Tag Archive | elderly

Thirty-Six Hours in a SNF

Wednesday morning I learned they would be discharging my mom from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) later that day for “a few days” of rehab. I had already made the decision to cancel my trip to San Antonio, so I asked the discharge planner to look for facilities near my office location rather than have her sent to the same horrible place she went the last two times just because it’s close to home (and the owner of the board & care would visit her there). The discharge planner sent me three possibilities to research. I ruled one of them out based on their ratings and reviews, but both of the other two looked like they would (at least) be better than the last place. The decision was made for me when only one of those two had a bed for a female available. I felt pretty good about it. The facility is on my way home from work, only a couple minutes off the freeway, and while reviews are mixed, it gets solid ratings from Medicare and other agencies.

The transport that was ordered for 5:00 p.m. didn’t arrive at the hospital until 6:30, so Mom was able to eat a little bit of dinner first. She was in pretty good spirits and definitely seemed to be improving. I hoped that it really would be just for a few days. Maybe she’d be back at the board and care by Monday, even. As I was standing around while the medical transport guys were getting ready to load her on the gurney, one of my favorite CNAs came in to say goodbye to Mom. She reminded me of a friend of mine in Portland (if that friend had candy red hair) and she’d been really great with Mom. The stress must have been written all over my face because she took one look at me, said, “Oh honey” and put her arms around me.  And maybe it was because she reminds me of my friend that I didn’t hesitate to let her hug me. It felt so good to be seen, to be held.

We got to the “4 star” facility around 7:15 p.m. It looks pretty much like the other nursing home (they must all be built on the same basic floor plan), but it’s a bit older or hasn’t been upgraded as recently. Instead of individual TVs for each bed, there are two TVs mounted on the far wall for the room of three. Mom didn’t get a TV (or a remote for the one she can see from her bed), but at least she got the bed by the window. The medical transport guys got her into bed and comfortably propped up on pillows, someone brought an oxygen machine and they got her switched to that from their portable tank, and then they left… and we waited. And waited. No one came in to assess her or have me fill out any paperwork. After an hour, I went to the nearest nursing station to ask. The harried charge nurse gave me the paperwork and tried to tell me that both the flu and pneumonia vaccines are needed every year and Mom should get them while she’s there. Wrong. The pneumonia vaccine is good for five years. Mom got it last fall and, even if she hadn’t, a nurse friend confirmed to me via text that it’s medically inadvisable to give the vaccine while she’s recovering from pneumonia. Good grief.

It took TWO HOURS for the nurses to even come into her room to assess her, and I’m convinced it would have been longer if I hadn’t made it quite clear to the charge nurse that I wasn’t going anywhere until that got done. And, of course, when they did the body check, she was soiled. To put it more bluntly, she’d been lying in her own shit for who knows how long until they finally got around to her. I was NOT happy. And even less happy when I learned that they wouldn’t have any of her medications except the antibiotics until morning because their pharmacy doesn’t deliver after a certain hour.  There wasn’t anything I could do about it, and she was finally clean and ready to get some sleep, so at 10:00 p.m. I finally went home, feeling like this was going to be a disaster.

I had told my boss that I’d be in late, after I stopped by the SNF to do the admissions paperwork and check on Mom, but I slept so poorly and was so worried about the situation that I knew I just needed to call off for the day. I got over there about 9:00 a.m. and it was a much more cheerful place in the morning. The day shift charge nurse was much more responsive, they now had all her meds, and the dietician came around to talk about her dietary needs and preferences. The one thing I was still concerned about was that they didn’t seem to have the orders for IV fluids, which I’d been told was the main reason they couldn’t discharge her home to her board and care. I was told that the nurse practitioner would be in later that morning and would take care of it.

The nurse practitioner is awesome, and talking with her restored some of my confidence in the placement. She listened to my concerns and we seemed to be on the same page about what is and is not acceptable in terms of care. She confirmed the IV order with the hospital PA and got that started within an hour of examining Mom. The x-ray and blood draw for labs she ordered also happened that same day. Two physical therapists came to do a preliminary assessment on Mom, and they got her up in a wheelchair and wheeling herself around (which she’s never done before because the chair we have is a transfer chair). She seemed to enjoy doing that and it’s good exercise for her arms, so I resolved to find a way to get her a regular wheelchair when she gets home.

