Jeff fell about three weeks ago as he was getting up from the couch. He landed with his full weight onto our coffee table.
As you know, Jeff is essentially blind in the right eye and has very little vision remaining in his left eye. He has been able to see shapes and shadows, but in the last couple of weeks even that has been growing dim. And the cancer in his brain is affecting his sense of balance as lesions in the spine are affecting the nerves in his toes. All those things combined make him very unsteady, and by the time he realized he was falling, he was leaning too far backward to correct.
He hit hard. But God was merciful, and Jeff didn’t break anything or cause any serious injury. He had quite a bruise across his back, and two weeks later when he still wasn’t recovering, I insisted we go to see his doctor.
While we were there, he requested a wheelchair. And when they had discussed how much difficulty he was having getting upstairs and just taking a shower, Dr. Morgan suggested it was time to give hospice a call.
I made the call for the wheelchair and it was delivered the next day. I called hospice and arranged for them to come and discuss strategies for showering. What I didn’t realize was that when you call hospice, they engage their organization like a precise military operation.
It felt like an invasion. And yet a compassionate invasion. (Can there be such a thing?) The phone was ringing several times a day to arrange for all the different visits.
The coordinator came on Tuesday and ordered the shower chair. The medical supply company rang the bell at 9 am on Wednesday to deliver the chair. A massage therapist called Wednesday and left a message stating he would be here at 2 pm.
On Thursday, his nurse came and a social worker as well. They were here for three hours.
Then a hospice aide came on Friday. She called and told Jeff she’d be there in twenty minutes. (Can you sense that I was starting to feel frustrated by this?) I was finishing up at the grocery store/pharmacy when Jeff called me to say she was coming and to please hurry home.
She was lovely, and in truth her visit was the most helpful. Jeff was having a rough morning, and he didn’t think he could make it upstairs to shower, so she bathed him and helped him dress in the half-bath on the main floor.
I just kept telling myself all week that this was all for Jeff, to make him comfortable and safe. But they said it’s for me, too. To help me feel a little less like his nurse and more like his wife. I just about cried when his nurse said that. I had been feeling so guilty about calling them because I thought I should be willing to take care of his personal hygiene. I had actually told my mom the night before I called hospice that there was so little of me left that felt like Jeff’s wife. I wonder if that is a common sentiment among caregivers. That the more intense the care becomes, the more it overshadows the relationship? So perhaps having the hospice staff take over some of that will help me focus on just being Jeff’s companion.
Now that everything is in place, I think this week will go more smoothly. We know which days to expect which person at an approximate time. And I know that as his condition worsens, it will be a blessing to have their skilled help to care for him.