Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back to Reality

I just returned home from a fabulous Florida vacation!  My dear friend, Karen Fletcher, invited me months ago to join her and her family on this trip. When she asked me I told her I planned to go, and the only thing that might alter my decision would be a job change for me.  I know that God knew how much I needed to get away for a bit, and nothing stood in the way of my going.  I rested, read, ate wonderful seafood, soaked up too much sun, listened to the waves, parasailed and loved every single moment. I stayed in touch with home through phone calls and texts, and all was well until Thursday. 

The nursing home called me about Billy that afternoon, and he's struggling with chewing and swallowing meats.  He's been evaluated by the nursing staff, the OT and speech pathologist, and they recommend a mechanical diet where his meat is chopped very fine - not pureed but easier to chew and swallow.   He's been slightly dehydrated for about three weeks because he isn't drinking well.  He gets choked when drinking liquids (even thickened liquids), and then he won't take anymore fluids. Part of the issue is his posture which has changed drastically this summer. He cannot sit in a wheelchair anymore because he leans and falls out. He is now in a geriatric (geri) chair which supports him better, but he throws his head back and leans pretty badly. They prop him with pillows, but he doesn't stay that way for long. 

I went to feed him lunch today, and he was happy to see me when it finally registered who I was.  I have to get close to him and get his attention, and he smiles at me when he realizes who I am.  He eats pretty well, but getting him to drink is difficult. He usually falls asleep before he finishes a meal.  I believe he sleeps a great deal during the day and all night.  I was telling a friend about this today, and I shared with her that my head knows that all of this will happen, and I know the likely end of the story, but it hurts my heart to watch it.  Having been away for a week was wonderful but made the decline so much more real for me when I returned. 

I got another call late Thursday night that my mom was enroute to the hospital via ambulance.  My good friend, Rhonda, lives with Mom and me - Mom has dubbed us the Golden Girls!  Mom was able to get Rhonda's attention to let her know that she was struggling to breathe.  Mom has pneumonia that is getting better with antibiotics, possible congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, and as we already knew - cancer. I love that she has maintained her sense of humor through this most recent ordeal. That has carried our family through many trying times. I notice that as people age, they feel a certain freedom to express their feelings.  Mom has not hesitated to let the staff know what she does not like, and she can usually make them laugh while doing that. She hates the breathing treatments, and she thinks the respiratory therapists should go stand in the hall during her breathing treatments because their standing around gets on her nerves.  They don't allow her to shower because she's too weak, so they bring her these special body wipes that are supposed to get you just as clean as a shower.  She is not buying that either!  They suggest that she use them in the morning, and she doesn't want to do that, so she told them she would use them around mid-afternoon.  I believe she is improving and will hopefully be discharged Tuesday or Wednesday. She is questioning whether or not she will take any more chemo treatments, and I know we all support her choice - whatever it may be. 

My dad seems to be doing fairly well at the moment.  Praises for that!  Here is a sweet picture of my niece giving him a hug early today. 

Tomorrow I return to work.  I've had more time off this summer than I've had in about 15 years.  I am ready to get back to my schedule and my routine.  I love the folks I work with, and that makes it a pleasure to go each day. 

I am thankful for our blessings. I am thankful that I get to feed Billy and see his smile. I am grateful my mom is still here to make us laugh. I love that my dad can still enjoy his granddaughter's hugs.  Sometimes I get lost in the junk of life, but I know what is truly important, and I know that one day Billy will be himself again along with all of us in eternity.