Saturday, June 16, 2012
What Do You Fear, My Lady?
It is the Monday morning after the Friday evening before and my first of many visits back to Sunset City to see mom.
I roll dad into the room and the first words out of mother's mouth are, "Larry, you gotta get me out of here!"
"I'll try," I promised.
When I was a child I began to learn how to do magic tricks. But there is no such thing as magic, only tricks. Magic is optical illusion, deception, distraction and false panels. This was real life and no optical illusion. There were no false walls around my mother's bed. She was not a rabbit to be pulled from a hat. She was an old woman thrust suddenly into a system we seldom think of in the course of our lives. And she was a lady fearful of being caged away in Sunset City forever.
Sunset City was a closed system. Everything that had been in her outside world was exactly that -- outside. She couldn't be examined by her long-time personal physician. He had "no jurisdiction" in Sunset City, as a Sunset City manager put it. She had a new doctor, a stranger to her, someone who was under contract to visit the facility once a week and visit as many inmates as he could.
I called Dr. Whatzit at the end of mom's first week in this new world and asked about her prognosis. He was as optimistic as ever and said that she could eventually get off the feeding tube, but he then said he could give me no info about her condition. He hadn't seen her since she left the hospital. He couldn't visit her in the nursing home. If she came home again in the future, then he would be her doctor again, but for now the nursing home supplied her medical care.
I began asking about mom at Sunset City, trying to find someone who could give me some clear data about her condition, situation and future. Just as it had been in This City Hospital, it was like chasing a ghost. Maybe such a thing existed, maybe not. Finally I ran across a lady, the social worker, named Helen Hooters. I know, I know, terrible name for a woman to be stuck with. If that was her maiden name I can imagine the teasing she got growing up. (Helen Hooters is not her real name, of course, but her real name was just as bad, maybe even worse, and everyone you told it to would kind of smile and chuckle a little.)
She told me they would arrange a "Care Meeting".
In the meantime little tales circulated and found the way to my ears along with a growing chorus of, "You got to get her out of there." Problem is, I was never able to determine what was real and what was imagined.
On the first visit she said there was a young black man in her room, an aide of some kind, and he wouldn't give her her teeth. She asked several times and he wouldn't do it. Finally she rang for the nurse and the nurse came and handed her the dentures. Mother claimed the next morning she saw the young black man in the hall talking to a couple women who worked there. She heard him say he got fired. She felt she got him fired.
A couple days later she told people she woke up and thought she was having another stroke. She rang for the nurse and one came. Mom asked for a doctor. The nurse said, "We don't have any doctor here," then walked out of the room without doing anything and no one else came back in to see her.
But did these things happen? Remember in the hospital my mother saw strange woman talking in her living room one time and a mystery man entering her room in a wheelchair another time.
We brought up such complains at the Care Meeting and the Floor Nurse went out and checked the daily log and no such instances were recorded.
My mother's main complaints were the staff was rough on her when they changed her or moved her to make the bed. She would tell them it hurt, but they wouldn't stop. Yet, her condition was such moving her would hurt and some staff may have been more gentle than others. She and her friends who visited were annoyed because mom's requests weren't answered at once. Was she truly being ignored or were other duties more important at that moment to drop and attend to my mom's want?
I don't know.
We had the Care Meeting on April 26. A day short of two weeks after my mom was admitted to Sunset City. This was the first I got any input about what was going on with mother. It was almost comic. It was like a meeting of the United Nations to discuss some diplomatic crisis. I arrived with my dad in tow (or push as it was) and a friend of the family who they trusted. Helen Hooters came into mom's room at the head of a parade.
They trooped in, each saying hello as the formed a semi-circle about us, seven of them. There was Ms Hooters out in front (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) and then the Activities Director, the Floor Nurse on duty, the Physical Therapist, the Occupational Therapist and the Speech Therapist. I forget the function of the last woman. Heck, she could have been a patient who just followed along for all I know.
Each introduced themselves and explained their function. The Floor Nurse went out to check the daily log, as previously mentioned and promised to look into my mother's complaints. They did say that a report was filed weekly to the insurance company. As long as my mother was making progress, things would be fine, but that the insurance company could stop the coverage at anytime if it felt she had plateaued. They promised to fight against such a thing. They also said each therapy was limited by the insurance company to only twenty minutes a day. Remember these things, they will come up later in another post.
Finally, they trooped out and then the Director of Nursing paid us a visit. She assured up she would see that my mom got out of the bed more often and taken to activities.
Everyone had been very pleasant and professional, except perhaps the Floor Nurse, who just seemed nervous throughout. Or am I imagining things now?
At any rate the meeting was very assuring that mom was being taken care of. Still, the next time I visited mom's first words were, "Have you made any progress getting me out of this place?"
"I'm working on it, mom, I'm working on it."
And boy was I ever. This getting her out of there had become a 24/7 job with no benefits and no pay and a seemingly impossible goal. I had entered the Kafkaesque world of the Nursing Homes.