Perhaps you remember my friend, Miss Trudy. She is the neighbor who became my friend. She moved into an assisted living almost two years ago and did well there. She ate meals with others in the dining room and with physical therapy was able to get out of her wheelchair and use a walker to get around her apartment. She was happy and she was no longer alone.
At the beginning of last summer she developed a serious infection that required hospitalization, surgery, and another stay in a skilled nursing facility. After a few months, she was able to return to the assisted living but never quite hit her stride again after her return. She wasn't interested in General Hospital anymore. She didn't want to go on outings. She stopped reading her romance novels. She missed her husband who died some years ago and talked about looking forward to seeing him "on the other side of this mess."
In late November, she gradually stopped eating. Nothing sounded good. On Sunday she asked me to bring her See's candy. Chocolate is her favorite. I brought her a half pound box of truffles. She took one bite and handed the candy back to me.
"You keep it," she said.
"Are you sure?"
"I don't even want chocolate anymore... I guess this is serious."
Tuesday night I sat with her and we watched a couple of Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel while we waited for a meeting with the admissions nurse from hospice. Miss Trudy had seen all of the Hallmark movies before at least three times but she wanted to watch them again. They all had happy endings. She especially liked the one about Mrs. Claus going alone to New York City to try to find "Christmas magic" to bring back to Santa at the North Pole.
The hospice nurse interviewed us to see if Miss Trudy would be a candidate for hospice. She asked questions about her mood, her pain level, and her advanced directive and religious preferences. Miss Trudy would begin to answer a question, get tired, sigh, and then look at me to finish the answer. I signed some paperwork. Hospice will start coming everyday now.
Tonight I went to see her and I brought Teddy with me. First he stopped to say hello to all of the residents in the lobby, making his way from one person to the next, collecting pets and hugs. When we entered Miss Trudy's room, Teddy went straight to the lounger she was sitting in and lay down on her feet.
A staff member came and took her blood sugar - it was quite low. Another staff member came with dinner and tried to coax Miss Trudy to eat. She refused. After they left, she drank a few sips of orange juice and we watched the local news together in her too warm room. "You are a very good boy, aren't you Teddy?" she said. "You're just the best boy."