Sunday, January 7, 2018
Living Far Away
The woman on the phone sounded very upset. She said I was referred to her by a person I would rather not name but it was a prominent political figure’s staff member. I assumed now that this would not be easy because if it were, the other person would have handled it and not referred this person to me.
The woman was calling about the care her mother was receiving in a local hospital. I let her speak for about 10 minutes and when she took a breath, I said “you must be very angry over the care your mother is receiving.” “Of course I am” she continued for another 5 minutes.
Her elderly mother was alone in New York while the daughter on the phone was sick and also elderly in a state far away. I couldn’t blame her for the anger and frustration she must be feeling. She explained that her mother has an infection and they refused giving her antibiotics. She explained how much pain her mother is in and how she was not being cared for. Over a period of three days of on-going phone calls which consisted of her telling me about her lack of finances her being black and nurses who don’t like “black people” her mother being alone and so far away, the long list of names of administrators, doctors and nurses she spoke to already and her mother’s dementia amongst other subjects, I finally had to ask “How can I help?” She snapped back with “I don’t know, I was told to call you because this is what you do”.
I decided to go visit her mother. I was well prepared for a serious concern of what I might find and my mind went in circles of how I would handle it. Upon entering her mother’s room, I noticed a small woman with her hair done in braids and a clean nightgown and clean bedding. I checked her armband to be sure I had the correct person and asked her, her name. The woman in the bed just stared at me. I told her I was there to see how she was and her daughter was concerned. She smiled.
The nurses aid came in and I introduced myself as a friend of her daughters and was just checking in. I asked who does her hair in a braid so lovely on top of her head. The nurses aid said they all take turns caring for her. They seemed to genuinely like this patient. The nurses aid, a black woman said she just ate. Yet there was no food on her face, her covers and she was clean. I asked about her infection and was told it is better. I asked about antibiotics and was told she finished them. The woman in the bed still wouldn’t talk so I scrubbed down a chair for myself and asked if I can sit with her. She said “of course” with a smile. We both laughed at the TV show she watched and at each commercial we talked a bit. She said she was not in pain but didn’t know the plans for her future.
As a patient “safety” advocate my role is to be sure the patient isn’t in danger. Of course I can’t guarantee the moment I left she wouldn’t be given the wrong medication or she wouldn’t try to get up and fall. I did get to look for things like, was the nurse easily accessible and was the aid attentive. Was the patient in clean sheets, well kept and was there antibacterial gel available and were the dispensers full. Did they wash before approaching the patient, were the floors clean and did they talk to the patient – and the patient next to her. Most importantly, if this was my family member, would I be OK leaving her there. If the answer is “yes” I can leave. I left.
I called the daughter to report to her what I found. I explained to the daughter that she is speaking so loud it’s hard to talk with her (she was yelling).
Still the daughter was not happy with my report so we were able to move the conversation to the guilt she is feeling being so far away.