Archive for the ‘The Nursing Home’ Category

Saturday, May 30

It’s been an up and down week, a week of on-the-one-hands and on-the-other-hands.
On the one hand, for instance, Bob passed his swallowing test Tuesday and can now eat regular food and drink clear, unthickened liquids. He reports a new-found love of apple juice, applesauce and 2% milk. Today he ate a few french fries.

But on the other hand, Bob’s being bounced out of the rehab hospital he’s been in for about a week – an intensive program which turns out to be inappropriate for him at this point. At our progress meeting
with his rehab team on Thursday, his various therapists gently but frankly used phrases like “impulsive,” “lack of safety awareness,” and “poor planning skills.” Not much progress, not making progress, no
progress, one after the other reported. The fact that he can’t put any weight on his legs yet makes everything too hard. They all agreed that a transfer for now from “acute rehab,” which this is, to “sub-acute
rehab,” i.e. a nursing home (where he’d get less intense rehab and, we’d hope, more social and recreational opportunities) is called for. And equally significant, Blue Cross requires “measurable progress” in
order to keep paying for his care. So it’s goodbye for now to Shady Grove, at least till Bob’s legs have healed enough to support him. His rehab social worker here is coordinating with two or three possible nursing homes, and we’re hoping that one of them will be both good and willing to take him. We’ll find out next week.
On the one hand, Bob is still extremely upset, feeling “like a caged animal” in his “boondoggle of a bed,” enclosed as it is with a zippered tent to keep him from falling or climbing out and injuring those legs//
But on the other hand, his helpers have made sure to keep his phone inside the tent, and he’s called several times with greetings, weather bulletins and requests for clean clothes.
On the one hand, Bob’s been very angry and sad this week. He’s cried during all our visits, an hour or more at a stretch, as we sit with him holding his hand, wracking our brains for an approach (empathic?
philosophical? breezy? distracting? humorous? silent?) that’ll help ease his mood or lift his spirits. Mostly to no avail. “I want to go home!” has been his refrain. Home not being just “home,” of course, but “before.” I want to go back to before this all happened. (And who wouldn’t? How could he not feel that way?) And don’t give me any of your happy talk.

But on the other hand, there was today. Bob called us this morning, and Susie and Melanie went over to see him this afternoon. Bob was watching TV when we got there, but he turned if off as soon as we
walked in. He greeted us enthusiastically, and, we talked as we waited together for the aides to take him out of bed and put him into his wheelchair, asking about his accident.
“You don’t remember?” I asked. “No,” he said. So I told him what he’d told me about it when he was still in the ICU. “You told me that all you could see was the gas station and the trees,” I told him. “That
sounds like you were flying through the air.”
“I flew through the air,” he said, with wonder and awe.
He thought quietly for a minute after that. “You know the song Both Sides Now?” he asked me. Sure. “Well,” he said, “it’s like I’ve looked at life from both sides now.” He paused. “From win and lose to hit and
run. It’s life’s illusions I recall. I really don’t remember much at all.” (Those of you who know the song with easily see where his words converged and diverged from the actual lyrics.)
At that point, the aides arrived to transfer him to his wheelchair. Melanie and I went into the hall to wait for him. “I flew through the air,” we could hear him telling them over and over. We wheeled him out into the cloudless blue afternoon, taking him the full circuit around the hospital building, his first “walk” outside since April 15. As he rode, he reflected more about the morning of his
accident. “It was dark and raining,” he said. “Otherwise it would never have happened.”
Afterwards, sitting outside the hospital entrance and chatting together, Bob got suddenly quiet. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I just got sad. I was thinking about how I missed the Springsteen concert.” And he started to cry. “I know, Bob,” I said, “that’s why David got in touch with Clarence Clemons.” He kept crying. “This won’t be our last chance,” I said. “Let’s think about next year.” He kept crying. “Well, let’s go upstairs and have a concert ourselves,” I said, remembering the keyboard in the rec therapy room. “Okay,” he said.
Up we went. Melanie and I found the keyboard and power cord, moved a table and pushed Bob in. He pressed the on button. “This is a song Michael McDonald did when he was with Joe Walsh and the Doobie Brothers,” he announced, “Takin’ it to the Streets.” He segued from that to another Doobie hit, “Listen to the Music,” and from there into “Levon,” by Elton John and then to “You May Be Right I May Be Crazy,” by Billy Joel, winding up with “New York State of Mind.” We clapped and woo-wooed after each selection. “New York State of Mind – that’s a great one,” I said when he finished it. “No Billy Joel medley would be complete without it,” he answered. And then he pressed the off button and looked down at the keys. “I’m tired now,” he said.
It was supper time anyway. So we put back the board and the cord and the table and wheeled him into the dining room. “I think this is where you need to be now,” I said. And while, on the one hand, it was time for us to leave, on the other hand, Bob said, “I think it is,” and kissed us goodbye.


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