Mom has not fully recovered since her hospitalisation some months ago. In fact, we seem to be caught in a vicious cycle of repeated bouts of illness and weakness. At the most, she is well for a week, and this cheers us up as we embark on exercises and sunning and making plans for excursions. Too soon, however, her next infection will be upon us.
Sometimes it starts with lethargy, and she cannot finish her food. She starts to slow down and shuffle. Oftentimes, she ends up sitting on the bathroom floor, unable to get up.
But she cannot tell us she is not well, or that she has slipped onto the floor. Instead she says she is Okay. We have become detectives to spot the early signs of illness. Is Mom wrapping herself up as though she is cold? Does she tremble a little more when she walks? Has she stopped smiling? Has she stopped talking? Just the other day, she did not return my greeting when I came home – she glanced at me and looked away mute. It was as though she couldn’t hear me, and then couldn’t see me.
Out came the thermometer, BP set, and then the antibiotics. Dinner plans are canceled, family members called to standby. I dread the possibility the antibiotics do not work.
So I learned a new word recently – frailty. As used by healthcare professionals describe the condition of old persons who are declining. It is defined by weight loss, increasing debility and inability to fight off simple infections. Mom doesn’t quite meet the definition yet – she is maintaining her weight (barely), and she does recover her strength between infections (somewhat).
Already, I have made plans for what I will do differently when Mom recovers from this episode of infection, her second this month. I’m not ready to give up hope yet. “Frailty” is not here, but I sense him near, perhaps just around the next corner, waiting. I hope we can keep him away for a long while more…