Caregiving in America is in great demand.
From adult foster home owners offering familiar surroundings, to assisted living center staff patrolling hallways to answer assist request buzzers and lights, help is on the way.
Rehabilitation centers employ physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and the caregivers on site.
Some nursing homes have as many as twelve ‘patients’ for each worker. They are all on the job and working hard.
They all knew men like Grandpa Ken, men who needed to stay on their feet. Some staff could assist him with a walker; some couldn’t, but tried anyway. It takes acute balance and lightning quick anticipation to keep someone like Ken on his feet.
My name is Dave and I met them all when my father-in- law got Parkinson’s disease.
From one unfortunate experience after another, Ken entered the hospital for the last time. His room had the whole end–of–life package, his legs wrapped in circulation pumps, IV and oxygen tubes taped in place. I was with the gathered family when I noticed Ken’s doctor pass the door.
“Excuse me, Doctor,” I said.
He looked up from his charts and focused his attention right on me. He knew Ken’s situation better than anyone and gave his sympathy.
“Hello, David. How’s he doing?” he said.
“Comfortable. He’s comfortable.”
Being comfortable was the main goal at this point.
“I’m glad. He seems like a nice man.”
“He is. Doctor, how long does he have, if you took a guess.”
“I can’t say, it would be…”
“I’m a former Army medic, you can tell me.”
I was a staff tech in a civil service clinic, not a battlefield doc, but he didn’t need to know that.
“Two days. Maybe.”
Two days? Maybe? Two days? One? It dawned on me to make the only gesture that mattered. For two days, I could earn a lifetime of good merit points in heaven. Not that I need them; but if the entrance requirements change, I’d like some extra credit points. So I did it. I said it.
“What about taking him home for his last days? We can do that, can’t we? I’d do it.”
The doctor bowed his head in a solemn nod.
“That is always the best.”