Darling Husband's fortnight in Heritage Lodge went beautifully. He was comfortable and contented, and well looked after. I had lunch with him there a couple of times in the very posh private dining room. When my son was visiting, we took him out to lunch and for a visit to the Art Gallery. Both the Sundays he was there, I arrived in the evening and we watched our favourite TV shows together, just the two of us in the comfortable TV lounge, with supper laid on. I took him from there on visits to the dentist and the chiropractor. I had peace of mind knowing he was contented and well cared for; didn't feel obliged to visit at least once a day or monitor his care (as during his stay at the disastrous previous place). I visited every day or so, and he phoned me now and again. I was able to get a rest.
He had a lot of autonomy. By the time he left, he was getting to know some of the other residents. One lady had complained at dinner of terrible back pain, saying the doctors couldn't find the cause. He did some absent healing on her, and she told him next day it was cured! Her son made a point of thanking him.
He said he was a bit bored. There was an outbreak of gastro. He didn't get it but some of the staff did, so the usual range of activities, for which Heritage is renowned, didn't happen. But they have a good library and he found things to read. Also I had the daily paper delivered to him there. And he did participate in some activities that were still going on. He says now that no, he wasn't bored, so it obviously wasn't an overwhelming impression.
It was all so successful that we agreed to do it more often: one week every couple of months, with the option of making it permanent down the track if that should be required.
He came home, and we had a nice week together. A couple of days of readjustment on both sides, and the usual difficulties of caring for him, but also lots of sweet companionship. I was making all sorts of plans for things we could enjoy together. Then on Sunday night I came down with fluey symptoms. I was coughing fit to choke. I decided not to lock the doors from the inside and hide the keys, as I had been doing. It was beginning to seem like an unnecessary precaution anyway, and I thought, 'What if something happens to me? He could probably manage to phone emergency, but he wouldn't be able to let anyone into the house.'
About three a.m. I stirred, to see him getting out of bed and grabbing his walker. I thought he was on the way to the toilet. I was woken at quarter to five by a call from the local hospital, to say he had been found wandering our street and the person had called the ambulance. He was 'pretty cold' so they were keeping him in overnight. 'He's safe,' they said. 'Go back to bed.' As if I could!
I found the front door wide open. Somehow he must have got himself and his walker down our steep front steps, which normally he doesn't use, without mishap.
I got to the hospital about eight, with some clothes, thinking to take him home from Emergency. Instead he was in the medical ward, in a heat suit, eating breakfast.
'I was hoping you wouldn't come,' he said. 'You need to be at home, resting.' As if!
Our doctor made his rounds shortly afterwards. He and the head nurse agreed that DH must stay in hospital while I'm ill. I have enough to do looking after myself and would be unable to care for him as well. So I went back a little later with pyjamas and toiletries.
I went to the doctor next day about my symptoms, which by then included gastro. I have been ordered lots of rest and lots of water. I was recently prescribed Panadol Osteo for my arthritis; I am to continue taking that regularly. I haven't had any appetite, which is just as well, as even cough mixture comes straight up again. The doctor said it won't hurt me to go without food a few days so long as I drink one-and-a-half to two litres of water daily. And I am forbidden to visit the hospital until I am well. We are surviving on occasional phone calls. The latest is that he seems to have an infection, possibly the same thing I've got.
I have reached the sad conclusion that I can't keep looking after him any more, even when I'm well. So I have arranged with Heritage Lodge that he will go straight from hospital back there. The paperwork is under way to have him made a permanent resident, and if necessary he can be on temporary respite until that is finalised. I haven't yet told him about the permanent bit, only 'a week's temporary respite with the option of longer.' I want to break that news in person.
Once he is permanent, he can come home for overnight visits 63 nights per year, in addition to daytime outings, and I can visit him whenever I like. It's the best possible solution, yet I am sad and weepy. Last time he was away, I often felt as if he was still here, just in another room. This time, I feel lonely.