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Monday, March 17, 2014

Maybe I didn't want to know.

If you're "just tuning in" this post may leave you wondering what the heck I am rambling about, I hope you take the time to go back and review my earlier posts so you can catch up with our story.
I very much appreciate your thoughts and comments.
For anyone who has been along for the whole wild ride - Thank you!

Maybe I didn't want to know.

I have to say that I was very curious about what could have transpired in the preceding half hour that there was suddenly a private room available, but decided maybe I didn't want to know.

The coordinator at the SNF explained to me that she wasn't sure we would want the private room as mom would have to move to “the other wing”.   I don’t know why she thought this would be a deal breaker since the “other wing” was where mom had originally been assigned to a shared room AND the fact that we had had nothing but problems with the staff on the wing she was currently in.  “Can I see it”? I wanted to move mom right that minute.

The only thing that I saw that might be a problem with the private room was its location; it was right next to the laundry room, where machines would be running all night.  I quickly calculated the pro’s & con’s of making such a move and decided mom could probably get use to the machines running quicker than she was going to get use to not being able to get in to the bathroom in her current shared room situation.  Anyone who has ever lived near a railroad track or a busy highway knows that you can (and eventually do) get use to the noise and at some point you learn to sleep through the noise, but wake when the train is late and it’s silent.  “When can we move her?” I still needed to check with mom, but was sure she would want to make the move as quickly as possible.

I returned to moms’ room just as my sister was helping her out of bed to go to the dining room for dinner.  “Do you need to use the bathroom?” my sister asked.  Presumably weighing the difficulty of getting past the ever present roommate and in to the bathroom, mom furrowed her brow and said, “I think I can wait”.  As we started down the hall to the dining room, mom said “I really do need to use the bathroom, but it’s such a hassle.”  How sad is that?

Knowing mom would enjoy her dinner more if she was able to empty her bladder first, we detoured to the public restroom down the hall.  My sister & I helped mom to the restroom, washed up and continued on to the dining room.  Mom thanked us profusely.  Once we were seated mom said “I wish it wasn't so hard to get to the bathroom in my room”.  “Well, when do you want to move?” I asked as nonchalantly as I could.

Since I had not yet told her there was a private room available and they were just waiting for me to give the go ahead before moving her belongings, naturally she was confused.  At first mom just stared at me like I was crazy, then she fell in to our usual routine of dreaming.  Mom smiled as she told us she wanted to move right now, “We’ll check in to the Brown Palace and we can go to High Tea in the afternoons”.

Mom was really getting imaginative with her dreams and decided we could “check in” to a room on a cruise ship or a private island villa or…….  “How about just a private room in the other wing”, I suggested.  I don’t think what I said registered with mom for a few seconds as she kept dreaming.  Then she looked at me incredulously and asked, “REALLY?”  When I told her they were just waiting for me to tell them “yes” or “no” and then we could move her over there, she urged me to go tell them right then.


After dinner, my sister and I busied ourselves with moving moms things to her new room while mom had her “It’s not you, it’s me” conversation with her roommate.  Quite honestly, I think the roommate was happy to see us go.  Not that mom isn't a very congenial roommate, the room was simply too small for two beds and a roommate who had as much equipment and required as much assistance as mom did.

Once we had placed all of moms’ belongings in the private room, even it really wasn't all that big.  Fortunately, the bathroom door was wide enough to get mom in with either the walker or the wheelchair without too much trouble.  Once mom was settled in the new room, comfortably working her crossword puzzles while watching Jeopardy, my sister and I took some time to run over to my daughters’ house for dinner and some much needed time with the grand babies before returning to the Skilled Nursing Facility to help mom get ready for bed and settled in for the night.

After mom had used the restroom; brushed her teeth; washed and creamed her face; and her nightgown was on, we pushed the call button for help getting her to bed.  Within seconds a very sweet, very competent CNA arrived and very skillfully assisted us with the transfer (with instruction from mom).  “Can I get you anything else?” the aide offered.    Mom asked for her pain pills; I asked if we could get moms’ Boost.  “No problem”, the aide said she would let the nurse know about the medications and she would be happy to show me where the patient snacks were kept.

