We had established a daily routine while my wife was confined to The Life Care Center at The Mather. Her wonderful caretaker, Cozette, would arrive at 8 o’clock in the morning and with the help of her Hospice nurse and The Mather staff she was bathed and spruced up and I would drop in to have quick, “Good morning” kiss and hug. A noon visit was included as often as possible. I was still involved in trying to sell the house and there were doctor and dentist visits as well as going through still unopened boxes from the big move. But at 3:45 or so, with the day’s mail in hand, I made my way to the second floor so I could report on family activities and prepare to share dinner.
If I got there early enough, I’d often catch Sheila watching “Dennis The Menace” or “Father Knows Best”. It may be difficult some of you to understand, but before her fall and subsequent illness, my wife seldom watched television. We didn’t even have a TV in the house until the late 50′s and we’re actually forced into getting it. At a parent/teachers meeting, one of my son’s teachers apologized for bringing up what might be considered a private matter, but she wanted us to know that our son was often embarrassed when characters from TV like Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers were mentioned as he had no idea of what the kids were talking about. So, TV entered our lives. Sheila finally got to see me do the news, eventually watched M*A*S*H with us, but seldom would she sit and watch anything on her own. That’s why I was so surprised to see her laughing and really loving “Father Knows Best”
”Father Knows Best”, a great show to watch when real life isn’t doing much for you.
When your confined to a bed and wheel chair, life can be rather dull and that television set on the wall of her room gave Sheila moments of joy and enlightenment that really surprised me. She loved watching Jack Hanna’s Wild Kingdom and Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin on Saturday mornings and if their was a classic movie on, she would watch and enjoy. The PBS specials were particularly welcome. I recall a retrospective on Ed Sullivan that showed clips of George Carlin and Rich Little that really had her laughing.
As the weeks in January progressed, anything pleasant was welcome, as Sheila slowly showed signs of withdrawing. She’d also get moments of what I can only describe as a “panic attack” where breathing became difficult. This is when the Hospice care showed its benefits. Instead of having to wait for a doctor, they could give her a small amount of Ativan under the tongue and she would calm her down almost immediately.
Periods of delusion were also increasing as I’d get stories of all the people who were visiting my wife’s room, but she couldn’t remember their names. She’d have no idea of what she had eaten that day. When I mentioned this to our Hospice nurse she assured me actions similar to this in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients are the norm. I’ve also been getting a detailed e-mail after every Hospice visit which helps a lot because you just can’t remember everything. Patience is a virtue and I worked hard at it.
Lesson #10 - Accept the hand you are dealt with no remorse or anger. You have no control anyway so make the best of the situation.
It’s such a small world. We had a visit from the Mother of a young man who played soccer and hockey with one of our guys back in the early 70′s. She brought with her a dog, specially trained to bring comfort to the sick or injured, They cuddle and smooch and Sheila really enjoyed the visit. This particular dog made the rounds of about five rooms on this floor that day.
Got great news from our realtor. It looks like the house has been sold and we’ll know for sure in a couple of days. Now the questions arises, do I tell Sheila or not? As I’ve mentioned before, that home meant so much to her that I’ve tried not to bring it up and I think I’ll wait a bit longer before mentioning it again.
The kids have been coming by a lot lately and their visits seem to be a high point of every day. Sheila still recognizes everyone. She’ll nod her head or smile at something they’ve said, but after 10 or 15 minutes her face goes blank and we’re not sure if she still knows they are in the room.
A bit of upsetting news from our care-giver whose family is coping with a serious illness back in the Philippines. A substitute will come over while Cozette is still here and learn the ropes. We’ll meet her tomorrow, and I’ll tell you more next week.