This is a post that I had hoped could wait until after I’ve finished my show, but it circumstances have shown that I should not wait.
What is palliative care? From google: Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
Most of you know that my grandparents moved in with us a couple of years ago due to extensive health issues that made it so they couldn’t be left to live alone anymore. My grandmother’s level of dementia had reached a point where my grandfather just couldn’t take care of her, as his own health was poor due to a consistently reoccurring case of congestive heart failure along with a plethora of other conditions to boot.
My wife, who has training as a PSD, took the lead on nursing grandpa back to health, and for the most part he’s been doing as well as possible. She got his weight down from the mid-200’s down to around 180..but there is no cure for age and the damage that he’s suffered in the past from poor diet, anemia, poor heart, bad kidneys and bad lungs. We knew time would eventually catch him as it does for us all, but had no idea if he had weeks, months or even years left in the count.
He is on constant oxygen with a pacemaker. The big blue beast, as we call his main machine provided a constant heartbeat soundtrack to our house with a long length of hose for us to track whatever room he’s in at that time, though we have smaller tanks and a little machine I can take in the car for short trips like church and family visits.
Over the last few months we have had numerous visits to hospitals for him, where he’s been treated, poked, prodded and released. They keep going back to the root causes and slapping band-aids, blood transfusions and making suggestions about dialysis and other minor surgeries. The last couple of visits required ambulatory transport as my wife could not safely get him out of the house on her own.
But he’s 87…and it the interval between these hospital stays was getting shorter and shorter. So, we have had a long discussion with him and decided to let that stop. We need to just keep him comfortable at home, and do what we can to ensure he is not in pain.
He has a hospital bed and pole in his room, and we balance his meds with as needed pain pills and Lasix. We have a whole new palliative nursing team now who will work with us on what will be the final stage of his life. They come to us instead of us needing to go to them.
The other night I thought would be his last. The level of oxygen that the beast was providing was not enough and his brain was starving. He was confused, and repeating “Oh man” over and over again. The solutions we were trying to help him with by supplying a mask instead of nose plugs weren’t working as the strap hurt his ears too much…he just kept pulling it off. Then our oxygen guy pulled a Hail-Mary and came up with a solution. Apparently, the Big Blue Beast had a big brother….the Bigger Grey Beast. It pumps out twice the amount of oxygen…which seems to have helped him for now. He was more alert and told me he was feeling much better this evening when I came home.
But I suspect we still don’t have much time left. It could be days, weeks or even months. We don’t know. Family and friends, if you have ever had that thought that you should come visit him, this may be the time to do so. Phone calls are ok for short spells but I find he grows weary after a few minutes. Let me know if you would like to. We’ll understand if you find it too much to handle. I just don’t want anybody to be left with that thought of…”If only I did…”. If you just want to send a message, I’ll be happy to read them to him. I know he’ll appreciate it.