A Journey With Dementia: Morphine

Some people have been texting and asking for updates on mom. I will try to be better and post updates daily or at least every other day. I know that friends and family who are far away want to be kept in the loop and it’s easier to write one post than to make several calls and texts. We appreciate all of the texts, phone calls, visits, thoughts and prayers that we have received.

Last night, we started Mom on morphine. It’s been really difficult to determine if Mom is in pain, due to the fact that she can no longer communicate; even her expressions are gone. I’ve been trying to read up on kidney failure just to get an idea of signals to look for that could indicate that she’s in pain (especially since the doctor said to expect it in the next few days). I stumbled onto a couple of websites that spelled out the 10 symptoms and she fits every single one. I think reason would say that she’s in pain. For the past couple of days, she’s been especially restless. She has been unable to lay down and sleep for more than a few minutes at a time and she looks completely exhausted. When she was finally laying down, I noticed her legs shaking/rocking, feet tapping and she would rub her hands over her face as if she’s frustrated. Her skin has looked flushed and today, her cheeks are puffy (which, from what I understand, means that her kidneys are unable to excrete excess fluids, leading to swelling in other parts of her body). All of these signs lead me to believe that she is feeling pain, and how can she not when her kidneys are shutting down?

The decision to administer the morphine hasn’t been an easy one. My dad is worried about unnecessarily giving her meds and over-medicating her; he doesn’t want her to become a “zombie”. It’s a scary step because it means we lose that last little bit of spark left in her. My Aunt Sharon (who is an ICU nurse) was over last night, and made the same observations that she might be uncomfortable at this stage. She talked to my dad and the decision was made to give her some morphine. It really has calmed her down and she has been able to rest so much more peacefully. The side effect, however, is grogginess while she is awake. She does still try to get up and walk around, but when she does we have to follow beside her because she is losing strength and becoming wobbly. It is painful to see her like this. But the thought of her being in pain is even worse. We are trying to take it day by day, hour by hour and adjust as needed.

We put in a call for her hospital bed; it should be here by tomorrow. I think that will help her with getting up and down and put our minds at ease about her falling out of bed. Also, as much as we want to think it won’t happen, she will probably not be ambulatory for much longer. We are making plans to have someone in her room with her at all times now, so that will mean taking shifts throughout the night. My sister-in-law and I dusted and tidied up her room today and I brought over some lavender oil to diffuse in her room. We’ve put on some of her favorite, calming instrumental CD’s to play softly in the background. We are trying to keep her calm and relaxed through this process as much as possible.

We have all been taking turns sitting beside her throughout the day. This afternoon, I sat next her and she had her blanket over her face (a funny thing she likes to do while she sleeps) and was seemingly asleep. All of the sudden, her hand slipped out from the blanket and felt for mine. Her body didn’t stir, her eyes were still closed, but she firmly held onto my hand and pulled it up to her face. It was such a sweet moment, it brought me to tears. She knows that I’m here and I know that she feels comfort in being surrounded by so many people who love her.

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