Sunday, September 2, 2007

'Night, Grandpa

I just received the call from my father that Grandpa took a serious turn for the worse last night and that they just took him to hospice. They don't expect him to last much longer. I'm doing the laundry right now so that I can pack up and head back to Kansas City in a hurry if I need to. I'll try to get tomorrow's CCC ready to roll, but can't guarantee that I'll be able to get it posted. I knew y'all would understand.

Given my considerable training and research in geriatric cognitive functioning (the way old people's brains work - or don't) I've seen this coming for a long time. He had a head injury with a subdural hematoma and two subsequent brain surgeries a couple of years ago, a minor stroke and he has been dealing with transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes) ever since. His affect has flattened, he's been increasingly agitated and irritable and has become increasingly routine-bound in an effort to maintain some level of control in his life. His long-term memory is pretty good, but he can't tell you what he had for lunch (hell, neither can I, most days). It doesn't take a PhD to figure out that Grandpa may have a full six pack, but he's missing the little plastic thingy that holds it all together. He walked out of my dissertation defense, mumbling to my aunt that this was the longest damn wedding he had ever seen, then at the reception after graduation, he apologized for not being able to dance at my wedding reception. I try to call him at least once a week and every time I've talked to him, he's asked me how the medical profession is treating me. Sigh.

About a month ago, he was in the hospital with cardiac problems and while he was in there, he was diagnosed with bone cancer. The doctors gave him a year to live at most. Grandma has really had her hands full because he's been steadily declining since he has returned home. She can't even go to the grocery store to pick up a few necessities and my father, aunts and uncles aren't much help, even though they all live relatively close by. Fortunately she's been able to get at least a little bit of help here and there in bathing and feeding him, but he has needed constant supervision and it's really taking its toll on her. Sadly, they don't have life insurance, so how in the world his arrangements will be paid for is beyond me.

Like most things, my view of death and dying is a little different than most people's. There are times, particularly when considering a person's quality of life, when death is a blessing. Sure, we're all going to miss Grandpa, but we already miss him. He hasn't really been Grandpa in a couple of years. I'm hopeful that he doesn't have to linger on for years in a vegetative state and that he is able to cross over soon, slipping quietly away in his sleep.

1 comment:

River Rat said...

I totally agree with the quality of life and death statement. My Uncle died of cancer a few months ago, and it was a blessing for him to fade away in his sleep. I should hope to be so lucky when my time comes.