My mother called my on Thursday to ask why I was late picking her up. Now, that is not an unusual call because Robin and I pick her up to take her to our home for the day or to take her out for some occasion or other.
Thursday was unusual because she thought I was to pick her up at 3:00 pm (it was 3:30) and I must have forgotten. The other unusual thing was she called my cell which she almost never does. I asked if she meant to call Sophie and called me by mistake. She said she didn't make a mistake.
After a series of questions from me, with her answers sounding even more bizarre (I was supposed to pick her up in a white car which I don't have and I would be wearing a black hat as a disguise because I didn't want anyone to recognize me), I told her to get dressed. and I'd take her to the hospital.
We went to the Misericordia Hospital at about 6:00 pm. All the while in the waiting room, Mom was acting strange (thinking that someone was talking to her and watching her). I was certain she had a urinary tract infection, but after 9 hours and a bunch of tests, she did not have a UTI. The doctor said they could not find anything physically wrong and after 9 hours in urgent care, they transferred her to the Victoria Hospital at 3:00 am on Friday for further tests.
On Friday afternoon, an ER doctor visited her and asked some questions. Then a Psych nurse came a bit later and asked some more questions. Then a psychiatrist saw her and after talking to her for 10 minutes, he diagnosed her with depressive psychosis and started her on respiridone - an antipsychotic medication. Now, I am no medical doctor, but I don't think you can diagnose someone with a major psychiatric disorder like that within 10 minutes.
I went home and searched the term and how long a doctor would have to be seeing a patient to come to such a conclusion. It takes months of treatment and observations. Armed with that bit of information, I went back to the hospital yesterday (Saturday) and asked the nurse about the diagnosis. She said that the doctor was only making an initial observation. I asked if he should have started her on antipsychotic meds if he was not clear about the diagnosis. She said she would speak to him.
This morning a third doctor came to access her. His general observation was that the health care system is not adequately prepared for people living so much longer so many elderly people (over 80) are given a whack load of meds they either don't need or are given dosages more appropriate for people in their 60s. At the end of his consult, he said she would be sent to the psychiatric unit at Seven Oaks Hospital. That is clear across town for me - at least a 45 minute drive - but if that's the only place for her, we had to agree.
Mom was transferred at 3:00 pm and by 4:00 pm, she called to say that she was in in a bed in a screened off area and it was noisy. I asked her to let me speak to the nurse on duty and he disinterestedly said that her bed was an overflow area in a lounge and she would stay there until a bed was available. Imagine my shock!
Robin and I left immediately and drove over to the hospital to see that Mom's bed was worse than she described it. The bed she was given (read "bed" with a hefty degree of sarcasm) was literally a bed - in a lounge area, partitioned off by a privacy screen, right by a doorway that kept slamming every time someone went in and out of the area. It was beyond surreal. I asked to speak to the nurse on duty who calmly informed me that there was no other space available. Equally calmly, I said I was going to sit there until the found her a bed. She said that there was likely one on another floor but it only received patients from Monday to Friday. I guess people don't get sick on weekends.
I asked to speak to the floor manager who came a few minutes later and told m there were no beds and it was only a temporary situation for a couple of days. I asked if this would be okay for her mother. She said they had nothing else available I said I would take Mom home and bring her back tomorrow. She said mom would be considered discharged and would have to start over in the database. I said it was inhumane to treat someone like this, let alone an 87 year old woman. She threatened to send mom back to the ER. I called her bluff and agreed that the ER would be better than a screened off area in a lounge. She asked me to wait for a few minutes while she consulted (don't know with whom). I said I was not going anywhere until my mother had a bed in a room. A few minutes later, they had a room for her. Guess how they got it? They asked another patient to trade spaces. I felt bad for the young woman but not bad enough to tell her to keep her room.
The last few days have been a nightmare! I took my mother to an urgent care centre to be treated for what I thought was a UTI (hence the confusion) and two days later, she is in a psych ward and no one seems to know that the heck is going on.
Here is what I learned so far (and it has been a nearly vertical learning curve for me):
- If you need to be admitted to the hospital for a psychiatric condition, your name goes into a central database and you have to take the first bed that becomes available at any hospital. It's all about how the system works. Family needs, desires or support is given no consideration.
- The elderly are seriously over-medicated and health care practitioners don't seem to communicate information to each other.
- If your loved one does not have someone advocating for them, they'll be lost in the system
- Health care workers are so over-worked, that many of them become desensitized to the patient's needs.
- If you are an advocate, you have to be incredibly strong and persistent or you'll get absolutely nowhere.
- Doctors are not gods - even though some of them think and act as if they are.
- Trust your intuition if you are an advocate; if something doesn't feel right, it likely isn't.
More to come.