November 27th, 2010

Update on my mother

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.

So far.

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.


27 Responses to “Update on my mother”

  1. Teri Pittman Says:

    I don’t blame her a bit for wanting to get out of the home. My 60 year old boyfriend had to have his hip redone for the second time. They put him in a home for a week after surgery. He got some physical therapy, learned how to get in and out of a wheelchair and they still wouldn’t let him go home. He ran out of medicare coverage and they came up with a plan to get the coverage extended so he could stay longer. I helped check him out under protest. It’s definitely a good day for her to be home.

  2. Deeka Says:

    I’m just about due for a knee. If I come through as well as your mother with her hip, I’ll be running marathons inn no time. And no nursing home for me. I expect to come home from the hospital in a day or two. They’ll get me in a home only over my dead body.

  3. LAG Says:

    I am beginning to believe that one of the ingredients to a long life is getting your way. Congratulations on your mother’s recovery. May she continue to enjoy life.

  4. suek Says:

    My grandmother had one leg amputated at the knee at age 93, due to complications of diabetes II. By about age 98, my aunt was not longer able to give her the care she needed so she went into a senior home run by an order of Catholic nuns, of which another aunt was a member – so she was still cared for by family, in a sense. She had the second leg amputated at the knee – same cause – at age 101, and finally died at age 102. The aunt who was a nun at the senior home just died about a month ago, at age 98. The aunt who was no longer able to care for her is still going at age 94, with the youngest of the family still around at age 91.

    Don’t know if I want to hang around that long!

  5. Doom Says:

    Happy to hear it, within the givens of course. I have to wonder how good it feels to be the one to offer the guilt trip though? Mothers are so very good at that, that turn around must be… sweetly satisfying, especially since you are doing it for the right reasons. Well, I hope you live long enough that you are fussing with her until YOU are 96 or more. That’ll fix your wagon.

  6. gs Says:

    1. Glad to hear about your mother, Neo–and glad to hear you’re coping, what with everything else you have going on at this less than ideal point in time.

    2. LAG Says: I am beginning to believe that one of the ingredients to a long life is getting your way.

    Some years ago a study was done of seriously ill hospitalized patients. The survival rate for the saintly uncomplaining ones was significantly lower than for the ones who pestered the staff about the facilities, medication, food, etc.

    The conclusions were surprising because conventional wisdom had been established by the medical staff, who, not surprisingly in retrospect, preferred the patients that gave them little trouble.

    3. When she got to the nursing home, though, she stopped cooperating, and they threw her out. A friend recently had bypass surgery and was shunted into a recovery facility & absolutely hated it. Fortunately, a relative is a doctor & checked my friend out of the facility to stay with the doc’s family for a few days until my friend could return home. Apparently recovery is going very well.

  7. expat Says:

    I’m glad to hear about your mother. I think I would react to a nursing home in a similar way. I don’t want anyone telling me to eat my carrots or, even worse, to exercise. Please tell her there are many in the blogosphere who are rooting for her.

  8. colagirl Says:

    Glad to hear your mother’s doing so well, neoneo.

  9. Sergey Says:

    There are two equally important ingredients to longevity: a good genetic makeup and a good temper. Your mother, Neo, was blessed by both.

  10. CV Says:

    God bless your mom, Neo.

    I find it heartening to know that someone who apparently often chooses pizza and cookies over vegetables is still going strong at 96 :-)

  11. Dan Says:

    I’m happy for you, Neo. My mother-in-law had her own odyssey of hip fracture followed by hip replacement 2 years later. She is still living at home. She is a spring chicken (80) compared to your mom.

  12. Susanamantha Says:

    I’m happy for you and your mother. I had a different result. My mom entered the hospital about 3 weeks ago with a kidney infection, appeared to be recovering, and, after a brief, nasty nursing home stay, was readmitted to the hospital, at my insistence. She was diagnosed with total kidney failure and died in hospice care 10 days later, right before Thanksgiving. The hospital staff and Hospice staff were wonderful. The nursing home staff was for the most part disappointing. They were not careful, bringing my diabetic mom other patients’ meals, not timely with medication, and disagreed with my observance that she was declining instead of recovering. They did not want her to go back to the hospital, for whatever reason. I fear that our experience with the nursing home is just a preview of what the next elderly generation will find to be more the rule than the exception. God help us all.
    Rest in peace, Mom.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Susanamantha: sorry to hear about your loss.

