Nursing Home Saga, continued

Two days ago I brought Jack home from the nursing home. He stayed ten nights, ten days, twelve hours and eighteen minutes. Or so he informed me. The decision to admit him to a nursing home after rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder was a difficult one, a choice he and I made together.
Turns out we based that decision on incorrect information. Several of our basic premises were wrong, therefore our conclusion was flawed.
How’s that for hiding the emotional trauma of the decision behind a wall of logic?
The care in the home was not what Jack or I anticipated, but the main trauma, for me and for Jack, was in his being in a place where 90% of the people in residence would, had they been beloved family pets, been gently euthanized. In truth, were it in my power to prevent, I would not leave my worst enemy in a situation like that. To abandon my husband to such a place was simply impossible.
Please notice that the previous sentence contains the clause, “were it in my power to prevent.” As it turns out, escape from a nursing home is a strong motivator for a person to learn to do for themselves, with one trembling hand, that which one wouldn’t believe could be accomplished. Jack learned to care for himself. Slowly. Clumbsily. But he figured it out. If he had not been able and willing to do so, no matter how anguished I felt over him being there, I could not have brought him home.
The decision to place someone we love in the care of strangers can emotionally gut us, leave us broken and wounded. For some, this decision is the only possible solution to the diminishing capacity of spouse or parent. No one makes the decision lightly, and no matter that they know it is impossible to care for this person without endangering both themselves and the loved one – still, there is guilt and a deep feeling of having failed. If you are in this position you have my deepest sympathy and complete understanding.
As for Jack and I, we got lucky. Again.
Life did mess with us just a bit. I brought Jack home on Wednesday afternoon. Within an hour of walking in the house, both of his feet were painfully swollen and he could not lift himself from a chair or bed or walk.
All that self-sufficiency that had been the very basis for me bringing him home, flew right out the freaking window.
He could not move without help, could not take care of his toilet needs.
I admit, I panicked a bit.
Every single friend and relative I have (except my sister who worked for years in assisted living and nursing homes) advised me not to bring Jack home. These folks are fond of Jack. They love me. When I spent two weeks in the hospital a few months ago they lifted me up with their love and support and rescued me from death. And, honestly, caring for Jack (and this was pre-shoulder surgery) is one of the reasons I ended up in the hospital to begin with.
I understand their point.
So, when less than two hours after springing Jack from the nursing home, he could no longer care for himself, it was not a good moment.
But necessity and the stubborn refusal to admit when we’ve made a mistake have carried Jack and I into and through countless adventures in our years together.
We survived the night.
Thursday morning I took him into the VA emergency room.
Gout. He has gout.
They gave him medication and a wheelchair.
This is Saturday and he is walking again. Shuffling slow, but ambulatory and able to get up and down from his chair and bed and to and from the toilet on his own. His pain level has dropped from a ten to a two.
Will I be able to keep him out of a nursing home for the rest of his life? I do not know. But I will do my best to keep him with me for as long as I can. The gout flare-up was a sharp reminder to both of us of just how razor thin and swaying is this bridge we’ve patched together to carry us over the canyon of aging.
For now, we’re together, holding hands, and we’re not looking down.


About Author and Speaker Pamela Foster

Pamela Foster is a speaker and author. Her first book, Redneck Goddess, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Her second book, Bigfoot Blues, will be available in August 2012.
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9 Responses to Nursing Home Saga, continued

  1. Didn’t the nursing home discharge him home with Home Health services? I worked for nursing homes for 10 years as a Social Worker, and it makes no sense that he was sent home with out those services, or without a home evaluation prior to discharge. I’m just trying to understand the situation with the little information available.

    Now, you can always request home health services.

    Hope Jack can get to feel stronger soon. Doris

    • Hi Doris. Thank you for asking this important question. Yes, home health has been to the house since his discharge. It takes a few days and we were past the gout attack when they arrived, but the worker is kind and while she has so far offered no new information, perhaps she’ll be available for help when we need it in the future. Within a week, physical therapy will also be set. Without in-home PT, I could not have brought him home.

  2. So glad to have you back writing to us again, Pam. You always strike a chord. “For now,” we are all OK. Hugs to you both.

  3. John Biggs says:

    Another day another victory.

  4. Fritz says:

    It was good talking with Jack over the phone this afternoon. What a ride…so far! Pam perhaps you could contact the local In Home Health Support, IHHS, if you haven’t already — for state assistance in helping perform ADL. You need help so YOU don’t end up back in the hospital.
    God Speed & Good luck.
    Peace & Love, Fritz

    • Hi there, Fritz! Home Health has been here already and physical therapy will be set up early this coming week. One day at a time is the attitude around here right now. Jack and I are both looking forward to seeing you once we hit Humboldt County.

  5. nancyhartney says:

    I can only image the trauma and guilt and gut wrenching that these last months (yes, months) have visited on you. Thanks for sharing the saga – I’m taking notes; never know when and where you’ll need them.

  6. Stormy Hawn says:

    Thanks for your update Pam. Some real important information for us older folks with dedicated spouses. I hope that you two can achieve comfort in your bodies, peace in your souls and love in your hearts. And remember take care of the care taker, the most important person in the mix.

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