Recently, my brother sent out a copy of my dad’s latest physician’s summary for us to review. While reading it I noted that the MD referred to an 11 lb weight loss. My immediate thoughts went to the possibility that he would now qualify for hospice care. Dad had been placed on hospice in the Spring of 2011 after recurrent bouts of pneumonia. Instead of moving closer to end of life, dad thrived under the watchful eyes of the hospice staff. He “graduated” from hospice after 90 days.
A call to the care center the following day started the ball rolling and dad began receiving hospice care the following day. Dad’s hospice nurse told me that his records showed that he had lost 11% of his body weight over the past 6 months, a fact that seemingly escaped the attention of the nurses at the care center where he resides.
As a benefit of hospice, Dad now has the Cadillac of wheelchairs which provides the positioning support that his previous wheelchair so desperately lacked. Most importantly, he has several additional sets of eyes monitoring his status. There are medications available to be used to provide comfort if dad experiences pain or shortness of breath. The hospice team includes an RN, social worker, chaplain, music therapist and home health aide.
Dad continues to decline both physically and cognitively. On the positive side, he is seemingly unaware or at least unaffected by his physical and mental state and the fact that he resides in a care center. He has stopped inquiring about the welfare of my mom or his siblings. He lives in the moment. A skill that most of us lack. His facial expressions communicate more than his words will allow as he takes in a lighted Christmas tree or an amusing anecdote shared during a visit. For this I am grateful.
My visits are frequent. Each time I kiss him, look into his eyes, say “I love you” and in response hear “I love you too,” I wonder if it will be the last time.
I plan to use this blog to chronicle this experience. There will undoubtedly be difficult decisions to make down the road. The experience is bound to be both ugly and beautiful. However God chooses to write the ending to this story, I hope to remain grateful for all of the moments.