Editor’s Note: Harriett Willbanks Williams has been a friend of mine for as long as I can remember. Her Mom and Dad, Remelle and Buddy Wilbanks, were steadfast band boosters when we were both in the band together at Americus High School in the 1970s. Harriett and my sister, Belinda, graduated together. Buddy was there to pick me up when I passed out after marching with tri-tom drums in former President Jimmy Carter’s inaugural parade in Washington D.C., and he played Santa Claus for the local children for decades. Remelle and Buddy were there for us, even after Harriett had graduated. They seemed happy and full of energy.
But Remelle kept a secret. She was a closet drinker and alcoholic. And that drinking eventually led her to die of what her rural doctor called “Alcohol Dementia.” Alcohol-related dementia (ARD) is a kind of dementia caused by long-term, excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, resulting in neurological damage and impaired cognitive function. It is also diagosed sometimes as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which has a number of other causes.
Harriett kept rather copious notes about she and her Dad’s horrific, years-long experience coping with Remelle’s disease and was kind enough to share them with me for a blog on this site. Harriett knows, like many of us, that the more we talk about dementia, perhaps we can help others and find ways to prevent and end it. This is Harriett’s story…
This is a small part of my experience with my parents, as my mother declined, and eventually died, from alcohol dementia. I often say that I really lost Mom around the end of 2005. She had changed and was a totally different person than the one who loved and raised me. Mom could always be a bit of a bitch when she didn’t get her way, and cussed moderately. She also was a tad selfish. After the dementia really started to be obvious, she was mean as a snake, extremely hateful (especially toward me and Dad) and cussed worse than any sailor. It didn’t even matter if there were children around. This became the new norm for her, and got worse as the dementia deepened. Her language, temperament, self-control, personality, etc. were polar opposites of what they had been. I began keeping these notes because Dad and I were trying to get guardianship over Mom. Unfortunately, she was just coherent enough in front of the doctors and judge that our request was denied.
Nadine Remelle Galloway was born on July 18, 1938, to Woodrow Furman Galloway and Mary Lou Wade Galloway, in Colquitt County, Georgia. She was raised in Cordele, Georgia, graduated Cordele High School in 1956 and married William Robert Wilbanks in September of 1957. They had one daughter (me), Harriett Nadine Wilbanks Williams, in April of 1958. Mom worked as a manufacturing company secretary and in the medical profession as a medical records clerk for several years before taking the position of secretary to the President of Reeves Construction, Mr. Ed Reeves. She retired from Reeves Construction in the spring of 2003, after more than 31 years of service.
Mom had a tendency to worry, a LOT and, in my opinion, had suffered from clinical depression most of her life. At some point, in the mid 60’s, a doctor advised her to drink a couple of beers in the evening, to help her relax and sleep. For the most part, she only drank late at night, after Dad and I had gone to bed. That was the beginning of her alcoholism. It rarely seemed to affect any other part of her life, at least at first. She progressed from beer to liquor; her drink of choice was a vodka tonic. After her retirement, Mom pretty much lived in the small bedroom in the attic. It was not connected to the house HVAC system so she could smoke up there and not bother Dad. He had heart trouble and could not be around smoke.
On December 10, 2004, she was taken from her home of over 41 years by ambulance to Sumter Regional Hospital, and never returned home again. Upon leaving the hospital, she lived in three nursing homes, until her death in March 2010, from alcohol dementia, the result of years of drinking. After Mom went into the hospital, Dad started to find bottles of vodka that Mom had hidden all over the house. There was one under her bed, one behind books on a bookshelf, one in an eave storage cupboard, one behind towels in the linen closet, one in the bathroom cabinet. I think Dad found a few more, too.
