It is time to introduce you to my Fella. His name is Terry, and we have been together for about 25 years.
I am introducing him now because our lives are so twined together it is impossible to write about my current life without details about him too.
When I started blogging I considered Terry’s privacy. I am sure we have all made decisions about how much information to give out about our loved ones. After all, they are not the ones that signed up for this blogging adventure. So Terry, as the Fella, stayed in the background.
The other consideration for keeping him more anonymous was that this was my space, where I could blather on about whatever took my fancy.
However, as I mentioned in the last post, Terry is very unwell. The decline really hit in 2019, and since then there has been one incident after another ~ 10 hospital visits for various reasons over those 3 years. In that time my life has shifted to being a carer. It’s not the life I want, but do willingly, and mostly with patience and love.
I will write more posts about what’s been happening, but for this time I want to give thanks for the amazing care that Terry has been given from our hospital system.
We hear so much about our medical system being at breaking point. For those of you who don’t know, the funding model in Australia, Medicare, covers all of the cost of public hospital services. It also covers some or all of the costs of other health services, like GPs and medical specialists. The funding is provided by Federal and State budgets.
What this has meant for Terry and me is that he has been able to access world class health care largely without cost.
So the system is under great strain, but there was no evidence of this in the care he has been given.
In November he was admitted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH). Before this we had struggled at home ~ Terry struggled with lack of energy, difficulty breathing, poor appetite, increased confusion; I struggled with a lack of diagnosis (nothing was showing up on anything the GP could test), and caring in a situation in which I was floundering. It was really hard.
For two weeks Terry was at the main RMH campus in Parkville, where they diagnosed chronic heart failure. His heart is only working at 20% efficiency. No wonder he feels breathless and tired.
Then he transferred to rehab at the Royal Park campus. Two weeks in the main part and then transferred again to a secure ward. You see, Terry also has vascular dementia, and suffers from hospital delirium. This last ward was the right place for him. He had his own room with a large window that looked out onto a garden. The day light would stream in, important for dementia sufferers. There were only seven patients, so way less noise and action than in usual wards. The staff were well trained and experienced with dealing with people with cognitive issues. And it was very secure. You can imagine how reassuring I found all that. I give thanks that he was able to access this ward.
However, in each ward every nurse, doctor and allied health staff was patient and caring. I really appreciated that they treated Terry with dignity and understood the cognitive stress he was under while in their care. There was never a sense of the pressure they must be under, being short staffed. There was never a sense that Terry’s bed was needed for another. And for that care I give many thanks.
Just before Christmas Terry was able to come home. And the support has continued. He was able to get a place in the RMH@home programme. This has been a game changer. It has given us a safety net. Technically Terry was still a patient of the RMH, so services were still available to him.
Each day either a nurse or an allied health practitioner ~ physiotherapist, occupational therapist, dietician, podiatrist ~ has visited. One day we had three come, and a phone call from the doctor, as well as a visit from the nurse on Christmas Day. There is 24 hour phone number.
The help has been practical things. The OT suggested moving the bed over to make room for the walker. (How obvious, but I hadn’t thought of it.) I mentioned that getting in and out of the car was a struggle, so she gave us tips while supervising Terry. The physio set up an exercise programme and has come to help him go through a few sessions. The nurse takes blood pressure etc, and checks in to see how we are travelling. The podiatrist changes the dressings on his feet. I have done that often in the past, but I am grateful that it is one less task at the moment.
The main help has been the reassurance, that someone is there. As I mentioned earlier, before Terry went into hospital I was struggling. This time I understand what his needs are and how I can help. It’s not always easy, and things change from day to day, maybe even hour by hour. However I am getting more sleep, and I know that there are options if I need to reach out.
And for that I give thanks to the wonderful people who are supporting me. I have been told that places on this programme are as rare as hen’s teeth, and only through the RMH, not other major hospitals in Melbourne. I firmly believe that it should be funded more widely and available for all. So I give thanks that we have been some of the lucky few who have been able to access this programme and have the right care, for both of us, at the right time.
You may wonder what happens when the RMH@home ends. Well, it is designed to be short term, a week to 10 days. Terry will be discharged today, but then move onto another wonderful programme run out of the hospital, the Transition Care Programme, before finally accessing his My Aged Care funding. So the support and the safety net continues to surround us. And again, for that I give thanks…..and breathe a huge sigh of relief.
I also want to give a brief mention to my wonderful friends and family, who are also great supports to me and Terry. Brief, because I want to write more about them at another time.
I respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land on which I live – the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung People of the Kulin Nation, their spirits, ancestors, elders and community members past and present. The land always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.