Update on the Old Soldier
He's doing better, and that's a relief
Last week, the Old Soldier suffered a setback. The nursing home's physical therapist arrived for his rehabilitation session and found him unresponsive. An ambulance was called, and he was taken back to the hospital, where he was found to be suffering from aspiration pneumonia (caused when food that's supposed to go down to the stomach ends up in the lungs instead) and a very high fever. Pat was not immediately able to get to South Texas to take care of things, but he arranged for other relatives to help.
The folks at the hospital were able to clean out the lungs, and the Old Soldier was in good enough condition to go back to the nursing home even before Pat got there. By the time he got there, the Old Soldier was doing very much better – he's still very weak physically, but his cognition is improving to the point that he pretty much recognizes Pat, and he's able to crack a joke. This is far better than a month ago when Pat and Gerald went down to South Texas in the wake of the Old Soldier's first major medical episode.
Now, the challenge is giving the Old Soldier opportunities to rebuild his mind. As it is currently furnished, his room is conducive to nothing but boredom, but Pat is working on changing that. When the Old Soldier first arrived at the nursing home, the staff arranged for him to have a small television set; that was removed when he went to the hospital, but when Pat asked about it, the supervisor told him she would return it. Pat also observed that the Old Soldier's hands were fidgeting, in search of something to fiddle with; Pat came up with the idea of playing cards and dice, items the Old Soldier was very familiar with in his wartime days, and that he continued to derive pleasure from decades later at the VFW and on junkets to Elko (the Old Soldier has always been stingy and eschewed Vegas).
Pat also had a brief look at the Texas State Veterans' Home in McAllen, where the Old Soldier is on the waiting list to get in. He reports that it is beautiful, set way back from the road, with park-like grounds. I can just imagine the Old Soldier, if he recovers more of his senses, running a craps game among the other old soldiers, the same way he ran craps games among his fellow soldiers in WWII. He refused a promotion from corporal to sergeant, because the promotion would have meant he had to stop running his craps game.
So the current game plan is to put up pictures in the Old Soldier's room of people and places he's supposed to know, and to have relatives visit and talk about family. And the nursing home people are going to bring back the television so he isn't condemned to boredom when there aren't relatives visiting. And we're going to put cards and dice in his hands.