When Concepts Don’t Match Up

Some of you have probably noticed I’m not writing at the same pace that I normally do. Once again life has gotten in the way, this time with my grandmother falling and breaking her hip and my having to be out of town to support my mother.

It’s been interesting, frightening and frustrating over the last bunch of days. The interesting part was when I called 911 and they sent the fire chief and two firetrucks before the ambulance arrived; my grandmother would have loved watching that spectacle if she could have moved as she loves sitting in the window watching the day.

The scary part was first trying to figure out just how badly she was hurt, learning she had a broken hip and required surgery, and trying to determine what kind of surgery she needed. Turns out it was only the hip and a fracture, which only required 2 screws, and the surgery and initial recovery only took about 3 1/2 hours; whew.

Then the frustrating part, which leads to the title of this post. I went back home because they said all was going to be well, so to speak. Then the next day I get a call saying she’s nonresponsive and won’t eat. This is frightening because she’s 90 and hadn’t eaten in 3 days. I drive back to get Mom and go back to the hospital, worried that these might be the last days for her and wondering if anything could have changed things. Not that she’s been the physically strongest person over the last few months but this just seemed to come on really fast.

We get to the hospital and she’s sleeping. We let her sleep while trying to let a few people know what might be going on. Then the nurse finally shows up and says they tried to get her to eat but she wouldn’t respond to them and wasn’t talking. So I try and indeed she’s not talking, but she’s responding to yes and no answers with, well, yes and no sounds. I ask what we can try to give her and after hearing it all I suggest we run with the lemon ice, since I know she likes lemon.

I get it open, put a little bit onto a spoon, say “Miss Hazel, here comes something you might like” (yes, I call my grandmother Miss Hazel; she likes that), put the spoon on her lips, and she opens her mouth and takes it in.

Mom was stunned; the nurse was stunned. I wasn’t stunned. What I was is frustrated and irritated because of the scare I’d had with the phone call. See, something that working in hospitals teaches you is the patterns of people with certain responsibilities. My mind had been thinking that something nurses really don’t fully understand is that sometimes a person just can’t feed themselves for whatever reason. The talking is one thing, but as I said, she’s 90 and hadn’t eaten in 3 days, has had surgery and anesthesia and was kind of weak to begin with; what were they expecting, miracles?

Actually, yes. See, hospitals aren’t equipped to be nursing homes; it’s not in the make up of the people that work there, nurses or anyone else. They don’t think about trying to feed people; they don’t have the time. But I knew I had to give that a shot because it would tell me whether she was alert or whether she had decided it was her time. She consumed the entire cup of lemon ice; I had my answer.

So here we are at the dilemma stage, although it’s kind of a foregone conclusion. She has to be moved to either a skilled nursing facility or a nursing home. She needs rehab, but right now she also needs someone to feed her. Mom can’t handle either of these at this stage, and hospitals aren’t equipped to do it either.

Everyone at the hospital has been nice and everyone has played their role the way it’s supposed to be played. But I need to now make them step up and make themselves seen, as the only doctor I’ve seen in the time I’ve been there was the surgeon; that’s not going to get it done. But I know how to do it; funny, but there’s a swagger one can have when they work in certain types of places, and I noticed I had that swagger yesterday, as if I was still at a level to demand and request certain things without question. What a feeling!

So, I’m hoping I’m close to not being as sporadic with so many things as has been the case over the past week. I’m so far behind on work and blogging, but family always takes precedence. And I hope through this little story I’ve given you a little more education on how hospital people think.

25 thoughts on “When Concepts Don’t Match Up”

  1. Unbelievable! I’m surprised that no-one actually tried to feed her to see if she would eat something. What if she was a tiny infant, would they stick a plate of food in front of her and expect her to eat from it? I assume they don’t have any history of her and so it was wrong of them to assume she could eat unassisted, especially after coming out of surgery. Heck, couldn’t they at least drip feed some nutrients into her?

    I never met my grandparents and I’ve always felt that I missed out on something important in my life. I’m happy that you were able to sort things out and I hope she gets better soon.

    1. Thanks Sire. It was a strange assumption on their part, and as someone who’s worked in health care for almost 30 years I was stunned. I can’t say she’s better yet, but she’s not worse and for the moment I’ll take that.

  2. Mitch,

    I have experienced a similar scenerio with my mother and mother-in-law and you may recall I wrote a few posts about it. Hospital personnel seem to be less and less caring and some aren’t as skilled as they used to be.

    You are right–hospitals are not the same as skilled nursing home personnel but that, to me, is a flaw in the system. My advice to you Mitch is to stay on the doctors and nurses and demand answers. When they see you are truly on top of the situation, they will get off their duffs and respond. Another friend of mine (and a fellow Top Boomer Man) Martin Brossman has been going through the same thing with his elderly parents.

    By the way, I have earned the name “The Enforcer” when it comes to dealing with hospital and nursing care facilities. 🙂

    1. Thanks Bev. I did ask to see someone about my grandmother today and the PA that came up looked like she was 18 years old; frightening, but at least she was nice. I uncovered some more stuff that makes me question someone’s competence, but they’re looking at her and trying some different things to see if they can get her animated again, so I’ll keep hoping for the best at this juncture. I did request, and got, a 1-on-1 person to feed her, which I’m actually surprised they didn’t do themselves.

  3. Mitch, this is a post I tried to leave on Sire’s page but couldn’t because it told me I had to disablr the javascript and my husband said NOT TO.


    I think many of us can learn something from our parents who struggled to provide a better life for their children. I am grateful for having had a father in my life so I can truly appreciate what it means to be in a loving relationship with a man. So many women don’t know that. My dad taught me what a good man should look like and how a good man loves a woman (that isn’t always loveable).

