Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tenacious G at Rehab

Or... Grandma Rages Against the Machine

It’s not exactly what you may think. My 84-year-old mother is not at the Betty Ford Clinic drying out from a binge of alcohol or recreational drugs. After she was released from the hospital, she was required to go to an acute care rehab facility before her assisted living facility would take her back. Mom was not pleased. Her walking was a bit wobbly, so I could see the logic.

I drove her over to the facility, helped her settle in and finally left. The next morning at 7 a.m., I got a call from the facility that she was trying to “run away.” Actually, she got dressed, decided she did not want to be there and took action. The staff had their viewpoint, she had hers. Fortunately, a social worker my family had hired as an advocate intervened and convinced the staff that my mother was just disoriented because she was not at her home. They finally decided to let her stay rather than discharging her.

I was traveling for a few days and when I got back, Mom was walking like a pro. No more wobble. I asked to meet with the director of nursing and the physical therapy director and suggested to them that she was ready to leave. They thought she should stay for three more weeks—exactly the amount of time that is paid by Medicare. I disagreed strongly and they finally relented to let her leave the following Monday.

Unfortunately, Mom came down with something from the facility, which I then caught, so I was not able to visit her for a few days. When I finally returned, she was so tired she could hardly sit up and behaved like a zombie. I was puzzled. I’ve never seen Mom like this. Then the social worker there told me that because Mom had been agitated when she first arrived, the psychologist there put her on a medication to “calm her down.” Apparently, even though I am legally responsible for her medical decisions, they were not required to notify me about this.

She was given an anti-seizure medicine and an Alzheimer’s medicine—even though there was no diagnosis of Alzheimers. These drugs build up in the system over a period of days and apparently worked so well that she was practically in a catatonic state.

I called her doctor and asked that she be taken off the medications. My mother is feisty. If that is too inconvenient for a facility then they SHOULD discharge the patient rather than do a reenactment of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She is, after all, a human being, not a commodity. Is society so regimented that children and the elderly are being drugged up if they show an iota of spirit?

While I sympathize with what health care workers have to endure, they signed up for care giving when they took the job. My mother did not have much choice in being placed in their environment. She will be discharged tomorrow—and that can’t come too soon. Maybe on our way out, I’ll toss something heavy out the window in a commemorative gesture to Randle McMurphy and everyone else who has ever endured an involuntary lobotomy. Mom would like that—if she doesn’t grab it out of my hands, first, and do it herself.


  1. Better living through chemistry? The elderly are now victims of the same system that seems to be in a rush to classify and medicate kids. No one seems to have the time or patience anymore to spend an extra few minutes with an overly exuberant child or a "feisty" senior. Its easier to pop them a pill. Very sad aspect of our society.

  2. I couldn't agree more. The healthcare system is a profit-motivated horror show. Patient beware.