No Particular Emphasis On “Assisted” Living

, , , , , , , | Healthy | June 24, 2020

A few years ago, I — a sixty-four-year-old male — had a bad bicycle accident. The damages included a concussion, broken right collarbone, broken right elbow, four broken ribs on my right side, and three fractures in my left pelvis; if you can explain the physics of that, I’m all ears.

Four days in the hospital got me stabilized, but then I needed rehab and was sent to a nursing home. That’s when the fun began.

I was transported to the home at about 6:00 pm. After intake, I struggled for a few hours to find a comfortable position and finally got to sleep, only to be awakened at 11:30 pm (!) to have them take pictures of my bare backside to see if I had bedsores already. Two days later, I was awakened at 4:45 am (!!) because the traveling technician was going to take my blood and wanted to get done early.

I was getting both physical and occupational therapy from the same outsourced company. The routine was to do the PT first at one end of the building and then get wheeled back to my room for the OT. The third day, the occupational therapist was taking me back to my room and one of the physical therapists came with us. The two men were discussing a barbeque they were going to have that weekend.

No problem, except that when we got to my room they stopped in the hallway and talked over me for five minutes. I called out the OT when we were alone; to his credit, he apologized and said that I wasn’t their typical patient, meaning I had no dementia.

I was on a schedule where I was given two assisted showers a week. This wouldn’t have been too bad, except that the home had no air conditioning and we had a heatwave in the nineties the second week. I was waiting for the aide to take me when I noticed five young women hanging around the door to my room. When I asked, they told me they were going to watch my shower as part of their training. I informed them that no, they weren’t, so they waited outside the shower area with my wheelchair.

By that point, I could walk slowly with a cane, so after getting dressed, I limped to my chair with help from the aide. One of the women was standing behind the chair with her hands on the grips. I let go of the cane, grabbed a handrail on the chair, and almost fell on my face as the chair moved out from under me! She hadn’t set the brakes on the wheels and hadn’t held on to the chair. I was lucky there was no damage but it hurt like crazy.

In addition to the therapy for my hip, I needed to wait until the swelling in my broken elbow went down before surgery. When it was ready for the procedure, I went to the hospital having had no food or drink for over twelve hours. I was lying on the gurney about to go into the prep room when I was approached by a young doctor I’d never met. She wanted me to give her permission to perform a “nerve block” on me after the operation. In her telling, this would keep me from feeling pain afterward.

This had not been discussed before, I had no knowledge of what a nerve block entailed, it sounded dangerous, and this person was a total stranger. She was persistent, I’ll give her that, but she finally took the hint when I told her to get the h*** away from me.

The surgery went fine and I had no real discomfort afterward, even to the point where I never filled the prescription for the opioid painkiller I was given. So much for the nerve block. I was not, however, forewarned about another side effect of the anesthesia. It is common that urination is inhibited after the procedure, and by 6:00 pm, I was in real pain.

The nurses’ aides didn’t have the authority to give me a catheter and had to get permission. An hour later, I got my first experience with the process. Then, they took it out. And a few hours later, the pressure built up again.

This time, they didn’t want to put the tube back in; their training said they had to wait four hours. My wife had to yell that she’d take me to the emergency room and file charges against them before they fixed the problem. This time they left it in, and by the following evening, the plumbing worked.

As to the home itself, my stay confirmed my fear of the places, even without a contagion situation. Most of the other long-term residents had some degree of dementia and there was lots of moaning and shouting at all hours. And the food was just as bland as the stereotype; luckily, my wife brought me meals a couple of times a day — including the occasional illicit cold beer.

I got out three days after the elbow surgery and was able to navigate my house, including the stairs, immediately. In another week, I rarely used the cane and have a story for my grandkids.

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