Taking Care of Mom

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Just a story of my recent experience of being a patient family member with my Mom. She passed with gastric cancer recently. She was never able to make it out of the hospital to go to home hospice. The story shows the nurses view of being on the family side of patient care

Specializes in Respiratory Step Down, telemetry, hospice. Has 2 years experience.

How is it like to be on the other side taking care of a family member in hospice?

Taking Care of Mom

I graduated from nursing school, with a BSN, 2 years ago this May. I say nursing school was my mid-life crisis because I graduated when I was 42. I started my job, which has been quite fulfilling and have learned so much. I work on a floor that is an ICU step down unit as well as palliative and hospice. However, it would never prepare me for what I was about to experience this past March.

I had not been able to go home to Pennsylvania since graduating. Bills, student loans, life in general would make it financially impossible. My Mom would tell me "You will be home when you can." She always understood. Her pride in my becoming a nurse beamed from her everyday. She received her LPN license back in 1955 after she immigrated to the US (Dad received his LPN in 1959).

In March of this year, I received a call from my sister saying that Mom was being admitted into the hospital. At first they thought she had diverticulitis. I told my siblings (there are 6 of us total) that we can deal with that. A few hours later, my sister called again and said the CT showed 2 masses in my Moms abdomen. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. My knees buckled and I slumped to the ground. She had 2 sisters and a brother die with the same cancer. I told my sons I had to fly back home asap. My boyfriend bought my ticket and off I went, to see my Mom.

I flew in, and my other sister picked me up from the airport. It was late at night so I opted to allow my Mom to sleep and we just went to my sisters house. The next morning, bright and early, I walked into my Moms hospital room. There she laid, sleeping soundly. I sat down in her bed, touched her shoulder, and said "Mom, I am going to be your nurse for the rest of the week." She opened her eyes and smiled and started crying. My sister later told me that was the biggest smile she had had on her face since coming into the hospital.

That week, I spent every moment by her side. I became "the patients family member that never left" (who also happened to be a nurse so everything was being analyzed that was done). I was there to answer her questions, to help her to the bathroom, to clean up her vomit, and give her a shoulder to cry on. More importantly, my Mom and I shared stories only her and I will ever know about.

I knew anything that they would do for my Mom at this point would simply be comfort measures. The mass in her abdomen was causing her to vomit frequently. They had her on TPN. Breathing treatments became routine when she acquired pneumonia, which set back her surgery to remove the masses.

I left on a Saturday morning and told her I would return in 2 weeks with my sons. She was scared that I was leaving her. She asked me "Who is going to take care of me at night?" I told her that my brothers and sisters knew now that they could spend the night and they all had a schedule worked out between them. She cried and told me thank you for making sure she was going to be taken care of and I told her she would always be taken care of, no matter what.

I called into work on Sunday and told them I was not going to be in, but to schedule me for Monday from 7-3. I worked Monday and received numerous phone calls from my sisters updating me, asking questions and just letting me know what was going on. I was told she would be having her surgery that week.

Living almost 1500 miles away is not easy and with this situation it was even worse. Tuesday morning I woke with a nagging feeling that I needed to get home. I told my sons to call their professors and let them know that they would be out of class for about a week starting Thursday. I called work and told them to take me off the schedule for the next week.

I called my sisters and told them I was driving home. My Mom, hearing the news, was very excited. All of her children and grandchildren were going to be in the same place, at the same time, for the first time ever (the oldest grandchild is 30).

We left Thursday morning. Mom was doing OK on Thursday when we left (it is about 22 driving hours). Later in the day, and I still do not know what happened, but I was called and told that they were not sure if she would make it through the night. I said I was going to drive straight through, but commonsense kicked in and I knew safety for myself and my sons is what my Mom would want. We stopped long enough to sleep for 4 hours and we were back on the road.

Friday morning my sister called and said Mom was doing OK and was better than the day before. Her O2 sats were better but she was on a mask that she kept trying to pull off through the night. She woke up that morning and said "I am so excited". When my sister told me that is what she said it brought a smile to my face.

We had 10 driving hours ahead of us. Right after crossing the Pennsylvania border I got a call from my sister. She said "Where are you?". I said "Just got into Pittsburgh, why?". She said "Do not stop at Mom's to drop off your cat and dog, come straight to the hospital." Needless to say I became worried and scared. I still had about another 5 hours of driving before I got there and I could do NOTHING but drive and pray that I did not get pulled over for speeding.

Every hour I was getting a call...where are you, where are you. I would tell them how many more miles I had to go so they would have some understanding about time. I was told my Mom was "sleeping and not really waking up too well". I finally arrived to the hospital to find my Mom was not waking at all and she was, from my nursing perspective, in her final hours.

