Winston: Despite the falls, I will keep my husband at home as long as I can

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Everything I see and hear (most recently, Citizen reporter Elizabeth Payne’s eloquent article about her father’s downfall) reinforces my decision to keep my husband home as much as possible.

He will turn 91 next month and has had serious mobility problems for the past few years. They reached a critical point last June, when she could no longer stand long enough to transfer from the bed to the wheelchair. There were a few falls before this, fortunately they didn’t cause any damage beyond some bruises.

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He was picked up with the help of kind neighbors or, on a couple of occasions when he got out of bed, with the paramedics on duty. On those occasions, after testing his vital signs, he refused to go to the hospital. That changed on June 10, 2023, when he simply couldn’t move.

For the next two months he was in the rehabilitation unit of our local hospital. The service was good, even when the area was short staffed. However, despite that and regular physical therapy, he became weaker every day. Staying in bed too long can do that to anyone. Seeing her deterioration, our family doctor recommended some type of alternative treatment.

Most of the hospital staff, the care coordinator, and my friends assumed this meant I was going into long-term care. I had visited several facilities while he was hospitalized and knew that my husband would be miserable in any of them, whatever the quality of care they offered.

I had also seen what had happened to two older friends of mine in a matter of months. In both cases, his wives could no longer care for their increasingly sick husbands, so both men ended up in long-term care facilities. They both deteriorated rapidly, mentally, physically and emotionally; one lived seven months and the other three.

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Would my husband follow a similar path in a place like this? Maybe. Maybe not. But he knew that he would become very depressed and depression is part of the path to giving up. He wasn’t prepared to take that risk.

He has been home since August 2023 and first described his return to base as paradise. While it was an immediate contrast to the hospitalization, she has now adapted to her current normal state of spending most days in her wheelchair and nights in a hospital bed in the corner of the living room. We receive three visits a day from personal support workers, with the early morning calls being particularly valuable for showering or bed bathing, as well as getting dressed and generally getting ready for the day.

Along with the PSWs, I learned how to use a patient lift, or EZ turning machine, to move the patient. Now he is a little stronger and goes to the bathroom only when necessary. One PSW even convinced him to let her take him around the block on a sunny day. Our family doctor makes occasional home visits. So do nurses and paramedics.

I can’t take it anywhere anymore because it’s very likely that it will fall between the wheelchair and the vehicle during the transfer. On the few occasions he leaves home these days, he is taken to a commercial vehicle driven by local volunteers. Travel of this type, for medical purposes, is complicated and expensive and is therefore kept to a minimum.

As we get older, horizons tend to get shorter for all of us. As long as my husband’s condition remains stable (and, in fact, as long as I remain healthy and mobile), the living situation will work. For today and the immediate future, my husband will stay home, where he belongs.

Iris Winston He is a writer from Almont.

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