Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Swing and a Miss

DOB fell over the other night. We awoke at 2:30 to the sound of her air horn calling us for help. We called 911 for lift assist.

It took until about 3:30 for the ambulance crew to persuade us to take DOB to ER for an x-ray, and for us to persuade them not to also take TCG because of his breathing, gasping, chest-clutching and general dramatics.

Me and TCG finally left the ER about 8:30 the next morning, having taken the doctor’s advice to admit her for further tests to figure out why she fell. Of course the irony here is that stupid isn’t a valid medical diagnosis. Nor, it turned out over the three subsequent days, does it show up on an MRI, a Cat Scan, or in a blood test.

Three nights (four, if you count our vigil in the charming ER suite) in a hospital room turns out to be not only the max her insurance covers, but it’s the minimum needed to disconnect her from any remaining semblance of reason, sanity, continence, coherence or awareness of anything but her moving aches and pains. The x-rays show a broken rib which is probably new, a tiny fracture on T6 which is probably old, and some tiny blood clots in her "brain", evidence of TIA events that are probably also old. Her stinky dog, staying in our side of the house during these nights, had kept TCG up with his whining and crying. As for me, I took a vicodin and slept like the dead.

We’ve been back home for 3 nights. First night, she speed-dials TCG at 12:30. Assuming she’s fallen again, we rush in to find she just wants another vicodin. (Note to self: find out if you can somehow hook a “clapper” up to deliver pain pills on demand.) Between calls to/from doctors, hospital follow-up, and social workers, physical therapists (!) and pharmacists, I went through some of her files to find evidence of regular payments to two different insurance companies, with no information whatsoever about coverage.

Calling for copies of policies, information on claims and surrender values is interspersed with grocery shopping, cooking her meals, testing her blood sugar before each meal, changing her clothes, and emptying her commode chair bucket has taken up the three days since she’s returned home. We’ve also had visits from the home health care nurse and a “placement specialist” who told us we’re pretty much SOL for getting her admitted to a skilled nursing facility or an assisted living facility based on the amount of her Social Security check. I overrode TCG’s offer to subsidize her check by about $1k a month to keep her in a facility. I may have to work for free, but dammed if I’ll sacrifice a big chunk of our meager fixed income to pay for somebody else to wait on her.

Turns out my strategy to expect TCG to take care of these matters was a mistake I’ll be paying for by having to empty her bedpan and change her diapers until the next time she hits the floor. We also learned that she doesn’t use the shower any more because she can’t step over the four-fucking-inch ledge. She gives herself a sponge bath using the kitchen sink and dish sponge and presumably the dish soap, but you’d be forgiven for guessing she doesn’t use soap based on the stench she exudes. And don’t throw up picturing the dish sponge washing her fat folds because the evidence shows she probably doesn’t actually use the dish sponge to wash her dishes anyway. The home health care nurse asked me why I didn’t give her sponge baths and check her diaper rash, and I said it isn’t in my job description. At the time, I was on my knees, trying to pull up DOB’s diapers after a rash check, but I don’t think the nurse appreciated the anger in my voice. I’d rather pick up the used toilet paper DOB drops on the floor after using the commode chair: this apparently is in my job description.

The silver lining is that I learned that the next time she falls over, we will get her to the ER immediately, insist that she be admitted to the hospital, and then simply refuse to take her home. Because I didn’t ask the right questions, make the right noises and/or wear socks that match my sweater, we missed a great opportunity to get her out of the house. I’ve got 2 weeks in the unofficial poll for the next time she falls. Tell Santa I’ve been a good girl.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, jeez, what fun (not). Something else you didn't mention: if she moves out to a presumably pet-free environment, you would be expected to adopt and care for her dog. I suppose that would be, relatively speaking, a piece of cake, but still....
I have some appreciation for how much this sucks, but I also think it portends the end is near. Hold it together a little longer, sweetie. -MinM