Homecare – You Decide!

Today, in Canada, we spend lots of money on hospitals and there are many ways the government is trying to make the most of its health-care dollars. One of their methods is to send dying patients home with “heath care support”.

This was my experience.

On Tuesday, I was told that Jim, who was paralyzed from the waist down, would be discharged from the hospital on Friday. I would have to arrange for a ramp into the house and a wheelchair van. OK folks – would you know how to access these items??? Well I found out from sheer necessity with no help from the system.

The ramp was in place by Friday and I took lessons on how to load my husband and his wheelchair into the van which was borrowed from the local nursing home.

On Thursday the physiotherapist from Homecare visited me, examined the house and ordered the equipment that the hospital physiotherapist had prescribed. They arrived later in the day and:
1. The wheelchair was too small and did not have the reclining back as ordered.
2. The commode did not have a removable arm so Jim could slide from bed to the commode. He would have to be lifted.
3. The hospital bed was too short for anyone 6 feet and up.

On the day of discharge, I was presented with a paragraph showing Jim’s meds and was assured that they would be at my house when we got there – serviced by our pharmacy.  The meds had different names than those I was used to from our hospital stay and it was impossible to organize their use without a schedule so I devised a chart ensuring that Jim would get his meds on time.

Unfortunately, the meds did not arrive at our door until 6PM and Jim was in lots of pain by then having missed his meds at 2PM.

We had NO support all weekend, then on Monday morning at 8AM our personal service worker arrived. Halleluiah, I had some help!  He was great and was very good at lifting Jim and treating him with the utmost respect.  We were saved.  Unfortunately, as he left, he said: “See you next week!”  The CCAC had assigned us one hour a week.  Great!

For seventeen days, Jim was at home dying.  During that time, we had to go to London (an hour away) for radiation on his throat for six days in a row.  I learned how to load and unload a wheelchair van like no one else.

On the seventeenth day, Jim woke up choking and I called our homecare nurse who told me she could not be there for 2 hours since she was at home with her 3 year old daughter and her daycare did not open till 9 AM.  For two hours, Jim and I took each breath together, one at a time – together.

When the nurse finally arrived she realized how serious this was and scrambled into action, but it was too late…he died at 6:50 the next morning.

The last thing my brave husband said to me was: ” I am sorry for putting you through this”.

I became somewhat of an activist after this experience and went to the Community Care Access Centre to let them know they had greatly messed up on our “Home Care”.  They gave me some lip service and I was dismissed.  It is such a huge bureaucracy that my smallness and seeming powerlessness did not appear to phase them at all.

My lesson  is :

Don’t be the polite Canadian you have always been.  Niceness gets you nowhere with government agencies that understand their jobs aren’t going away anytime soon.

Seek help where you can get it.

Pay for help sooner than later.

I know there have been some people who have been happy with homecare but if there is even one case like mine, it is one case too many.

You decide.

 

Glad to Recover

My last post was a recollection of a turning point in my husband’s progressive death. It does not, however, reflect my mood now on a day-to-day level.

These days, I laugh all the time, I get up, get dressed and get out – almost too much. My life is rich with friends, community service, artistic endeavours, church and shopping ( of course).
I have discovered that my skills as a teacher and administrator have set me up well to assist in many community clubs and special community projects.  New friends have actively asked me to join them in their projects!
There are so many talented and big-hearted people in our little village that I always feel welcome and appreciated for anything I am able to help with. I am so in awe of some of the people here – potters, jewellers, geologists, engineers, military men and women, university professors, ministers – I could go on and on….

I am using my brain in a quilting business I set up and am having a ball designing quilts and building them in my own studio. I love, most of all, giving them away!! They seem to make people happy….
It is a rare day when I do not have a meeting somewhere or a sewing bee or an appointment. I think this busy-ness has been instrumental in recovering from my personal loss.
While I remember the bad times I have lived through, please know that my strength this year is really amazing. I feel, this spring,  as though I am coming out of my own cocoon and am realizing a whole new beginning for a whole new me.
Thank you to my friends, family and readers of this journal for supporting me and loving me through thick and thin.
Talk to you soon…

The Final Day of Phase 1

Five years ago today, on August the first, 2012 was the day my husband collapsed due to  cancer in his spine. He could feel himself going and called me. I got there just in time to try to hold him up and get him out of the small shower room he was in. Instead, I got stuck under him and had to manipulate around him in order to drag him to the bigger bathroom. He could not move his legs and his arms, while still working,  were very weak.

