Present day update: I spent last Saturday at the Emergency Room with my mother, again. Atria called me at 6 that morning and said she had fallen at 2AM, the paramedics were called, but they checked her out and said she would be OK. At 11 o’clock when I was getting ready to leave the house on errands they called again. “Your mother has fallen. She said she hit her head. The paramedics just took her to the Emergency Room.” We were there all afternoon. They had her neck in a brace and she complained about pain in her right arm. They took x-rays of her neck and arm and nothing was broken. I got her back to her room at 5 o’clock. She may not be able to walk again. We’ll see what this week brings.
ER Nightmares Part III
The social worker quickly concluded that I wasn’t insane, and said, “We’d better talk,” and she led me into a private office next to the “computer room” which I had now dubbed Doctor Central. “Your mother does not want the tests and there is nothing we can do,” she began. “But the doctor says she needs them. Can’t you sedate her and do the tests? You can tell my mother is not a reasonable person and can’t make decisions for herself.” I countered. “Yes. . .” she said, “Maybe there is something we can do. We can admit her as a 5150 patient. It is usually reserved for a person who is in danger of hurting themselves or others. I’ll see what I can do. You can wait in the lobby and I’ll talk with the doctor.” A few minutes later she came out. She told me they would be able to admit her as a 5150 under the H&S Code. They would sedate her then draw the blood to do the tests. Finally, we were getting somewhere! “ It should take about two hours. “You can call the ER then and find out if she is to be admitted to the hospital, which they will probably do if they find something wrong, or she will be released.” I turned to my husband. “Let’s go home, ” I said. “I’m tired and I could use a drink.”
I called at 7:30, two hours later as I was told, and asked about my mother. A nurse came on the line. “She refuses to have her blood drawn. She is being rather difficult.” “Are you looking at her chart?” I said. “She was admitted as a 5150 and needs to be sedated,” I said. “I don’t see anything about that,” she said. “I’m going to call the social worker who talked with us. She can tell you,” I said hanging up. I had just dialed the number for the social worker and began explaining the situation when our land line rang. “It’s for you,” my husband said, “It’s the hospital.” He handed me the phone. It was the nurse I had spoken to offering me her apologies saying she had just come on duty and wasn’t aware of the situation. She said they would call when the tests were completed. We waited. And waited. Finally at nine my husband went to bed. “Wake me up if you want me to go with you,” he offered. I waited. Decided to have another glass of wine. And waited. Finally at 11 o”clock they called. “You can come pick your mother up. She is being released. Her tests were negative.” Should I wake my husband up? I had been drinking wine. I decided to just go. At this point I didn’t care if they pulled me over.
When I arrived my mother was laying on the bed completely relaxed. She was talking with the nurse. I looked down at her arm. She had big bruises from her wrist to her elbow. “What happened?” I asked. “They must have had trouble finding a vein,” he answered. “But her tests came out fine.” I looked down on my mother, lying there so vulnerable. Was I wrong to put her through this? I thought. Did my mother really know best?
My mother surprised me last Friday. I went to pick her up to take her to get her hair done and for lunch. No, she still wasn’t ready when I got there. What took me by surprise was when we left the room and began walking down the hall. She took a few steps and then stopped. “I don’t think I can go any further,” she said. “Shall I get the wheelchair?” I said expecting an angry reply of “No, I’m never going to use a wheelchair. I don’t need it.” Instead it was a calm answer of, “Yes, I think that would help.” Except for the pain of lifting it in and out of the car trunk, I think I was happier with using the wheelchair than she was. Instead of walking slowly three paces behind or in front of her, we were able to zip into the restaurant and right up to a table. Afterward I took her on a quick tour around the mall before her hair appointment. Oh, how free that felt!
ER Nightmares Part II
We only had to wait about 10 minutes before my mother was called in to see the doctor. As we were shown into the small room back of the intake desk we passed several people with white coats who were facing computers. When we were settled and my mother’s blood pressure taken, one of the white-coated doctors entered the room. The doctor gave an explanation similar to what the other doctor had said. They were going to draw blood to do tests that would determine if there was an infection. Septicemia could be very dangerous. After my mother was settled in the room next to the “computer room”, I went back to sit in the lobby. I well remembered the last time I took her to a lab to draw blood. She refused to get out of the car. This was in the middle of summer. In 112º heat. After an hour’s worth of time with my going back and forth to the lab telling them, “It’ll be just a few more minutes,” she finally gave in.
