My 85-year-old father dad broke his hip back in February, which led to hip replacement surgery, which led to a hospital stay, which meant a double whammy of postoperative delerium and hospital delerium that we had to work through…and then he got a MRSA infection while recovering.
That meant we had to get him back in the hospital to have another operation to clean out the surgical site before replacing the replacement hip and after that, he went into a rehab and treatment facility that he finally got out of this past Tuesday.
All this means that that he has been in various medical facilities for almost four months at this point and he’s no longer the person he was when we went in. He has no short-term memory; he’s got opposition defiant disorder that makes every interaction a minefield; his sleep schedule has been obliterated by the array of drugs he’s on and he has vivid hallucinations.
Less serious versions of this have happened twice before — I don’t want to go into details here because even writing this much is exhausting, but those stays were much shorter — but this time really feels like we’ve hit an end point thanks to the profit-driven, pill-dependent way America approaches eldercare.
I could go on and on about this, but really, there are a few things I think that everyone with an older parent should consider. I’m no expert, but these have all proven very important over the last few months.
- If you are going to be a point person in the care of your parent, get paperwork for medical power of attorney drawn up right now. Don’t wait. I’m very glad we took care of that a couple of years ago.
- When things go wrong, be ready for them to keep going wrong. It’s a cliché to call it a domino effect, but that’s exactly what happened here.
- Trust no one and no company. Because of the lack of oversight most patients experience, caretakers and facilities will take shortcuts and find ways to extract extra value from your mother or father; don’t be afraid to question them and dig into details.
- Related: do your best to have regular check-ins with the people taking care of your folks and take lots of notes. Whenever you talk to someone responsible for your person’s care, write down what you talked about and any takeaways and action items. Get explanations for every prescription and/or every treatment and write them down. You won’t remember on your own.
- This is likely our biggest failure; we stopped doing check-ins as much as we should as my dad’s stay at the rehabilitation facility continued. We trusted a third party to help my wife and I stay informed, and that’s where the gaps started to form.
Sorry this is a downer. The next post will talk about Spider-Man and Kamen Rider and all that other nerd shit you like. Promise.