Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What a difference a day makes


Sometimes the difference can happen in one quick moment. We have spent the past two weeks on an emotional roller coaster after my 91 year old father in law slipped into a coma. He suffers from congestive heart failure and Alzheimer's. Within 20 minutes we were leaving his house and following an ambulance. Within the hour he was connected by wires and tubes, his life hanging in the balance, and we were faced with life altering decisions.

Told that there was little to no hope of his recovery, we made the tough call to let nature take its course. As we waited agonizingly long minutes, he rallied to the shock of his doctor and staff members. He is now at home again with Hospice in place. For so long we have been on our own with the care of Orville. It is a relief to have Hospice there although my 87 year old mother in law, still feels a bit like her home has been invaded by strangers.

These loving strangers, come as volunteers to help bathe him, shave him, sit with him, provide nursing care and support. They come twice a week, are friendly, kind and patient. They care because my in laws are people, not because they are friends or family. I find that quite remarkable. They come to make our life easier, not because we pay them. They are available on the phone 24/7 to make sure you have access to help when you really need it - in the middle of the night.

I believe these strangers will become family. I know this to be true. My father is a Hospice Volunteer at the VA Hospital in Roseburg, OR. My mother worked in Senior Services for years, making it her mission to get help for people like our family. And yet knowing and working in this caring capacity, they understand the reluctance that families have for this unprecedented level of volunteerism and human compassion for the dying.

The concept of hospice comes from medieval times, a place where travelers, the sick, wounded or dying could find rest and comfort. The word "hospice" comes from the Latin word hospes: meaning to host a guest or stranger. As the development of medicine grew, sick people were treated in "hosp" itals. The spreading of germs in these facilities earned them names like "house of death" and families preferred to keep loved ones at home with the support of friends and neighbors.

We are grateful that these hospice volunteers have lent a hand to help make a difference in these days of our lives. Laughter is the best medicine as we find ourselves and the volunteers smiling at Orville's signature response to "how are you feeling?". His answer is always the same "with my fingers". I will be grateful for each minute of every day, because it does make a difference. That's what a wise grandma would do.

1 comment:

Kiesha said...

I just found your blog through nanceygrace. Hospice is a wonderful thing, we had them in my dad's house for only a few days before he passed but they were wonderful.
Home Health now comes in three times a week to help with my mom and it is a wonderful wonderful thing and takes a lot off of us.

There must be something left for you father in law to do in this life and that is why he came out of it. I will keep him and your family in my prayers.
It's very nice to 'meet' you.

I could certainly use a wise Grandma in my life. :)