health care, we have a problem. #1

January 30, 2013 | 4:55 pm

I had a (hilariously) rough start to my vacation, way back on Christmas, and a (heartbreakingly) rough return at the end of the first week of January. I’ll cover the hilarious and wonderful stuff another post, but it’s time I record the hardest few days of my life, save for that time after mom died. Some of you got hints about this on Facebook, but the full freakout funhouse saga needs to be told.

This is a long story, so I’m going to get it down in parts. So here’s the first couple days.

Since this is about my Elderly Relative, let’s identify him! His name is John. He is my stepfather. He has pretty severe dementia. I’ve been living with him for 2.5 years. Apart from his mind and his eyes (glaucoma) he is in great health for an 86 year old. That is to say, until the shit hit that fan.

I slid into home from vacation late on the night of January 8th, checked on John (asleep), and went right to bed. I awoke to a deep, everything’s-way-out-of-whack feeling. The phone and internet were disconnected (puzzling billing snafu), there was no toilet paper nor tissue in the house, and John was staggering around, pouring (I know it’s gross but it’s accurate) snot from his head. I’m not passing judgment on the people that looked after John while I was away, but all the random occurrences (and honest mistakes)¬†lent an apocalyptic feeling to it all. So apt.

By the next day it was time to see if his doctor would take him as soon as possible. I was hearing dire news, both anecdotally and officially, that basically everyone in the US has the cold or the flu. I wished for a hazmat suit as I gently wrangled John into my tiny Honda and headed for the doctor.

John was too weak to get out of the car, so the office staff reluctantly helped maneuver him into a wheelchair. While waiting (and waiting) for the doctor, John peed himself, which elicited a rolling of the eyes from the desk staff, and no offer of assistance.

Once in the exam room, I warned the staff that John is ticklish and hates to be cold or startled, and was ignored. John cried and yelled as he was brusquely poked, prodded and pulled this way and that.

The doctor was the first of many, many people in this story that treated John (though he is neither) like a deaf moron. High-volume, rapid “HOW YOU DOING BUDDY? HOW’S YOUR GIRLFRIENDS, HEH HEH HEH” kind of treatment of the elderly is rampant. In fact, I’m surprised when someone doesn’t treat him this way.

The doctor spent two loud, bewildering minutes with John and declared John had the flu, prescribed antibiotics and codeine cough syrup, and turned to leave. I would not let him until he okayed a flu shot for me.

There were only two times when things went right during this story, and getting them to give me a flu shot was one of them. I know the vaccine is controversial, but the shot gave me piece of mind, and perhaps protected me from the literally dozens of flu sufferers I was going to encounter in the days ahead.

Go to part two.

4 Responses to “health care, we have a problem. #1”

  1. Bella says:

    OMG! Poor Becks. I am horrified, but not at all surprised at the treatment of your father. Our healthcare system has made “caring” for people a business and not many seem to really care. Thank heavens, you are a caring, warm, individual. But you definitely need some “me” time. xoxoxo

  2. regina says:

    My heart is heavy and sad for you and John with just this intro. I am appalled and angry. Good for you for vociferously advocating on your and John’s behalf.

  3. hambox says:

    Ho oh oh OH it gets so much worse! Thanks your your nice words.

  4. Sharon Jue says:

    Oh Becky, you are a saint. I am so glad your stepfather has you as an advocate. It is so sad that this is the health care that is provided in America. And that’s with insurance. Hope everything is better in your’s and John’s world now.