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I called my mom almost all day at the hospital, but couldn’t get her to answer the phone. I checked with the nurses station, and they said that she would be moved back to the nursing home sometime today. When I asked how she was, I was told that only her nurse could give out that information, and was asked if I would like her to call me. I said, “Yes.” 2 1/2 hours later, I had still heard nothing. I have been battling a cold for a week now, and my all-nighter in the ER certainly didn’t help, followed by very early surgery the next day. I was very tired, and opted to wait to visit her today, after she was transferred back to the nursing home, as I had been at the hospital fairly late last night.

I kept dialing my mom’s room, and finally got an answer. When I asked how she was feeling, she answered, “Pretty rough.” I told her that I had been trying to reach her all day, but couldn’t get an answer. She informed me that “there were lots of people at the house, and it was really difficult to get to the phone.” I quickly realized that she was “out of it” again, and I became worried.

My brother had called last evening to ask me if it was normal for our mom to be “so out there.” I told him that immediately after surgery it definitely was, but her surgery was on Monday. Then I told him that, in so many words, the surgeon had tried to warn me that many people her age would not do well, with all she had been through, and now hip surgery. She said something like “many are out of their heads” and she may never return to her normal activities.

The thing that is so strange with her is that she seems to go in and out of this. Last night she had a very lucid phone call with her brother, and yet just a little earlier when my brother told her that I would be coming to visit at 7:00, she said, “But she’s in London. How will she get here?” Without knowing what to answer, my brother said, “She’s driving.” When I first arrived she was sleeping, and when she awoke, she seemed confused about where she was. I told her that she was in the hospital, and that she had gone through hip surgery. This seemed to surprise her for a moment. But then she seemed to get clearer as the visit progressed. She seemed to understand that she would be returning to the nursing home the next day, and she told her brother that we had some packing to do, so she would let him go. I felt she was pretty lucid (except for remembering where she was) at the time I left.

The scene that I walked in on tonight was total chaos. As I pushed the door open to her room, I saw her roommate, Sophie, curled up, peering out from behind a book, with a look of great concern, shaking her head. As I approached my mom’s bed, she told me to get back, as she was on the bedpan, and then she said in a belligerent, screaming loud voice, “I told Ladonia to get in here, and to get in here NOW.” (There was no Ladonia that worked there, that I was aware of.)  I quickly backed out of the room, and ran across the hall to find one of the CNAs, that I knew, named Felicia. I told her that my mom was extremely agitated and needed help. She seemed to know that she was on a bedpan, and before she went into the room she told me that my mom was really disoriented, and we discussed what it all meant. I told her that the doctor had warned me about this happening, and that she said many do not ever get over it. She and another CNA responded, “That’s what we didn’t want to say.”

“But don’t some of them regain their mental status as it was before?”, I asked urgently. They indicated that some did, but many did not. Then Felicia went into the room. When she came back out the door, she looked as if she had escaped the lion’s den. She was very upset, and said that both of the ladies (my mom and Sophie) had started in on her, and that my mom was very combative. I told her that I had observed that as I came in, and I was very sorry that she was acting that way.  I gave her a hug, and I was close to tears myself. Felicia has always seemed to have a good heart around us, and truly cares for her patients.

When I went into the room, Sophie cornered me and said that Felicia had not come when they pressed the call button, and that she had not returned when my mom was on the bedpan. She was upset with the condition of the bathroom, as she also shares it. Then when I approached my mom’s bed and asked how she was, she got angry with me, saying, “I called you, and you did not come when I called, and I could hear you laughing in the hallway.” I explained to her that I had just gotten there, and that she had told me to back up, and go get help. (I’m not sure she believed me, though later she apologized if  she accused me falsely.

Meanwhile, the CNA had talked about separating them because she felt that Sophie was breaking the rules by trying to feed Betty, or go on her side of the curtain. My husband and I suggested that perhaps they would both settle down, because we knew that it would hurt both of them to be separated. They have become so close.

Right in the middle of all this, here comes Nurse Betty (who happens to be black, which I wouldn’t even mention, except it’s necessary in order for you to understand what happened next.) Felicia is also black, and my mom (completely out of the blue) began to say something about “The National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People.” She had already made a reference to me about Felicia acting like “Step and Fetch It.” I cut her off abruptly, and explained to Nurse Betty that my mom wasn’t herself right now. At this my mother became even more belligerent saying, “Yes I am myself, Lonnette. I’ve just been provoked.” Then Sophie jumped in, trying to tell Nurse Betty what had transpired, and I found myself wishing I was anywhere but there. I could see everyone’s side of the story, and felt badly for each one. (I just want to add that my mom has never demonstrated any racial prejudice that I am aware of, and raised me to respect each person as an individual, so this was totally out of character for her also. Lord knows what she would have said.)