As we walked down the corridor, we chatted; it was comfortable.  She apologized about having an “off-brand” protein drink and after showing me which cupboards contained a small variety of choices and some condiments, she encouraged me to “feel free” to help myself.  Within seconds of returning to moms’ room, the nurse was there with the requested (and required) medications.  The nurse was every bit as pleasant as the CNA had been and obviously had become a nurse for the right reasons; she cared about her patients.  I felt the tenseness in my shoulders relax a little knowing that, at least for that night, my mother would be well cared for.  In fact, things seemed so comfortable in this new room and so far the staff had been very attentive, I wondered why the coordinator would have thought mom wouldn't want to move.  Maybe I didn't want to know.

Before telling mom goodnight I went through the nightly routine of making sure she had everything she needed within easy reach, set her clothes out for the following morning and asked, “Do you need anything else”?  She didn't think she did, so my sister and I walked arm in arm to the elevator sharing our concerns and our hopes for our mother.  We had just stepped in and pushed the “down” button when my phone rang; it was mom, she had thought of one more thing she might need.  As soon as the door opened we pushed the “up” button and headed back to moms’ room.  Once I had found enough rubber gloves, I fashioned another pull chain for moms’ light, kissed her good night and off we went to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

For the first time in days, I actually did get a good nights’ sleep and was feeling refreshed when I returned to the SNF the following morning.  Knowing it was already past breakfast time, when I didn't find mom in her room I headed for the therapy department and was thrilled to see how much progress she was making.  With the rod holding her leg straight mom was not able to take over a step or two, but she was working so hard; I could see the determination in her face – she wanted to go home and she would do whatever it took for that to happen.

I also wanted to go home.  We had been gone for nearly a month this time and I was counting the days until August 23, 2014.  As much as I loved spending time with my daughter, her husband and my precious grand babies, I was missing my husband; my son; and my other daughter and her husband who had recently announced they were expecting their first child.  I allowed myself to daydream just a moment when I realized I still didn't know if mom was going to be able to get in to the car, so I arranged a “trial run” with the therapist as soon as they thought it was “safe”. 

I left mom to the very capable therapist and headed outside to make a couple phone calls, but as I stepped off the elevator, I came face to face with the coordinator who said, “Oh, I’m glad you’re here, I was going to give you a call” as she flashed her brilliant smile and delivered what she deemed “not that bad of news”.

 It was clear that I had to deal with something much more pressing at that moment than making phone calls.  How had this happened?  Maybe I didn't want to know.

Friday, March 7, 2014

....a magic private room!

If you're "just tuning in" this post may leave you wondering what the heck I am rambling about, I hope you take the time to go back and review my earlier posts so you can catch up with our story.
 For anyone who has been along for the whole wild ride - Thank you!

....a magic private room!

With the help of my brother for a few days and then my sister for another few days (both of who made the trip from home – 250 miles away); my daughter and her family; and a dear friend, we made it through the first week of what was to be a three week stay at a Skilled Nursing Facility for mom.

Luckily I had been able to get a room in an extended stay motel within a mile of the facility and was able to not only be there at predetermined times, but I was also able to “pop” in at random times.  More importantly, I was close in case of an emergency.

While the first week there had been no real emergencies, there had been a number of inconveniences, which (for the most part) I was able to take care of much easier by being close.  Just because it was easier to take care of these inconveniences, it was no less irritating.  For the most part (I think) I took the bumps in stride.  I didn't even lose my temper during the first two meetings trying to coordinate transportation to moms' various doctors' appointments; by the third I was getting a little testy.

During the first meeting I had been assured that I just needed to give them the dates & times of moms’ various appointments she would have during her brief stay; they would take care of everything else.  During the second meeting I was told there was a conflict with their transporter and asked if it would be OK if they had to change a couple of appointments”.  I must have looked pensive as she quickly added, “It might only be a couple hours…… most a couple of days”, to which I replied “As long as it’s OK with her surgeons/specialists” and as an afterthought added, “but remember we are planning on leaving for home on August 23rd”; the coordinator assured me she understood.  I really hoped she did understand.

