It had been two weeks since Hazel was admitted to the hospital. James had already flown into Edmonton to check on his mom and had flown back to Ontario again. He was able to see for himself that she had stabilized but that the stroke had left her very…different. John had also come to visit, doing his best to assist his sister and his father with some of the decision making for Hazel, but unfortunately, there weren’t many decisions to make.
They had been told that Hazel would need 24/7 nursing support, which could only be provided in a long term care setting. “Is there really no way that she can return to the Manor?” James had asked. “Absolutely none,” the case worker had replied. “Your parents’ current residence is not adequate to provide the type of care your mother will need. While there is health support on site, it is not delivered by registered nurses, and there is no physician care available onsite. Mrs. Robertson requires both.”
“Are there couples suites available? I would like to keep things as normal as possible for us,” Charlie asked in a worried tone. He could not stop worrying about Hazel, but at the same time, his life had also just changed in an instant. “Couple suites are…not common,” the worker explained slowly. “Usually, in these scenarios, your wife would move into long term care and you would remain close by in a separate dwelling…or you could remain at the manor.” Charlie started shaking his head. “No! That’s not going to work. You’re not separating me from my wife. That’s just not going to be an option.” The case worker, noticeably rattled simply stated, “Mr. Robertson, you are already living separately from Hazel right now as she receives her care here in the hospital. This wouldn’t be much different.”
Charlie got angry. “You bet this WOULD be ‘much different’…you are talking about the rest of her life. The rest of MY life. This isn’t what we signed up for. And it certainly isn’t what I took my vows for. I said ‘for better or worse, in sickness and in health.’ I’m very sorry but you’re going to have to figure out how to get her the care she needs with me in the same room. That’s the only option YOU have.” Charlie crossed his arms and glared at the worker.
“Dad, we need to start thinking about what will be best for mom. She needs care and we should get her out of this hospital as soon as something comes available. There might be time to make demands later, but right now, we need to focus on her,” Catherine pleaded.
Charlie turned his glare towards his daughter. “You don’t understand Catherine. You don’t understand at all! She’s your mother, but she’s MY wife. She will grow confused and frustrated and bored by herself. She needs ME!” At this point Charlie’s bottom lip started to quiver. Before anyone could console him, he was weeping. It was hard for Catherine and her brothers to watch. They had rarely seen their father cry. It wasn’t his nature.
“And you’ll have to find somewhere that will take Cleo too,” he said through his sniffling.
It is actually quite common for couples to experience the dilemma of major lifestyle changes when one partner needs more care than a residential setting can provide. Even in supportive living settings, the services on site may not be adequate to accommodate the complex needs of a resident who has had a major change in health.
If you have been following our Charlie and Hazel story from the beginning, you likely know how strong the bond is between our couple. What thoughts do you have? What are your feelings about today’s issue? Please share your comments with us and your fellow readers below.