Friday, March 21, 2014

Another Adventure at the Hospital with Dad

Dad is stuck in the hospital gerichair.
Photo by Pam Stephan
Last week, Dad was sluggish, coughing, sneezing, and dropping off to sleep in the afternoons. I thought it was because of seasonal allergies, which he has in spades. But when he suddenly got extra confused and unhappy, I checked his temperature and found he had a fever. Along with that, his blood pressure was climbing. His attention span shrank and he had difficulty playing dominoes - a sure sign of distress. I called his home healthcare nurse and reported his fever and blood pressure numbers. The nurse got concerned and told us to head for the walk-in clinic or else go to the Emergency Room

I hate to say this, but we are getting really familiar with our local Emergency Room. In the last 10 weeks, we had been there 4 times and 3 of those ER trips were for Dad. He had a couple of bad falls, then my husband got an overwhelming case of flu. However, all this experience had taught us to stay prepared for emergencies. We keep a bag packed for Dad, with a complete change of clothes. I gathered up my iPad (which has loads of notes and medical info stored on it) and slipped it into a bag with snacks, newspaper, and a large print Reader's Digest. My husband packed a book to read and brought our jackets. I always bring our own blanket and a small pillow for Dad, because the ER blankets are thin, while those rooms are consistently cold. 

Instead of saying to Dad, "You need to go to the hospital," I used a phrase that always gets him agreeable and moving. Since we hadn't eaten supper yet, I asked him, "Do you want to go get a bean?" I figured that he might wind up having supper in the ER (it has happened before) so technically, I wasn't fibbing. He got up and sat in the car agreeably, and off we went. 

Dad doesn't really like hospitals, but he enjoys the attention he gets from the nurses. He endures the prick of needles and the stickiness of heart monitor leads. He will take pills if a pretty nurse says they will make him feel better. But when they bring out the urinal jug and ask for a sample, that's when he refuses. This time, he got so indignant and fought back so strongly that I ran weeping out of the room. We never got a urine sample, everybody gave up. He was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection (URI) and sent to a room on the third floor

The Storage Room
This part of the hospital was old and the room had originally been designed for two beds. Now there was only one bed, with an assortment of 4 tray tables, 5 wastebaskets, two hard guest chairs, a chaise designed to become a cot, and a gerichair. There was barely room to walk around. It seemed as if this room had become a storage place for cast-off items. As soon as Dad was settled in the bed, he declared that he was ready to leave. It took some persuasion to keep him from jumping up. My husband left to check on our dogs and to gather a few more items. Respiratory nurses came by and started treatments on Dad - these lasted at intervals until 1 a.m. All of us tried to sleep but it became impossible. 

The Gerichair
 The next day, Dad was still weak from his fever. He wanted to visit the bathroom alone. Nurses gathered around to help and he wanted none of that! An argument ensued, we agreed to leave Dad to his own devices. Within about 3 seconds, BAM! he wound up on the floor. Because I would not consent to restraints on his bed, the staff put him the gerichair for the rest of the day! He could not get up, walk around, control the chair, or adjust the angle of the back. 

The All-Knowing Hospitalist
 Later, when an unfamiliar doctor came in, asking questions that should have been answered by Dad's medical chart, I asked for a diagnosis and was told that Dad had quite suddenly developed Parkinson's Disease! Since Dad had been pipelining  a powerful steroid - Prednisone, well known to make patients wired and shaky - I suggested that medication was the issue. My medically uncertified opinion was dismissed and we were told to see a neurologist in 72 hours. (We still haven't done that.)

Dad and I Break Jail
So, after the night in the Storage Room, the Day of the Gerichair, and the All-Knowing Hospitalist visit, I pressed for a discharge. We began packing and escaped as soon as all the needles and sticky pads from the heart monitor had been removed. 

As I write this, it is four days after this trip to the hospital. I have slept each night in Dad's bedside recliner, helping him to the bathroom 2-3 times a night. Because of the fever and the enforced inactivity during his hospital stay, he is still somewhat weak. He can't afford to have another fall and neither can I endure another ER visit again soon. So we vigilantly guard him, stay on schedule with all the pills, and await improvement. And if we have to go back to the hospital, I will beg the doctor to keep us off of the Third Floor!


  1. I think every hospital has a room like that. It's a discouraging place to be. And I've spent dozens of nights on recliners. Hang in there.

  2. I am so sorry this is happening to your Dad. I know it is so hard when you have care of an older parent and the hospital staff doesn't think you know anything. Good luck with all of this. I will be thinking of you, Ginny.


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