This was chopped up in the print copy of Voices.
Just Shoot Me: Your Aged Relative and the Extended Hospital Stay.
My mom is much improved. Thanks for asking. I am ashamed to say though that she’s fallen into that “culture of dependency” I’ve heard so much about. Perhaps many desperately ill ninety-five years olds become dependent, but my mother didn’t even try to snap out of her post-surgery anesthetic haze to tell us which rehab facility she wanted to go to.
Not that she had a choice. There was only one that took both her particular Medicare insurance and could provide the intravenous feeding she needed. That one was about 21 miles away. Unfortunately, the Medicare reimbursable range for ambulance transport is five miles—so she had to be transferred four times. We carried her the last mile. It was entertaining for mom though. At each transfer point—usually on the berm of I95, she had to sign reams of legal documents absolving each ambulance company in turn from any liability and guaranteeing payment for “as long as the sun may shine.”
For many baby boomers, helping an ailing aged related person (AARP) is on the horizon. Now, Stevieslaw will publish the Less-intelligent-than- average American Guide (LAG) to senior health care in America. In Part 1, the extended hospital stay, you will learn about
1. The Mission: Senior heath care is a life and death struggle between the hospital and the insurance company as governed by several million pages of government guidelines. Try not to get in the way.
2. The Environment: The average hospital has several 12 story buildings on at least 25 acres. Neither the buildings not the floors are numbered. Parking lots are clearly labeled by multicolored “No Parking” signs. Plan to leave your car—you will never find it again.
3. Visiting: In an effort to separate the thousands of people who want entry to the hospital so they can sample the cuisine, shop for gifts, and breathe the tainted air from those who want to visit a sick AARP, you will be subjected to a rigorous security screening by someone who desperately wants to be somewhere else. Be nice.
4. Finding Your Way: You can’t. If you ask three people in white about the location of the surgical suites, you will get four different answers. Want a can’t- lose- start-up business? Create a hospital gps system that can be rented at the gift shop.
5. The Room: Your AARP will have a bed in a private or semi-private room. A private room has one TV blaring. A semi-private room has two TVs, usually set to different stations, blaring. In addition, equipment and warning lights are always either flashing and beeping or broken. This is the place to test your favorite headache remedy.
6. The Staff: Nurses look like people doomed to spend 18 hours on their 10 hour shifts. They are. When they are not helping the AARP, they are charting what they did to help the AARP. When they are not helping or charting, they are rushing from room to room to find out why something stopped flashing and beeping. Aides are dressed in pastel. A successful facility hires aides that look alike. A Doctor or “Attending” is required to make rounds once a day or she is demoted to aide. You are unlikely, however, to ever meet one. Rumor has it they round at night—disguised as janitors. Surgeons on the other hand are accessible. After all, every day is a Happy Halloween for a surgeon. They can be identified by the words “right” and “left” embroidered on the sleeves of their gowns.
7. The Lingo: Listen carefully to the nurses and the aides. For example, when asking for help, an “I will be right back,” means at least a two hour wait, while an “I will find someone to help,” means I will never return.
8. Medication and Tests: At the hospital, medication is given on the At the Moment System (ATMS). If your AARP has a rapidly changing blood pressure, it is not unusual for her to be on three pills to lower her pressure, two to raise it and one to control the diabetes she doesn’t have. Your AARP is not senile, just dopey. Feeding and hydration is often through an IV line. The IV mechanism is often flashing and beeping because it is empty or kinked. Don’t let that make you nervous. Imagine that is how it is supposed to work. Blood is drawn every 20 minutes day and night. That’s about 200 gallons of blood a week, if we have done the calculation correctly. It can’t all be from you AARP, so keep your arms and legs covered—if you are in the room you are fair game.
9. The Food: Your AARP will live for the orange jello.
10. Discharge: Discharge is initiated by the insurance company when they coo those three little words—no longer reimbursable. A “janitor” will then attest that “discharge is the best idea I have ever had,” and sign something. Social Workers and Case Managers, who prior to this had just provided you with out of date brochures and folk wisdom, will become ferocious and call everyone in the United States with your last name to come get the AARP right now. You’d better get down there.
Stay tuned for Part II. Rehab—the care-free hospital.