My father passed away July 1st at home in home hospice. From the time I got back to Alabama he was steadily declining and then we as a family decided to move him to hospice. We had had many discussions with him about what his wishes were and it always came back to what ever is less of a burden. Of course we ignored that wish and decided to move him home anyway. But it really was a 50/50 thing. Him being in a hospital 45 miles from home or us being the primary care givers with home hospice. Unfortunately when we made the decision to move him home the doctors didn't' think he'd be able to make the trip. And he was also not sick enough to be enrolled in hospital hospice. So he spent a weekend out of the Cardiac Care Unit, in a regular hospital unit, but pretty much under hospice care. Hospice care removes all therapeutic treatments, and only focuses on comfort care (morphine). As we suspected his condition improved and we were able to move him home.
At home he had ups and downs and the emotions of dealing with that were incredible. We knew he was declining and while of course we wanted him to get better, we knew he would never really get better, so we wanted him to go quickly. We knew he didn't really want to just lay there for a long time dying. It was fine line between making him comfortable and nursing him back to health (or any little improvement in his condition). As his caregivers we were the ones responsible for medicating him and it was very hard to give him more and more morphine because we all knew that if he had any chance of recovering he wouldn't' want pain meds (he never has). The weekend he was in the hospital before he came home I asked him if he wanted pain meds. He said no. A nurse pointed out that if I asked him if he wanted us to make him comfortable, he'd probably say yes. And of course he did. And to make him comfortable it included more and more morphine. We also learned that we had to stop telling him about things that would be happening. Telling him who was coming to visit, or what we were going to get him for dinner gave him a reason to hang on, even though he said over and over, he just wanted to go quickly and get it over with.
Unfortunately that struggle amongst the family probably strung him a long a bit, but we finally all got on the same page and had a mantra we repeated to him, that everything was going to be okay, mom was going to be fine, he did a good job setting things up to take care of her. We sat with him and told him that when he woke up (also we learned not to talk about anything we hadn't wrapped up around him...he woke up one time and was frustrated we hadn't had his silver coins appraised. The night before we were talking about where they were when we thought he was sleeping. And there were a couple other unfinished business things we had been discussing in front of him when we thought he was sleeping).
It really was such a struggle to draw the line and say no more feeding him his favorite foods, no more giving him sips of our beer if we had one, no more letting people just stop by to say hi to him. And then the struggle with medicating him was great too. It's so hard to just keep giving someone medication because the only time they are awake is because they are uncomfortable and then you give more morphine and they become incoherent and go back to sleep. But he was comfortable when he passed away. My mom, sister and I sat with him a lot the night before. I was on the phone with my brother telling him that it was close. I told my brother "dad hasn't really shut his eyes since last night at 10 and his breathing is different" and my dad closed his eyes tight then let out his last breath.
We had a small ceremony at the Dauphin Island Veteran's Wall on the 4th of July followed by a wake at my mom's house and we will have another ceremony in Ohio over Labor Day weekend. I think just about the whole town showed up for the wake and everyone told stories about him.
I'm now back in Hawaii for a bit to make my final packing arrangements and then will be on Dauphin Island for at least a few months. I'm enrolled in some online classes at Tulane this fall and will move to New Orleans this winter.
Worth sharing: Aloha Means GoodbyeTweet this! Posted by Maggs