Sometime in 2003 – 04, after her retirement Dad called me at work around lunch time and told my co-worker, Kathy McCarty, that he needed me to come to his house immediately. Mom had fallen down the stairs, and he needed help getting her up and into the car, so she could be taken to the hospital. When I arrived at their house, Mom was sitting up on the dining room floor, blood all over her, the door to upstairs, the walls and the rug. Dad had left the house around 7:30, and believed she’d fallen down the stairs shortly after he left, and had been lying on the rug all morning. Dad and I were able to get her into the car, and to the hospital. She required several stitches in her scalp but otherwise was unharmed. I don’t remember what her blood alcohol was, but it was still extremely high, even though it had been at least five to six hours since her last drink.
11/25/04 – Thanksgiving – Mom drove to my house. She was extremely confused and could hardly walk. She needed the help of a man driving by to get into my house. She sat on the couch for a minute, didn’t seem to know what was going on, and would rarely reply to my questions. She then asked me to help her get to her car so she could go home. Again, she could hardly walk. I had to hold on to her to keep her from tripping. She repeatedly pressed her car key, thinking it was the unlock remote. At her car, she looked in and thought she was something in her seat. There was nothing there, but a bit of a shadow. She was standing sort of far from her car, so I put my hands on her waist to help her walk toward the car, so she could get in. She yelled at me not to push her. Later, she told me that she thought I was standing at the back of the car, and that it was a monster that put it’s hands on her, and pushed her. She finally got into her car and assured me she could drive home. Amazingly, she did make it home safely.
12/9/04 – Dad called and asked me to go by and check on Mom; she was talking out of her head. When I went by, she was sitting on the side of the bed, in a daze. She did not know where she was, and asked me to help her get packed up to go home. I told her I would help her, but I had a couple of errands to run first. That seemed to satisfy her, and when I left, she was calmer.
12/10/04 – Dad called just before I was to leave work, and told me Mom had fallen off the bed and he needed my help to get her back up. When I got there, she was seated on the floor right by her bed. Dad and I tried to help get her up, but she could not stand, or help herself at all. We finally got her back on the bed, cleaned her up, changed her clothes and covered her up. Dad and I decided we would take her to the hospital the next morning and try to get her some help. About 30 minutes later, Dad called and said Mom had rolled off the bed again and that we needed to call for an ambulance tonight.
When I got back to their house, Dad told me he headed upstairs when he heard her fall, and as he walked into the bedroom, Mom was trying to hide a vodka bottle under the bed. He also told me that when I’d left earlier, Mom had asked him who I was. He told her it was “Harriett, your daughter.” She said that’s who she thought I was, but she wasn’t sure. She had hit her head and had bled all over her clothes and the carpet. We tried to clean her up. The Ambulance and First Responders arrived and loaded her up to go to the hospital. Dad and I followed and made sure she was admitted.
12/11-13/04 – Mom was in ICU, suffering from DT’s, but almost every time we were able to see her, she was sedated and asleep, very drowsy or not alert at all. There was almost no communication with her during this time.
12/14-21/04 – Mom was moved to a private hospital room. When we visited (several times a day, at various times), she was asleep and we were not able to rouse her enough for her to talk.
12/?/04 – One day, Dad and I caught Mom awake. She was furious with Dad, for things that weren’t true. She said he was taking her money, changing things around in the house, giving away her possessions, etc. She cussed him out. Dr. Campbell came in and was able to calm her down a bit. She demanded her car keys, driver’s license, social security card and credit cards. We told her that all we wanted was for her to get well, and then she could have all of her things. We tried to assure her that everything was just as she’d left it and that nothing had been changed or given away, but she did not believe us.
12/21/04 – Mom was moved to Magnolia Manor Nursing Home. She was put in a double room, next to the window. She was not sure where she is, or why, and wanted to leave. Dad and I tried to tell her where she was, and that we just want her to get better and come home. She wanted to go home now, and got upset when we told her she had to stay, at least for a while.
12/22-23/04 – Mom was still not sure where she was and wanted to leave. Dad and I kept telling her that as soon as she got well, she could come home. She was upset almost all of the time.