    Love your post—and now I see where you get your good looks!

    1. Hi Beverley, I was going to say I was surprised that it said you had to disable javascript to leave a comment on my post but then I remembered that nothing should surprise me when it comes to the Internet. Still I am mystified that it happened as I’ve never come across that before.

      While many cam learn from their parents many decide not to thinking they already know it all. It’s only later in life that they realize there was a lot of truth in what their parents were trying to teach them.

      As to good looks, it’s nice of you to say that I have some. 🙂

      1. Great, now we’re never going to get that head back through the door. lol

  4. I am sure she will get better soon, Mitch. Sometimes it is pretty bad how hospitals proceed and miss some small things that are critical, like feeding the patient. Unfortunately even at hospitals there are so many “salary collectors” and the medications that are prescribed, may not be the best, but because hospital have made a better deal with supplier.

    1. Thanks Carl. Everyone’s been so nice that in some brief moments I feel guilty for busting on the hospital overall. But it’s what I do, and there has been some noticeable lack of competence in some areas I hate to say.

  5. Your post resonates with me Mitch. In December last year, My 94 year father fell down and fractured the top of his left femoral head, just a crack. I rushed him to the hospital and after xrays, scans and what have you, they decided to operate on him. He is too frail for surgery and he collapsed and they had to postpone surgery indefinitely. After a spell in the ICU I got him out to a private room and exactly the same thing happened. He would not eat the hospital food. I had to get things he liked and he started eating and eventually we got him home. The best part is that another surgeon suggested total bed rest and no surgery and he is now fit as a fiddle, the crack has mended and he is walking around and raising hell.

    Yes, hospitals can learn from such experiences, but do they?

    1. Thanks for your story, Rummuser. You know, if my grandmother had been able to move at all things might have proven to be different, but we couldn’t have her in the state she was in after falling. We make the best decisions possible for our relatives when we have to, but of course no one could ever know all the things that could happen, even though I spent Wednesday night researching it all. To be honest, I have a feeling that my grandmother isn’t ever coming back home, and that’s pretty depressing, but Mom just can’t physically take care of her as she is now, and was barely handling it before this. Still, I’m less than impressed overall with the hospital, other than they’ve been extremely nice.

  6. I’m sorry, Mitch and I’m wishing the speediest of recoveries for Miss Hazel. We’ve been going through similar things with my grandparents the past year. The needs of the elderly can change so quickly depending on the situation or an injury or an illness. You’d think these places would be more adept at adjusting to the needs of the patient, but they don’t seem to be.

    1. Thanks Jessica. I was thinking about your story when I was writing the two blog posts about what’s gone on. You never see any of this stuff coming, of course, but we always hope for the best.

  7. Mitch, you know as well as anyone (and better than most) that hospitals operate as businesses, and there’s never enough staff to do what needs to be done. Your last paragraph says what needs to be said: family comes first. Unfortunately, to the hospital, your loved one is a customer and will rarely get the kind of care you would wish for her.

    1. You’re right Charles, and that’s really depressing in a way, and I’m in the industry. Still, I understand a lot of what the problems are, and they all concern money. And yet people still don’t want universal health care; shame.

  8. Mitch, I’m so sorry your grandmother’s having to go through this. Part of it is certainly the fault of the hospital, but part of it will be the fault of people not respecting elderly people as much as they should – certainly not regarding them as human. Someone gets put into a bed and left there… bad enough for someone who can look after themselves, but for a frail woman of 90… dreadful.

    1. Thanks Val. It’s an odd conundrum because not only do I have to deal with what’s going on with my grandmother, but I have to deal with the fragility of my mother as well, who’s really not prepared for this though she should be. My mother is a Waltons/Andy Griffith old days optimist and doesn’t confront real life all that well. So I have to make sure she’s not just sitting up at the hospital exhausting herself as well. Harder when I’m out of town but luckily someone else will be with her next week helping out.

  9. Hi Mitch,

    Even under duress, you’re still operating like a champ. No need to apologize for being a bit heavy-handed; the sweet face on incompetence, is still incompetence.

    There’s nothing like helping care for a loved one — who almost always prefers YOU to almost-indifferent nursing staff. I just spent a week with my sister-in-law after she had major surgery. Although she has family in closer proximity, she asked me to travel and be there with her. I suspect your grandmother was more comforted having you feed her lemon ice than she might have been just feeding herself (if she were able) in that setting.

    I’m pulling for Miss Hazel and hoping for the peace of your family.

    1. Thanks Vernessa. Actually she wasn’t physically capable yet of feeding herself, but at least she consumed what she did from me before allowing these other people to try to feed her. Mom now thinks she wasn’t eating other stuff because they were giving her stuff she didn’t like; we all seem to have that particular stubborn streak in us. lol

  10. I guess sometimes it takes that little piece of personal information to make all the difference. You’d think they might ask if there was anything special she might like. Hope she is doing better. Wishing her all the best! What a lovely lady!

    1. Thanks Melinda. She’s finally talking and that’s a major step forward from where I’m sitting. Today Mom said she’s finally eating solid food; whew!

  11. I’m sorry to hear that Mitch. That’s why in our hospital setting, it is always necessary for every patients to have at least one watcher, and it’s been always like these. Nurses here take care of 20-40 patients in private hospitals and sometimes over 100 patients in public, that’s we couldn’t blame them.

    1. John, nurses aren’t allowed to handle that many patients in any hospital here. But some states allow them to handle 15 patients, and that’s definitely still too many at one time.

      1. In that case there should have been quality care done. Your Grandma is lucky Mitch to have a Grandson like you. 🙂

      2. Thanks John. Overall it proves that we all have to watch what’s going on in situations like these and address them when we can.

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