I’ve been shopping for a nursing home for my mom this past week.

Ironic, considering all we have read about Pleasant Valley recently. And a little frightening, too.

My mom’s health took a turn for the worse about four months ago. She was in intensive care for a while, moved to a second hospital for medical care and therapy and finally to a nursing home for more therapy to get her up and walking so she could take care of herself again.

There have been good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks and times when my brother and I were sure we were getting our mom back, and times when we had to shed tears.

A few weeks ago, the folks doing the therapy said there was not anything more they could do.

They said our mom probably would not improve much more.

Our mom was not going to be the way she was before she got sick.

They said she would need a lot of help and care and we wouldn’t be able to provide it at home.

Mom was 84 on July 1 and seemed like one of those women who would go on forever. Arthritis has made a mess of her hands and feet. Her eyesight is failing and her latest illness has knocked her for a loop. She gets angry and frustrated sometimes, and often thinks she can still walk on her own. But she can’t.

At times, she seems so close, only to have another setback.

Mom came home for a few days last month and my younger brother, Dave, made a heroic effort to take care of her, but mom hardly moved out of her favorite chair. Soon, she was back in the hospital, then the nursing home again.

The hardest part was acknowledging the best place for our mom is some place other than home. Actually, we’re still trying to convince ourselves of that.

We know she wants to go home, but how do you tell her she can’t?

I’ve spent some time in the nursing home the past few months. They can be sad and depressing places, but I’ve been so impressed with the kindness and patience of so many of the people who have cared for my mom.

But I’ve also seen there are not enough of those people, and I’m sure they are not paid what they are worth. Staffing is often short when people call in sick or are on vacation. Sometimes when mom presses the buzzer for help, it is a long wait.

The care of the elderly is going to be the next great crisis in our country.

Baby boomers are living longer and growing older and the numbers of those who will need nursing home care are going to escalate dramatically.

Many of us will be there someday, too.

What happened at Pleasant Valley is a symptom of a far greater problem regarding the care of the elderly. Nursing homes are a growth industry. More will be needed and more people will be needed to provide care and those people are in short supply.

I know we have to take the next step with my mother.

We are scared of what her new life will be like.

Will it have quality?

Will it have dignity?

Will she have a reason to go on?

But most of all, can we depend on the kindness of strangers to treat her as her family does?

For people like my brother and I, and the many other families who have to face this difficult part of life, we can only trust that will be the case.

Ken Tingley is editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at tingly@poststar.com.

(3) comments

OldGuy
OldGuy

--- Continued From Above ---

My sister had to show the new floor our printouts all over again before she had to leave.

Case solved ? Only for that shift, because the next shift that came on duty tried to feed me the WRONG drugs all over again ! Luckily I was now awake and had the good sense to throw a temper tantrum and show them the file book my sister had left in my chair !

Third shift ? Practically the same problem. Second and third days there was confusion between shift’s over what tests I was suppose to have. Critical time was lost and I ended up having to stay 2 extra days so everyone could get on target about what to do.

Eventually the hospital found that I had suffered a rare reaction to some other meds used in a procedure done the month before at the same hospital. That’s not their fault because I knew those risks.

But man, it’s very true. --- You got to be your own advocate and wide awake, otherwise ANY health care facility is just an accident waiting to happen to you !

OldGuy
OldGuy

I debated writing this because I didn’t want to scare anybody, but, here is your same view point from a hospital bed:

In early June I was found unconscious and rushed to a local hospital where they stumbled through 5 days of my misery with some of the dumbest mistakes and miscommunications I have ever experienced.

And I was lucky. My sister, who is already my health care advocate, found me so she knew what to do. The EMTs were heroic and got me on intravenous in time to start bringing me back to life in the ER.

The problem was getting my current list of meds correctly into the hospital’s hands. We had our own up to date printouts of meds with us but they could not be scanned into the hospital’s system. --- They had to be verbally explained to the ER staff several times before I was admitted.

Upstairs in my room I was overwhelmed by the first nurse that showed up with a lot of the WRONG drugs for me to take !

--- Continued Below ---

OldGuy
OldGuy

Ken --- I got to update you on this one. To add insult to my 5 confusing days recently spent in a local hospital the final billings are starting to “float” in.

I say “float” in because it takes any where from 2 to 3 months for Medicare to get up to speed on their share of my costs, then for my HMO to pick up their share, then for the hospital and doctors to figure out their balances, which are usually my “co-pay” anyways.

It’s a mountain of paper work compared to years ago when I was healthy and working. Now, the 2 or 3 months delay and mountains of paper still end up giving me a $10 - $15 co-pay ! Where is the sense in all that paper when the $ result is still near the same ?

And what was my 5 days worth so far ? +$14,600.00 and still growing ! And the hospital has marked me “delinquent” for 2 months on my credit just because my total co-pays this time came to $27.36 !

I only know now what to pay, and they say I’m late already ! Unbelievable systems !

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