After spending most of the day with her, I left around 7:00 p.m. to get some dinner and rest. “Go,” said Mom with a smile. “Take care of yourself. You need to have a life too.”

The hospital had scheduled a follow-up with the nephrologist for Friday, but the NP and I both agreed that she wasn’t quite ready to be taken out to an office visit, so I got it moved to Monday afternoon. A case manager from Mom’s medical group called me to arrange the wheelchair van to take her to the appointment, which was something else the nurse practitioner had told me she would make happen. (Clearly this woman gets shit done. I respect that.)

I went back to work on Friday without worrying about Mom, though I was frustrated to realize that I couldn’t call her. There are no phones in the rooms and they don’t even bring a cordless phone in for patients who are on bedrest. The only way for a patient to get a phone call is to have their own cell phone — which, frankly, I would worry about getting lost or stolen, even if Mom had one — or go to the nursing station to take a call there. Ridiculous, if you ask me.

But when I got to Mom’s room around 4:30 p.m., she was a lot less perky than the day before. In fact, she was so weary that she could hardly keep her eyes open. “I may fall asleep on you,” she told me. “The only time I feel comfortable enough to sleep is when you’re here.” I held her hand until she fell asleep and let her nap until they brought the dinner tray. Despite what I thought were clear directions to the dietician, they persist in bringing her food that is impossible for her to chew with dentures. (I mean, come on, tortillas can be hard to bite through even when you’ve got your own teeth!) Thankfully, I had stopped at the grocery store and picked up a few items to supplement the bad facility food. Mom ate half a banana with some peanut butter and a few bites of applesauce, and that was dinner. She dozed off again as soon as she’d finished eating, even while sitting up at almost a 90 degree angle. I hung around until 7:30, but she never did wake up again for more than a few moments at a time, so I finally kissed her goodnight and went home for some self care.

Day three at the SNF was not a good day. I had let myself sleep in a little, then stopped at the pharmacy to fill a prescription and picked up some lunch to bring with me, arriving just before 11:00 a.m. Mom was asleep in her pajamas, and she barely woke up enough to acknowledge my presence. Despite the IV fluids, her mouth was so dry that she could hardly talk — but she was so weak, she didn’t even want to let me raise the head of the bed to give her water. “Just leave me alone,” she kept saying. “Let me sleep.” When they brought the lunch tray, I took a glance at the entrée and knew that (again) there was no way Mom could eat it.  “Try to get her to eat,” the CNA told me. “She didn’t want any breakfast.” But it was no good. I couldn’t even tempt her with chocolate pudding. I finally got her to take enough water to wet her mouth before she fell into a restless sleep again. I was really worried about her, wondering what had happened to set her back so far when she’d seemed to be on the mend.

She slept all afternoon and by dinner time was starting to seem a little more like herself, though still extremely fatigued. She even showed an interest in the meal, which was some kind of turkey sandwich with sweet potato fries, but after chewing and chewing at the same piece of turkey until her jaw was tired, she spit it back into her napkin and gave up. I managed to get her to eat one sweet potato fry, one bite of strawberry, three bites of applesauce, and three bites of chocolate pudding. I decided to stay with her until they came to clean her up and get the bed ready for overnight, and I’m so glad I did.

Only one CNA came to clean her (usually there are two), and she wasn’t very gentle or compassionate. She would have just flipped Mom onto her side if I hadn’t stepped up, taken Mom’s hand, and helped her roll over more gently. I ended up assisting through the whole process, even handing the CNA the IV bag so that she could pass it through the pajama sleeve and then back through the sleeve of the hospital gown the changed her into. I don’t mind helping AT ALL, but I shouldn’t have to. If I hadn’t been there, it’s not that I think Mom would have been mistreated, exactly… but it would have been a lot more unpleasant for her. Even with me there, verbally reminding the CNA that abraded sores on her backside are extremely painful, she scrubbed at Mom’s behind with a washcloth until Mom yelled and I grabbed the wet wipes the hospital had sent home with me and pushed one into her hand to use instead.

And that was how our first 36 hours at the SNF ended. Mom was tired and irritable, but clean and comfortably tucked into bed when I left around 9:30 p.m.

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Field trip!

Happy to report that Mom was feeling quite chipper when I visited yesterday morning. We took a “field trip” to a local park with a large man-made lake, where she enjoyed the fresh air, the relaxing scenery, and the many varieties of birds. I pushed her wheelchair on the paved path all the way around the lake, which was good exercise for me. lol And a little challenging when we came to this rustic wooden bridge…

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… but we bumped our way across without incident, though I was grateful that her chair comes equipped with a seatbelt.