I called our nurse and she called the ambulance. It was ten o’clock .

Jim said he was fine. There was no pain and he would be OK by morning. Just give him a pillow and a blanket, and he could sleep on the floor.  How could he be funny at a time like this?

When the ambulance arrived, I guided the two attendants up our 16 step spiral staircase  to their 200 pound patient. They had a rough time getting him down and out to their vehicle, but in he bumped.

As they pulled away,  there were no sirens ,just a distinctly dark and  suppressing silence.

I stood there on the front sidewalk and watched the ambulance go around the corner at the end of our cul-de-sac. I knew in my heart that this was a change in our course and possibly our final battle with Jim’s deteriorating health.
I did not cry.  I was senseless, palpably numb, and scared to death.

Back in I went, got dressed and left for the hospital. It seemed surreal. I was feeling totally clueless, devoid of feeling and I just kept going – like a clock – the beat of the minutes just going on and on and on.

I met a RIDE program as I entered the city and told the officer that I was following the ambulance that was carrying my husband. He did not seem moved. I could not understand his lack of empathy at the time.

I arrived at the hospital and saw his empty ambulance. My race to the emergency door was interrupted by a security guard who told me to move my car to a parking lot a distance away.  Again, I could not understand why these people could not see my fear, my dread, my sadness.

I entered the emergency department and explained the situation to the lady behind the glass. She asked me to take a seat. Why could I not be with him? She did not answer, only pointed to the chairs.

I sat.

Ten minutes later I am allowed to enter the sanctity of the inner room where he was. The doctors of the inner sanctum had not been told I had arrived.  Why is this not important to anyone but me?

There were no beds available so they were going to send him home with me – a 200 pound paralyzed man – and then they realized – OH YA – THIS DUDE CAN’T WALK!!!  DUH!

Then they said he may have to lay in a hallway since there were no rooms.

Then they found him a room.

I sat with him for a while and at 3 in the morning I went home.  Nothing would happen till morning.  Little did I know that there were a limited number of nurses on staff at night and Jim could not get help for anything including toileting.  It was a night of devastating downers for him and he was exhausted when I arrived in the morning.

He regained some of his strength with meds over the next two weeks in this room and was transferred to a more humane setting for the last four weeks of his hospitalization.

He worked hard with the physio nurse and that hard work and the meds gave him the ability to move his toes a little and also bear his weight for a short time – but this would prove to be a dead end.  Literally!  The powers- that -be determined that he was not going to get better and he could go home and get his meds there under my care and the “home care professionals” who would support me.   That is another story and a horror story at that…

August the first was a nightmare I shall never recover from.  It is a day of the year that signalled the end of my life as it was. My very identity and my reason for living rolled away from our home in an ambulance – alone and apart from me – the first of many partings….and the beginning of the end.

 

It Never Ends

OK, and I am afraid to say it – I think I have the water issues in my new house solved. I hope I don’t put a curse on it just by saying this out loud – but – as the rest of poor Canada was flooding, my sump pumps kept up and my house stayed dry. Halleluhia!!!
BUT..
The water main broke in my front yard and I now have a 12 foot sink hole filled with gravel there. Can I grow grass on that???
My dishwasher stopped working.
My hot tub stopped working.
The battery on my truck died, and it needs a new set of tires.
The delphiniums, my favourite perennial in the whole world, have not appeared and I fear that they met their demise in the drought of 2016,
Now, tonight as I sat down to watch the hockey game – my TV stopped working.
At least when I was married I could blame at least half of these things on my mate. Unfortunately, the buck stops here now.
So, I keep reminding myself to put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time – one task at a time.