12/24/04 – Christmas Eve – Mom called me in the morning, and wanted me to come sign her out immediately. I told her I’d just gotten out of the shower, and I would not sign her out anyway. She was furious. Dad and I went to see her later in the afternoon. Mom started fussing and cussed me and Dad out as soon as we walked in. She accused us of having her locked up, and said that everyone who works at the Manor was reporting her actions to Dad. She also said that local, state and federal agents were spying on her. She said the nurses were stealing her drugs and either taking them or selling them. She swore that 12-year-olds were having sex in other rooms and in the hall. She thought she’d been in the manor for three to four weeks, and had totally forgotten she was ever even in the hospital.
12/25/04 – Christmas Day – Dad and I had a really good visit with Mom, for almost two hours. Mom was only a little confused, and only a tiny bit argumentative. We were able to quickly change the subject and she calmed down. All in all, a pretty nice holiday!
12/26/04 – When we visited, Mom talked about all the committee members who were at the Manor yesterday, meeting about her, and she wanted to know what we told them. We had no idea what she was talking about. She said she didn’t care what they said, and she didn’t need this job anyway!
12/28/04 – When Dad and I went for a visit, Mom was asleep. When she woke up, she demanded that we give her the papers she needed. We asked her what papers she meant, she said the ones she, Dad, I and some other person signed, and that those papers need to be taken immediately to Southland Academy, a private school in Americus. We tried to tell her there were no papers, but she got mad and demanded to be taken to a hotel. We tried to change the subject, but Mom just got madder, so we left.
12/29/04 – Mom called me at work and said that Dad and I had better get lawyers, because she had talked to two lawyers. She said that what we had done (stealing her car, clothes, money, credit cards, etc.) was illegal and she was going to have us arrested and put in jail. Dad and I visited her in the evening and took her more clothes and some hair curlers. She was thrilled and appreciative. She thought she’d been at the Manor for eight to ten weeks. She also remembered being put in a small, very dark room underground for three or four days, then she called the room a laundry chute. She said the nurses were talking about putting her back there again and were letting her overhear them talking about their plans, to scare her.
Then she asked Dad why he had someone take her clothes to the dry cleaners. He told her he hadn’t done anything with her clothes. She said he was at the house when she went there and she saw her empty closets, and that he told her some lame excuse about why her clothes were gone. She said she’d heard lots of things that he’d been doing, from lots of people. Mom told Dad that if he would just get her to a hotel, he could keep that woman in the house. There never was any woman at the house, or anywhere else, with Dad. We gave up for the evening, and left.
1/4/05 – When Dad and I went to visit, Mom was asleep. We waited for her to wake up. She again said she wants to move into a small apartment or into a hotel. She talked about the Manager of the hotel coming and going, along with 4 other women, and that it’s really going to be bad when, in the spring, all the teenagers come down. She thought she was in Florida. We had no idea what hotel, Manager or women she was talking about. She told us that all of her underwear is missing, and when we showed her that the drawer was full of underwear, she said that we must have just brought them in. Mom called me later and complained that all of her clothes have been stolen again.
1/6/05 – Dad and I had a pretty good visit, until Mom started talking about all of the construction going on. She said they were moving rooms and halls, removing the shower, etc., and still thought she was in Florida.
1/10/05 – I went to visit, and Mom again said she wanted to move into a one bedroom apartment, as long as “Buther” or someone could come to clean and cook for her.
1/13/05 – Ronnie Lee from Dante Nails went with me to take off Mom’s acrylic nails. She had been sitting in the therapy room. She seemed in a pretty good mood, and had a long list of things she wanted me to bring her – mostly office supplies and maps.
