Thoughts on Aging (And a Little Venting)

One day while I was working in a black and white police car on patrol, a dispatcher sent me a message over the car computer asking me if I could help someone with a non-police problem. A very old, and very confused, woman had called 911 because she couldn’t turn the hot water off in her tub and her son was an hour away. It was a quiet afternoon, so I said sure. I went to the apartment where the distraught woman met me at the door.

“I’ve tried and tried,” she said, holding up a hammer, “and I can’t turn it off.”

She showed me to the bathroom with old porcelain fixtures and the water running into the tub. She’d broken most of the handle hitting it with the hammer. But it was easy to shut off because she’d been trying to go the wrong way.

The woman was grateful, and I made certain there was nothing else she needed help with. The episode took me only a couple of minutes and I was glad to do it, thinking of my parents, my mom, and hoping if she was ever so confused someone would help her, in turn thinking of how they’d want their parents treated.

Fast-forward about fifteen years, now my folks are old, dad 95 mom 88. Mom is doing okay but my father suffers from Alzheimer’s and is easily confused and he’s incontinent. I find my self in this horrible position where from time to time I have to trust my poor dad’s care to others and sadly I’m finding that some people, people who are supposed to show compassion and caring to the sick and infirm, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, could care less.

I took my dad to the hospital because I thought he had a stroke. Thank god he didn’t, but he was kept in the hospital for a week. When he was brought home, by transport arranged by the hospital, they’d put his pants on but no diaper, they simply shoved a towel down his pants and sent him on his way.

The next time he had to go to the hospital because of a painful infection, he was left on a gurney for hours without being let up and taken to the bathroom and without being changed. Because his insurance is Kaiser, the hospital the paramedics took him to knew they would have to transfer him, but they waited 12 hours before making the call. He finally got to Kaiser at midnight, without having been changed and lying in urine all day. (I would have changed him myself but I was sick and ended up in urgent care the next day.)

I asked the nurse if she would treat her own father that way and got a snotty answer about how busy they were. Never mind that the hospital emergency room website blared all day that conditions were green, they were not busy and there was no wait there.

I know better than anyone that it can be trying taking care of an old man with Alzheimer’s but common decency would seem to dictate you would at least make someone who has to wait for care wait dry and comfortable.

Maybe there is no comparison to shutting a tap off versus changing a diaper, but that was not my job, it is the job of health care professionals to CARE for sick people. I realize that the vast majority of them do, but the ones who can’t show just a little bit of compassion for a confused old man should quit and find a different job.

Thanks for letting me vent.

2 Responses to Thoughts on Aging (And a Little Venting)

  1. Sharon A Lavy February 16, 2012 at 4:36 am #

    Been there done that. Nursing homes are understaffed. Everytime one of our parents had to go to one. . . well if a family member was not there with him, my father would have died years before he did. On more than one occasion.

  2. Jenny Milchman February 16, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    I’m sorry, Janice, for your father’s decline, and I hope that the karma you did–and do–put out there comes back to keep him comfortable and cared for.

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