Recently my older brother called me at work to tell me that Papa had had a bad night at the hospital. I won't even go IN to what happened, because I get so angry at the nursing staff, but suffice it to say that he just had a bad night. My dad and his sister, my aunt, went the next day to speak with the doctors and they finally asked for a timeline -- how long the doctor thinks Papa might have left with us. Something they haven't asked in all this time since his diagnosis.
The answer was sobering - 3 months. As much as it jarred me to hear that, when I stop and think about it, it seems like he won't even make it that long. Even in the week since we got that news, he's declined rapidly.
The suggestion was made by the doctor to put Papa into hospice care. I wasn't absolutely sure what that meant, so I asked my boss. She told me that it is basically "end of life" care. Again, that took me by surprise. I truly felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. She apologized for not taking more care with her answer (she's aware of the situation) and we talked a long time about how wonderful hospice care can be for both the patient and the family of the patient.
For those of you who don't know, hospice workers usually come to the patient's home -- no more staying in the hospital. The goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible in his or her last few months, and to ensure that the patient is surrounded by loved ones and family in an environment that is comforting and familiar.
Operaboy and I happened to be visiting Papa at the hospital this most recent Monday when my dad and my aunt were meeting with a representative of Seasons hospice care, Greg. Greg was amazing. He answered all of my dad's and my aunt's questions, and even a few that I ventured to ask. He was patient with us, and didn't even seem to mind having to repeat himself over and over (my dad is on the stubborn side and likes to make sure his voice is heard, especially in this type of situation).
We had to leave for a rehearsal, but when I spoke with my dad the next morning he said they were meeting with the nurses from Seasons at 10am that morning to sign the paperwork and ascertain what Papa needed at his home (hospital bed, sheets, which medications, the IV stand, etc). By Tuesday night, Papa was back in his home.
It's all been really rough. Part of me feels like the end is coming so soon now that we've made this decision, and it very well could be.
But I have to take it one step at a time, and just be happy he's home. He's comfortable. And he's surrounded by his children and grandchildren.
We'll enjoy it as long as we can.