1/17/05 – Dad and I had a short visit with Mom. She was dozing in bed. She seemed to think she’d been in the Manor for several months. She asked where were all her TV Guide® puzzle books. I showed her that she had January’s and February’s, and that’s all that have been published. She also said someone had stolen her deodorant. When I was leaving, she called me back to ask it I’d noticed more “clicks” on my telephone, like she had. I told her I hadn’t. She wanted to know if more people were recording her phone calls now. I told her no one was recording her phone calls. She also told me to check to see who was recording my phones at work.
1/21/05 – Dad and I went to visit Mom, but she was sound asleep when we got there. After she woke up, she said something about a talk she’d had with the cook, “months and months” ago. Her hands, legs and feet were quite shaky, even trembling. She again asked us to look for her an apartment.
1/24/05 – Mom called me at work, asking me to bring her sandwiches, cookies and nuts. She said she was afraid to eat the food at the Manor. She thought she might have made some of the workers mad and that they would spit in her food. I told her I could not do that right now. I had two customers waiting at the counter, another holding on the phone and that I had to work late because the carpets were being cleaned. She called Dad many times, telling him he needed to come pick her up, that she was leaving. Dad talked to Dr. Campbell to see if he could help. He said he would see what he could do.
1/25/05 – Mom called Kathy McCarty and asked her to go by the library and bring her (Remelle’s) biography. Kathy asked if there really was one there, and Mom said there was. Kathy asked who wrote it but Mom said she didn’t know. Mom told her that if the library would not let the book be checked out, to make copies of the first two and last four pages. Kathy asked why she needed them and Mom told her she needed them to get herself out of the Manor. She also told Kathy that “they” were putting cameras and microphones in her bedroom and bathroom, to keep checks on her. Mom called Dad that afternoon and told him he needed to get to the Manor immediately, that he wouldn’t believe what they were doing to her room. She wouldn’t tell him details, just kept demanding that he come out. He told her he wasn’t going to do that, and Mom got mad. That evening, Mom called me and Dad six to seven times each. We did not answer, and she never left any messages.
1/26/05 – Dad and I went to see Mom, and took her some new PJ’s, throw pillows, socks, popcorn and other “goodies.” She was sound asleep when we went in, so we waited for her to wake up. She started talking about how “they” were doing thousands of dollars of work on her room, putting in locks, wires, fireproof drawers and door, etc., and that they were going to move her out of her room when they were finished. She also told us about the wire under the bottom drawer that ran up through all the other drawers; it was just camouflaged so good that we couldn’t see it. Her hands and feet were shaking.
Then she started yelling at Dad to bring her the year-end reports for all of her money; all of her CD’s and everything in the deposit box, for her and “someone else” to see. Dad told her that he wasn’t going to bring her all of that. She said she’d get a court order and he’d be sorry. She also thought it was February. She said when she got out of here (the Manor) all he’d see was her “sweet ass riding off into the sunset.” She was very, very angry, so we just left.
1/30/05 – Mom called my house at 7:30 pm. I didn’t answer and she didn’t leave a message. She called again at 12:40 am, and left a message for me to come get her. I did not call her back.
2/1/05 – I spent my lunch hour visiting with Mom. She apologized for calling so late last night. She thought she had called shortly after 9 pm, and she was sorry how she had sounded, but she hadn’t been drinking. Her hands and feet were still shaking terribly. She told me that someone had taken all of her underwear, socks and hose, so I looked and they all were still in her drawers. She wanted me to assure her that all of her books, Royal English Commemorative, other collectibles and her clothes were all still in the house. I told her that nothing had been done with anything. I also told her that there was no reason for her to live in an apartment, and that Dad had just been humoring her about looking for one, to keep her from getting upset. She asked about Dad handling their money, and I told her that nothing had been done with their savings account, that I was only paying bills from the checking account and that none of the auto deposits or debits had been changed in any way.
She started talking about the mistreatment from the staff. They were talking mean to her, making so much noise that she couldn’t sleep, watching and eavesdropping on her. Then she started cussing Dad, about how he’s trying to take away all her identity and freedom, and then started in on me, saying I’d been brainwashed and that she didn’t believe a word I’d told her. I said she was wrong about me and Dad and that I wasn’t going to listen to anymore. I told her that I loved her, and I left.
