It took us, my sister and I, perhaps 3 months to accept the new normal in our mother's life. Her ageing white matter had impaired cognitive abilities, irreversibly. Macular degeneration was slowly robbing her vision. She was fully dependent on 24x7 assistance.
The exact diagnosis of her condition was proving to be a challenge. The reticence of doctors to engage; some offering preconceived advise of how "old-age" can be, while others prescribed numerous inconvenient radio graphic tests and one concluded that it was dementia, after her visiting nurse had administered a questionnaire. The amount of time the doctors thought necessary to understand my mother's condition never satisfied us. We had more questions than answers, many times. This left my sister and me, infuriated. We were not ready to write our Mother off, notwithstanding the purportedly expert viewpoint. Were we doing all we could for her ? Through all this Mother would just chuckle and appeared game for the next test.
We turned to the Internet. Piecemeal insights, personal stories and institutional perspectives were all consumed, interpreted over tearful conversations and inferences drawn. We had no one to turn to for validation. This unpredictable phase continued, until a forced hospitalisation caused by seizures, changed our life. We stumbled on what in hindsight, appears to be the optimal solution.
Mother was cheerful, she had full time nursing assistance at her rented apartment, stone's throw from a reliable hospital, medication that stabilised her condition while leaving her alert to enjoy music and pockets of time with us, the twin loves in her life. She even managed Skype and FaceTime with grandkids. The wheelchair rides allowed her to sense the setting sun; the curious kids who stopped by amidst their playtime, albeit with trepidation at her "different" greeting, lingered long enough to become names she recalled; and she never stopped being a Mother, as she recounted anecdotes or fables that presented the wisdom of undiluted values or morals. Her days were marked by events she cherished. She even gifted us with a brilliant smile some days. Such days became fewer.
" I am 86, going on 87,
bring out the wheelchair now,
better to roll, rather than run,
time to have some fun! "
We sang the above jingle to the Sound of Music tune on her 86th birthday and she took visible delight in getting it right.
Alas, a few months short of her 87th, her physical body could not sustain her spirited fight. She passed on, leaving a trail of unconditional love and images of her undiminished jest for life.