This is true. It must be told–shared with me by a BFF of many decades. It involves someone she deeply cared about, whose smart, busy, caring children unwittingly compromised their dad’s quality of life. The result: a disaster for him; utter dismay for them.
I wrote about it when I first began blogging. It had no tags. Didn’t realize only a few read it, until today-when someone did read it and, out of curiosity I checked its stats. Because of its relevance to the impact our busy lives can have on independent, aging parents, I’m republishing it, editing it a bit, and changed its title from “A Sad Story,” which it clearly is. I think it offers lessons for us all.
Rodney, divorced, and in his early 80’s, was living happily by himself in a condo in a very nice California suburb. He was a retired professional with many friends and former colleagues who valued his wisdom and kind ways.
But he was increasingly seeming “spacey,”– “dementia-like” to those who knew him well. He appeared unsteady on his feet at times. Close friends noticed this and may have attributed it to his age. Reasons for no one questioning this physical and mental change could be many.
One day Rodney took a bad fall in his apartment. A neighbor heard his call for help; phoned 911. The local hospital supposedly did a full evaluation to determine the cause of his fall, and his daughter was told he needed assisted living. She quickly and efficiently made arrangements, but it was soon evident that Rodney needed more help than assisted living provided so a private aide was hired to be with him. More falls, more trips in and out of the hospital. No one understood the cause, only the effect as Rodney became more and more frustrated and, at times, unruly.
Assisted living lacked approprite staff to care for him–even with his aide. Thus his daughter located a group home with adequate staff to watch him and prevent more falls. The superviser of the home, a thorough person, had a hunch… that medication could be causing Rodney’s problems. Indeed Rodney (who could legally write prescriptions), was using a commonly prescribed sleep aid. Rodney had no primary care doctor (unrelated specialists treated him). Evidently prior to the “hunch” no one knew Rodney was taking this medication, which could produce the side effects Rodney was experiencing.
The good news: the group home’s supervisor changed Rodney’s medication. He became himself again and much steadier on his feet. The bad news: he had nothing in common with this group home’s residents. Disliked being there.
But during these many months his efficient daughter had sold his condo because, she was advised, he could no longer live alone and because funds would be needed for his group home care. Rodney has no condo to return to.
Initially his daughter was glad to see him cared for, didn’t wanted another upheaval, and looked forward to peace of mind. But with new medication, Rodney was adamant: he had no reason to stay in the group home.
A bad start, lack of information, incomplete knowledge, inaccurate assumptions, and a busy, caring daughter’s well-meaning quick fixes. What do we learn?
1. When making important decisions, think: is it better/easier for my parents or for me?
2. A current list of parents’ medications may help avoid problems.
3. Experienced geriatric social workers would most likely have reduced the busy daughter’s stress and helped with well-thought-out changes and a better outcome. Social workers are an excellent resource.
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PS. Rodney did move from the group home to assisted living, since many months had passed leading to other problems. He died shortly thereafter.
Your sad tale about Rodney reminds me of another story about a very old woman and her son who, told that his mother would not survive her stay in a hospital, sold her apt. and its precious contents, only to find his mother doing well and looking forward to her return to her home. Rodney’s story seems even sadder; his loss of his home must have needlessly darkened his last years and possibly shortened his life.
About the importance of an up-to-date and accessible list of medications, you wrote a post some time ago about keeping such a list just behind a driver’s license in one’s wallet, and I have done so.
My internist greatly admired the technique and happily caught my mistake in listing the dosage of a medicationas 7 mg instead of 70.