I had wanted to get a photo of Mom feeding the ducks, but she wasn’t keen on the idea… and then it turned out that the ducks weren’t keen on the grapes I’d brought to feed them either.

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Except for the mallard in the center, these are actually coots, which aren’t ducks at all.

 

There are SO many birds living around this lake! We saw two kinds of herons, a red-tailed hawk, swans, several breeds of geese and ducks, seagulls, and dozens of the coots.

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The swans were Mom’s favorites

 

Halfway around the lake, we stopped (for me) to rest and sat for a while enjoying the sunshine. The air was full of birdsong, and I counted at least seven different songs in addition to the ever present quacking and honking of the water fowl.
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Though she was ready for a nap by the time I got her home, Mom enjoyed our field trip a lot. As we move into a season of warmer (but not yet hot) weather, I’m hoping I’ll have more opportunities to take her on outings like this. It was good for us both.

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She gave me a scare

I called to check on Mom this afternoon. The phone was answered by the caregiver who speaks only broken English, so instead of asking for an update, I just asked to speak to Mom. I heard her saying “It’s Lira” and then Mom mumbling “What do I do?” After a longish pause, she said hello. It sounded like she had a mouth full of marbles.

I asked her how she was doing and she mumbled something. What was that? “Tired!” she repeated, loudly. I asked if she had been sleeping and there was a long pause again, then she said no. I asked her if she wasn’t feeling well and she answered, “No, I’m not. I’ve been sick all week. Will you come and take me out of this place?” She sounded quite distressed, so I replied (as calmly as I could, considering the adrenalin that was now coursing through my veins) that I would be there in about half an hour. “Good!” she said firmly. I asked if Maria (the head caregiver) was there, and she replied “No, nobody’s here. It’s just me.” I repeated that I would be there soon and we hung up.

I had started to make myself lunch, but I put everything back in the fridge and grabbed a protein shake instead. I texted the owner of the care home, asking why no one had called to tell me that my mom is sick, and then I started gathering up what I would need for a trip to Urgent Care or the ER — Mom’s folder of health info, my phone charger, water bottle, etc. The owner texted me back to say that she had been at the facility all morning and Mom was fine, that she had been napping when I called and that’s why she seemed disoriented. It was a relief to hear that, but I headed over anyway to see for myself.

Sure enough, I arrived to find her sitting in her recliner with her favorite blanket over her legs, drinking coffee and eating a donut. I kissed her on the forehead and asked how she was feeling. “As well as can be expected at my age,” she answered cheerfully. She seemed tired but otherwise perfectly fine, and she had no memory of talking to me 20 minutes earlier.

Damn, Mom, don’t scare me like that!

 

 

Easter Monday Update

We made it to church for the Easter Sunday service, though Mom complained in the car that she “hurt all over” and was still so weak that I had difficulty getting her out of the car on my own. This was our first service back in the newly remodeled church sanctuary, and I was so grateful to see that they shortened one of the pews near the access ramp to make space for wheelchairs. I don’t think she could have managed transferring into a pew and back out to her chair.

It was good to be back in the church with everyone, and Mom especially enjoyed the choir… and all the people who stopped by her chair to shake her hand or give her a hug around the shoulders and wish her Happy Easter.

On Friday I picked up some urinary tract infection test strips at the drugstore and gave them to her caregivers. This morning they were finally able to get a good urine sample to test (it’s tricky with full incontinence), and the test confirmed what I’d suspected, She has a UTI. I called her primary care doctor, who called in a prescription for antibiotics, which she is starting this evening. I’m hopeful that she’ll be back to her old self again in a few days.

 

Easter 2018

Happy Easter from three generations of strong women!

 

If it’s not one thing…

Friday was one of those days. Mom had her first session with the physical therapist, and it did not go well. He had her lying on her back on the bed doing leg stretches and she was having trouble breathing, and he got snippy with me because I “undermined his authority” by responding to her needs without clearing it with him first. Even with the oxygen cannula in, her sats didn’t get above 91 and she was laboring so hard to breathe that he cut the session short and let her go back to sitting in her recliner.

