Things I Wish I Knew
By Barbara Casey
With the elderly, their situation is always fluid. I never knew what I would find when I visited my dad each day at the assisted living residence. This past Sunday was no different. I received a call in the early afternoon from the facility saying “Your Dad fell, but he is okay.” I went over to see him an hour later. He was sitting in a wheelchair. I placed my hand on his leg and asked “What happened, Dad?” He grimaced in pain.
LESSON: Facilities tend to always say “He’s okay” after a fall. This is particularly true with folks with dementia because patients cannot adequately express their pain or difficulty.
LESSON LEARNED: Evaluate for yourself whether, in fact, your parent is “Okay.”
Apparently you really shouldn’t need help or get sick on a Sunday because it’s difficult to find an aide or a nurse on a Sunday as they are typically short staffed. Supposedly, the nurse checked my Dad after his fall and deemed him “okay.” So when I asked a med-tech (the closest medical professional I could find on a Sunday), she assured me that since he didn’t seem to be in too much pain, we could probably wait until Monday to have an X-ray and “they can do x-rays right on site,” she said. I knew he was in pain, but it seemed to be only when he moved in a certain way. I went along with it thinking she’s the professional and expected he’d get an x-ray first thing in the morning. Wrong.
The mobile x-ray people roam from facility to facility doing X-rays. They get to you when they get to you. As the day went on, my dad started to slump sideways in his wheelchair and then was experiencing muscle spasms in his back. By midafternoon, I was agitated that my Dad had to wait so long and I was ready to call 911, when the technician finally arrived. What I didn’t realize is that they would have to move him from his wheelchair back to the bed in order to do the X-ray. The whole reason I agreed not taking him right to the hospital was because I wanted to minimize movement.
LESSON: Ask questions.
LESSON LEARNED: Do not assume anything.
Two hours later, it was confirmed that my Dad fractured his hip. At the end of a long and painful day, we had to call the ambulance anyway. Off to the hospital he went. When we arrived at the hospital, they said they don’t rely on mobile X-rays; they do their own X-rays. So Monday was a complete waste of time and an entire day of pain that my Dad went through.
LESSON: Do not trust anyone. Ask questions and more questions.
LESSONS LEARNED: Skip the mobile X-ray. Go right to the hospital where there is medical expertise. What they have in assisted living facilities is not the same level of care that is available at a hospital.
I am now sitting in the hospital a full two days after my dad’s fall, awaiting his hip replacement surgery; which could have been done the day before, had I (or the facility) gotten him to the hospital as soon as he fell.
Live and learn. I’ve lived it, now you can learn it so you don’t make the same mistakes.
What lessons have you learned in your care giving? I will help you if you help me.
No one needs to travel this road alone.
This article was originally posted on the blog www.thelastjourney.net in September of 2015.
Photo by author.
Barbara Casey was deemed the caregiver for her 90-year-old father.She hopes through her words, you can find support, learn from her mistakes, maybe laugh a bit at the absurdity of it all, and realize that there are others out there walking the same path. After all, there is safety in numbers.