"Good morning, St. Pseudonymous Hospital."
Fallen: Part 2
"Good morning. I'm calling from Hoboken, New Jersey. My mother is a patient in room 1313a, she has multiple fractures and can't get out of bed, and the person who just took her blood pressure left her call button out of reach. Would you see that someone goes in there and gives back her call button? She's absolutely helpless without it. Fortunately, they didn't take the phone away from her. I'll hold."
"What room was that?"
"I'll connect you to the nurse's station..."
Much as we'd like to stand guard over Mom 24/7 while she recuperates from her injuries, all of us, Mom especially, have had to accept the disconcerting fact that we have no choice but to leave her in someone else's care. While our natural instinct might be to pick her up and take her home, we know that would not only worsen her existing injuries, it might well cause new ones. Right now she needs 24-hour care by people trained to deal safely with people in her condition. That includes most, but not all, of the workers in the skilled nursing facility she was transferred to a few days after her surgeries. While we, and she, can remind the nurses and aides and complain to supervisors and insist that a note be made on her chart that she can only be moved in certain ways without causing her further injuries, she is at their mercy most of the time. If a temp aide on the night shift doesn't bother to even glance at the chart, there could be terrible consequences. Fortunately, Mom is alert and able to speak for herself, even at 2 a.m.
It does get a bit quieter in the nursing home at night. The TV in the lounge is muted, the workers aren't shouting to each other across or down the hall, and there's nobody yelling "Bingo!" The dementia patients, however, don't really know day from night, don't seem to know much of anything except that they're unhappy. While they may be in wheelchairs, their joints twisted by arthritis, their lungs and vocal cords are healthy: perhaps because of all the exercise they get.
"Who's in the living room? Who's that in the kitchen? Who's in the hall? Who is that out there?"
She can't see much anymore, doesn't seem to know where she is most of the time, but Anita still has a voice like Ethel Merman's -- and she uses it incessantly.
"That lady must have had a real big house," one of the aides says to another as they pass out dinner trays. "She musta had maids or something; she's sure used to bossing people around."
In her more lucid moments, Anita knows she's in a nursing home. Then, she switches to a different refrain:
"Nurse! Nurse! Come in here! Come here right now! A patient needs you! Come here! Get in here and act like you've got some sense!"
Sometimes Anita goes on to fantasize that she just read an expose of the nursing home in The New York Times, and she threatens to call the newspaper to complain that the nurses don't always come when she calls. Based on what I heard in just a few days, it would take thousands of nurses to respond to Anita's calls, and not one of them could do anything about her dementia. Nor can they do anything to shut her up: that would be considered excessive restraint. So everyone in the facility has to listen to her hollering at the top of her powerful lungs, day and night.
Anita isn't the only dementia patient who won't shut up. Another wheelchair-bound woman who must be at least in her 80s wags her head back and forth, back and forth, chanting the same thing over and over:
"I want my Mommy! I want my Mommy! It hurts! It hurts! I want my Mommy!"
Don't we all, ma'am. Don't we all.
Mom uses her television to blot out some of the hollering from down the hall, as well as the loud voices of the staff, who speak to the residents like they're addressing hard-of-hearing kindergarteners, and communicate amongst themselves in even louder voices.
"There are no gloves in this room. Do you have any over there, Sheila?"
"No, you'll have to go to the storeroom."
"Never mind. I found some."
"Who's in the kitchen? Come in here right now!"
"I want my Mommy!"
At least Mom hasn't come to this place to live out the rest of her years. She's just passing through. In a few weeks, we hope, she'll be moving on to a rehabilitation facility, and eventually, home. That is if they don't drop her in the middle of the night.
There are construction noises during the day, also, and men walking around on the roof. The nursing home is adding another wing, part of an expansion plan to make room for the Baby Boom generation. Across the street, there's a conveniently located funeral home and cemetery, and overlooking that, an assisted-living facility for senior citizens who don't quite need to be in a nursing home but aren't able to be fully independent. It, too, is expanding.
While we're counting our blessings and looking for bright spots in this bleak picture, we're glad that Mom at least has family to visit and call and do what we can to look out for her. The hollering ladies don't seem to have anyone, nor do many better-behaved residents whose closest relative is a great-nephew in Iowa or a third cousin in California. Her children are handy for listening to complaints and trying to do something about them, but it's the grandchildren who really make a difference. When she sees one of them, or picks up the phone and hears their voice, her mood brightens instantly, as she forgets all about her own concerns for a moment to spoil them as best she can in her condition. Based on what I've observed, one call from a grandchild eases more pain than a couple of Vicodin, without any gastric side effects. If that poor woman with dementia knew that, she wouldn't be hollering for Mommy. Instead, she'd be chanting, "I want my grandson! I want my granddaughter!"
It figures, doesn't it? Mom spent seven years of her life providing 24-hour care for her "longtime companion" (he seemed too old and frail for the term "boyfriend"), employing and supervising three shifts of home health care aides to spare him the kind of hell she's going through right now. Eventually, she may be well enough for that, but since there's no one to play the role Mom did for him, so it's going to take awhile longer. We just hope Mom can hold out till then.
Fallen: Part 1
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @1:06 PM