Archive for June, 2019

Warehousing of the Elderly, Part 6

June 27th, 2019 No comments

The young physician’s assistant met me in Mum’s room on April 3.  She was bright, and thorough.  She found a cerumen (wax) impaction in Mum’s Rt hear, so that may be compromising her hearing  in that ear. It takes many months for wax to build up to that degree and it makes me wonder why it was missed at her Assisted living. They will use Debrox and irrigation to clear Mum’s ear.    She also said she would order blood work to follow up on her low blood sodium and high blood potassium levels.  It sounded reasonable to me.  I find that Mum continues to be sleepy most of the time, but she awakens when touched and spoken to loudly.  Her caregivers have told me how great she is doing, helping with her own hygiene and toileting. One even said she pushed herself up and down the hallway in her wheelchair.  Considering Mum’s level of somnolence and weakness,  I’m not sure I totally believed that she went in the hallway at all.  I have been visiting Mum every day at different times of day, excluding early mornings.  So, perhaps she has more energy in the mornings, that I haven’t witnessed.

April 4, 2019  I went in to visit close to lunchtime.  Mum was upright in her wheelchair sound asleep, which seems to be the usual.  An occupational therapist came in and said that she had gone to the dining room for breakfast, but the CNA said she had difficulty eating and spilled her food and drinks on herself.  The plan was to take her back this noontime.  She was barely awake.

The occupational therapist came for us to go to the dining room for lunch.  I was seated next to Mum at a dining room table while we waited for her food.  I laid out a hand of solitaire to see if it sparked any interest.  She continued to sleep, with her head lolled onto her chest.  A full tray of food was delivered.  I woke her but she went right back to sleep.  I tried to get her to hold a fork, but her hand fell.  Then to OT came back and sat next to her in my chair, prodding her and urging her to eat.  I know this is her job, but considering Mum’s condition, and deteriorating health,  I found this undignified and I truly believe it is disrespectful.  I had to leave because it was too painful to watch. My mother is a very private and proud woman.

I got a call from Mum’s PA that afternoon.  She was alarmed that Mum’s blood sodium is so low at 117.  She said that this could explain the somnolence and weakness, but it also could lead to seizures.  As I have observed and guessed,  Mum is very very sick.  So, the choices were to give her IV saline in the facility or take her back to the hospital.  I chose the first option.  If she gets sicker, we may have to make a decision about moving her to the hospital. Why is life (and death) so cruel?

When I returned to the facility later in the afternoon, the nurse was setting up Mum’s IV.  As always, she was sound asleep, but comfortably so in her bed.  Apparently she woke up long enough to ask the nurse “What the hell are you doing?”   I expressed my concerns to the RN about Mum being hauled off to a Family meeting that she slept through and to a dining room full of people who were awake and feeding themselves  where she was  being prodded to eat while she slept upright in the wheelchair.  Everyone except my mother was awake and alert.  I told her I was so hurt to see them do this undignified thing to my mother.  I want her treated with dignity and respect, and common sense.  If she is somnolent, she will not eat.  If she is weak she will not lift a fork.  Let her rest.  Give her ice cream, pudding, boost, juices, water…things that she can handle when she is alert…..and forget about getting her to eat a full course meal with noodles, meat, and sliced beats , or even dry chocolate cake!  It will not work.  It will not help.  It is disrespectful, impractical and just wrong. My sense is that these well meaning therapists and assistants need to learn some lessons about Patient/Person centered care.  Recognizing the patient in front of them with all of their idiosyncrasies and specific needs and abilities is essential to quality and effective care.

This nurse understood. She has 30 years of geriatrics under her belt.  She said that on her watch she will not allow those things to happen to my Mom.  She encouraged me to speak up and advocate for my mother because nobody else will.  She is so right.

I don’t want to alienate my mothers caregivers, because they are dedicated professionals,  but I must speak up for her.  I am prepared for any outcome, and I am pretty sure which one to expect.  In the meantime, I want her to be comfortable and treated with respect and dignity.

April 5…..I will go see Mum this morning.