I admit now that I need to seek help from pros that know what they are doing.
I cannot try to do everything myself anymore – so – I have a plan…
Take a deep breath, seek help, do what the experts tell me, and enjoy success when it happens.

Who Did It Right?

Do you know anyone who was able to handle the death of a loved one well? – especially a life partner –  a husband, a wife, a mother or father, a brother or sister.
Did they go on with the same spirit, with the same habits, with the same lifestyle?  Did they continue as they had begun – engaging in life, in activities, in joy – the same way they always had before?
I wish I could think of someone who did this. It would give me a goal to reach, a semblance of peace just knowing that it can happen.
I have searched my memory for a person I have known who simply continued ——there are none.
Each person, in my experience, who was”bereaved” has been changed.   I never knew what that looked like before – until I also joined their ranks.

I can recollect  widows who always acted like they were widows – who never regained their joyful, carefree laughs or naughty ways. It was like there was a gray drape persistently hanging between them and life itself. They seemed to be waiting for death to relieve them of their sadness.
Sometimes it is this way for me – actually, I feel this way most of the time  …  I know it, I recognize it, but I seem denied the power to overcome it. I distract myself with activities, responsibilities, errands, and chores – but it never goes away. There is always a piece of me missing….there is always a sense of absence.

I have become the ultimate “faker” of life.
I have regained a different life, for sure, and one that is full of rewards. My kids and grandkids keep me grounded in joyful things and I have friends I never would have had in my old life. Being on my own has made me realize the importance of people in my life – friends.

I guess I could try to be an example to those who follow me as they also grow old and regrettably lose their special companions. Maybe they could say that Donna did it and so can I. I hope so………but right now it would be nice to have  that example to emulate……

Just some thoughts on a Sunday morning after Jim’s 68th birthday – the 5th one since “D” Day.

Fifth Christmas

It has been very different this Christmas. My expectations have changed to a place I never thought possible. That has made it OK to forget old traditions, old feelings and old sadnesses.
I forgot totally about the old tradition of making pizza on Christmas eve. When my daughter called me and invited me over, I cried. How could I not have been looking forward to this???!!! How could I have totally obliterated the memory of this long-standing Christmas Eve tradition? I haven’t cried like that in a year.
Then I thought….
…that was probably a good thing – not that I felt so devastated, but that I have moved beyond memories…that I was very happy in my own place, in my own skin, before I was reminded about an old family tradition…
I visited my families this year – yes, my families – plural – there is no more one family now – I have discovered that my three kids are each an entity in themselves and my brothers and sisters are another wonderful group that sits by itself. I am no longer the centre – the provider of the feast, the organizer of “THE FAMILY” – WOW!! – it took me these five years to come to that realization without feeling sorry for myself.
This would have happened anyway – it is not because of Jim’s death – it is because my kids have grown up and I must grow up as well.
I have…..
I had a great time buying and making things for my family this year.
I had a great time wrapping them and transporting them 6 hours and watching everyone tear into them. We all love each other so much that it hurts – but in a good way.

I live with my lab pup and my three cats and they are my day-to-day life partners now. They don’t complain about anything, they cuddle with me and they love the little gifts I buy them almost every week.
I love my quilting business. It keeps my brain working and it challenges me to use my time and space to the best advantage every day.
I, most of all, love giving my quilts away to friends, neighbours and family. People really appreciate these little works of art and they know that a lot of love is sewn into every stitch.
This is the fifth Christmas since Jim died. He is always there and I have become used to his presence. When I do something stupid, I can hear his cautionary voice and when I do something really wonderful, I can hear him tell me that he is not surprised – he knew I could do it. I guess that 43 years with someone just doesn’t disappear in a mere five years. That’s OK, we’re a good team.

The Widow on Christmas Morning

Living After Losing

I have often had the feeling in my life that if something was going to go wrong at the most inappropriate time – it would. Sometimes, I came to understand the humour in those uneasy catastrophes. I often found consolation in the fact that if I could survive that – I could survive anything.

Well folks, this blog is the story of my life and dealing with events on my own. This Christmas was no disappointment in that regard. Here goes:

It is Christmas morning and I have my daughter’s family along with their beautiful dog, Sinjin, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, sleeping overnight for several days. If you know your dogs, you will know that a Rhodesian is the size of a small horse.

