This week has been like the original Zelda NES game from the 90s. Fast-forward, stop, sidle, creep, crawl, RUN! RUN! HURRY! HURRY! Slay the monsters!
On Sunday I enjoyed putting my blog post “Gratitude” together. I was just about ready to publish the post…Just one more spellcheck…
…And we got “the call.” Dad was listing towards his left side at lunch. He wasn’t responding to the aides. The paramedics were checking him out and taking him to the hospital. We didn’t know which hospital so I did the WAIT! WAIT! I prepared to leave. Quiet questions swirled, stroke, medication? Is this it? Or is this another slide further into dementia?
Finally we found out where he was taken. Then it was RUN! RUN! to the VA emergency room. HURRY! HURRY! to get to his bedside. He was asleep. The nurse explained he had become combative again. He didn’t want his blood drawn. Who does, I thought. Being the ER they sedated him and drew his blood anyway.
Now for the WAIT! WAIT! portion of the game. We watched him sleep. Even in sleep he tenses and winces. I wanted to cry. The doctor arrived explaining dad did not have a stroke. Other than the dementia his organs are fine. It seems so unfair. The heart, liver, and other organs are considered healthy for his age. But, his brain is not.
Then the doctor said a word that struck fear and hope in my heart. “Hospice.” It was like a punch to the gut. I’ve read about the great work Hospice does but, I don’t have any firsthand experience. What had happened? A few months ago he was settling into the assisted living life. Now we are talking about a few months? I blurted “Isn’t that for the last few months of life?”
The doctor explained how hospice is designed for those in the last stages of life. There isn’t a time limit on it because the care can be extended as needed. Hospice is about supporting the patient with comfort, easing symptoms, and meeting physical needs instead of “curative” measures.
I went home in shock. My father is not going to get better. He is dying. My mind had accepted this outcome many months ago but I still saw a long road ahead for him. My heart still wasn’t accepting it. Exhausted I prepared for work on Monday and went to bed early.
On Monday, His nurse at the ALF suggested a local hospice. They can no longer meet dad’s needs. Another weight settled on my shoulders. I completed my workday filling my breaks and lunch with phone calls and research.
On Tuesday I woke feeling like I had RUN! RUN! all night long. My husband called me at work, Dad was back in the ER. He had gone catatonic. He would open his eyes and watch, then go back to sleep. He wouldn’t talk, eat, or drink. In the afternoon when I arrived the Hospice Nurse was already there.
As we talked, dad woke and sat up. The nurse said he was responding to my voice. I went to him and talked to him. He started talking so quiet it was hard to understand. Then he was trying to get up and talking in delusions. He thought he was on the job. The truck had to be unloaded. Once the VA nurses could settle him, he slept.
He did this over and over. He would wake after five or ten minutes then the delusions began again. Did you know the well is leaking? We have to fix it before dark. I didn’t know that but, dad was on the job. I found out it’s called ‘twilight-time’ or ‘sun-downing’ in dementia patients. Yes, I do see the humor, but it was still hard to take. He wasn’t with us he was decades in the past.
Hospice decided to take him inpatient. He has been there a couple of days now. The nurse asked us what he wanted. I told them for the last several years he has expressed no extreme measures. He has been adamant about it. He has had his DNR (do not resuscitate order) in place for the last ten years. We made sure those documents were in order for him.
Then I was asked, what I want for him, “comfort only?” I was gently prodded.
“Yes…but…I want him calm. He’s combative right now.” She assured me she knew.
“I don’t want him to hurt himself or someone else.” I said.
She affirmed my wishes by stating “You want him comfortable and peaceful.”
I have a feeling the game of running and hurrying is over. He is where he needs to be right now. He is with people who will give him caring comfort and relief. I am back to the bitter-sweet. The bitter is realizing my dad is dying. The sweet is now it will be on his terms.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die;” [Ecclesiastes 3:1 and portion of 2 KJV]
We are blessed. Blessings to you and yours,
P.S. There are more to blessings from this week. But it is too long for one post. I will be sharing blessings with you soon. Peace.