2/4/05 – Mom called me at work, wanting me to pick her up Saturday to go to lunch and do some shopping. I talked to Dad and we decided to give it a try. I called the Manor and asked them to tell Mom that we’d be there Saturday at 11 am, and to please be ready.
2/5/05 – Dad and I got to the Manor at 11 am, and Mom was no where near ready. She fussed at dad for telling her he’d be there at 10 am, and he told her he said 11. A nurse came in because the bed alarm went off, and Mom told us she was one of the ones who was mistreating her – being so loud she couldn’t sleep, taking her things, snooping in her papers, etc. Almost everything Mom says is mean and vicious towards everyone. (Everyone is stealing things from her, spying on her, talking ugly to her, etc.) she said she has not been allowed to sleep the last two nights. The nurses say she actually sleeps all day and then is up all night. They also told us that she won’t get up when they bring her breakfast, and yells at them every time they come into her room.
Mom tried to start a fight a couple of times with Dad (about her driver’s license and credits cards, and her clothes, etc.), but he firmly told her we weren’t going to discuss that. He said if she kept on fussing, cussing and using really FOUL language, we’d leave and not take her to lunch. Her hands and feet are still shaking. She couldn’t even button her blouse; Dad and I had to do it for her. She seemed to accept the idea of going back home when she gets well, with the addition of a porch so she could smoke. She did say she wanted to get a motorized wheelchair/scooter. It seemed she had decided she would not be walking again. She finally got ready and we left for Ryan’s about 11:45 and lunch went pretty well. Mom ate a good lunch, then we took her to Walmart. It went fairly well, except Mom got really angry with me when I refused to buy her a bottle of aspirin. We took her back to the Manor a little before 3 pm.
2/8/05 – Mom called about 11:40 pm. I didn’t answer. She left a message on the machine. She was talking very low, and all I could understand was something about a “white blouse” and “red.” The answering machine cut off before she finished, because she was talking so low.
2/12/05 – I went to see mom about 11:30 am. She was sound asleep. After she woke up, I showed her the clothes and other things I’d brought her. She seemed ok for a little while, then started talking about how the head nurse had come to talk to her about calling the other workers “asses” and that there was to be a hearing about her beating her roommate. She said she’d never called anyone an ass, and was only trying to get her roommate to stop moving the curtain between them. She still complained that she can’t sleep at night.
She asked me where her car was and I told her that her sister Phyllis was driving it. She was fine with that. Mom is still very paranoid. She told me the nurses are spying and eavesdropping on her, spitting in her food, and have taken hairs from her brush for testing. She was still very angry with Dad for not bringing her driver’s license, social security card and credit cards. I told her that all Dad & I wanted (and have EVER wanted) was for her to get well and be able to come home.
She screamed that she was not going to be stuck in that “one little room.” I assumed she was talking about the little bedroom upstairs. I told her that was not how it was; that she was not going to be “locked” in that room, that if she got well, she’d be able to go anywhere she wanted. I wasn’t sure what she was thinking. She mentioned how little Dad and I visit her, and I told her we did visit her a lot, and we would visit more often, but every time we came to see her, she started yelling, fussing and cussing at us. Then she started yelling about getting out of the “hell-hole!”
2/14/05 – Dad and I went to visit Mom. For only the second time when we’ve visited, she was not in her room! (The first was when I came to have her nails removed; she was in therapy.) She was in her wheelchair, by the nurses’ station. She looked extremely good: hair, make-up, red blouse, jewelry, nice shoes. We told her how good she looked and wished her a “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Her first words were, “Where are my tulips?”