Hoping (but not convinced) the appointments were going to be taken care of as discussed, I headed for the dining room where mom was clearly enjoying lunch with my brother as he entertained the ladies at the table – the glow in moms face made me smile.

My smile was replaced with a scowl when I took mom back to her “shared” room to use the restroom. Although her roommate was very nice, she seemed to ALWAYS be sitting in a recliner (complete with a footstool) in front of the sink and less than a few feet from the bathroom door.  The room was too small to have that much furniture in it and it was nearly impossible to get mom in to the bathroom.  After a lot of struggling, I was able to maneuver the wheelchair into the tiny bathroom.  I helped mom back out of the bathroom and in to her bed and returned to the coordinators office – AGAIN.

I waited in the hall while the coordinator finished a call.  When she ended the call I popped my head in the office and asked if I could have a few minutes of her time.  “So, what’s the outlook for mom being moved to a private room?” I wanted to know.  I knew it had only been a couple of days, but I didn't know how long we could tolerate the current situation.  The coordinator apologized and said she didn't think a private room would be available for a week or so.  WHAT?

I was livid.  I may have used a few choice words as I explained for what seemed like the 100th time that mom required too much equipment and assistance for the shared room to be adequate and reminded her, in no uncertain terms, one of the reasons we had chosen this facility (over another a few blocks away) was primarily due to the availability of a private room.  “I’m really sorry”, the coordinator offered a sympathetic smile as I started to leave her office.  I was almost back to moms’ room when I turned around and went back to the coordinators office – I had one more question.

“Sorry to bother you again”, I said as I stepped back in to the office and sat in the chair directly across from her, I did not wait for an invitation.  “I have another question for you”, I announced.  The coordinator encouraged me to ask anything – they were here to help.  “What’s the procedure for having mom moved to another facility”, I wanted to know.

I finally had her attention; the coordinator quit looking at her computer screen and met my stare.  Although she did her best to assure me this was the best place for mom to be and they didn't want her to go to another facility, the coordinator said that if I felt it was best for mom they would honor my wishes and arrange for transportation.  “Thank you.  I will talk it over with my mom and get back to you”, I said as I walked out of the office.
Damn!  I really hate it when my bluff is called.  I don’t know what I had expected.  Had I really believed they would just magically have a private room available for mom if I acted like I would move her?  What was I going to do now?  As bad as I felt things were at this facility, I had visited the other facility and felt certain it was no better.

I headed back to moms’ room, but as I approached the elevator I changed my mind.  I decided I needed to get some air and clear my head a little before I went back.  I really didn't know what to do and wanted a few minutes to myself to think.  Part of me wanted to march back in to the coordinators office and demand that mom be transferred to the “other” facility, but part of me knew that we would likely face many of the same challenges and it could even be worse.

Mom was probably wondering where I was, I had told her that I was going to the restroom and had
now been gone nearly 45 minutes.  I just couldn't go back in until I calmed myself down.  I was so angry about moms’ living arrangements I was having trouble concentrating on anything else.  I had threatened to have mom transferred to another facility due to the unavailability of the private room and was told that they simply didn't have one.  So, now I had a decision to make and I didn't want to make it for the wrong reasons.

It was important that I set my anger aside and focused on the big picture.  Would mom be better off at the other facility?  Would she be safer?  Would she be happier?  Would she have a private room there?  These were all questions that I had to consider before making any decision.  Oh, and I guess I should ask mom what she wants to do, huh?

I laughed at myself for not thinking to ask mom what she wanted before I went on this rampage; for having to remind myself that, although her back and her knee had been through some pretty major stuff, for the most part her mind was fine.

Realizing that mom may not be near as upset as I was about the room situation, I headed back inside feeling a little better that I didn't have to make the decision myself.  I was almost back to the elevator when I heard someone call my name from behind.  I turned to see the coordinator heading toward me, “I’m glad you didn't leave”, she smiled brightly.  “I might have a solution that would get your mom in to a private room sooner”.

Ah ha!  They did have a magic private room!