Yesterday I flew home from California. I was in California for 3 weeks (much longer than the 3 days I originally intended) taking care of my father. Coincidentally, the day before I flew out to see him, he was hospitalized with a severe lung infection and bedsores.
As soon as I arrived at the hospital, his doctor spoke with me privately, showed me his xrays, and explained that Dad has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and will not live much longer. Since Dad (who is 93 and quite feeble) doesn't want extreme lifesaving measures taken, the doctor recommended that we keep him as comfortable as we can until he dies (which will be soon).
Dad was adamant that he would NOT go into a nursing home even briefly to help him recover his strength, and he insisted that he wanted to return home and live alone as he had previously. Well that was ridiculous since he was already malnourished and had bedsores from sleeping 18 hours a day!
So I asked if I could take him home and be his caretaker for the week or so that we thought he had left. Hospice provided us with all the equipment we needed, showed me the things I would need to do to care for him, and had someone come in every other day to give him a bed bath, and a social worker, LPN, and an RN to come in frequently - to check on him and offer support to both of us.
I can't say enough good things about Hospice - they are AMAZING.
When we realized that a week would not be enough, I stayed 2 more weeks, but eventually I had to return home to resume my own life (my family could only be put on hold for so long, unfortunately). By that time Dad was no longer cooperating any more - he wouldn't use oxygen, take pain medication, or do other things that would help him - probably because his brain function was quite impaired from the lack of oxygen to his brain.
Hospice arranged for him to be placed into Respite Care for 5 days (in a nursing home) so I could come home, make arrangements at work, and return to care for him again in his home. However by the time Hospice transported him out of his home (2 hours before I flew back home) it was obvious that he is going downhill fast.
He was furious at me, said that I had "sold him down the river" and was very verbally abusive. He didn't believe that I plan to return in a few days. I was pretty emotional after that of course. It's sad that after the happy weeks we had together, now he thinks that I betrayed him.
The Hospice workers helped me realize that this is just the progression of his disease, and I shouldn't take it personally. They are assessing his condition now, and will let me know tomorrow whether or not he will be able to return home with me to care for him.
They think it is unlikely, and I have to agree with him. There is almost NOTHING that he can do unassisted - and because he is now refusing to cooperate with the treatment plan, he has gotten worse very quickly the past week.
On the one hand, I'm sad that things have turned out this way. On the other hand, I'm happy that we had three very good weeks together. We got to say all the things we needed to say, and make up for the years we didn't have together. We sat together and held hands constantly, and I was able to take care of his every need promptly and willingly.
He kept telling me how much he loved me, how proud he was of me, and how happy he was to have me there. It was a wonderful (though taxing) 3 weeks, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. So now I'm trying to hang on to the memory of those moments, and hopefully he will remember them too.