In the past, she had sometimes bought tulips for herself, but Dad had never bought her tulips. She then told us to go back to her room, so we did. She had trouble standing to get from the wheelchair to the bed. She did seem to like her card, even though she couldn’t open it; Dad had to do it. She seemed disappointed with the two kinds of candy Dad had brought her, and that he had not brought her tulips. Mom was still very paranoid, and kept getting upset about how she was being treated (ignored or snubbed), spied on, and how her toiletries kept being stolen. She complained about how her roommate keeps her awake for hours each night, and how the nurses come in and out at all hours. She asked if we knew anything about the “hearing” but we had no idea what she was talking about.
She then complained that some kids were stealing all the towels and washcloths. Then Mom said she should be getting out very soon, and that she would have very little trouble walking around the house, as long as she had something to hold on to. She then got angry with Dad when she asked for cigarettes, and Dad refused. Mom said that she had asked both of us to bring her a sandwich, so she thought she’d end up with two, one from each of us. Neither of us brought her a sandwich, nor do we remember her ever asking for one. Mom got really upset when we had to leave, and started crying, then yelling at us for leaving. We tried to calm her down as best we could, then we left.
2/15/05 – I left a message for Dr. Campbell to see if he thought an anti-depressant might help Mom. He didn’t think one would do much good.
2/20/05 – Dad was not feeling well, so I picked up the things he’d gotten for Mom (apples, bananas, crackers, etc.) and took them to her. She was dressed, but resting on the bed. She got in her wheelchair and went out to the nurses’ desk. She had been up at 4 am, and called the nurse to get her wheelchair for her; it was against the far wall. When the nurse didn’t come, Mom said she used her back-scratcher to get her wheelchair where she could get into it. The nurse finally came in, and the two had an argument. Mom asked the nurse on duty now what “retaliation” was planned for her. The nurse said she didn’t know anything about it. Another nurse came up and spotted a pack of cigarettes in Mom’s socks. I took Mom back to her room and asked where she got the cigarettes. She would only say that she got them from a friend. I left her room and stopped at the nurses’ desk. I was told that Mom was caught outside by herself the day before, smoking.
2/25/05 – Dad and I went to see Mom, and one of the nurses came in with us. We had to tell Mom that physical therapy has progressed as far as it seemed it would, especially since she would almost never do what the therapist wanted her to do. As things stand, Mom cannot be released from the Manor, or at least must stay in some type of assisted-care facility. She still believed she would be able to stay at home, alone, but Dad and I have tried our best to tell her that would not be possible.
We also told her that two air conditioning companies have told Dad that there is no way to separate the duct work in the back bedroom from the rest of the house, so that she could smoke there without it affecting the whole house. Mom called Dad a liar and said he’d made promised that he never intended to keep. We tried to explain to her that going home was dependent on her being able to function, and that the plans necessary for the house were just not physically possible.
Mom wanted Dad to take her to the bank so she could get all of her money, but he refused. She wanted him to give her several hundred dollars, and he refused that, too. He told her he’d give her a bit of spending money (he gave her $15) and he’d buy her anything else she wanted, but he would not give her that much money, just to give away. We had visited her several days earlier and the nurse told us Mom had had around $100, and had gone around giving it out to any patient who wanted it. There were a couple of patients who were not responsive, and she just laid the money in their laps. The nurse had been able to recover most of the money and advised us not to give her over $10 to $15, at a time, at the most.
Shortly after this, Dad and I had to move Mom from Magnolia Manor to Lillian Carter Nursing Center in Plains, because she attacked her roommate, kept calling the staff ugly names and accused them of spying and stealing. There were similar incidents after leaving Magnolia Manor, but I’m unsure of dates. Mom actually got kicked out of Lillian Carter Nursing Center, because she kept sneaking out to smoke by herself. The last straw was when she was caught smoking in her room.
Mom’s thought was that if she got kicked out, Dad and I would have to let her move into an apartment. We never could convince her that she’d never be able to live outside of an assisted-care facility again. We finally gave up, and just tried to change the subject or at least humor her until she forgot about it. After Mom was kicked out of Lillian Carter Nursing Home, none of the nursing homes in any of the surrounding counties would accept her, except for Pinehill in Byromville, so that’s where she had to go.
