"He doesn't do that when the staff feeds him," says the hospice nurse. That being coughing, choking, and growling loudly to clear his throat. That is also taking forty minutes to an hour to eat a meal.
I help Dad at supper because it's easier for me to have a task. When I visit, any time between four and seven p.m., Dad usually doesn't talk, and if he does, he doesn't make sense. He stares into space, and often won't get his hands out from under the blankets. So I cut his food, put bites on the fork, help hold the coffee cup so he doesn't drench himself, and wipe his chin when he misses his mouth. I raise my arms in the air when he chokes so he will mirror the action.
The dear aide, Big Red, confirms that Dad growls, and she is more than willing to feed him his supper. Let the pros handle it, all the staff seems to say. Let the pros handle it, my siblings chime in.
Made a surprise visit to see Dad before work. He had finished breakfast, and wasn't growling. He spoke audibly in complete sentences. His eyes were bright. He answered my questions clearly and directly. He said it isn't because of me that he has trouble with supper. He asked me to please come back after work.
So I did. He was being spoon-fed by an aide with his hands in the blankets and dull eyes turned toward the Aggies/Sooners game. The aide was anxious to leave. Dad coughed, choked, and growled. He didn't say a word.
Is this the phenomenon known as "sundowners syndrome"? I don't know. The light level is still bright with Dad's west window. Is it fatigue? He sleeps much of the day. Is it noise levels? I don't think it is just me.
Sunrise, sunset, sundowners?
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laden with happiness,
Image borrowed from Root Cause Analysis Blog.
© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder