End of Life Trauma Part 4 – The Nursing Home

Before I get into the main topic of this post, I need to fill you in on some of the things that brought it on. After two weeks in the hospital, part of it trying to stabilize my wife’s badly damaged heart and another to fight the life-threatening gall bladder infection, they deemed her stable enough to go into a “rehabilitation” center. The question was, could I get her into a good one? Short immediate answer, NO.

With some help for the hospital patient advocate, I learned that were no vacancies in any of the reputable facilities. That left the county nursing homes, and given the horror stories about the pandemic in nursing homes, that scared me. But I just didn’t see an alternative. I chose what I thought was the best of the two homes in our county and then took her there after her hospital discharge. The home was built about 20 years ago, but when we got inside it looked like twice that age by the wear and tear of the place. All the furniture, which was very minimal, was full of scratches and dents.

When we got to my wife’s assigned room, it had a small rollout type bed and a small table with a couple of drawers. That would be her abode for the coming weeks. Her roommate insisted that the room be at 80 degrees, as she was cold otherwise. Since she was the long-timer there, so she got her say. That first day would be the last time I saw the inside of the facility, that is except for the last day. I visited her daily, but we had to meet outside under a small portico at the rear of the building.

But the surroundings was not her major complaint. It was the dispensing of medications that riled her. One aide said she would get the medication for her, but most often it was close to shift change and that just didn’t happen, but possibly written that it was.

My wife is used to sleeping in a chilly room in the 60s so, needless to say, she got little sleep while she was there. The food which was delivered to the room to be eaten sitting at the side of the bed most obviously came from a can.

I need to stop here and come to the defense, at least minimally, of the facility. It is a well-known fact that 80% or more of most nursing home are funded by Medicaid, and that just isn’t enough to provide anything more than what I saw. Medicare pays more but only for a given period of them, then the bill becomes the responsibility of the patient. When those personal funds are exhausted, then Medicaid kicks in and the cycle is complete.

When my wife as originally admitted, the staff decided that she needed 4 – 6 weeks of “rehab”. After week three, she simply couldn’t tolerate anymore, so I took her home with the promise of a weekly visit of a nurse. That would start the next phase of this story.

When she got home,

she made me promise that she would not die in a nursing home.

I promised her that that would not happen. Little did I know how difficult that was to keep… more on that in a future post.