Last evening I visited my dad at the nursing home where he lives. I have taken advantage of my unstructured schedule this summer to get in more frequent visits, knowing that once school resumes I am likely to see him only one evening per week and on the weekends. Dad’s cognitive function can vary from visit to visit. He will go from asking me about the “boys” to asking if I have heard from an uncle that has been dead for 25 years. When pressed he often cannot recall my name, though it is clear that he knows that I am his daughter. Dad has very little concept of time. He believes that he has been at the nursing home for 5 weeks rather than 5 years. He does not recall how frequently he receives visitors nor who was there at any given time.
Last evening he greeted me as enthusiastically as always and then went on to tell me that my mom had gotten her airfare. When questioned further, he was unable to tell me where she was planning on going. For those readers who do not know my mother, she did not set foot on a plane during her entire lifetime.
My mother died 3 years ago, yet it has been only in the past 2 months or so that dad has brought her up in conversation. On occasion over the past several weeks he has stated as I ready myself to leave “Stop in and say hi to mother on your way out.” It was just before her death that she was reunited with dad at the nursing home. I find it interesting that a part of dad’s brain believes that mom is still living yet there is no anxiety attached to that concept, despite the fact that he has does not see her. On another occasion, as I was moving some clothing from his chair he told me “Mom laid those clothes out for me.”
It has been two months since dad began receiving hospice services. As part of the program, dad receives 2 visits per month from a music therapist and social worker. He receives more frequent visits from a hospice volunteer, RN and chaplain. Often after beginning hospice services, patients rally. It is believed that the extra attention can bring about a resurgence of energy and with that an increased ability to interact with the world around them. This has definitely been true for my dad.
Reminiscence or life review as it is often referred is a strong component of the hospice philosophy of care. Perhaps the process of life review has sparked for my dad increased memories and thoughts of my mom. I am forever grateful that those memories bring peace rather than pain. For this reason I do not remind my dad that mom has died. Instead I warmly assure him that I will indeed say hello to her on my way out.