Friday, January 28, 2011

A New Room . . . is what Tom knows about where he is now. Actually, we don't know what he knows about his condition. He asked once yesterday afternoon where he is and when I said that he is in the hospital and had been there three weeks he said nothing. Today someone asked how he fell and again, there didn't seem to be any recognition of what has happened to him. Yesterday he was about as alert as he gets; today not so much. He told me when I arrived that it was harder for him to talk today. This afternoon he asked for pain meds, he was given morphine and finally settled down and slept. I ran two necessary errands and came home by 5:30.

Throw away what you think you know about Hospice Care unless you've had to admit a loved one. In the years I was blessed to be a part of Older Adult Ministry I could spew a lot of information. In the last several years the realities of growing older and living with chronic illnesses have invaded our lives. I remember talking to groups about the difficulty of giving up measures of independence and then how difficult it was to cope with Tom's reaction to the news that he could no longer drive. I have had to learn what to say "no" to and what was allowable, though the consequences might mean more work for me. But, I digress.

The Hospice team was wonderful today as they came, one by one, to introduce themselves, to ask questions, to see if we had any and to get to know both Tom and me. We were treated like people, not the patient in 989. At some time during the day I met all except one member of the team assigned to Tom. Only the chaplain was absent. I almost wept as I watched two aides give Tom a bath and change his linen. They encouraged and affirmed him and treated him with such tenderness. What a comfort to both patient and family members!

As many times as I have visited and prayed with terminally ill people and their families, it has been difficult to pray over my own husband and commit him to the Lord completely. Isn't he my husband? Don't I take better care of him than anyone else? I have promised to care for him in sickness and in health. It's a control thing that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. To others I have recommended giving their loved one permission to let go. I have not been able to do that with Tom. He has always been such a fighter and I don't want him to think I have "given up" on him. The Hospice case manager helped me with that. After our conversation, I thought: "What's wrong with you? You and Tom have always trusted God with your lives and sought His wisdom and guidance. You need to do that now." We not only have hope, we have the one who is Hope!" I have been studying the book of Revelation as I sit with Tom and realized as never before what a beautiful picture of hope it paints. God continues to guide with His Word. He will give me the words I need to say.

One last thing. No matter how old you are, no matter whether you are married or single, do not pass "go" until you have an Advanced Directive for Health Care in place. Simple forms are available on-line and other places, or you can expand on the form and state your specific wishes. Name someone as your power of attorney who knows your wishes and who will see to it that they are executed. Such a document is a priceless gift for those who love you!

Pastor Margaret

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