Then Felicia and another lady showed up to weigh my mom. They were rolling some contraption that could weigh her in the bed. Imagine my surprise to learn that she had lost at least 30 pounds since all this started. She doesn’t look really thin, as she retains a lot of water, but I know that she hasn’t liked the food at the nursing home, or the hospital. We’ve brought in some food several times, but I guess we’ll have to bring it more often.

Then we began to discuss the possibility of her getting out of the bed. She was so disoriented that she had said to me at least 3 times, “I need to get up and go to the bathroom.” I told them that my greatest fear was that she would not realize where she was or the condition she was in, and would try to get out of the bed.  This was answered with an astonishing explanation that she would have to try that, before they could order an alarm. Shocked beyond belief, I said, “In other words she has to try to get up and fall before she can be monitored?” They explained that this was a restraint-free facility, and that a patient had a right to fall. A right to fall? I was speechless. (Later Tony, my brother, said in our phone conversation, that she had already exercised that right, when she broke her hip.) Finally Felicia said, “Go tell Betty (the nurse) to call the DON (Director Of Nursing) and request an alarm for her. In awhile, they came bringing the alarm, which is supposed to go off if she tries to get up. However, there are no rails on the bed. Can you believe that? NO BEDRAILS!!! I searched under the cover, and could not believe that there were none. The mattresses are made in a sort of bowl shape, with curved edges at the head and foot, that would most likely keep a person from falling out of the bed while sleeping (though that is debatable), but certainly would not prevent a person from getting up out of the bed. Whoever heard of a place for the elderly where there are no bedrails? And right after surgery? Hip surgery? One more fall could be the end. That alarm may sound, but the nurse’s station is so far down the hall that my mom could be out of that bed before they could ever reach her.

When I left, she was saying that she was going to get a flyswatter and kill every one of the bugs on the wall. When I told her that it may look like bugs, but they weren’t really, she looked at me like I was crazy. (Sometimes it’s better not to try and correct what she thinks she is experiencing. She just gets more agitated, but then again, sometimes she truly needs an explanation, to have her fears alleviated. I’m walking a very fine line here.)

My cousin Jack and I discussed if it was possible that she was having withdrawals from the strong medications that she was given in the hospital (morphine). They have also cut down her Oxycontin by half. It does sound like withdrawals, but I am not a doctor. However, I am sure they will return her to the ER if she keeps this up. (Sigh…)

Rob and I had been to dinner before going to the nursing home. Since it was Friday night, we had hoped to have a little time to sit in our chairs and wind down. But that was surely not to be. It was after 10:00 p.m. when we got home, and we were both zonked. Then I had to call my brother to inform him of her present state, and my cousin Jack, who is very close to my mom. None of us have the answers. We are shocked beyond belief that she is already out of the hospital, and in no shape to be in the nursing home this soon.  She is still facing the risks of blood clots and pnuemonia that can follow surgery. She is very incoherent and very, very upset and agitated.

I am exhausted, and feeling sick myself. All I can do is call out to Jesus, knowing that His grace and strength are sufficient, when my strength is gone…

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2 Comments

  1. As I read your post, it brought back the memory of the time my mother was in the hospital 4 years ago for a broken ankle that resulted in a below the knee amputation. She did the same things your mom did. I believed it was from the Oxycotin and had it noted as an allergy on he file. The behaviors, hallucinations stopped after the Oxycotin was stopped. But then last summer/fall she was admitted again and ended up in the nursing home for 4 months (again). No oxycotin this time, but she did have the hallucinations and paranoia. This time the only thing I can think is that she was going through withdrawl of alcohol. So maybe she had some of that the other time too.
    Anyway…..I feel comforted to know that I am not alone in my struggle to keep my elderly mom safe, there are others out there going through similar times. I pray for strength and ability to keep my compassion for her in place.
    Thanks, for the post

  2. Carol: Thanks so much for your thoughts and comments. I, too, am glad for any advice and thoughts from others who are walking this same road. Things have gotten even worse lately, and I have so much to consider concerning the care and safety of my mom. It is a heartbreaking journey for us, most every day now, but I know that God will lead us to the right decisions. Stop by any time. Hugs-Sparkle


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