[Please note the actual events happened on the days and dates in parenthesis. I really had great intentions of communicating this to you, dear readers, but like many thoughts lately, it’s there and then, poof, it’s gone! I’m sorry for a distinct lack of clarity; I appreciate your patience, understanding, and support while I stumble around in this intensely dark fog.]
Day 3 (continued from Friday, April 19) and 4 with Dad (and Saturday, April 20, 2013)
Richard and I arrived to Hospice Friday evening, the staff was quick to welcome us, help us feel at home and supported. One of the staff had asked how I was doing and I said I was better before I’d listened to my voice mail this afternoon. I sobbed! They listened, were compassionate and kind.
With that off my chest, they said they’d make a note in our chart that I needed extra support. How validating, calming, and reaffirming was that?!
They moved on to tell us Dad rode in the ambulance without incident though he did become a little agitated. I wish I’d had the foresight wisdom to have ridden with him. I told him before they moved him that he was going to ‘new digs’ to which he did not respond. I specifically used that phrase because it’s the same phrase Dad used when proudly showing us his ‘new digs’ at the assisted living facility last summer. I had hoped for a response, but there was none.
The nurse quickly brought me up to speed how things work there; they are completely patient-centric. They have no voice mail, no messaging service. If people call and there’s no answer, then they simply need to call back because the staff is taking care of the patients. That really warmed my heart. I gave a list of names and phone numbers of people I okayed to call the staff and get updates. What a huge gift to take that off my shoulders too.
They told me they stopped the medications he did not need. He would get small doses of morphine to help with pain, and, it’s really good to help breathing.
We had to don gloves and gown up just like we did at the hospital because Dad had C. Diff. and Pneumonia, as a courtesy to their other patients, we had to be cautious.
Want to know a cool thing? Within three hours of Dad being at Hospice he already looked better, even his skin appeared to be healing; he no longer wore the pained expression on his face, but instead looked very peaceful and comfortable.
The nurse’s assistant showed me where bedding was so I could get some rest. He said some people find they can’t do this and that’s entirely okay. That was one of those few moments where I secretly wondered if I could do this too. I’d never done it before, so how would I know, LOL?! That was the only time I questioned myself about staying. I’d made a promise to Dad and I had to keep it. For some reason, “No man left behind” kept running through my head.
I don’t know where this sense of protecting Dad or taking care of him came from. I felt like his watcher, and I was quick to be grateful for the Hospice staff.
They were so good at seeing the entire patient, if he needed lip balm as he did, they took care of that. I asked for lotion because his skin was drying out, they provided that. I sensed a calling for all employees at Hospice, and, would come to envision these folks as fellow warriors looking out for the best interests of Dad.
What a relief from feeling like I had to fight for everything Dad needed at the hospital. I asked if I should forego wearing earplugs that night to be sure to wake up when Dad needed something. Get this – the nurse’s assistant said that wouldn’t be necessary, that’s their job. Wow. That melted my heart.
They suctioned the phlegm in Dad’s throat, just like they’d done at the hospital, and in the same manner, he bit down on the tube. It was a painful process for him, one nurse at the hospital took 20 minutes to do that relatively small procedure (I was trying to help Dad open his mouth…but he hated it and so did I). It was okay for him to say he was done with that.
I slept in the gown and gloves, just as I’d done at the hospital…no one told me otherwise at the hospital! So, Saturday morning I awoke and felt like I needed to lie back down again. Later, waiting for Richard to arrive to go to breakfast I started feeling nauseous. Richard arrived and I said I needed to lie down, then I said I felt like I was going to throw up…please get the nurses.
How embarrassing! One of the nurses said she noticed overnight I was still gowned up (they lovingly check on family members), when they have to wear the gowns they say they start to sweat in like 10 minutes, they couldn’t imaging sleeping in one! So, lesson learned. I was fine, we got some breakfast, I drank a lot of water and was none the worse for wear.
We returned to Hospice and shortly after, Dad’s Sweetheart called. (I now call her Dad’s Sweetheart instead of ex-wife because that has negative connotations for the most part in our society! They were only divorced on paper.) She, her son, and daughter wanted to come say their good-byes. We waited for them in the Living Room, they came in, and we hugged and briefly chatted. I showed them to Dad’s room, and said if they wanted me in there I’d go in, or if they wanted time alone, that was okay too. They said they wanted me in there.
Dad had a special relationship with his Sweetheart’s granddaughter; it was so sweet she could be there. She drove home from college just to be able to say goodbye. I cried! It was really sweet, they each said what they needed to…but I really lost it when his Sweetheart kissed him on the forehead (through her mask), said, “Hello, Love. The Azaleas are blooming, you should see them, they’re really beautiful.” She said a few more words and then said good-bye. Both the granddaughter and I turned away in that moment; it was so utterly painful to bear.
That night (Saturday, April 20), I decided to wear a hospital gown to bed instead! It was pretty funny; the staff mentioned they’ve not seen a family member do that before. I joked with Dad we were wearing matching outfits; I even took off my socks to be fully authentic!