Saturday, February 23, 2013

Two Strokes Down

Hub and I are experiencing the Mom (my mother-in-law) blues. Mom had a stroke – her second one – three weeks ago. It has been a whirlwind of one hospital visit and two rehabilitation facility sojourns ever since.

Mom is a feisty, independent woman adamant about doing things her way. You say turn right and she will turn left. She intuitively fights everything. The topic under discussion is irrelevant. Life is one contest and competition after another.

And of course Mom is always right. Whatever the conversation, the decision, or the problem, she states the answer or solution, and that is the end of it. Argument or disagreement is futile.

She is strong-willed and, for her age (87), physically strong. Medical personnel are amazed how strong she still is after her recent stroke.

Mom has not been doing well for quite awhile. We are currently wrestling with the problem of whether or not she will be able to return to her assisted living facility or if she should move into a nursing home.

Mom suffers from depression and has been in a funk for weeks. It is difficult to rouse her to do anything. The rehab staff finds it difficult to get her out of bed, dressed, and into therapy.

Sunday morning three weeks ago the assisted living staff called us, fearing Mom had a stroke or other medical situation. Her speech slurred and she was having difficulty responding to questions and instructions. She spent three days in the hospital, and then transferred to a rehabilitation facility.

Mom flunked out of rehab #1. Medicare pays for rehab but establishes strict guidelines. Patients must participate in three hours of therapy a day. Mom was not cooperative and spurned therapy (physical, occupational, and speech).

The next stop – her current temporary home – is what the medical community calls a sub-acute rehabilitation facility. Medicare pays, but guidelines are not as aggressive as in rehab #1. Patients are supposed to participate in two hours of therapy a day, but there is leeway. The important criterion is to demonstrate progress.

Physical therapy involves walking, moving hands and feet, sitting and standing, and safety issues. Mom lost peripheral vision in her left eye as a result of the stroke. Initially when walking (with a walker) she veered off to the right. Therapy helped her realize and compensate for the problem.

Occupational therapy works on ADL – activities of daily living. Getting dressed, eating, washing, showering, etc. The goal is to help the individual accomplish as much as possible independently.

It has been difficult stirring Mom to do anything except eat three meals a day, delivered bedside. Occasionally a persistent nurse, therapist or CNA gets her dressed, into a wheelchair and into the gym for a therapy session. But consistency and routine are alien behaviors for Mom.

“I went to therapy yesterday. Leave me alone,” is a common refrain.

She requested her glasses – large sunglasses she wears indoors – and pocketbook. I brought these items this morning. With the help of a therapist and a lot of pleading Mom sat up and got dressed. She was wheeled to therapy wearing sunglasses with her pocketbook on her lap. If it makes her feel better mentally and emotionally, great. Maybe she will want to improve enough to return to her apartment in the assisted living community – and work towards that goal.

Tomorrow is another day.

Will she refuse to open her eyes, acknowledge visitors and shoo us away, insisting on sleeping?

Or will she willingly get up, get dressed and participate in therapy – and life?

No one knows for sure.


  1. Oh my, but what you're going through with your mom is difficult. We had some of the same problems with my mom in her last years. Mom died a few years back at 94, but previous to that she lived with us for almost 15 years (the last 2 in first an assisted living, then a nursing home). It was so hard because she really was a wonderful woman, but towards the end, nothing we could do could make her happy. And we wanted so much to make her happy and comfortable in her last years. But it was not to be.

  2. I am so sorry you are going through this. It is hard for a strong willed person to allow herself to be directed. Strong will is an asset-- till you need help. I do hope for your sake and hers that she learns to bend and to lean on others. I'll put you both in my prayers.

  3. It's a difficult passage. We've been through it, so we know. Take it one day at a time, and know that our thoughts and prayers go out to you.

  4. Wow. Such a tough situation. She is fortunate to have you and Hub, with your combined strength, kindness, and patience.

  5. Its tough watching parents age. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for you, especially with her depression. Perhaps when the sunny weather arrives, her disposition will improve. Hugs and prayers coming your way!!

  6. This is such a tough situation. I will be thinking of you.