Random Notes about Hospice

1. Morphine is not living up to the hype.

As a “Generation X”er, I am sure that most of my colleagues remember sitting in health class and being told terrible things about drugs. How they were so addictive and terrible. Of course, heroin was the most terrible of all. One dose and you would become a depraved addict, roaming the streets in your dirty clothes, mugging passerby for spare change for your next fix. Of course, the teacher would always tack on, opiods are a very good pain killer when prescribed. But ONLY if your doctor okay’s it.

Somehow, from all this, I thought that morphine would be administered and BAM! No more pain.

Let me assure you, that is not the way it works.

2. My expectations of privacy have shifted… dramatically!

I’ve always had an iffy relationship with privacy. Again, as a “Generation X”er, I came of age in the time of Alanis Morissette:

I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah
I, recommend walking around naked in your living room, yeah

“You Learn” by Alanis Morissette

If the shades weren’t all the way down when I needed to change my shirt, I always felt (to my mom’s dismay) that if someone wanted to see me in my bra for a half a second… well, no one was going to die.

Still, I have to admit to more consternation that I counted on when I came downstairs Wednesday morning to find the day’s caregiver here and me with no pants on (they were in the dryer, which was my next stop. I swear!)

3. The amount and variety of drugs is… amazing.

So, when Mom first went on hospice, they made a big deal about “reducing her pill load.” She ended up with 10 pills a day. Then 12. And then there are the “bad days” and there are just so many pills then.

4. The number and diversity of humans in this process is… astonishing.

My dog, Key, has always been a little weird around people. One of my concerns about Mom coming here was that I knew that more people would be coming into the house and I wasn’t sure how Key would take that.

After just under a month, Key has proven to be just as weird as ever, but now when people come in, after barking to announce that they are here, he just goes back to his spot on the couch (unless it’s one of the people who give him treats; those people, he pesters endlessly).

All this is to say that an average day is a caretaker, hospice person (there are a variety of those), and 1-2 visitors. Some days an additional caretaker. And some days, even more visitors.

I feel like my house has become Grand Central Station.

5. I am weirder than I thought I was (by a lot!)

I remember my mom and aunt talking one afternoon about how having their parents visiting was hard. “She takes my towel sets and refolds them into piles of the same size. But I want them as sets!” my aunt wailed.

I remember thinking that was weird.

I now am completely on my aunt’s side.

Because Mom has a variety of caregivers, and those caregivers make food, wash clothes, and do other light housekeeping, I can no longer find anything. My “measuring” drawer is filled with non-measuring items. My pot and pan drawer has tupperware in it.

I could go on… but you get the idea.

6. I say, “I love you” a lot

Mom will occasionally tell the story that her mother would never say, “I love you,” until Mom started using it as a sign off on their telephone calls. “I guess it’s just a generational thing,” she would conclude.

I think about that as I leave the house for work every morning and say, “I love you.”

“I love you” as I make sure Mom’s comfortable in bed before I head to my own room.

“I love you” as I leave to walk to the dog.

Because the last thing I want Mom to know is that I do love her.