Saturday, March 07, 2009


Dad's out of the ICU and in a regular hospital bed (with a gorgeous view, which he unfortunately can't see). On Monday, probably, he'll be transferred to a rehab place. The social worker called me yesterday to find out where I wanted him to go. I said, "Wherever they have the best PT," and she told me that she isn't allowed to express opinions about facilities, that it isn't ethical.

I blew a gasket. "I don't know this stuff! You know this stuff: that's your job! I'm really tired of having medical people tell me that they can't give me advice, that I have to decide things like whether my father should go to the hospital. The paramedics on Monday night told me it was my decision! How should I know? Isn't that what they're paid for?"

The social worker listened to all of this very patiently, and suggested that I research nursing homes over the weekend.

"I don't have time for that. I don't have time to visit five different facilities!"

I finally told her to send Dad where he was last time. It's yucky -- all nursing homes are -- but they had excellent PT, and someone had told me it was the best in town. If he winds up having to stay in a nursing home permanently, which is my fear, I'll do the research. This buys me a few weeks, probably, to catch my breath.

Meanwhile, my sister called yesterday to say that Mom was off to the ER again with high potassium, although when she got there they couldn't find high potassium but did find -- you guessed it -- a UTI, so they sent her back to the nursing home with antibiotics. I don't know if this has changed her going-home date of Friday. I haven't talked to her for a few days, which makes me feel lousy, and I have to call.

Dad feels lousy because he has nothing to look forward to. I tried to have a conversation about things he could look forward to -- if he can ever ride in a car again, I want to take him to Pyramid Lake, which he loves and has been wanting to visit since he got here -- but it didn't cheer him up much, and who can blame him? He misses the quality time he spent with my sister (she used to make him dinner and stay to talk and listen to music once a week), and I feel bad that I haven't been doing that for him, but on the other hand, when have we had the chance?

Gary and I went to sit with him today for a few hours, but he dozed and we couldn't think of much to say. Tomorrow I think I'm going to start reading to him; he loves The Once and Future King, as I do, so I'll ask him if he'd like to hear it.

Today was better than yesterday, though. Yesterday I hit a wall: I felt absolutely exhausted and drowning in uncompleted tasks, especially at work (where everyone's being very kind). I felt like I wasn't doing anything well, like I was paying insufficient attention to Dad, Gary, myself, and my job; a colleague to whom I vented said sympathetically, "Well, when everybody's mad at you, at least you know you're dividing your attention evenly." Gary and I had planned to go to a concert last night, because several dear friends were performing, but I just couldn't. I arranged a ride for him, put the fireplace DVD on the flatscreen, and settled down with piles of grading, a pot of tea, and chocolate. It was exactly what I needed, and I've ordered a DVD of the waves at Big Sur for my virtual spring break.

This morning I felt sufficiently caught up to go to the hospital. Yeah, I know: I should have been researching nursing homes instead, but I decided to distract myself with other people's problems. The case manager who was there this morning saw Dad and Fran when they were in the ER in October, and he sent me first thing to visit an elderly patient and his daughter. The patient was exactly my Dad's age, had lived in Dad's assisted-living place, had then moved to the nursing home where I'll be sending Dad for rehab -- "he went there for rehab, but it didn't do any good," the daughter told me sadly -- and was now in the ER for issues very similar to Dad's. The daughter was making plans for hospice. We commiserated. I went back to the case manager and said, "That guy is my father."

"That's why I sent you to talk to them," the case manager said gently, although he can't have known about the assisted-living and nursing-home synchronicities.

So much for distracting myself with other people's problems.

I'm still trying to process this, which is probably one reason I didn't have much to say to Dad today. "Hey, Dad, I met someone just like you whose daughter is putting him into hospice! Small world, huh?" At some point, we need to have that conversation, but I'm hoping against hope that a miracle will occur in rehab.

I'm now babbling. Anyway, after we left dad, we went to Office Depot so I could console myself by browsing. Stationery stores make me happy. I bought a new clipboard case for the hospital, since I've had my old one for four-plus years and it's showing its age. Then we came home and ate dinner, and then I did a bunch of grading. I have lots more to do tomorrow, but the stack's a little less terrifying than it was yesterday morning.

Good stuff: YJHM accepted a second poem, and I submitted two others to other journals. I've gone swimming twice this week. I think I helped at least one person at the hospital this morning, and several staff thanked me for trying to help someone else -- by calling an outside agency -- even though the patient walked out before I could arrange the help. I felt good about my own efforts, though. That's all I can control.

And the world still contains chocolate.


  1. Anonymous4:57 AM


    I am a pharmacist, and I would highly recommend that you talk about your dad's condition with one of us. We can help keep you informed on what to expect from his condition.

    There are a lot of things that can trigger congestive heart failure. Smoking, thyroid, kidney issues...and sometimes we just don't know.

    As for not being able to make recommendations for various facilities, you know, I apologetically must tell you that any med professional who does that can be sued. When Medicare D went into place, we were warned very clearly by CMS that we could NOT advice our patients on what insurance they should pick. Totally ridiculous, I know! So please understand, we think it's insane, too, but we get into a lot of trouble if we get caught recommending a place/person/insurance...

    I wish you and your family only the best.

  2. Susan, I know spring break is happening soon. I hope the time off allows you to recover energy and catch up on the things you feel so behind in. I'll be praying, as usual.

    Please add me to your prayers for a few days. I've come down with a cold and don't want to be taking time off from work although I feel I probably should. We'll see how I feel tomorrow.



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