Most people think Hospice means the end in imminent...weeks or even days away. But you can qualify for Hospice care if you are expected to be on this earth for 6 months or less. And you can be re-certified if you surpass that mark. I didn't know that.
My Dad has reached this point. His dementia coupled with the new diagnosis of congestive heart failure mean he probably won't be with us for very much longer.
The first thing to point out here is that my Dad (the REAL guy, not this one with dementia) was always a strong believer in Jesus. He helped show the love of Christ to hundreds of kids over about 25 years or so in a church Youth Club program. And he was there so long that he did the same for some of THEIR kids! He was a Lay Leader in the church, very involved. He literally helped run just about every aspect of his church. He knew what lay ahead and that our time here on earth is temporary. It's hard to feel very sad especially since I read Imagine Heaven by John Burke and I really learned what is in store for my Dad when he gets there. He gets to be with my brother! He gets to be with his sister, and with one of his best friends who went ahead of him. He gets to be with Jesus, and be 100% healed! No more pain.
Pain. That brings me to what has been on my mind so much lately. The pain of dementia. Now, admittedly, MUCH of that pain is ours. He has been gone for a long time now. We see a little bit of him peeking through now and then. But mostly, he is gone. That hurts us, a LOT. What some people don't realize is that he is mentally in pain very often. Anguish, sometimes. There was a doctor at the hospital who was in charge of his care and this man didn't seem to understand that pain. His goal seemed to be to remove as much of those calming medications as he could. "He is too sedated," is what he told me. Yes, some of those dementia related meds make him sleepy. But you know what? Sleepy and calm is better than confused, nervous, angry, sad, agitated, frustrated. Can you imagine feeling all of those emotions all day and all night, 24/7?
Enter the Hospice team. So far, these people get it. His nurse today gave me a new perspective on his crankiness as well...he is quite possibly feeling physical pain somewhere, and he just can't describe it, so it comes out as these emotions. So that is yet another view. What has been incredible to me so far with Hospice is that they understand my Dad shouldn't have to feel all those nasty emotions these last months of his life. They are all about his comfort and happiness. It's such a blessing! They also provide so much help, with supplies, equipment, medical personnel, bathing. They make this process so much easier.
When you don't have to worry about the long term effects of certain drugs, there are different doses you can give. My Dad had some extremely rough times in the past month (hospital and rehab center) where he was the meanest person you could imagine (NOT his pre-dementia personality). He doesn't have to feel that way now, and we don't have to hear him talk that way anymore. He has gotten physical a few times with my mom, nothing serious (YET...) and we can now avoid that with meds before he reaches that extreme level of agitation.
Thankfully, he loves my essential oils and lets me apply them to him, diffuse them, and I made him a little aromatherapy inhaler that he is enjoying. I have become very into avoiding medicine for my own family whenever possible! However, to see him without it...it is NOT a pretty sight. I will continue to oil him up, I will welcome the Hospice aromatherapist with open arms (and an open notebook so I can learn from him!) We will use the oils as a supplement to his meds, and will gladly use everything medical Hospice has to offer to keep him calm and happy.
I shouldn't speak for my mom, but I am :) We are both feeling relieved for everything they can do to help him. It IS sad to know his diseases mean he won't be here much longer. But he is already not here. Dementia started taking him from us FOUR years ago. Hospice will help him have peace, and that is just priceless. He is definitely having more happy moments here at home than he did when he was hospitalized. And most of the time, when he is angry, it's at my Mom and he thinks I am the big hero! I am relishing those moments while my Mom just rolls her eyes. We have to laugh, it's the only way to survive this! One funny story, he uses eye drops often because of eye issues he has. He lost his drops at the rehab center and she gave him the bottle from her purse when she got there one morning. I came in a bit later, and he showed me the eye drops and told me the others were gone. The next day, he was mad at my mom for not giving him eye drops, and went on and on thanking me for the drops. (that SHE brought him hahahahah) So Brad and I are often the Golden ones. hahahaha Mom!!
|Brad helping him shave at the rehab center|
I know we still have many challenges ahead. But I have given it to God. Well, that sounds past tense, like it's done. I have to continually give it to God. He never promised things would be easy and wonderful. He DID promise this, though: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) I find comfort in this verse, because it tells me that everything will be ok. My Dad taught me to trust in Jesus, and that is what I need to do.
This song gives me so much comfort as well. Please give it a good listen!