  14. Helen Says:

    Whatever the reason, Neo, it is good news. Treasure it.

  15. Gringo Says:

    Fight the good fight.

  16. Nolanimrod Says:

    Jim Brady called the PT crew physical terrorists.

  17. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    It’s very good to hear that your mother is recovering. At 96, not a foregone conclusion at all.
    Best wishes for her continuing comfort and satisfaction.

    My mother-in-law made it to 94, the last eight years in a nursing home. The care was far above average and she was comfortable and happy to the end. May it go as well for your mom.

  18. antonnia Santos Says:

    Thinking of you. Your mom is lucky to have her gumption intact.

  19. Vieux Charles Says:

    Almost 97, good gracious. I hope I make it to 52. God bless, you obviously love her very much.

  20. Vieux Charles Says:

    Susanamantha, Sorry for your loss, and the frustration the whole experience has left with you.

  21. Beverly Says:

    Susanamantha, I lost my mother last year, in October; she was 81. My sister also died last year, in April, age 57: liver cancer.

    It hurts whether they go “on time” or “too early.” Hugs, Beverly.

  22. Lil Sis Says:

    Dearest Neo, Susanamantha & Beverly,
    We gals and our moms. I grew up in the Midwest, moved to SoCA for 30 yrs after college only to return and marry my college sweetheart, who was returning from living in Northern CA for 35 yrs. The year after my return my mom was declared incompetent at 90, placed into a skilled nursing facility with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease. She battled being there for at least 2 years and then she began to love those around her as they always loved her. She died this past Oct. 22nd, nearly 45 yrs after we lost my dad, a physician whom she adored, at nearly 95. The world is far less interesting without her in it yet Heaven is blessed with her presence. Thank you for your wit and wisdom. She would have loved you in better days. Thanks for all you do and have a safe drive. It can be a great place to ponder and reflect.
    Lil Sis

  23. Susanamantha Says:

    Vieux Charles, Beverly, lil Sis and Neo,
    Thanks for your kind words. My mother was 89, hoped to see 100, but had suffered and overcome several major illnesses in the past 15 years, including breast cancer, 3 intestinal surgeries, and shingles. The last 5 years, dementia began to take its toll. She maintained her good spirits till the end and never complained. My frustration was with the nursing home, only. We knew my mom’s wishes regarding end of life care. She had filled out and signed all appropriate legal documents 10 years ago. I recommend that we all have those kind of talks with our loved ones well before necessary. Keep copies of all documents (health care POA, living will, etc.) handy. Never forget to let those you love know that you do.

  24. Art Says:

    My Grandma was born in Oct 1894, and died July 1993, just three months short of 100.

    She never smoked. Was always active, a super good cook. She personally ate very little meat, mostly Italian fresh vegetable dishes like dandelion, escarole, zucchini, beans….but she always had her strong red port wine several times a day.

    When she passed away we were all shocked, we thought she was going to go another ten or so.

  25. Art Says:

    Make that Oct 1893.

  26. stu Says:

    Art I have a good friend whose Italian mother will soon celebrate her 100 birthday. You would think she is 70 judging by her appearance and her acuity. I think there is something to be said for the Mediterranean diet. On my mother’s side an aunt just died at 99 and on my father’s side a cousin lived to 104. May we all have a better quality of life in our declining years.

  27. OregonGuy Says:

    The Mater is 83. Her oldest sister is 93 and still walking down and back on Russian Hill. Their oldest sister died two years ago at 101. That aunt deceased before my uncle, her husband, at 103.

    They were together at her end.

    Has anyone studied the role of prayer in longevity? Would be curious to find out.

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