The last stop
Where to take him now? Although Sunrise had indicated Dad could come back if his medications had been adjusted properly, we were so upset that we never asked. We heard about a local hospital with a geriatric psychiatric unit and decided it was our best option. During the almost three weeks Dad was hospitalized, Jack and my brother Mike's wife visited more than a dozen nursing homes with advanced Alzheimer's care units. Each time, they were told a bed might be available. Each time, after receiving Dad's records, the home said there wasn't a room. I've since learned of dozens of other Alzheimer's families who were confronted with a similar dilemma after an involuntary commitment. My guess is that facilities are scared off by the prospect of taking on a resident who has exhibited aggressive behavior.
Each day, Dad grew weaker. His time in the psych ward had left him bedridden, and he developed pneumonia. Finally, the doctor pulled us aside and said it was time to let him go. He suggested that if we were willing to forgo life support, such as a feeding tube, he would refer Dad to hospice care.
After a family meeting that was surprisingly unemotional, we agreed that it would be right to allow Dad to finally find peace. When he arrived at the Good Samaritan Hospice in Cabot, Pa., the nurses believed he had two days to live. He wanted more—and, doting on him, they gave it. He started to speak. He smiled again and even laughed. It was an amazing experience, and I can't say enough about the magic these nurses do. Seven weeks later, he died in his sleep, as the sunshine crept in through his window and strains of "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra...That's an Irish Lullaby" played softly on the stereo. It was May 29, 2008. He was 88.