally involved in her care, and I am not physically able to do that anymore. I have been very sick lately, and I just can no longer take the stress of her care, or of her emotional treatment of me. 

That is why she was so much better off in the Assisted Living, where she could get socialization, food she loved, and medical assistance and supervision.  There was a Memory Care Unit there as well, if she needed it later on. But my brother was determined to bring her home, and now he is probably overwhelmed as well. (You cannot possibly know what it is like to care for all her needs until you’ve done it. I could not keep up anymore, and the stress of it all was killing me.) I needed help desperately.

I can only reach her through my prayers. I ask God to comfort her, and strengthen her. I ask Him to take care of her, as I no longer can. I ask Him to soften her heart towards me, and let her memories be of our happy times together (and there were quite a few, in spite of our problems.) I ask God to tell her I love her.

But when I can’t take the pain in my heart anymore, I cry…

Advertisements

Tomorrow– me, my brother, and my husband, are meeting with the social worker at the nursing home to discuss my mom’s health, and a plan for her future care. After we have met as a family, then on another day, my mom will meet with all of us. (That is the day I dread the most.)

I have known for a couple of weeks now, that they believe the only way she can survive independently, is to be in assisted living. The shock of that has had a little time to sink in, but I awake every day with a sick feeling in my stomach. I think of my mom, and how sad this whole scenario is, and I feel nauseated. (She thinks she is going home any day now, and that totally breaks my heart.) I feel like a knife is in my chest. She has mentioned that when the nurses (or CNAs) tell her something she said (that didn’t make sense), she denies it. She now thinks that they are all the enemy. She is so confused that she doesn’t remember the times when she has said troubling things, that let us know how bad things have gotten with her mental state.

Once she woke up in the evening, and thought it was morning-(not all that unusual given that she is away from home and familiar surroundings), but then she told the male nurse that she had promised her roommate that she would take her to dinner that night, and she realized that she did not have a car there. She was really disappointed that they couldn’t go, and said that they would have to make plans for another night. (My mother hasn’t driven in over 4 years, though she does still have a car that sits in her driveway.) Because she is on certain medications-particularly Oxycontin, she made the decision not to drive, though at times she has threatened to try again. She called me that night, and explained what had happened, and at first I thought her blood sugar had gone low. However, the male nurse got on the phone, and told me that he had just checked it, and it was high. He asked if I could come and “re-orient” her. I did, and she said that if we told anyone about it, she would kill us. (She was embarrassed, and we played it down, and tried to talk about other things.)

Another day, she told me (and the staff) that she had spent the night at a nurse’s house, and that the nurse had served breakfast, before taking a nap. (It turns out that this particular nurse lives in Baker-a long, long drive, and of course, it couldn’t have happened.) My mom was very distraught when they wouldn’t believe her, and she later refused to take her shower, because she said that she had already taken a shower earlier, at the nurse’s house. When the CNA tried to tell her that it couldn’t have happened, she said, “Are you saying that I’m lying?” Bless her heart, this poor CNA never knows how to answer some of these remarks. My mom truly believes that these things did happen, and she gets so frustrated when they won’t believe her. (These are symptoms that we have never experienced with her before.)

One day recently, she called me to say, “We’re still here at this “Wildwood” place…” And while I was speaking to her, they brought her dinner tray to the room, because she had slept too late to go to the dining hall that night. She asked, “Will the others be fed also?” They told her that they would, and she then told me, “The others will be fed too.” I told her that was good, but my heart was breaking, because she has been there 3 months now, and it was as if for that moment, she did not know the procedures, and had never eaten there. It makes my head spin at times, because I never know which person I’ll find when I visit, or talk with her. Sometimes she is completely lucid, and I try to talk myself into thinking, “See…it’s not so bad.” (It seems to be worse after she has been sleeping.)

But then something else will happen, and I will have to face the reality of her situation again. Since she used to give herself insulin shots 4 times a day, and take Oxycontin twice a day, and many other medicines, it is obvious that she will not be able to safely administer her medicines anymore, and both the Oxy and the insulin can be life and death situations, if not taken as prescribed.

