Tag Archives: congestive heart failure

Getting Close

Just before 6:00 a.m. my mom woke me up because she thought that Grandpa was about to die. He was non-responsive and his breathing was very poor.

I’ve been sitting in this recliner next to my Grandpa’s bed for sixteen hours and he’s still hanging on. There were times when his breathing stopped for at least twenty seconds at a time and then would start back up again. Other times he’s asked about food and drink for the first time in about three weeks. His swallowing isn’t going so great now though so even when he’s thirsty it’s hard to get a good drink in him.

Thanks to the dementia he keeps forgetting what’s going on. He’ll say things like, “Maybe I’m so weak because I need food…” but he doesn’t understand that he hasn’t had more than a sip of juice or soup in almost a month. So we remind him that he hasn’t eaten and that seems to worry him. “That’s not good,” he says. We remind him about his Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and that it’s not getting better but he forgets that too. He’ll say, “Maybe those pills you give me will help…” but of course in order to take the pills he needs to be able to swallow.

We got a few pills in him just a little bit ago but it was a chore. The poor guy wanted nothing to do with the Juicy Juice he’s been drinking all week and swore that milk would be better. But with CHF when the heart starts failing it creates fluid buildup in his lungs so milk isn’t exactly the best choice since it can make him phlegmy.

Mom tried explaining to him that if he’s thirsty he should drink anything that’s wet and he agreed but then decided that he still didn’t want the juice. He says, “But I don’t want the juice.” She then told him that she didn’t care what he wanted and the look he gave me made me giggle. He looked at me like, “Did my daughter just tell me no?” 🙂 I watered down some milk for him and he handled it okay but of course it didn’t taste very good anyway because his sense of taste is off. He asked more about food and other things he couldn’t have and once again we explained why he couldn’t have them and why he wasn’t going to be getting any better.

It’s basically been like that all day with lots of napping in between. He’s still in there, still the goofy old man we all love so much, but he’s fading. I really hope that he can just let go sometime tonight so that he doesn’t have to go through another confusing day like this.

He’s ready even if he doesn’t remember telling us so, and as sad as it’ll be to see him go, we’re ready too. The living that he’s been doing for the last couple of weeks really isn’t quality. He’s seen all of his kids except for one, he’s seen almost all of the grand kids and great grand kids who live in the area, and he’s even seen his brand new great grandson via Facebook who was born just two days ago.

He’s talked about seeing people in heaven like my grandma, his brother, sister and his mom. Apparently he doesn’t think his dad is in heaven though, but maybe he’ll be pleasantly surprised. 🙂 Hopefully there Gramps will be able to eat all of the Filet-o-Fish and chocolate shakes that he wants, his ticker will be perfect, he’ll be able to walk without any assistance, and even better… he’ll be able to drive again!

I’ll admit, when we moved Grandpa in with us almost a year ago it was scary. I was worried about him getting hurt or dying on me when my mom wasn’t around to help me. Despite how hard the year has been though, I’m really glad we were able to have him here. He loved being able to visit with my brother’s crazy kids when they came to spend the night. He loved watching hour upon hour of Law & Order in his own living room while knowing that if he needed help we were just in the next room instead of a 30 minute drive away. He liked having the animals around even if he eventually forgot Sly’s name and just called him Big Cat and continuously pronounced Kia’s name wrong. Even the ongoing Ketchup Saga of 2012 is pretty funny now despite how annoying it was back when we were in the thick of it. (Gramps decided at one point that Heinz ketchup was too bitter for him but he claimed that it was because the ketchup was in his words, “rancid.” When we’d explain that the ketchup was brand new he’d point to the 57 on the Heinz logo and tell us that the bottle was from 1957. This happened almost daily for a while until we switched to the much sweeter Hunt’s brand. That eventually went rancid too and he just stopped eating ketchup.)

Sure, it’s been really, really hard on us. My mom not only had to quit nursing school just six weeks shy of finishing (she did get her LPN though, yay!) but she had to stop working and was pretty much here at home 24/7. I gave her respite as much as I could but of course with my own job I couldn’t do it as much as I would have liked. Hospice didn’t get into the mix until just a few months back and although they did help out and let her get out of the house a little some days, I wish I’d been able to help more or that other family would have helped more. But, what’s done is done and I know that my mom and I have given Gramps all he’s needed not just this past year but long before that. There’s no doubt in my mind that he knows just how much we love him.

Life for us is about to make a huge change again. Mom’s going to be able to go back to work, and we’ll go back to living in this house without a hospital bed in the living room. There won’t be an oxygen machine, syringes of morphine gel, and we won’t have to take turns leaving the house so that someone can stay here to Grandpa Sit. Of course we’ll miss him dearly, but we’ll also have so many great memories to keep in our hearts and for me at least, that’s the most important part and what I’m choosing to hold on to right now while sitting here next to him. He’s a pretty awesome guy and all of us who know him are blessed to have him in our lives and in our hearts.

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. – YODA




We’ve all heard the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  I wholeheartedly agree that the things we go through shape who we are. It’s how open we are to learning from experiences that determine how we grow though.  For example, if you’re not open to learning from mistakes, you’re most likely to make the same mistakes over again and not really learn anything.  On the other hand if you have the strength to learn from what life gives you, you’re more likely to come out of it stronger in the long run.

It’s a good theory, and it’s one that I try to remember to live by.  But sometimes, I find myself thinking “I don’t want to be any stronger.”  I don’t want another life lesson that kicks my ass so that I come out stronger on the other end.   In other words, I want a break.  I’m sick of having jobs that suck and challenge my ethics, I’m sick of having this stupid mystery illness that no one can figure out how to treat, and I’m sick of worrying about my mom and my grandpa.

I was convinced a few days ago that my grandpa who lives with us was within days of dying.  I totally freaked myself out and did all sorts of awfulizing in my head to “prepare” myself for the worst.  Then the next couple of days he was a lot better and so I was better.  Today he’s back to acting like he’s giving up and shutting down.  He hasn’t wanted to eat or drink, he’s slept almost all day, and he’s spent hours just laying back in bed or in his recliner with a warm compress over his eyes.  It’s not like I expect him to be up and running marathons… he is 97 years old.  We’ve had hospice in place for a few months now; he qualified for it not because they thought he was going to die soon but because of his age and because his Congestive Heart Failure isn’t going to get any better.  He is, however, regressing.  No one can say how quickly he may progress, and it’s been pretty clear this week that it’s a day by day sort of thing.  But man does it suck.  Never knowing how he’s going to be one day to the next.  Wondering if today’s going to be the day I get a call telling me I need to come home from work early because he’s getting worse. 

Of course I want what’s best for my grandpa.  I don’t want him to suffer.  I also know that being here at home with us is what he wants and that if he’d been in a nursing home or a hospice facility he probably would have been gone a long time ago.  He wouldn’t have been here to sit on the deck the other day playing catch with a foursquare ball with my niece and nephews in the sun or to tell me yesterday while I was knitting about how his mom used to knit mittens for him as a kid.  These are things I’m grateful for.  Is this all making me stronger?  Sure, I guess so.  I know some day I’ll feel like it, but right now I’m just tired. 

So if I seem a little out of it, I don’t talk as much, I cancel plans, or I’m a little forgetful… please be patient.  It’s just that I’m pretty busy right now learning how to be stronger. 🙂

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne

photo credit: AJ Knowles via photo pin cc

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