SRES: It’s More Than a Title to Me

I remember the day they placed a purple band on my mother’s wrist. Those of you in healthcare know this means no life-saving measures are to be used. We were at yet another hospital visit to remove pounds of fluid from her body resulting from heart failure. Not only was her heart function at 19 percent and her heart beating very weakly, but she had a narrowed aortic valve, which restricted blood flow from her heart to her body. The doctor told us she had about six months to live and called in Hospice care.

For several previous years, we had noticed a gradual decline in my mom’s health and function. She started using a magnifying glass to read her bills, stopped driving at night, had us do all her yard work and heavy house cleaning, and took multiple rests during the day. We began to realize she shouldn’t be living alone. One of my family members wanted her to move into a retirement center with a continuum of care. She went to the interview and put her name “on the list”, but she couldn’t imagine living in one little room in an institution.

My mom was born in the middle of the Great Depression. When she was four years old, her father passed away. Her siblings, mom, neighbors and relatives worked grueling hours to keep their farm, plant and harvest crops, grow their own food, sew their own clothes, and survive in the face of loss and economic hardship. Even in her 70s, she cooked, baked, washed clothes and dishes, cleaned, and babysat. She could do more in one day than most people could accomplish in three days. She had survived a stillborn baby, survived breast cancer, survived her daughter passing away, survived losing her home in a lawsuit, survived her husband dying.

Move to one room in a retirement center? Do nothing? Just sit there and look out the window?

I knew this would kill her.

My mom lived in a house with the living area and master bedroom/bathroom on the first floor. My husband and I discussed the situation and decided to offer to move in with her. At that point our sons were ages 14 and 12. So the four of us moved in. Little did we know how much her health had declined.

“Here,” my mom said, pushing all her mail and bills across the table to me. “You’re going to take care of this now.” She quit driving too. I didn’t find out until I took her to the eye doctor a few weeks later (whom she had stopped seeing) that she was legally blind from macular degeneration. She couldn’t see a thing. Her medical doctor also switched her over to insulin to treat her diabetes. She couldn’t read the pen to dose her medicine, so four times a day one of us had to run home to give her a shot. My kids learned to weigh her (for fluid), take her blood sugar and blood pressure, give her the insulin shot, and read her medicine bottles. It took all four of us working together to manage her care.

After the purple-band hospital visit, I helped my mom set up her trust, signed on as the trustee, and moved her money into a bank account for the trust. We had already set up her advance directive and POA, and she had completed her will earlier. Soon we got her a walker with a seat so she could putter around the house and rest when she needed. Then a wheelchair. Then a potty seat. Then Hospice came in to give her seated showers and take her vitals. After that hospital visit, the gradual decline sped up. It was fast.

One day I was sitting at the kitchen table working on my college work (I was still trying to finish my degree) and my mom sat in her favorite pink chair. “Ok,” she said, “I’m going to tell you how I want my funeral.” I stuttered and opened up a document to start typing. She told me which songs and scriptures to use, which minister, and that she wanted a big homemade meal with lots of food afterward. “Yum,” she said, licking her lips. Her appetite was about the size of a two-year-old by then so imaging the enjoyment of food was a delightful thought.

My mom suffered tremendously the last three months of her life. She continued to be pleasant and caring. Her bravery and kindness are unmatched. When she died, all the legalities were so simple. She had planned everything so we didn’t have to.

SRES – Senior Real Estate Specialist – is more than a title to me. It’s inspired by my mom’s experience with aging and failing health. It’s inspired by the impact she had on me. It’s inspired by my love for people as they transition through the new challenges of their golden years.

You might also enjoy