From the lobby I had a view of my mother sitting in her chair waiting. Soon a young male nurse walked up to her, talked for a few minutes and then left. I knew what had happened. I left the lobby, passed my mother and entered the “computer room”. The young nurse was sitting in front of one of the computers talking with the doctor. “Are you going to take my mother’s blood?” I inquired. “She told me she didn’t want me to do it,” he said. “So,” I said, or something like it. “We can’t take her blood if she refuses,” he said, with the doctor nodding agreement. “I thought the tests were important. She doesn’t know what she is doing. She isn’t capable of reason,” I said raising my voice a bit. “Well, what we can do is call a social worker,” the doctor offered. “Maybe she can talk with her.” “Great,” I said. They said when she came they would tell her I was waiting in the lobby and she would meet me there first. After about 40 minutes the social worker, a large amiable woman, came to meet me and I had high hopes. As we entered the small patient room she asked one of the nurse’s assistants to get my mother. As I began to explain to the social worker why we needed to talk with her my mother slowly entered the room with her walker. I still can’t grasp what happened next. “She’s crazy,” my mother said pointing to me. “I brought her to the hospital and she refuses to have her blood taken.” I didn’t need to have taken psychology courses to know this was a classic case of projection! As soon as I had closed my mouth, I began to protest. Sensing conflict, the social worker asked me to leave so she could talk with my mother alone. 10 minutes later she came up to me in the lobby. “Have you just been released from a mental hospital? Have you ever been in a mental hospital?”
To be continued . . .
It all started with a snake . . . or a would-be snake. One day last month I was getting ready to run some errands when I got a call from Atria. It was one of the aides. “Your mother is sitting in the hallway and won’t go back in her room. She says there’s a snake under the bed. Could you talk to her?” Knowing it would do no good talking with my mother on the phone I said, “I’ll be right over.” My mother has always been deathly afraid of snakes and it didn’t help that when we first moved to the desert and lived in a rural area we had our share of them on our property. Once when she and my dad were visiting one came in the house. We found it curled up under the water heater. Though we whispered and thought we removed it quietly, my mother found out anyway. When I arrived at Atria my mother was still sitting outside her room. “I’m not going in as long as there is a snake in there!” she exclaimed. I did a full inspection of the room. “I don’t see a snake, Mom, I think it left.” I finally convinced her to come back inside, but I could tell she was still having reality problems when she began talking about seeing her parents the night before.
Soon after we had returned to the room the patient care nurse came to see how my mother was. He then suggested that she go to a walk-in emergency medical clinic for a urinalysis. “What does this have to do with what just happened?” I asked. He explained that sometimes elderly patients begin having hallucinations due to an infection. If an infection that started in the urinary tract got into the blood stream there could be problems. My mother hadn’t complained of pains, but she did use Depends which may make her more likely to contract an infection, I thought. So over my mother’s objections I called my husband to bring over my power of attorney papers (just in case) along with the book I was reading.(I knew how these visits can go!) After my husband arrived and I convinced him to go along, thinking that he could serve as a buffer between my mother and I, we left for the doctor’s office.
Luckily there were not many patients waiting to be seen that afternoon so she did not have too long a wait. When the results were in we were shown in to see a doctor. “There is some blood in her urine and her white blood cell count is up. She needs more tests which I can’t do here. I would like her to go to the Emergency Room. I will send some papers with you so they will know what she needs.” Our long afternoon just got longer!
After checking in with the front desk we were soon seated in the waiting area near the admitting door. It was then that the badgering started. When my mother is angry she doesn’t cuss or yell. She becomes snotty and caustic. “I don’t know why I am here. There is nothing wrong with me. You’re trying to run my life. You don’t know anything about doctors or hospitals. I’ve worked with doctors. I know.” I first looked to my husband who tried to placate her but gave up. The rest of the time he kept his head in a book. I next moved across the aisle from my mother, but she kept on. People turned to look. Finally I moved across the waiting room. It was quiet. I began to read my book. . . . . . . . to be continued.