It turns out their staff was outstanding, and took great care of her, even though she was very ugly and abusive to them. After Mom died, I wrote a very nice Thank You note to the staff. I truly appreciated how well the cared for Mom. Dad and I took Mom for supper at Ryan’s. She had a habit of taking forever to eat, and then she was just nibbling at her food. She insisted on feeding herself, no matter how difficult it was. It usually was an ordeal to get her to say she was finished so we could leave. It could take hours. This particular time, she dropped a bit of food in her lap. She hollered “SHIT!” and we were shocked that the management didn’t ask us to leave. She didn’t even acknowledge she’d done anything wrong.
That was one of the last times we took her out to eat in public. Mom fell and broke her hip. She was taken by ambulance to Macon to have it replaced. She threw such a fit about having hip replacement surgery that the doctor (having been informed of her refusal to do physical therapy in the past) decided just to set the break, and let her be. She told me and Dad that she was in Atlanta, and someone had stolen her rings. Actually, we had taken them because we felt they were no longer safe to leave with her.
It took me and Dad a while to learn how to handle Mom’s outbursts. We finally realized that if we could agree with her, no matter what she said or did, that in a few minutes, she’d totally forget about what was bothering her, and move on to another thought. It was comforting to know that these incidents left her mind as quickly as they came up, but it was much harder for me and Dad to forget them.
One evening Mom called Dad in hysterics, saying she was locked in the Citizen’s Bank in Americus, and “they” would not let her out. Dad told her to go sit by the front door, and that he was on his way to pick her up. She calmed down and said she would go wait for Dad. Dad called the nurses’ desk and told them what was going on. He talked to the nurse a few minutes later, and, just as he’d thought, Mom had totally forgotten the incident.
Before dementia really took hold, Mom would never leave the house unless her hair and make up were done, her clothes and jewelry were coordinated, perfume was on, and she looked perfect. She slowly started to resist and then refuse baths, shampoos and other hygiene routines. She would rather just stay in bed, in her pajamas, and sleep all day.
Dad and I visited her in Byromville one Mother’s Day. Toward the end of the visit, out of the blue, Mom asked us to be sure to bring her a suitcase so she could pack for her trip, and made us promise not to forget the shoes under her bed. We had no idea what trip she was thinking of, and in just a couple of minutes, she’d forgotten the whole conversation. Most of the time Dad and I went to visit, her first and only thought was for us to take her out so she could smoke. Almost never did she ask how we were, what was going on in Americus, or anything about her friends.
I knew she was starting to go downhill quickly, when, one visit a week or so before she died, she didn’t mention smoking
at all. By that time, she was starting to become nonresponsive. She would just lie on the bed and stare into space. There was no recognition in her eyes, most of that time. During her last few weeks, Mom had stopped eating and was having trouble swallowing when she did eat. Dad and I met her at her doctor’s office, and he said her only option was a feeding tube.
Mom had been sitting quietly in her wheelchair, but perked up at that and firmly declared that she DID NOT WANT and WOULD NOT ACCEPT a feeding tube. Dad and I realized what was inevitable at that point. It was a very difficult day. Shortly after this Doctor’s visit hospice was called in. Their staff was wonderful, and helped me and Dad prepare for what was coming. During what would be Mom’s last week, they called us to the nursing home a couple of times, when they thought the end was near.
By this time, Mom was mostly unresponsive and just stared into space. On one, maybe two, occasions, I called her name, told her I was there and that I loved her, and I saw a bit of recognition in her eyes. She did not appear to be in any pain, which was a blessing. About 10 pm on Thursday, March 11, 2010, a nurse called me and told me that Mom had stopped breathing. She had died quietly, and apparently with no pain. Her sister, Phyllis, had stopped by to see her, and was with her when she died.
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