Jim’s been in the hospital since the 13th. He went to play golf and as soon as he was back I left. When I came back, I found that he’d tried to phone me. “When are you coming home? I, uh, I’m feeling awfully sick," was the message he left. I didn’t know why it went to voicemail. I still don’t. But it did. And so I didn't know he was sick until I got home after a leisurely lunch with my friends. I felt so bad. When I listened to the message later made me feel guilty all over again. I’ll bet you can identify!
Before he called, he’d gone to the store and brought home roses for me for Valentine’s Day, the dear boy! But then he started feeling bad, and by the time I got home, he was really hurting. We left for the emergency room right away and, after the usual long wait, he was admitted. The next morning I brought the roses to him. The good thing is that he hadn’t felt like eating since breakfast—and that’s the first treatment they try for a flare up of Chrone’s Disease (inflammation of the bowel), which is what Jim has. No food. Well, that and drugs and an NG tube to relieve the pressure and LOTS of tests. They want the gut to rest and hopefully cure itself. That’s what they tried three years ago when he had his first episode but it didn’t work then. He had to have surgery. We are hoping that we got him there a lot quicker this time and that it won’t be necessary. Working with LBD as we do, we know how dangerous surgery is for the elderly…and like it or not, Jim fits that, chronologically at least.
So of course, I always look at what’s going on with us and think about how it compares to what goes on with LBD families. Hospital visits are a much too common event for a PwLBD. Urinary infections, dehydration, falls, and so on. The list could go on and on. And hospitals are lonely, scary places. Try to bring something of home for the room. Family pictures, a favorite throw for the bed, anything that makes the place feel more like home. For Jim, it is his computer. When he has it to play with, he's happy—or at least happier. Oh, and me. He doesn’t have dementia and so he does fine by himself. But he still feels better when I’m there. If it affects him that way, imagine how much more important it is for a PwLBD to have their caregiver is close by. Forget the flowers and the cards, just be there yourself. For Jim, it is a feeling of being loved, cared about. For the PwLBD, it is that, but there’s more, it is also a feeling of safety.
I’m always cold when I visit Jim. I know that’s because they’ve learned that the colder a place is, the harder it is for air-borne diseases to travel. But PwLBD don’t stand the cold well. Ask for extra blankets or better yet, bring a warm, familiar robe from home. And don’t forget the slippers if your loved one is up walking around. The socks the hospital provides may keep the feet warm but they aren’t great for walking, and if your loved one can get up and walk at all, you need to encourage this.
Don’t forget yourself when you visit. Bring a “hospital kit” for yourself: a book, a craft project like knitting, a snack, and your cell phone. (Yes, I brought my laptop too.) Save your back. Use a wheeled shopping bag or even a small wheeled suitcase cart stuff to and from your car. Go to the cafeteria for meals. Take walks. Even leave the hospital and run errands. Go home in the evenings early enough to enjoy some mindless TV or a good soak in the tub. Take care of yourself too!
Bulletin: As of Saturday night, Jim is home and feeling well!