As all children do, the three kids were restless during the night knowing that Santa was out there somewhere, and they had been up several times since…

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A Widow at Christmas

Living After Losing

This is Christmas number two since the death of my husband. I thought about this a lot today after setting up my Christmas decorations for the season. I remembered last year – I was like the headless horseman preparing for the season completing each preparation step like an Automatron, just one foot in front of the other without thought or emotion. I organized the neighbourhood Christmas party, and hired strangers to put up the outside lights. My home looked like it always did at Christmas, like nothing had changed. The most distinguishing moment for me came as I finished putting up a thirty foot garland atop the kitchen cabinets. No easy feat for me. It was at this moment I remembered that each year when this particularly difficult task was completed, Jim and I would stand in amazement and enjoy his favourite Christmas drink of Baileys to celebrate my success…

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Been a While

Turns out that my new life is a good idea. I look at other women who have been put in the position of widowhood and most of them, like me,  have also moved to new homes.   Most of them are also still single as well. Maybe they feel as though they have “done their time”  and they need new experiences and new adventures.
I do not seek new anything – I seek escape. I look for chances to learn, to put my brain to the test every day.
I search for beauty in nature, in the art that I create, and in my friends and their stories.

 

I get up, once again now, with an alarm – at five in the morning to get my exercise routine worked into my day.   I have breakfast with three of my grandkids every day and get them on the school bus at the end of my driveway. I go to meetings with retired teachers, Community in Bloom committee members, Legionnaires, quilt guilds and Quilts of Valour members. I love my life.
I have a sewing studio that blows me away whenever I am there. Windows on all sides to see my birds and the deer.  I let the breezes blow through and enjoy the fresh air and the wonderful sounds of the world out there. My fireplace keeps me warm and adds life to the room somehow.
I don’t resent living without my best friend so much anymore – I guess I just don’t have time to think about stuff as much as I once did.  He is still always with me one way or the other.  He always will be.
I don’t worry about how other people feel about me at all. I am fair with everyone and I think positively about anyone who enters my world.

 

I have given up depending totally on my family for support – they are far away and they don’t owe me anything. They have all bolstered me during my brainless mourning times and they, I am sure, kept me alive when they didn’t even know it. I love my sons and their families, for sure, but I have learned that my world now has to be a part of the real world – my kids don’t owe me a life. They need to have their lives and I need to have mine. That took me four year to realize. Am I a slow learner? YES!

Go and meet me and my new business at TOTS32.com and enjoy my new venture. Yes, that is me.

Thanks for reading me.  I hope this gives you hope too.  The fact that I haven’t given in and given up on life amazes me every day in some way.

 

Enjoy your day!

Don’t Do This… I Think

So, our 44th anniversary was the 19th of August and I bought a miniature bottle of champagne to have a  toast to our time together.  Jim and I did this and  I have done  this every year since his death. This year, was different…

I brought out our special wine glasses – the same ones we used on our actual wedding night – and I filled them with champagne. I drank mine and put my glass on the counter after toasting my beloved husband.

There it was -my empty glass beside his still full one. That told it all. That vision, created by me, was an absolute disaster.

I thought I had been successful in coping with my life on a singular level but  here I am after four years. trying to , once again, come to terms with being a person of one – singular- alone- lonely.

I think I was daring my memories to haunt me – having felt so strong and free from grief and its overwhelming silent sadness.

It has now been three days and I am still reeling from the affects of my memories.  I did this to myself!  I am getting there, but I am not whole yet.  I  wonder if I ever will be.

Do I dare myself ever again to remember the past and not let it over-rule my present?
I have said it before, and I will say it again – I hate August and all of its memories.

Solution:

I will  avoid August – make a plan to be somewhere, devise a holiday or tasks that require lots of time and thought.

I will not buy champagne.

I  will store the fancy goblets away .

I will not dare myself to remember for a while – not ready for that, I guess.

So, my readers, if you are also grieving – Don’t Do What I Did!  (I think……)

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