Monthly Archives: December 2013

Overly Sedated?


My brother was coming for a visit.  My mother hadn’t seen him for six months and it was two weeks before Christmas.  This was special. I made an appointment for Mom to get her hair done at Penney’s with her favorite hairdresser the Friday before my brother and his wife were to arrive.  I also called Atria arrange to have them take her and pick her up.  Since the time we took the wheelchair  for her appointment  my back hasn’t been the same.  I just can’t lift it.  We would have to rely on the Atria driver.   I thought all went as planned, until I spoke with my brother the next day.  “I thought Mom was going to get her hair done,”  he said.  “What!” I said. “It should have been all set up.”  I had to wait until Monday to call and find out what happened.  “We thought you were planning on meeting her at the hairdresser’s,” she said.  “We tried to call you.”  It was true that I had been out all day shopping.  They may have left a message on my phone which I usually can’t hear in a crowded store.  “Why would I have to be there?” I asked.  “Can’t you just wheel her into the salon?” “We are not allowed to leave anyone in a wheelchair.  Someone has to be with her and we do not have staff that can do that.”  I did not tell her what I thought of this.  What could happen in the salon?  When I took her we just wheeled her up to the hairdresser’s station and she stayed in her wheelchair for the whole appointment.  This was ridiculous!  My poor mother had to go another week with dirty hair.  Finally I made an appointment with the hairdresser at Atria.  My mother could get mad at me.  I didn’t care.  I wanted her to have her hair fixed for Christmas.  I called and made an appointment for Christmas Eve morning.  When we picked her up Christmas  morning to spend the day with us she still had  straight, greasy hair.

Overly Sedated?!

It was  the weekend my sister came to visit that we first noticed how weak my mother’s legs had become.  She had let me use the wheelchair the week before, but she was able to walk. I hadn’t seen her since then.  That Saturday I received a phone call from my sister who was over visiting Mom.  The guys were playing golf and I was at home catching up on chores.  “Kathy, can you come help me?  Mom has been sitting on the patio with me and I can’t get her inside.”  “Why doesn’t she want to go back in?” I said.  “It’s not that she doesn’t want to, she can’t.  She can’t get her legs to work.”  When I arrived they were still on the patio.  We tried to get her to stand, but each time she would collapse back into her chair.  I got the wheelchair and, with a lot of maneuvering, we managed to pull it to the patio door and hoist her in.  I spoke with the nurse and caretakers at Atria and expressed my concerns.  “Could it be the medication she is taking that could make her so weak?” I asked.  They assured me that what she was taking could be the cause.
The next week  I received two phone calls from Atria that my mother had fallen.  The paramedics had been called both times.  The last time  they took her to the emergency room.  She was OK except for a couple of bruises and cuts from where she had fallen.  It was when  they gave me the papers to sign when she was released that I noticed the paper with the list of medications on it.  I stuck it in my purse to check over later.  I got it out the next day to see what it said.  At the top of the list was ‘Haloperidol to be given twice a day, morning and evening.’  This must be the Alzheimer’s drug the doctor wanted to try. I thought.  I googled it. “For use in treating schizophrenia. Has been used to treat aggression and agitation in  patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it can cause serious side effects.” WebMD: Elderly patients with dementia related psychoses treated with anti-psychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death.”  OMG! It could be the cause of her falls.  And her doctor prescribed this?!




“I’d like to put your mother on hospice”, the doctor said.  What?! My mother’s not dying. I said silently, but replied “Why do you want to put her on Hospice?  “ “Her assisted living facility calls me whenever there is a problem.  I want to try some new medication with her and see if it helps. If you agree I will have someone call you and they can set up an appointment to talk with you.”  “OK”, I said. “I want to find out more about it first.”

I had called the doctor’s office after I had made an unsuccessful attempt to get my mother’s test results from the hospital.  I thought they could talk to the hospital and get them to release the documents to me. Imagine my surprise when the doctor came on the line!   From what she said it sounded like she was getting tired of receiving calls from Atria reporting my mother’s recalcitrant and hallucinatory ways. She wanted to try something that might help her.  I received a phone call that that same afternoon from the hospice and set up an appointment for the next Friday, hoping my sister could come too.  I did not want to make a decision like this by myself.

At this point I had no real understanding of what being under “hospice” care meant.  I thought it was a group of volunteers who came to your house to assist and help the family at the very end of a person’s life.  I thought a week or a month before at the most. I did not realize it was a business that involved many people who worked as a team.

We were met that Friday afternoon by a young hispanic man who introduced himself as a chaplain.  I could just picture how his services were used by the hospice.  This sounded serious.  He explained to us that just because a person was under hospice care did not mean they were expected to die soon.  A person who qualified for hospice was someone who needed extra care and was not expected to recover from their disease or condition.  Thinking that any extra help my mother could get would be beneficial, my sister and I agreed to the care.  First she would need to qualify, though.

That afternoon when my sister was visiting with Mom in her room, a large, brusque nurse came to interview my mother to see if she qualified.  You could see how this was going to go! ”How do you feel?” she asked my mother to which she replied, “Fine.”  Who’s the president?”  “Obama”, my mother said.  “You don’t qualify.”  the nurse said and left.  An hour later I received a call from her confirming that she indeed did not qualify.   But an hour later I got another call.  “I talked with the doctor.  She said to qualify your mother.”

The next day I was called by the hospice social worker.  She began by saying that she had visited my mother and had enjoyed talking with her.  Then she asked what plans we had for her burial/cremation and if we needed help to set up a plan.  “My mother has a plot and it is paid for,”  I said a bit peeved.  “She is going to be buried on top of my father.”  This was something I did not want to picture just then.  I am not one to  dwell on the body of a person after they are gone, and therefore am not a regular grave visitor.  My father has been gone for 12 years.  His skeletal remains are in the ground, but his essence or ‘spirit ‘ is not.  His memories are what are important to me and so it will be with my mother.  “My mother is not dying,”  I said. “Yes, but it is good to plan ahead.  Does your mother have a preplanned service?”  “I don’t think we need to discuss this right now”, I said.  “All right”, she said, finally getting the point.  “I just want to be of help.”

I got very busy the next week and a half and did not visit my mother.  I did not get any calls from Atria and was reassured that the Hospice was also checking on her.  What happened during the next few weeks made realize all was not fine.