She has also become incontinent a great deal, and is very distressed about this, as we all would be. She has had a couple of UTIs (which can contribute to incontinence), and recently went through a whole course of Cipro, and then was still found to have the infection. (This happened to me also, when I took 5 rounds without being healed. Finally probiotics did the job.) The medicine upsets her stomach, and they started her on it again (for the second time) and she told me that she refused it the other evening. Whether she will take it again or not is anybody’s bet. We are also concerned about Clostridium Difficile from too many antibiotics. She has had it before, and it nearly killed her. So what to do? I’m all out of answers…

For those who have not followed the blog, my own health is such that I cannot give her the amount of care she now needs. She has been getting rehab for a broken right foot, left leg, and a broken right hip. (She broke her hip, and had to have surgery, while she was a temporary resident of the nursing home, receiving rehab for the other injuries.)

My dad died 3 years ago, and I have been her primary caregiver for those years. We have been constant companions, and I took her to all her doctor appointments, errands, etc. But the care she requires now is more than I am physically able to give, and I have had to come to terms with that. My emotional state is not that great either, as all of this has devastated me.

Her mental decline has been dramatic since her hip surgery, and I have heard that anesthesia, at this age, can cause mental problems that can be lasting. The nurses and social workers have told us that sometimes in 6 months or so, some of the confusion goes away, and sometimes it doesn’t.

My mom was already experiencing memory loss and some confusion, but it would be considered minor compared with her mental state now. She could not tolerate Aricept (an Alzheimer’s drug) but was able to handle Namenda very well, but the insurance company would not approve the Namenda. They said that the diagnosis of “Mild Alzheimer’s” was not sufficient for approval. This is so infuriating, as all the advertising says that these drugs should be taken early, to slow down the progression of the symptoms of dementia. But I guess the insurance companies want you to be fully out of your mind before approval. Once you are that far along, they are not as effective. What sense does that make? Since when did insurance companies have a medical degree? Since when do they know more than your physician? It makes the patient (and caregivers) feel hopeless.

So tomorrow, I guess they will be telling all of us what they suggest. Just when I was reluctantly accepting that my mom could not return to her home, and getting used to the idea of assisted living, I ran into the social worker one evening, and she told me that my mom would probably not pass the assessment for assisted living at this point. (I agreed at that time (about a week ago) that her physical limitations were still quite worrisome, and that I was afraid she would fall again, as her transfers from her wheelchair to her bed, or to the toilet, were still very unsafe.) She often forgets to lock the brakes on the wheelchair, and many times forgets that she cannot just get up from the chair and walk. Both the family and staff have been concerned every moment that she would fall again. Mentally, she can’t seem to grasp the instructions as to what is needed for safety, and they tell me that they have to start over every day with her, as she can’t remember the instructions from the day before, and doesn’t understand why she can’t just get up and walk around the room.

So, until recently, my greatest fear was that she would have to go into assisted living, but for a couple of weeks now, my greatest fear has been that she wouldn’t even qualify for that. I want her to have her own bedroom and bath so much. She is a private person (as I am), and is so frustrated having to be in the room with different people all the time. It would certainly drive me wild also, due to the lack of privacy.

I know that the risk of her falling again is very great, and that she will probably fail to use her walker, and wheelchair like she should. She used to refuse to use her walker at home, because she was stubborn about it, but now mostly, she just forgets what she should do, (though at times she is still very stubborn.) But I also know that is something that I cannot have control over.

The reason they met with us before, is that the 100% Medicare coverage has run out–the supplemental coverage was over a while back, so we have accrued a daily charge of somewhere around $125.00 or so per day, for several weeks now. They say that if she still needs to stay at the nursing facility in order to receive more therapy (which they definitely  think she will benefit from) then Medicare B will kick in to pay for less therapy (3x per week instead of 5), but that won’t help with the cost of the facility. Actually, different people there have told us different things, and it is rather mixed up at the moment, and quite confusing. (She would also be able to receive therapy 3x a week at the assisted living apartment, if she passed their assessment.) They have different levels of care, but once you get past the second level, the cost becomes prohibitive. It is so discouraging that money becomes the prime consideration in all these things. (My mom’s only asset is her house, and she receives very little Social Security, and a small retirement payment from working for the government for so many years.) She does not have very much monthly income at all, and the cost of assisted living is astronomical, and every “extra” that is added raises the monthly rate considerably.

They would check on her every 2 hours or so, and give her the necessary medications. She could also have supervision getting in and out of the shower, if necessary, and some other benefits. Will it be enough? I don’t know.

But tomorrow will likely be another painful meeting, and I wonder how my brother will take it? Again, I don’t know. I don’t know how I’ll take it, except to say, how much more can a heart break? It’s raining…I’m drowning…Lord, teach me to stand in the rain…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

There is so much that I am not at liberty to say, until the family has discussed it, and made decisions, but I can tell you that the overwhelming sadness of this situation has almost killed me. The pain in my heart is never-ending, as is the sorrow in my soul.

