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Wrestling with Care
By David Gillaspie

(Page 2 of 4)

I was a staff tech in a civil service clinic, not a  battlefield doc, but he didn’t need to know that.

“Two days.  Maybe.”

Two days?  Maybe?  Two days?  One?  It dawned on me to make the only gesture that mattered.  For two days, I could earn a lifetime of good merit points in heaven.  Not that I need them; but if the entrance requirements change, I’d like some extra credit points.  So I did it.  I said it.

“What about taking him home for his last days? We can do that, can’t we?  I’d do it.”

The doctor bowed his head in a solemn nod.

“That is always the best.” 

I don’t know if he said it as part of the insurance script to get patients out of the financial stream, or a hospital policy to open up another bed, or the heart-felt words of a compassionate fellow human being, or a little of all.  What matters is I volunteered for the second time in my life.  The first time was the Army for two years; this time as a caregiver for two days.  Death with dignity.  I went in to talk to my wife, mother-in-law, and two teenaged sons. 

Four years later, after a series of fortunate caregiving experiences, Grandpa Ken has slowed down a bit.  From his death bed in the hospital where he could barely move one finger, he climbed stairs with assistance a month later.  Instead of an IV tube, he took his meals at the dining room table.  Keeping him moving was the key. 

Today, he moves around in a wheelchair instead of a walker, and I feed him in his recliner, but he is still on his feet.  He stretches out and makes the moves needed to get from his recliner to his wheelchair and back.  These are moves the professional in-home caregivers cannot perform due to licensing and insurance considerations.  In their view, Ken would be best treated if he were bed bound.   

Over the years, we’ve interviewed agencies, as well as private caregivers, to come in for a few hours.  Some came ready to keep him moving, realized the challenge, and quit after the first day.  One quit on the first chair- to-chair transfer attempt.  One agency sent a man in his seventies as a caregiver.  It continues to be an interesting adventure, and now I’m the only person in the world who can move Grandpa Ken; the world champion of Grandpa Ken moving. 


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