Report from the hospital zone…..

I have been at best, incommunicado…and my apologies for that. My little 88 year old Mommy has been in the hospital, and I had to go help my sister out. And writing just falls by the wayside, though it probably would have been a nice distraction. For any of you who have aging parents, you know the tag team thing this can become with siblings….and sooner or later, it is your turn. So, when I got the call Saturday morning that Mom had to go back to the hospital(she had been there much of last week, and then released), I knew there was only one thing to be done. The lovely feng shui of my Saturday morning outdoor yoga class(more on that tomorrow) was erased, to be replaced by the prospect of flying south, and several nights on a hard hospital recliner, surrounded by nurses that come in the middle of the night, and worry about a delicate little woman, who is, as my sisters agree, like a house of cards. One card goes, and it’s flattened.

I won’t bother you with her various health problems…though she’d make an interesting case study for many a doctor , and has, with her odd and interesting collection of ailments. You name it, I think she’s had it, or has it.

But here was my bottom line after flying home last night and my advice for you. If you have a loved one in the hospital…you really should be staying with them, unless they are only in for a couple of tests, and not very sick (in which case you probably wouldn’t be in the hospital!). I say this, because most hospitals, even the best, are  understaffed and overworked. I think most nurses would agree with me. One PCA (personal care assistant) who does all the hardest labor….helping people with their baths, getting them to the toilet, cleaning them, cleaning up after them….one PCA can have 17 patients. At least ours did. If you think all your needs will be quickly met, what happens quick is that you will be disabused of those quaint notions. And not that the intentions aren’t the best…they are, and the staff by and large, was kind and caring. But on several occasions, medicine that my Mom was not to receive was brought in. Those who are inclined to take whatever is put before them, put themselves in harms way. We had to say…”She’s not supposed to be getting that.” Hmmmmm, much perusing of the chart….”well, it doesn’t say that here”, blah, blah….so many miscommunications. A cast of doctors…one comes in and says…”congestive heart failure”…the next day another one say, “that’s debatable”. And not that I mind a different opinion, I welcome it, but it sometimes seems that no one is communicating with anyone else. So you better keep up with it.

I’m home now, and so enjoyed sleeping in my own bed last night. Sister # 1 is on duty and calling with updates, bless her heart, to take a little of the stress off  sister # 3 who lives nearest my Mom…she gets the brutal brunt of it…and bless her heart too. I wonder. What happens to the elderly who don’t have anyone when they go to the hospital?  Seriously, what happens? Who gets them what they need…a  sip of water, quick help to the bathroom (or in our case a bedside potty-there’s a fresh experience for you), your hairbrush, your toothbrush? I knew Mom was feeling a little better when she asked for her mirror and brush. She stared into the mirror for a minute and remarked, “I look like an old woman.” We started to laugh….and didn’t have to add the obvious…that she is an old woman. A lot of folks never make it to 88, for Pete’s sake. But she’s a feisty one. And she’s still standing. Kinda.


11 Responses

  1. I’m so sorry that your Mama is in the hospital. I recently was in myself and you are so right about the dedicated staff that are overworked. It is so important to have someone watching over you. I hope she recovers soon.

  2. Best wishes to your Mom!

  3. Sorry to hear your Mom’s not feeling well! Hang in there.

  4. Wishing your mom the best. It is great that you share in the care of your mom. Some children grow up and get busy with their own lives and can’t find the time. Both of my parents have passed and I feel my siblings and I did everything we could to help them when they needed us. I figured, they raised me and took care of me, the least I could do is be there for them. So a little reminder to take a second out of all of our busy lives to call Mom or Dad and say Hello or Thanks Paul

  5. Your article was amazing and really hit home for me as I have been through the same experience except as an only “child”. This is an experience that most of us don’t ever think about, but it is a very real possibility for a lot of us unfortunately, and a very scary one. I don’t know how people who are alone in the hospital during a stay in which they are unable to care for themselves live through it. Everything you said was true about the inability to take care of the patients basic needs and also the possibly deadly medication errors that occur as a result of the overworked, understaffed personel.
    As the parent of a severely disabled son who was recently in the hospital for week, if I didn’t stay with him, I honestly don’t know if he would have survived.
    Now I worry about me! Hopefully someone in my family will be willing to step up and take care of me if this should ever happen.
    This is a very serious problem that needs to be addresed before more people die as a result of these problems that every hospital faces.
    Thank you for your article and insight.

  6. Donna, my prayers go out to you and your family. It’s a very difficult situation, but I can say I know how it feels.

    My wife is a nurse at a Baltimore area hospital (I’ll not reveal the name here) and they are severely understaffed. And, to add to that, I sometimes fear for her safety because she regularly has patients with a violent history. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that a patient has thrown something at her or issued profanity-laced threats. Luckily, my wife hasn’t been assaulted, but it has happened to co-workers.

    I hope this entry is a wake-up call to us all! The nursing shortage is severe and it just compounds any situation. Be aware of this whenever you or a loved one is in the hospital! Also remember that the nurse and/or PCA you are dealing with has many other patients. Don’t be afraid to question them regarding their care. They do their best, but it is a frustrating situation for everyone.

  7. I hope your mom gets better soon and you and your family are in my prayers!

  8. Donna, I understand what you and sisters are going through. Been there 3years a go with my Dad. He had a massive stroke and never got to come home. For 8.5 months my shift was after work and weekends so Mom and brother could have a break. Because of the shortage of help in nursing homes & hospitals WE HAD NO CHOICE and we certainly couldn’t leave him alone for a length of time and feel comfortable. We hired a sitter for the overnights. I would do it all over again and because of that experience I am wanting to change my career path to care-giving. My heart goes out o you ..not easy be far away in these kind of times. My thoughts and prayers are there with you Donna and family. Donna, thanks for allowing us your fans/friends to follow you on your journey we are all there for you.

  9. HI Donna,
    I can totally relate to this! My mother will be 90 this Oct…she is as feisty as your mother sounds!! She still drives (scary thought!!) I work in the health
    field and would not dream of leaving her in the hospital alone! Hope she is home soon!

  10. Donna–I hope your Mom does get out of the hosppital today. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Sue

  11. Hey Donna,
    Sorry to hear about your mom. I hope she’ll be OK. My wife and I are going through the same thing. She’s originally from St. Louis Mo. We lost her father three years ago after a series of strokes, and countless trips between Maryland and Missouri. Now her mom (86) is having problems with her eyes, she had to fly out to be with her for that. We just spent two days this week at Washington Hospital Center with my dad. Its a struggle sometimes, but we have siblings also which helps. Hang in there, we’ll keep you and your family in our prayers….Brian

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