Ever since I have lived in a long-term care facility there are frequent reminders of my mortality. At any time we may have several residents who are close to the end of their lives.
“J” was a quite spry 92 when he came a few months ago after facial surgery. His extensive bandage told me that he probably had untreatable cancer. But he walked around, was pleasant, and got along as well as he could.
Over the months his bandage has grown as his disease has progressed. I cannot look at him without my heart hurting. I hope my face does not betray me.
J has grown weaker and is now pushed in a wheelchair to the dining room. When I think about the nurses changing his bandage, I know they are the Mother Theresa's of our part of the world.
“L” was on hospice care a few weeks ago. I heard he had a day or two to live. His family was here 24/7 and even slept in the lounge area. It can be difficult having a family death, as hospice advocates, here.
Then, suddenly, L went to the hospital. Since his return, he is no longer on hospice and is alone again. For the last two weeks he has been moaning most of the time. I just hope that he is not in too much pain.
Waiting for someone to die takes time. They do not die on the doctor's or on hospice's schedule. L seemed to perk up when his family was with him all the time.
Many times I feel the hallway to death that the residents follow. It opens and pulls them in while we are watching. It is not quick but it is determined. I think the hallway is always here even when no resident is ready to pass through it.