Communicating without Aggravating

My 90 year old dad called at 5:30 p.m.Wednesday night saying “Bob (my husband), Marion (his 89 year old wife) isn’t good. She wants Joan. Get her up here now!”

On July 28th they moved into a new Supportive Living Facility in a town about 50 minutes from our home. The staff don’t know them like the place they had been in for the past 18 months so they needed an advocate.

As soon as we arrived I knew Mom had an UTI (Urinary Track Infection) and needed an antibiotic. UTIs hit the elderly really hard and mom becomes confused and exhibits signs of a mini-stroke. She is also legally blind so staff have to be told so doesn’t fall if they get her to walk or stand up.

There was no way we were getting an antibiotic without a doctor’s order and they hadn’t seen a doctor yet so the only alternative was to call the ambulance and take her to the hospital  about 4 minutes away.

I focused on one message. “I’m sure she has an UTI. She needs an antibiotic and it will take her about 3 -5 days to get feeling better. ” The staff at the care facility didn’t know me, nor trust me and were following the rules.

My brother was able to find out what antibiotic worked and texted me the name while I sat with mom in Emergency. I kept repeating my key message and kept emotion out of it. Inside I wanted to scream, “Get her an antibiotic NOW!” It is so difficult to watch mom suffer and know what needs to be done.

I also had to keep in mind that the staff (supportive living, ambulance and hospital) were following the rules, were doing their best and specific procedures had to be followed. I kept all emotion out of my voice and just kept with the same message.

“No, often she doesn’t run a temperature with this, yes she becomes very confused, she vomits and moans. This tells me she has an UTI.”

One hour later, after a urine test, she was diagnosed with an UTI and an antibiotic started. My brother had arrived and the doctor told us she would be admitted to the hospital. My brother went over to see dad and my husband, who was with my dad at the Supportive Living Facility, came over and we headed home. We got back at midnight. Mentally exhausted.

Once my brother got dad settled down, he headed to the hospital until mom was in a room at about 1:30 a.m. He was mentally exhausted.

What happens to the elderly who don’t have family caregivers? The medical staff are great, and when they don’t know the history of their patients, and that patient is incoherent,  they must follow specific procedures, which aren’t always the best.

My brother and I share the caregiving and many days we are worn out. Mostly mentally, watching the parents we love and respect, struggling. At 61 and 66 we get tired too! We have supportive spouses and have each other.  My parents are able to pay for extra help when they need it. Many seniors are not.

The staff at the supportive living facility are super. They are stretched to the limit with responsibilities and since the place is brand new they are on a steep learning curve.

More staff is needed. The loads on the existing staff is huge, as it was in the last place my parents were. The staff we see are caring, professional and want to help, it’s just that they are expected to do too much for too many.

My parents have each other and family to check in. I feel for the clients that do not.