Friday, March 09, 2012

Good News But With Continued Frustration

There is significant progress to report in the rehabilitation of The Sick Person in my family. Two weeks ago, he was flat on his back in a bed. He worked his way through a wheelchair phase and now is showing a moderate level of ambulatory competence on a walker. (Um, he can walk pretty well with that thing but he still needs help).

We went to his doctor for a check-up; but other than getting a little fresh air in the process, the visit was unremarkable.
What is remarkable, however, is how challenging it is to get things accomplished. How about a couple of examples? Let’s start with this doctor’s appointment:

• I call to set up the appointment, but the lady who answers the phone can’t do it. She transfers me to someone else.
• The next person starts to set things up, but I mention he’s living in a nursing home. She says I have to talk to the Nursing Home Coordinator. I am transferred to her.
• The Nursing Home Coordinator answers a couple of questions, but tells me she can’t set up an appointment because “I don’t have a computer.” She transfers me to someone else.
• Fourth call transfer, finally someone set up the appointment.

When we moved into the nursing home, it was made clear that they will transport residents to doctors’ appointments. Whew. That’s a convenience and a time saver. So, I call the morning of his appointment to verify his transportation. The receptionist says “I’m very sorry, sir. Usually we can do it, but the van is being repaired today.” I said, “When you say ‘the van,’ this means you only have ONE?” She said “yes, sir.” I couldn't help myself. I laughed out loud. So, I called my boss's executive assistant, explained my circumstance and said I’d be out of pocket for a while, taking a guy from a nursing home to a doctor's appointment.

The nursing home provides a nice service. They send their residents to appointments with a packet of papers which includes the face sheet of their chart, recent medical history and a medicine list. This is huge, if you think about it. So, we get to the doctor’s office. I sign in The Sick Person and ask the lady at the front desk what I should do with the packet. Blank stare. “What is that?” I said it was the packet of papers the nursing home sent. She said “You have to talk to the Nursing Home Coordinator.” Finally, an office nurse overheard this and said “those papers go on his chart.” She shot me a sympathetic glance and said “I’ll take care of it, sir. Thank you.” Finally, somebody who understood what was going on.

(But hold on, there’s more. Why don’t you grab a cup of coffee or something?)

Next example: The quest to find someone to renovate The Sick Person’s house:

We are hoping he can go home. If/ when he does, he will very likely need a walker, wheelchair and/or scooter. There’s no way his house in its present configuration can effectively accommodate those things, so we need to talk about renovations: door widening, handrails, etc. You would think it would be a snap to find someone who is knowledgeable and proficient at this kind of work. Not so, at least not for me. I began talks with a contractor who has billboards around town, but my appointment with him has been pushed back a couple of times. I think he works at too high a level for this, anyway. I was thinking that healthcare entities which deal with newly handicapped/ impaired people would have a variety of resources along these lines. So, I called the home health agency with which The Sick Person has an established relationship:

• The first person I spoke with wanted to help, said he didn’t know a lot about it but “our social workers do this kind of thing all the time. Let me set up a time when you can talk to one. I think Linda would be great.” Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere.
• He sent an e-mail to Linda, copied it to me, in which he outlined all the details: Sick Person’s name, the fact that he’s a patient of the agency, my name and relationship to The Sick Person, and that we were looking for recommendations about renovating the house.
• Linda responded, proposed a meeting time and place which was agreeable to me. I responded and the meeting was set.
• I went to the meeting, where I was greeted by the first guy I talked to. He took me to Linda, introduced us and left.
• Linda looked at me with the “how can I help you?” face. I explained what I was looking for, making the mistake of assuming she knew since she read the e-mail and agreed to the meeting.
• In response to my explanation, she actually shrugged, glanced sort of off to the side and up toward the ceiling at the same time and helpfully said “I guess you’ll need to hire a contractor.”

I couldn’t leave fast enough.

I could go on, but this would turn into a novel. I will say that we’ve come across some competent, helpful, compassionate people. Rock Star physician, referred to in an earlier post, has gone out of his way to be of service…strongly affirming my perception of him. Two ladies at the local Social Security office were engaging, instructive and helpful. God Bless them. But I’m still amazed and a little discouraged at the nincompoopery I encounter on a daily basis as I’m just trying to help a Sick and Hurt Relative. I guess you can get good help these days, but you really have to search for it.

The Sick Person has a positive frame of mind these days. He’s working hard to get back on his feet. He might even kind of like the nursing home a little. Hard to believe, but it’s true. I know that will be short-lived, though. Everybody wants him to get home.

I did find a contractor, by the way. One phone call to the local Council on Aging got me pointed in the right direction. Somebody out there knows what they’re doing.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: