that better place

We said goodbye to my dad last night about 11pm. I am guessing minutes prior, but…

We knew with a 2-hr interval of morphine, things would progress quick. They told us hearing was the last thing to go as far as senses. We witnessed that for sure. When my cousins Lou and Dave were with us during the day, we would see reactions on my dad’s face to our conversations, telling stories, laughing. Deep inside, he was laughing along. Even at some points, lifting his hand as if he wanted to say something. While we watched for those visible signs of dying (the mottling), we watched for signs of life at the same time. The wrinkled forehead or perked eyebrow when he was not just listening to voices but hearing words.

Just a couple of hours later in the afternoon when my cousin Frank came to visit, those signs were no longer evident. He may have heard something from us trying to reach him, but most likely – he was being called somewhere else by then. I told him a few times that it was okay, that mom was waiting for him and it was okay to go to her. Bob and Eric were at his bedside with him for a few hours as I returned home for a short bit of time. When his breathing changed, it was time to get back and fast. He didn’t die alone, as my mom did. Hospice was not there, just his family. Mona, one of his best nurses came in to confirm though I believe she already. These nurses in this environment – we don’t know how they do this. But thank God they do. They do as much for us as they do for the residents who live there. Then his other favorite nighttime nurse, Gayle, came in to console us and she was crying. She loved my dad – they all did.

His ‘dorm mate’ Bob, sat with my dad overnight a couple of hours the night before, after he returned from playing pool in town. He checked on us and my dad each and every hour these past few days. Then last night when he came back, he saw. He cried. He came and sat with us for quite a while. Went to bed about 1am but wanted us to check with him before we left.

My dad will have that chance I hope, to reconnect with Steve, with his best friend Frank, his sister, his beloved Aunt Maime and Kate  who raised him and so many others he loved..

But first, that better place better have my mom waiting in the wings, 2 strong legs to walk on, a great car to take her on a long drive in, a bottle of Trader Joe’s Merlot wine and a couple of glasses, some chocolate, a bag full of White Castles and the freedom that was ripped away from him more than 2 years ago.

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etd…

It strikes me that the timing of death (and birth) are such inconvenient truths. How do we ask ‘how much longer’ when we already know, no one can say. Everyone needs to ‘plan’ around work, other life obligations, and I just wonder. No one can give a definitive answer. This is not like a sudden heart attack or stroke that takes someone out in a moment. I’m not a physician where my absence may be life threatening to someone; I’m not in a role that my absence will impact in a harsh way, too many others. Maybe just the dogs. That is hard but we’re trying to work around it, round trips and all.  But I don’t look at this as inconvenient. It is a life/work interruption, a necessary one, to be there with our loved one as they have the very last moments of their own life. Ours should not impede theirs.

This process is more lingering. More slow and unknowing. Anticipated changes to the body may not occur.  We may be watching for one thing and another thing is happening that we aren’t aware of. The best estimated time of death is most likely today, or tomorrow. Could be a few more days. It’s like waiting for the train to hit the car. It’s coming, are we prepared, have we said enough, should we have said more?

The morphine started yesterday, more for the ‘hunger breathing’ that they call it. To calm the respiratory system. Then by the evening, the 2 hour interval started, and we all know what that does to the respiratory system. Yesterday, he knew we were all there, he responded in brief, smiled when he heard Bob’s voice, and of course – his most beloved grandsons, Eric and Cory.

Here’s an article or blog about this very same issue of breathing…

While he was very grave yesterday morning to a slightly responsive in the afternoon, he asked for visitors. His immediate family – we were all there. His other angel of a niece (Chris) was there for me as much as for him, even though she visited the day before. She’s been on this ride before with her own parents, and too many others. She knows the meaning of comforting others. She knows what it means to be present, to offer support, in any way she can. She asked me what I was so afraid of. I think maybe because I don’t feel that I properly grieved my mom, that I will grieve the both of them together, and very soon. And feel the loss of both of them, together, more profoundly.

As my brother said yesterday, while we’ve already been grieving along time for my dad – and we all grieve in different ways. The nurses have each come in and told my dad how much they love him, and he heard them. They kissed his forehead. And he heard us, too.

So, if there is any family that planned on seeing my dad and saying your own goodbyes, today would be the day, earlier than later. No phone calls to him please. He won’t answer. We probably won’t either.

 

“condition change”

… is the term used when I got a call from an unknown nurse awhile ago. 102.4 fever, elevated BP, congestion and increased confusion.

Reached out to a hospice nurse (supervisor in call center) to say that according to her notes, if we want to see him, we should get there because he is in fast decline.

At that point, the hospice nurse in charge was pending. But just now got a call, he’s declining fast and morphine is being ordered.

Not a good day…

Just as I started to write this, my dad called. Very confused, just woke up, and wondering if ‘mom’ was working and did she get anything to eat. He was using the nurse’s phone to call me. He realized that he slept a good part of the day, but now at nearly 10pm he’s awake. I anticipate another call during the night. That’s how things go sometimes.

I  wasn’t made aware until today, that my dad’s pain meds were changed about 3 weeks ago. They took him off Norco and put him on Oxycodone. Norco just wasn’t doing it. As well, because he’s been very agitated and confused of late, they increase the dosage and frequency of Xanax. Instead of 0.25mg every 12 hours, PRN, they upped it to .50mg every 4 hours, if needed. I was told that when someone is actively dying, their dosage is increased to the next level.

As confused as he was today about so many things, he very much understood when I told him that a relative had passed away. As soon as I said Leo – he said “Hogan?” Then he mentioned that he used to work with Leo. He was trying to read the mass card I saved for him but would hold it up with his eyes closed. He said he was sorry he wasn’t there for both Leo and Irene. He talked of what a nice man Leo was, and how he knew he went to church daily and more.

So, moments after being sure there were French fries all over the floor, and that a girl was standing at the foot of his bed, he had this clarity and memory about our relative who died on my dad’s birthday, and was buried yesterday.

My dad hasn’t had clothes on in days it seems. That upsets me a great deal. But on a day like today, where he’s had serious trouble with constipation and other issues, I can see why, as he probably won’t be getting out of bed. When he needs to use the bathroom – he insists on using the damn bathroom. That means a lift is brought into the room, he’s hoisted up and rolled over to the bathroom. Presses the call light when ready to be hoisted up and rolled back to bed. One of his CNAs (Sean) who is a great caregiver to my dad, mentioned that he was afraid my dad my get a hernia from these issues and he’s keeping a close eye on him.

I also may have mentioned the serious weight gain. Well, they’re trying to work on that to cut out one of the feedings they give him, from 5 down to 4 per day. I don’t know how fast that could work, but his stomach is extremely distended.

Even in his confusion, he’d hear a voice out in the hallway – recognizing another favorite CNA named Michelle. There’s been some issues with getting him the proper wheelchair. Not just to get around easier, but to accommodate both feet without dropping of one; to have wheels on the side so he can get himself around on his own – when he’s ready again.

OxycodoneThere are a couple of other guys there who keep checking in on him. Other CNAs have acknowledged that he seems to be failing and faster. They have all been so supportive.

I took down some of his St. Pat’s day decorations today but left up his birthday card/sign. I taped it to his door so anyone who wanted to wish him a happy birthday, could do so right there. I am sharing that picture here. Wonder if you might notice something very cute.

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85 years old today, Etc.

Etc.

"So, Will I Get Better?"

A few photos from our little gathering yesterday. My dad enjoyed a couple of small softened spoons of vanilla ice cream. First time we’ve seen him use a utensil. When I brought the swabs to dip into wine for him, he said no-way. Took the cup from my hand and swallowed it. Yes, we heard him swallow it but I was still in a panic. When the hospice nurse said ‘it could kill him’ that thought didn’t leave my mind. But would his sips of a $2.99 bottle of Charles Shaw Merlot from Trader Joe’s do him in??? Not to take this lightly, but he could not wait for it. When offered a bit more later on, he declined. He knew his limit; if not in what he should do, but that he doesn’t want to re-engage those taste buds or desire for food/drink. We tried to play Boggle. While…

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85 years old today, Etc.

A few photos from our little gathering yesterday. My dad enjoyed a couple of small softened spoons of vanilla ice cream. First time we’ve seen him use a utensil. When I brought the swabs to dip into wine for him, he said no-way. Took the cup from my hand and swallowed it. Yes, we heard him swallow it but I was still in a panic. When the hospice nurse said ‘it could kill him’ that thought didn’t leave my mind. But would his sips of a $2.99 bottle of Charles Shaw Merlot from Trader Joe’s do him in??? Not to take this lightly, but he could not wait for it. When offered a bit more later on, he declined. He knew his limit; if not in what he should do, but that he doesn’t want to re-engage those taste buds or desire for food/drink. We tried to play Boggle. While I thought this was a good game for memory and keeping the brain active, the letter blocks behind upside down wasn’t helpful. We played just a bit w/o rules or a timer. And he did find a couple of words to spell out. However, his last move was a random spelling of ‘son of a bitch.’

 



 

We are amazed that my dad has somehow found the will and strength he has – to have 3 birthdays since his accident in 2015.

I’d like to say ‘surviving and thriving’ but that is not truly the case. He’s become more consistently confused. Nurses have shared that he has ‘presented’ this way just before a hospital/ER need. There doesn’t seem to be a fever or other irregular vitals, however, as of Sunday – my dad was at 204 lbs! His weight has been steadily increasing the past couple of weeks and its a wonder how/why. This gives new pause to ‘sedentary lifestyle‘. He has no control over his caloric intake, or his inability to exercise, walk. Even though, he has asked us if we knew he ‘walked’ down the hall the other day.

My dad’s tube feedings are now decreased from 5x down to 4x per day. I never realized they had gone to 5x. He is weighed once weekly and he’s always eager to share that with us.

We visited on Sunday and found out there was a Bingo game being sponsored by an Alsip area VFW, with many Boy Scouts from the Alsip and Mt. Greenwood area. They wheeled people in, handed out their cards and walked around saying ‘thanks for your service’ to everyone. They were most excited actually to see our dogs as we had brought Rico and Dolly (fresh from the beauty parlor) to visit with my dad. We had nearly a 90 minute wait for the games to start so there was a lot of downtown. We sat across from a newer resident, 93 yrs old and quite with it; from Tinley Park. We were able to chat with this man’s daughter and husband. It’s nice to get to know other families.

At one point, my dad made a comment that people who bring dogs there are just damned stupid. He would never bring his dog there. 🙂

Yesterday, he left me a voice mail late afternoon. He said “hi honey, I’m still alive. Still 84. Give me call please.”

Here’s a few photos from Sunday. Today, we will venture to spend time with my dad on his 85th birthday. I started decorating his room a bit on Sunday, and will add to that today. Similar to what we did for my mom’s 80th celebration with a banner of celebrity photos…today’s filled with celebrities who are either 85 years old or those born on March 14th. Hopefully he will get a find some humor in this. With a few gifts to open and no cake to celebrate, we did get permission to bring some Merlot that he will likely only be able to enjoy on a swab.

85 is only 23