I was so relieved that she already had an appointment with the cardiologist that afternoon because I felt sure it was a CHF (congestive heart failure) episode. But the cardiology PA who treats her didn’t hear any congestion in her lungs or heart. They had the results of Monday’s labs sent over and noted that she’s almost dangerously anemic, which might explain the difficulty getting enough oxygen even when the fluid build-up is gone. Since we are seeing the kidney specialist next Monday, and this is something he’s been tracking, cardiology PA left it for him to determine the best course of treatment. I took Mom home and she almost immediately fell asleep in her recliner.

Worn out from a stressful day, at 9:00 p.m. I got into my pajamas, poured a glass of wine and settled in for a West Wing marathon on Netflix. At 9:30, I got a call from the owner of the board and care: Mom had a nosebleed that thet couldn’t stop and they were taking her to the ER. I met them there shortly before 10:00, and it was a LONG night. They got her into triage very fast, considering the unusually large number of people in the waiting room, and had a quick temporary fix to stop the bleeding.

Mom nosebleed ER picBut then, as you can see in the photo, they sent us back out to the waiting room. Where we waited… and waited… and waited. It was cold in that room and Mom was thankful for the cozy flannel pajamas, though she was a little embarrassed about being out in public without her dentures in.  And though she complained that the clamp on her nose was uncomfortable, I would have been thankful to have one myself when a young woman sitting across from us suddenly vomited.

It was three hours from the time we were checked in until Mom saw a doctor. He removed a massive blood clot from her nose and thought that would solve the problem, but the bleeding started up again. The culprit, a broken blood vessel, was too high up in her nose for the doctor to see or cauterize, so they had to insert a balloon catheter in her nose to stop the bleeding — a last resort because it’s “uncomfortable” (the doctor’s word). Mom cried out in pain when it was inserted and kept exclaiming that she couldn’t stand it because it hurt so much.  It was 3:00 a.m. by the time this happened, and 3:30 by the time we were leaving the ER. The owner of the care home and her husband had waited with us the whole time, and they drove Mom home once she was discharged. I got in my car and immediately began to sob from exhaustion and helplessness at not being able to ease her pain.

I got about five hours of sleep before I got another call from the care home telling me that Mom had pulled the balloon halfway out during the night. I drank a big mug of strong coffee, threw some clothes on, and headed over there. The balloon catheter was supposed to be left in place until Monday, when we had been directed to see an ENT doctor to remove it. I called the ENT office and left a message for the on-call doctor, who called me back quite promptly and said that we could leave it as is unless it started bleeding again. Thankfully, that did not happen. And the balloon didn’t hurt when it was only half inserted, so Mom was much more comfortable for the duration of the weekend than she would have been otherwise.

All’s well that ends well, I guess.

It happens…

We saw the neurologist today. When Mom was in the SNF and would complain about feeling “quivery inside,” when her hands shook as she tried to hold a glass of water, when she couldn’t keep from bouncing her feet constantly… I kept thinking, “It’s OK, Dr. O will help her with this.”

Dr. O spent all of five minutes with us, and when I described Mom’s complaint about feeling quivery inside, she merely nodded and said “It happens.” The medication Mom was taking at bedtime before for restless legs made her too sleepy (so it was difficult to get her out of bed before 10:00 or 11:00 a.m.), and we agreed not to put her back on that unless the restless legs become intolerable. We are going to try increasing her dosage of Sinemet to see if that helps the tremors — but Dr. O said the caregivers will have to watch her closely because if the increased dose is too high for her body, the tremors will get worse instead of better. So grateful she lives in this small board and care home with attentive staff who WILL notice any changes. Otherwise I’d be back to camping out with her almost 24/7.

I was a little disappointed by the lack of attention we got from Dr. O, but I guess it’s a good sign that she wasn’t too worried about any of what we reported. And Mom was happy to get home. Short trips in the car still wear her out, and she dozed off in her recliner almost as soon as we got her in it. I kissed her forehead and headed out…

… And five minutes later I was ringing the door bell again, after having phoned AAA because my car wouldn’t start. Turned out to be a dead battery, and one hour and $126 later I was back on the road. So thankful it didn’t happen until AFTER I got Mom home! It’s warm and muggy today, and I can’t imagine making Mom sit in the car (or in her wheelchair in a parking lot) for an hour. Much better that I got to spend most of that hour sitting by her side in air conditioned comfort.

(Sh)it happens… But it could always be worse. And we get through it, together.

