My dear “Caregivers’ Social Club” buddy called yesterday after taking her husband to the hospital. Acutely aware of his advancing Alzheimer’s, she had felt something was wrong and then noticed a sudden downturn in strength. She learned that he has had a slow bleed in his brain for some time.
She was filled with recriminations for herself: How could she have missed it? How could she not have listened to her growing feeling that he was “off?” What if she had figured it out sooner?
We are the careful caregivers. The careful caregivers are observant, especially when it comes to the primary focus of our attentions. We aren’t doctors but we could play one on TV. We rack up successes: bladder infections we caught early, raspy noises that turned out to be pneumonia, disabilities we were able to reverse by advocating for physical therapy. We dance in front of disaster.
Then one day, we can’t dance fast enough.
It isn’t that we don’t want to, or haven’t tried, or aren’t good at it. We’re champions at it.
We butt up against the irrefutable reality of a chronic illness that ultimately goes only one direction: down.
Crossing the threshold of hospice represented a change in care for Dad, but it also signified a change for me. Though still vigilant, I stopped fighting and accepted where Dad’s journey is going. I am putting supportive care in place so that I can focus on loving him and listening to him rather than trying to fix everything.
I am not giving up, and I am not giving in. I am giving it over. With four visits from a hospice nurse in six days, I have a clinical partnership to help address symptoms as they arise. I am coming to terms with God’s role in all of this – though I still don’t understand how this difficult process of dying is a great plan. I am beginning to recognize that I am not in control of the speed or shape of this final journey. I am no longer fighting but I am not beaten.
Today I am praying for my dear friend as she faces a difficult decision about whether to approve surgery or not. She’s a careful (and loving) caregiver, and she wants to make it right.
To C: I am with you, my friend. There is no “right decision” here and it may not even be possible to discern the best decision. I wish I could say, “You’ll know what’s best.” But that’s one of those things people say that isn’t always true. Surgery or not, the future is a bitch. You will pick the least worst of the choices ahead of you. You will keep in mind what is kind, and ethical, and what your husband would want. This is an awful decision to face, one you never anticipated and one you could not have prevented, even as careful as you are. I love you. Call me if I can help.
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