This seems almost worse than death. I know you can’t understand that, unless you have walked in my shoes. But my mom doesn’t take things easily–she is a fighter, and lately she sees everyone as the enemy. She hates the nursing home, she gets angry with the staff, and she is very, very frustrated.

Honestly, I feel that all in all, the staff has been amazingly caring and compassionate with her. This was something that surprised me greatly, because I had heard the horror stories that we all hear abount nursing facilities. Of course, there are some that are not our favorites, but most are kind, compassionate, and competent. Most likely, she would not have received as much quality care in another place. But you could never convince her of this. She is angry, and has told me that she sees all of them as “the enemy.” I wonder if I will also fall into that category as days go by. I hope not. I have been there for her steadily. (At least every other day, and often every day.) My house, my health, and my relationships have all taken a beating because of it. But I have to be there for her, and I want to.

I have cried a river lately, over some of the news that I have received about her, and some days life just seems too difficult to bear. I have been nauseated, sleepless, and grief stricken. I am barely functioning. Tonight I stayed home and cleaned my kirchen. (Just my kitchen.) I can’t seem to focus on anything, or get anything done. I guess it’s depression because I can’t fix this situation, and I can’t change it for her. I am sure that she will think I can, and somehow hold me responsible for the outcome. But it is out of my hands. I will elaborate on this further in another post.

I am 55, and feel 75, at least. There is so much stress in my life, and so little fun. I am having trouble believing anymore that tomorrow will be better. (Maybe I’m getting angry also.) But who do I get angry at? Fate? Life? God? The Devil? I do understand my mom’s anger, and I feel it also.

I am truly worried about my health. I am having chest pains, and the uncertainty of all this, means that there is very little resolution to the problems ever. It’s all up in the air, and we’re walking on eggshells with her. She is confused and demanding, but we don’t have control over this. When we try to explain anything to her lately, she cannot retain it for long. (That part is so very sad.)

I took her on a picnic yesterday, and she said, “Excuse me. I’ll be back in a moment.” She started to get up out of her wheelchair to go to the bathroom, because she thought she could. (She is not allowed to walk any distance to speak of right now, unless she is in therapy, and using her walker, with close supervision.) She simply did not comprehend that she couldn’t get up and walk to the bathroom. This is what makes her current situation so very dangerous. Sometimes she is stubborn about what she wants to do, but many times now it isn’t defiance–it’s a lack of comprehension.  She simply does not understand, or retain the instructions.  She totally forgets what she can or can’t do. There are mental and physical problems. The mental issues are clouding everything now, and I will elaborate on some of those later.

For now, I am not ever at peace. I don’t know how to deal with this, and no one around me seems to know either. We are meeting with social workers, therapists, directors, etc., trying to figure out what to do now.

Tony will need to be informed about her current physical and mental status, as I don’t think he has observed as much as I have lately, (because I have been called in on every crisis), or Betty has told me about them. (It seems like there is a crisis at least every other day now.)

I thought that raising Chelsea, with her stubborness and strong will, was the toughest thing that I have ever done, but this is tougher. To watch your mother decline in every way, day by day, is too much to bear. At least it is for me. I have fought so hard to keep her well and happy since my dad died, and to observe this constant deterioration is devastating. I am too close to it all–too close to her. I can’t seem to accept it, and part of that is because she can’t accept any of it. She makes it all even more difficult, because she fights and rages against everyone so hard. She wants to have her way, and she doesn’t want to be told what to do. (We all get frustrated with that, don’t we?)

When you are younger, you never think that there will be a day that you have to face this kind of pain. It may be part of life, but it is so tough to accept. When you feel so utterly helpless and often hopeless, it is a long journey…

Please read other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

Yesterday, I could not seem to get going. It was like I was in some kind of time warp, where everything was in slow motion, and most of all, my body. I felt like all the strength had been drained from me, and I needed some kind of tonic that would bring back my energy, that has been depleted for so long now.

I talked with my mom, and didn’t think she sounded well, though her speech was more lucid, as it had been yesterday, when my husband, Rob, visited her. I asked her if I could bring anything, and she asked for corn dogs from the Krystal. It’s hard to go there anymore, because it was always our place to get a little snack, after a doctor’s appointment or a strenuous afternoon. We would park the car, and savor every bite, often laughing and enjoying each other. (There are precious memories in that parking lot.)