A Day of Appointments

This morning Mom had the first of several follow-up doctor’s appointments, this one with her primary care physician, Dr. G. It was my first time taking her out with the transfer wheelchair and oxygen tank, and what an adventure we had!

When I loaded the portable oxygen tank into the backseat of my car and attached the tube, I noticed that the tank was reading about 1/4 full. In hindsight, I should have asked right then for the spare tank — but not being familiar with oxygen, I naively thought that it would last the two hours until we got back. By the time we got to the doctor’s office (25 minutes later), the meter on the tank was in the red zone and Mom was complaining that her chest felt tight. At about the same time, I discovered that I’d left Mom’s purse (with the handicapped parking placard) back at the board & care. Cue panic. Well, not quite panic, but anxiety tinged with intense frustration. I couldn’t figure out how to get the foot rests back onto the wheelchair (don’t ask me why the caregiver removed them in the first place) and a nice man was patiently holding the office door for us, so we went on without them and Mom just had to hold her feet up. We got inside, I checked her in at the front desk (and asked them to please not let my car get towed because I forgot her placard), and then I texted the owner of the board and care to ask if she could possibly drop off the second oxygen tank.

When the nurse brought us into the back, she tested Mom’s oxygen level and it was 88. Not too bad yet, but they want it to stay above 90 and I was glad that the full tank was on its way. When the caregiver arrived with the new tank, the front office manager was kind enough to show me how to change it, so that next time I can just bring a spare and change it myself if needed. The doctor went over the discharge paperwork from the hospital and SNF, reviewed her medications, and listened to her heart and lungs. He said he didn’t hear any congestion in the lungs, which is a relief. Mom got her flu shot and some blood drawn for labs, and we headed home. Pulling the oxygen tank while pushing a wheelchair is tricky, but again a kind stranger stepped up to hold the door for us.

I dropped Mom off at home and sped to my yoga studio, arriving just in time for Yin Yoga with my favorite instructor. And I don’t know when I’ve needed a yoga class more! I was SO tense from the morning’s stressors, but it melted away over the course of an hour doing gentle stretches and heart opening postures. I walked back to my car with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. But by now it was 2:15 pm and I was starving, so I grabbed a chicken salad to go from a nearby Trader Joe’s and ate it in the car while I drove back to Mom’s place — because the day wasn’t over yet.

Mom had her physical therapy evaluation, and it went well. Steve, the therapist, looks at his clients holistically with the goal of improving their full function as much as possible. He took her medical history from me, getting a complete picture of her living situation and level of function before she went into the hospital, and he made some recommendations. He wants her to only use the walker with four wheels and the seat, rather than using the two-wheel kind around the house, because he says that’s making her more dependant on the walker than she should need to be. The four-wheel style moves more smoothly and she can’t lean on it the way she does the other one, so she’s doing the work of walking and just using the walker for balance.  OK, we’re all on board with that. And he wants me to buy her New Balance athletic shoes to give her ankles more stability. OK, I can do that.

The third recommendation is going to be trickier to implement, but it’s probably the most important one. She has been spending way too much time in bed, and both Steve the Physical Therapist and Dr. G said that this will make her more susceptible to fluid building up in the lungs. Especially while she’s recovering, Steve emphasized that she should never spend more than 9 hours in bed at night and should be out of bed and sitting up (not reclining) as much as possible during the day. I checked in with Maria, the head caregiver, when he left. They’ve been putting Mom to bed at 7:30 or 8:00 pm, and she’s been getting up around 7:00 or 7:30 am — so we’re looking at up to 12 hours in bed each night. She’s simply not going to get up before 7:00 (frankly, it’s a small miracle that she’s been getting up before 9:00), which means they’re going to need to keep her out of bed later in the evening. And this is a problem because the live-in caregivers aren’t “off the clock” until all the residents are in bed, and they have to wake up around 5:30 am to start their care day, so they WANT to get everybody in bed early. I got Maria to agree not to put Mom to bed before 9:00, but I’m not even sure how long that will last. And if she sleeps until 7:30, that’ll still be over 10 hours in bed. But I don’t know what the answer is.

The PT will be back on Friday morning to start working with her. We see the neurologist on Thursday and the cardiologist on Friday afternoon. It’s only Tuesday and I already need a weekend! I don’t know how the hell I’d be managing this if I was still working full-time, and I’m really feeling the timing of this layoff as a blessing right now.