We are really not liking this!  The four of us, Mary Ann, Lisa, Micah and I are in limbo.  Now we know more about the landscape of limbo, at least this one, but it is still limbo.

Mary Ann has not yet begun actively dying.  Vital signs are not falling into the pattern of those dying of physical illnesses such as Cancer.  That could be comforting, especially to kids who live out of town, hoping to have time to get back when the end is near.

Of course, it is not likely to work that way with Mary Ann.  Apparently, dementia patients often don’t play by those rules.  They may have solid vital signs up to the moment they die.  When the mind precedes the heart or other organs in precipitating death, it can just happen whenever it chooses. There may be no warning.  It just goes with the territory.

I have become accustomed routinely to listening carefully when Mary Ann is sleeping or unconscious.  I listen to see if she is still breathing.  There is a new level of awareness of how easily my listening could reveal that the end has come.  Even after Hospice Nurse Emily said that, I still expect there to be more preliminary signs that the end is nearing. Many of those in the online group of spouses with Lewy Body Dementia, have described a traditional shutting down when their Loved Ones died.

When Son Micah asked if Mary Ann was now on a trajectory of probably weeks, Nurse Emily said that what has been happening suggests that that is a correct assessment of her condition.  She quickly added the disclaimer, that things could change and Mary Ann could bounce back to better health for a time.

We talked about how much of what is happening might have more to do with the medicine than the disease process itself.  Nurse Emily reviewed what has been happening in these past days, noting that Mary Ann has not had many of her pills on a regular basis.  While the meds may be having some impact, the trajectory of the decline seems pretty clearly to be the disease process bringing her to the last stage of the disease.

In responding to my request for either some form that is easier to administer or permission to drop Mary Ann’s Crestor for cholesterol, the doctor suggested discontinuing it.  He said we could crush it if we wanted to continue administering it.  The truth is, I haven’t yet tried to give her any of her night time meds.  At this point in the process, Mary Ann’s comfort is the prime issue.  Any of the meds that will help keep her comfortable, have priority.

Even food is optional.  If Mary Ann wants some thing to eat, or will take it if put to her lips, she will eat.  If she indicates she does not want the food, that is her choice to make.  If she will take water or juice, we will be sure she has all she wants.  If she will not, that’s that. When at this stage in life, the body needs very little to sustain itself.  She will know what she needs and when — and if she wants to have it.

While she would not so much as take a drink of water most of the day today, late this afternoon, whe she started moving around in bed, Daughter Lisa got her up, helped her with personal needs, and started feeding her applesauce.  She ate about a cup of applesauce followed by a small piece of ice cream pie, followed by some water.  Lisa fed her the applesauce and I fed her the pie.  She was up for a couple of hours.  We are suspecting that the Granddaughters’ activity helped stimulate her to stay present with us for such a long time. I took her in to lie down when Nurse Emily came for the family meeting.

There is absolutely no predicting how this will go.  Mary Ann is not about to follow anyone’s expectations for the path she will take.  This will happen on her terms, and no one else’s.  God’s role was making her, not telling her how and when to die.  Gratefully, God’s love for her is without limit, just as it is for the rest of us.

With that said, those of us who love her certainly are in limbo.  It is too soon to begin grieving her loss.  She is not gone.  It was sort of odd to hear Nurse Emily speak to us words that I have spoken to hundreds of others in forty years of ministry.  She urged us to work through our feelings and when we are ready, to share with Mary Ann our love for her and let her know that we will be okay when she decides she is ready to go.  It is not urging a person to die, but giving permission to go when the time comes.

Mary Ann took a few sips of water when I went in at about 11pm.  I gave her a heart med and one that helps her sleep.  She seemed to manage swallowing them.  I will be very interested to see if leaving out so many meds will affect her sleeping pattern.  I hope we can find our way to restful nights as often as possible in what time we have left together.  That would be good for both of us.

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