It’s been about two and a half months since my 96-year-old mother broke her hip and had surgery, and I’m pleased to report that she’s doing pretty well so far.
She was in the rehab wing of the hospital for three weeks, and then in the rehab wing of a nursing home for a few more. Most of the staff were competent and kind. Some were curt and somewhat nasty, and some were clueless, but fortunately those were very much in the minority. I don’t envy them their very difficult jobs; I would never, never, ever want to work in a hospital or nursing home, but I’m very glad somebody does.
My mother hated the hospital food (so what else is new?). She would rather eat pizza and cookies than vegetables, but that’s an old story. She displayed a surprising stoicism, though, and stopped taking opiates just a day or two after the surgery, not complaining too much of pain.
She didn’t want to cooperate with physical therapy in the hospital, but she did it. When she got to the nursing home, though, she stopped cooperating, and they threw her out.
Well, maybe that description’s a bit dramatic. They didn’t throw her out, not exactly. But they said they were sending her home to her assisted living apartment early because she was refusing to do PT. Going home is what she wanted, anyway, because she hated, hated, hated the nursing home.
So home she went, although she wasn’t completely ready physically, and the doctors said she needed more physical therapy. She was ecstatic to be back, and everyone was overjoyed to see her.
In assisted living, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee—and when a 96-year–old breaks her hip and gets carted away for surgery, most of the other residents are quite reasonable to doubt they’ll ever see her again. But here she was, phoenix-like, rising from her own ashes, which gave everyone hope for themselves, too. Not only that, she was walking with a walker, more or less as before only a bit weaker.
It’s the “bit weaker” part that concerns us all. For a while she refused outpatient physical therapy in the assisted living place, too. But we finally appealed to her motherly instincts (“Ma, we’re worried about you; do it for us, Ma!”) and that seems to have worked.
I always say “so far,” because of course there’s no denying the woman is 96, almost 97. She is sometimes very puzzled at her advanced age; it was nothing she ever expected. Yes, her heredity is pretty good. But she’s outlived everyone in her family. Were her health habits anything special? Not really. She was fairly active by the standards of her generation, but not by today’s. She ate pretty much what she wanted when she wanted. She smoked heavily from about the age of 18 to her early 40s, and then she quit the first time she tried. She grew up in a neighborhood where she knew a lot of people, married someone from the same neighborhood, and never left until she moved near me for a few years and then back again.
So it’s a mystery, but a very welcome one. I’m in New York for Thanksgiving, saw her Thursday and plan to see her tomorrow before I drive back home. And at this point, my mother’s being basically okay is another huge thing for which to be thankful.