“Can we go home?”
“Where am I?”
“What is this place?”
These are some of the most frequent questions I’m asked this winter. The husband has been home since the beginning of December. Each time, the opportunity comes along to orient him I tell him how he’s been sick for six months and in several hospitals and a nursing home, but that he is now at home.
“We are in our condo in Hayward and you are in our living room. You are in a hospital bed because you are too weak to walk. You have a hard time swallowing and are fed through a feeding tube into your stomach.”
It is all news to him. Sometimes these things register and other times he just closes his eyes and says nothing. The next time he has to go to the bathroom, that’s exactly what he thinks he can do – he needs to be reoriented all over again.
I tell him “You can’t get. up. You aren’t strong enough to walk and haven’t walked for months.”
He tells me, “How do we know if you won’t let me?”
I tell him, “If you could walk, you would be up doing it because I’m not stopping you.”
This exchange is about as feisty as he ever gets. He has the same cooperative nature that he has always had, but the cognitive decline is very noticeable.
Lately the neurological decline is more apparent also. There are times when he cannot speak clearly, or at all. Other times he can suddenly have a conversation and be understood. What he’s saying may not make sense, but I can tell what the words are.
There are some nights that I think he’s dying (nights are always the worst times) but the morning comes and things look different. His body is stronger than his brain. If he gets an infection of some kind things could change quickly. I try to be careful in caring for him – in the complexities of enteral feeding, medication administration, watching for skin breakdown and managing incontinence.
It helps to have Hospice on the journey with us. I don’t have to make decisions alone in most cases. It helps to be able to hire help, to share the heavy lifting and the unpleasantness of necessary tasks. God has supplied a wealth of resources in all areas of need and that is good because this might be a long haul.
– Dennis is on 3 enteral feedings daily, about 8 hours apart, which amount to a 1200 calorie diet. He does get hungry and that looks like restlessness. When I see that I know it is time for a feeding. A full stomach is very soothing for him and it puts him to sleep for several hours.
– His blood pressure has been stable on the three blood pressure meds that he gets twice a day.
– He’s had a UTI recently and been on 3 different antibiotics. One was finished when we found out the culture indicated two different ones. Lots of bacteria getting killed.
– Most of the day is spent sleeping in his mother’s LazyBoy recliner, with an occasional awake moment in front of the tv. He might be listening to much of what goes on. There is occasional evidence.
– The rest of the time he is in his hospital bed in a variety of positions. He goes back and forth between these two places with the help of Harvey the Hoyer. Dennis decided on the name and it gives us a good laugh.
– Our paid caregivers come weekdays for two hours in the morning to help the husband up into the recliner for the day, and for two hours in the evening to get him prepared for the night. Every other weekend I have help, but we are working on that. I’m still filling in the day and doing the nights. It’s interesting and sometimes exhausting but when I need to, I get sleep.
– We are grateful for the humidifier that runs 24/7 in our dry winter climate
– Our daughters visited recently and were able to connect with their dad in good ways, mostly through songs. He still remembers and comes out of lethargy to sing when coaxed. Thank you Esther for the humidifier and Julie for the seemingly endless supply of cookies to cheer my soul.
That’s all for this update.