The room was packed with people. All of her children, her grandchildren, her children's spouses and even ex-spouses were there. Nieces and nephews and their children. Yes, my Mom had the room with all the crazy relatives there. Although she could not open her eyes, I knew she could hear, so I told her I was there with my boys and we were all together now.

I took her hand and whispered in her ear that when she was ready to sleep it was OK and her family will always be OK (she had always been afraid of what would happen to us kids when she died. My Mom had given birth to 6 very hard headed individuals). I told her we would continue to have our arguments and disagreements but we would never let them stand in our way of being a family.

That night I had to be nurse to my siblings and daughter to my Mom. I told my siblings I would be surprised if she made it through the night. After everyone had left, it was just Mom and her three girls left in the room. My sisters, being twins, shared the pull out couch in the room. I got the recliner, parked it next to my Mom's bed close enough that I could hold her hand and be facing her.

Moms nurse came in and we talked to him for a while. I asked him what had transpired that day so I could get a grasp of how my Mom turned so quickly (I was no longer in nurse mode, I was total daughter mode). He told me what I already knew. That sometimes it does happen quickly. He left the room after he knew I was feeling better.

I took my Moms hand at 0100 and dozed off to sleep. At 0115 I woke suddenly, looked at my Mom and watched her take her last breath while still holding her hand. I got up, tears running down my face, kissed my Moms forehead and told her "Goodnight, God bless" for the last time.

I woke my sisters to tell them Mom had passed. They jumped out of bed and one of my sisters said "I feel a pulse". I said, "Mary, she is gone and we are going to be OK". I called in her nurse and he pronounced her at the time I told him. My sisters and I called our brothers, cleaned up her room (Mom was a little OCD about cleaning and we knew she would be upset if we left her room a mess) and then the three of us went to my Moms favorite diner to have breakfast.

We had 18 days from diagnosis to death with my Mom. I still am dreaming about the night she passed. The same dream over and over. All the events in the dream are just like they happened until after her nurse pronounced her....and then in my dream I see my Mom standing next to me in her room and she tells me she will always be alive within me.


This was taken a few days after she was admitted to the hospital. Love you Mom and miss you as much.

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10 Comment(s)

tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg. 151 Articles; 5,856 Posts

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us. Brought many tears to my eyes. I hope writing this was somewhat therapeutic for you.


8 Posts

What a touching story. Thank you for sharing it with us. My mother-in-law was 4 weeks between diagnosis stage 4 lung and brain cancer to when she passed away. She ended up in hospice (what an incredible place) for one afternoon, all of her family came to see her-nieces, nephews, kids, grandkids, great grandkids. Although she was not awake, I know she knew what was going on-as soon as everyone left and her 4 daughters went to lay down and try to nap for a few hours.... She took her last breathe. I'm glad you were able to be with your mom during such an incredibly tough time.


23 Posts

Thank you for sharing your story. I started to cry while reading it because its very similar to my own story of losing my mom to colon cancer almost a year ago. I too lived far from home and received an awful call from one of my sisters (we are 5 all together). My mother also never made it to hospice care and passed away at the hospital with a whole mess of her family sleeping on chairs in her room and couches in the hallway. She died a month after her diagnosis. This will be my first Mother's Day without my mom and everytime I think about it I get a lump in my throat. I've often thought that maybe writing about what happened to her would be good for me. Reading your story makes me think that it's a good idea. Thank you again for sharing.


Specializes in ER / Critical Care. Has 8 years experience. 370 Posts

Well, I had a good cry and now it's time for bed. That is a very touching story- thank you for sharing. I am so sorry for your loss ((HUGS))


Specializes in ICU. 1,082 Posts

Thank you for sharing your story- I'm so sorry for your loss. You sound like a wonderful daughter.

Joe V

Specializes in Programming / Strategist for allnurses. Has 26 years experience. 10 Articles; 2,059 Posts

Arrgghhh! Why?! Why do I read these articles?

I know what they are going to do to me - snif.

Loved, loved, loved it! Such a beautiful and heart-warming story. {HUGS}

Thank you.


Has 1 years experience. 1 Article; 20 Posts

Thank you for such a touching story. It must be difficult to adjust to everything as it happened so quickly- I hope you and your family are finding peace and tranquility. Your parents sound like they were amazing people who raised a fantastic family.

Blessings and love to you and yours.



Specializes in LTC. Has 2 years experience. 115 Posts

This really hit home. My Mom died February 26th. She had COPD, went into the clinic on Friday and got some abx. Sunday went to ER with a sat of 47%. My sisters and I got the call she had died right when we pulled up to the curb at the airport, hadn't even set foot inside the terminal. I understand, and I'm sorry.


31 Posts

What a touching story, thank you so much for sharing