After a Long Hospital Stay
Long hospital stays can be one of those defining moments in the COPD journey. It is that time when your loved one makes the decision to fight or to give up, and you evaluate how much of yourself you are willing and able to give.
Once your loved one is released the work begins. Assuming that your loved one is willing to fight and keep living every moment, you need to put on your game face and get ready. It's going to be a long road, but it can be one of great hope and courage.
My mom's journey
When my mom was in the ICU for three weeks, she was vented for 10 days. I have to admit that it was tough to see her that way. Honestly in some ways, I wish that I had taken one photo of her like that so that I could have shown her how far she was progressing during her recovery. There were many times that she would get discouraged because she felt that she was not progressing. The problem was that we saw her while she was in the ICU, but she did not. She could not see how far she had really come. She didn’t have that kind of perspective.
After she returned home, it took almost a full year to find her new normal. (Keep in mind, what happened to my mom is specific to her. Everyone is different and recover at different rates.) Her legs were so weak that she really could not walk far. She was only able to get from the bed to the bathroom or kitchen with help for a few months, and she needed help getting up from any seated or laying position for many months. She went through in-home rehabilitation, three days per week, and she endured my pushes to keep going.
Keys to recovery
Fight off the discouragement and to live in each day. There will be set-backs, and there will be moves forward. It is important to keep that spark of hope alive. What is important to your loved one? What makes them want to live and push through?
For my mom, it was family. We all gained a new reason to fight quickly after she returned home. I was pregnant, and mom was there to hear all about it. She was so excited. I believe that deep down, mom was beginning to believe that she would not be around to see my children. After all, I was no spring chicken (true southern term for ya). Knowing that I was pregnant became another reason for her to keep fighting.
Even with that new fight, she had a few times that it was hard to keep her chin up. Most of the time it would be a string of days that she was exhausted, or it might be when she couldn’t do something that she really wanted to do, like stand and cook. Those were the times when we would remind her of what she had been through and what she was still able to do.
Stay persistent with the physical therapy. If you have an in-home physical therapist or if your loved one has been in a facility, there will be a time that those will stop. They will sign off on your loved one’s ability to continue the exercises at home. This is when you need to fire up the pep band and cue the cheerleaders. The work cannot stop.
It is extremely important that the legs and arms are able to move. Moving helps to keep your loved one mobile, and mobility is a treasure that you don’t want to lose.
Above all, listen
Still, never discount what your loved one is feeling or having to go through. Communicate, and above all, listen. This is a brutal disease, and there is really no way to sugar coat it. However, it is part of the caregiver's job to encourage your loved one through it all. Your role is possibly more important than you realize.
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