Comfort Care

Thank you so much for the kind comments and emails about my grandmother. She is being cared for by both the nursing home and hospice nurses. The goal is to keep her comfortable and pain free. It’s never easy to see a loved one as they near the end of life. As a nurse I have gone through this process with a number of patients, but never a loved one. In my nearly 40 years I am so blessed to have so much of my family and friends still with me.

Question #2 on the Massachusetts ballot next Tuesday is the Death with Dignity Initiative which essentially would allow for a terminally ill patient to receive a prescription for a lethal medication. Of all 3 ballot questions this is the most difficult for me. On the surface I believe that everyone has the right to die with dignity, but in delving deeper into the proposal I came away with many questions and what if scenarios; namely what if the diagnosis was incorrect. Another grave concern is the potential misuse by someone other than the patient of such a prescription.

I think more important than offering lethal drugs to people medical education for both doctors and nurses should include more instruction on comfort care for patients nearing the end of life. One of the most frustrating things I have witnessed with my grandmother over recent days is the reluctance to give her more pain medication. She has been in a lot of pain. Even this morning when I went to visit, the first thing she told me was that she was hurting. She is on a morphine drip as of yesterday. Thankfully the hospice nurse was aware of her pain and was working on an order to increase the dose.  As a granddaughter I have sat dutifully by her side as much as possible holding her hand, rubbing her back and helping her change her position in bed. As a nurse I have sat quietly cringing at the lack of attention paid to my grandmother’s pain relief. Nurses comment that she just had something an hour ago or are nowhere to be found. About a week ago a doctor commented that “we don’t want her taking too much pain medication.” Why, I thought, if it makes her feel more comfortable then why not?

Noni is a tough cookie. She is still somewhat alert and aware of who we are when we are in her presence. I wish I could take her home and sit with her all day. It breaks my heart to be away from her, but we are all doing the absolute best we can to manage our lives minimally while we spend as much of the time we have left with Noni.

The one thing that has brought her more joy than anything else in the past 6 years has been her only great grandchild. Carlos and Noni were two peas in a pod. They sang together, colored, played and hugged. I’m beyond proud of my little guy. He has been incredible with Noni. Many children would be frightened or uncomfortable in a nursing home. Carlos has quickly won his way into the good graces of both residents and staff at the nursing home. He has pushed Noni in the wheelchair, covered her with blankets and even fed her. He holds her hand and hugs and kisses her. He understands as much as he should for his age. I am honest, but I keep it at his level.

I don’t want to close on a sad note. Noni is 86 years old and has lived a long and wonderful life. So I will end with some fun facts about my grandmother.

  • her parents were originally from Italy
  • when Noni’s father came through Ellis Island they changed his last name from Fusco to Fento
  • her father lived until the age of 92
  • she is the only surviving child of her parents 5 children
  • Noni supported herself and two daughters by working as a hairdresser in their home and then later got a job at a local hospital to provide for her retirement. It’s no secret where my work ethic comes from.
  • When I was a teen ager I told Noni I was going to see a concert with Ratt and Poison. She just shook her head and laughed. She then told her friends and coworkers that I was off to go see “Rat Poison.”
  • Noni always made homemade sauce, tortellini and ravioli, needless to say neither Ragu nor Chef Boyardee were welcome in our cabinets!
  • Noni never took time off from work except for the 2 weeks every September to make fried dough at the well known fall fair in our area, otherwise known as The Big E.
  • She drove until about 2 years ago. Her car was a huge white Chevy aka The White Shadow.
  • When she was in her 70s Noni took a part-time job at a nearby elementary school as a lunch room attendant. She worked at the job until she was 84. She adored the children and they loved her. They all called her Grandma.

To me she will always be Noni. Thanks for letting me share.

I do have a marathon training update in the works as well as post marathon fitness plans. I want to wish Jacky over at Jax House  lots of good luck as she gets ready to run the NY Marathon on Sunday. Word this morning was that it is definitely on despite the destruction from hurricane Sandy. I am super excited for her.



7 thoughts on “Comfort Care

  1. I heard it was canceled, the NY Marathon, but many (up to 2K people) are running the course anyway. I find this to be kind of a triumph of the human spirit. Which is, in its way, so appropriate in such a loving post about your Noni.

  2. Aimee….your Noni sounds like an amazing woman…you are incredibly lucky to have such a special relationship in your life. Even though I yearn for a relationship like what you describe…it is missing. I know you do not take it for granted. Sounds like Carlos is just doing great. And I agree with you as well…WHY can’t we get more pain relief for people, especially when end of life nears…WHY can’t the ones we love leave feeling no pain….There are a lot of different opinions on this but I think you expressed it just beautifully.

    • Thank you so much Kaye. I really was lucky to have known my grandmother and to have had her in my life for so long. She was such a strong, independent woman, quite a role model.

    • Thank you Jacky. I hope to hear how your time in New York went. No chance you’ll take one of those open slots in the Philly marathon?! It would be great to run with you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s