So I ordered several corn dogs, in case she was hungry, and ate one myself on the way to the nursing home. As I carried two large diet drinks and the corn dogs into her room, I saw that she was crying. She was having those terrible muscle spasms, like she had for 6 hours in the ER, that even morphine could not relieve.

I practically threw the food and drinks down on her bedside table, and ran to comfort her. She said that she didn’t think she could take much more pain. One of the CNAs came in, and we told her the problem, but she disappeared, and never came back. My mom reached for my hand, and squeezed it tightly, with a look of pure fear in her eyes. I have had a cold for the past week, all through her surgery, and following, and though I have had to be present, I have tried to protect her by not getting too close, or kissing her. This time I knew that she needed me to hold her hand, so I did. Later, I applied hand sanitizer to both of us, trying to be so careful. When the CNA never returned, I went to find help on my own.

I was pretty much ignored at the desk, as they were looking for some paperwork for another patient, which seemed to be missing. Finally as I headed back down the hall, a nurse from the other end of the hallway called out to me, and asked if I needed help. I told her the problem, and she pointed me to a new nurse, that was my mom’s night nurse. She was chatting away with the CNAs, and I said that when she was finished, I needed to talk with her. When the CNA who had been in the room earlier, heard me say my mother’s name, that seemed to trigger her memory, and she told the nurse (finally) that my mom was in pain.

When the nurse came into the room, I told her that these were really strong muscle spasms, that had not even been relieved by morphine in the ER. I told her about the problems that Betty had with the Valium being injected into her Morphine line. (She nearly OD’ed.) I also told her that a sleeping pill that they had given her at the nursing home had caused terrible hallucinations. I questioned what we could do to get my mom’s Oxycontin dose back to where it had been, before they cut it in half. I explained that she had been on it for many years, and that at least we trusted it, knowing how it affected her. She has never abused it, and in fact, it is safer than many of the arthritis drugs she has been on.

The nurse told us that she had been given the half dose of Oxycontin, about 15 minutes before I came in, and that it would probably take a little longer to have an effect. She would check back. In just a few minutes, the pain subsided, and my mom was calm.  I was so thankful, as I don’t think she could have withstood much more pain at that level.  (She wanted me to tell her roommate that she hardly ever cried.) Bless her heart, I told her to cry whenever she needed to, as it would help to some degree. She then ate one corn dog, and so did I. I also helped her with the huge drink that I had brought with me, and she loved that. Her mouth had been so dry, and they often would forget and push her bedside table too far away for her to reach it, when they were working on something nearby.

She seemed to calm down a lot, and her face looked so much better. I helped her brush her teeth, put on some lotion and Chap-stick, combed her hair, and kept offering her more to drink. She said she loved me, and that I had “saved her life.” (It is a helpless feeling when you have to stand by and watch someone you love suffer.) I was so glad that I had come in when I did, and that she felt better. I told her to keep being vocal about her pain when it was that bad, and that we would continue to try and fight for her original dose of Oxycontin. The nurse said she would leave a request for the nursing home doctor.

I had stopped by my mom’s house earlier to pick up her mail, and sort through her bills, and a sadness seemed to envelop me. I could smell her perfume on her clothes when I walked into the bedroom, and the house seemed so wrong without her in it. I noticed that things were going stale on her cupboard shelves, and figured there were probably plenty of “science projects” now brewing in the fridge as well. I made a mental note to return one day soon to deal with the food problems. I began to cry a little. It just seemed so unfair that my mom had made so much progress through her therapy, and should have been home, instead of unable to move (now with a broken hip), in a nursing home bed again.

I had just had a conversation with her dear neighbor, who had just returned from a visit with her son. She knew about the broken right foot, and the broken left leg, but did not know about the hip. She was so very sad to hear all that had happened while she was gone. I gave her my mom’s number, and told her the best times to visit.

But soon, I pulled myself together and went on my way,  sadly locking her door behind me.

And so it goes…I tried to encourage her by telling her that within a few days, she would probably be able to use a bedside toilet, and at least the bedpan horror  would soon be over. (She hates that part so much, as any of us would.) I do worry about her trying to get up though, but I guess that can’t be helped when the time comes. For now, they still have the alarm on her.

I told her that we were going to get through this together, and that I would be there for her. I reminded her that I was just a phone call away, and to call me any time, and I’d come running.

I felt better (and grateful) as I turned out her light, that at least for now, she was not in pain…

As Christians, there are many times when our faith is tested. I believe that God is a Healer, and that He loves us always. But even the giants of the Bible had times when their faith wavered. Most of us will have a faith crisis at some point in our Christian lives. Some of us will have to walk through many.

I had a faith crisis about 3 years ago, when my father was not healed, after hospital acquired infections, following a triple bypass.  This left my very sick mom a widow, (and me to primarily care for her.) I thought that I had to keep her alive, and that all the responsibility for her health and well-being was now on me. It was a very heavy burden to bear. Finally, I realized that I am not God. I cannot keep my mother alive. I can only do my best to be a good caregiver, and advocate for her. The rest is in God’s hands-far more capable than mine.

I do have questions, and I do believe that someday they will be answered, when we no longer see through a glass darkly-but then face to face. And yet, even if I don’t get the answers, I will cling tightly to my God, who is my strength and my peace. It is easy to say we have faith when everything is going well, but what about when life becomes a living hell? Will we still trust Him?

As most of you know, my mom broke her right foot, and her left leg recently. We just had a care plan meeting with the social worker and therapists at the nursing home last Friday. She was likely to go home on Friday or Saturday of this week, depending on the doctor’s report on July 24th. At the latest, she probably would have been in the nursing home for one more week. It was a good report. She had finally settled down, and decided to stay in rehab, and do the necessary work to get better.

Then I received a phone call this Sunday night-(early Monday morning at 4:30 a.m.) They said she had slipped and fell trying to get to the bathroom, and was being rushed to the ER. I threw on some clothes, and rushed to be with her. As I drove there, I felt peace. How could I feel peace when the circumstances were so awful? Only because I felt His presence, and this time I did not ask “Why?”- though He would have certainly understood if I did. I just knew that without Him, I could not face one more crisis, and just as surely as I was going to have to deal with another one, I felt His strength.

For 6 hours, my mom screamed in agony with no relief (even from morphine.) And my own heart was pierced with every cry. Then I had to watch them almost kill her, as they added Valium directly into her morphine line. I watched her jaw drop, and her breathing stop. Her eyes were fixed with no movement at all. I have never seen a person look more dead. Just as they were going to code her for respiratory arrest, she started to breathe, and move. I know that I saw the face of death, but at that moment, death did not win. I kept asking, “Is she okay?” The nurse tried to make me believe that she was, but I knew she wasn’t. She later admitted that she had almost coded. It was easy to see that she was almost gone.

She was finally diagnosed with a broken hip, and at last count, that makes a broken right foot, a broken left leg, and now a broken right hip. This would certainly be a good time for a faith crisis.

But I am so thankful that I already went there (as I am sure I could again) but not this time. I don’t know the answers. I’m not even sure of the questions anymore, but I am determined to trust my Savior, my God, my Friend. His ways are higher than mine, as are His thoughts. He is a good God, even when we don’t understand. Even when we are not faithful, He is faithful.

And so we all journey on, wondering how much a heart can break, how many tears can fall, and how many sleepless nights we can endure. But without Him, what hope is there? I pray that I will forever trust Him…

I spent yesterday with my first cousin, Jack. He and I were raised together until I was 7. His mother died when he was a baby, and my (our) grandparents adopted him. My mom and I lived with her parents until we moved to Atlanta, so Jack and I were like brother and sister in those early years.

He later took care of my grandparents, living in the same small town as they did, until they died. No one could have done more.

Jack’s life has been difficult, and in some ways, tragic. He has been married several times, and none of the relationships lasted. He has been hurt very badly many times as well.

He has raised one daughter, and is still raising a 15 year old. Even though it seemed unlikely at first, her birth saved his life. It gave him something to focus on, and a reason for living. I think he will be lost without her when she gets old enough to be on her own.

He says that it’s not living alone that gets to him the worst, but the idea of growing old alone. I can surely understand that, as many of us fear that happening.

This weekend I wrote an abstract for Brijit, about a radio program I listened to about dying alone. That really made me think about how many people have no one in their lives that truly care. I plan to write an article on this, and I’ll share it with you when it’s finished.

So many of us are blessed because we have love in our lives. Jack would like nothing better than to have someone to come home to-someone to share his life with. If you have had love in your life, cherish it. So often we take it for granted, until it’s gone. We let petty things get in the way of peaceful living-things that aren’t at all important. Being together is important; being there for each other through all the good and difficult times. That’s what true love is-standing by each other through it all.

I often think how little anything in life means without someone to share it with…