Monday, August 29, 2011

Another Hospital, Another Show

Yesterday I visited Flip, as always, and when he fell asleep after I fed him lunch, I left. The traffic was very heavy both ways because it was Sunday. I bought more cat supplies and a few groceries as I intended to force myself to eat dinner although I have no appetite anymore, but the nursing home called to say that Flip had gotten outside. He was combative and they needed me to calm him down. I said I would come but it wouldn't be for a while because the cat needed his insulin injection at a precise time. I checked a few minutes later and they had called the police and an ambulance to take him to the hospital again.

After I ministered to Pekoe, I headed back to the East Bay in very heavy traffic. I think there was a Giants game and AT&T Park is near the entrance to the Bay Bridge. When I got to the hospital in Berkeley and parked in the garage (most of the doctors' spaces were empty,) I went to the ER, which had no record of him. Finally, they learned that Flip had been taken to a different hospital campus in Oakland and gave me directions. I found street parking but wandered all over the vast complex trying to find the ER. You would think it would be easy to find -- people are generally in a hurry when they go there. I saw a man steam cleaning a huge truck and yelled to him, but he couldn't hear me, so I kept walking.

Flip was on a gurney in a hallway talking to himself and didn't seem surprised to see me. They needed a urine sample so someone handed me a urinal, but I was unable to get him to produce anything. I told him that if he didn't, they would have to catheterize him, a procedure he doesn't take kindly to, understandably. After several hours, I told the attending doctor his saga including the fact that every time he is given Ativan, he becomes aggressive. The doctor wrote on his chart that he is "allergic" to Ativan. Finally. A voice of reason. Flip was given a shot of Haldol and Resperidol. One of the security guards offered me a sandwich as I mentioned that I had eaten only a croissant (almond) with coffee and a banana all day. The sandwich was turkey - starvation trumps vegetarianism - but Flip thought the sandwich was for him so we shared it. Then he conked out.

The doctor spent a couple hours on the phone, trying to find a hospital that would take him as they don't treat Alzheimer's patients. No one would. I thought of Mary in her hour of need, with no room at the inn. They decided to admit him anyway and have their social worker locate another facility in the morning, if such exists. The admitting doctor needed to speak with me, so I waited another hour. I asked the security guard if there was any coffee, and he found me a cup. It was still scalding after I added two creamers, so he got me four more, which was perfect. Another security guard escorted me to my car about a half-mile away, we high fived each other, and the coffee got me home safely at 1:45 am. There wasn't much traffic.

Today I will go to the hospital and also pick up Flip's belongings from the nursing home, the ones they haven't lost. We are no closer to finding him a place in San Francisco but I can't care for him at home any longer, which breaks my heart. All I can do is be a presence, speak sweetly to him and rub his back. It's like watching someone drown.

I just received calls from the attending doctor and social worker at the new hospital, who are going to put out a bulletin asking for placement in San Francisco. "This time I know our side will win." (Victor Laszlo, Casablanca.)


mischief said...

The good guys always win in the end. I'm just so sad that it's taking so long. You've been through so much and I just don't understand how the hospitals are so woefully unprepared to deal with situations like this. It's too much to ask that you drive there every time something happens at a moment's notice. I'm glad that you ate something -- from one "compulsive starver" to another. Please keep doing that. Force yourself. And I'm crossing everything that Flip lands in safe, competent, and caring place very very soon. xx

Bob said...

geez - I'm exhausted just reading it, I cannot imagine what you both are going through.

I too believe that good triumphs over evil and you will have the resolution you both need. As ever, you are both omnipresent in my thoughts.

nick said...

"Cliff eroding, still hanging on". That's about it, I guess. Jeez, what a never-ending obstacle race. I hope the bulletin brings a result. And I hope they don't lose the memo that Flip is allergic to Ativan. Just keep eating, Susan, you need to keep your strength up.

Casablanca - fabulous film.

Jo said...

Oh, God, Susan, how do you manage to keep up with this? I can't even possibly imagine the stress you must be under. I don't think either you or Flip can go through much more of this nonsense. I wish I lived closer so I could help you. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do, even from this distance...!



secret agent woman said...

Holy fuck. This is just such an insane situation. Alzheimer's patients are often combative - it's the nature of the disease. Why are these nursing homes not better equipped to deal with it. I'm sorry. And please, eat.

Anonymous said...

Every one of your posts fills me with so much -- rage, sadness, profound respect, amazement, fatigue. All within your beautiful words. The nuggets are always so concise, so profound. "It's like watching someone drown."

But I am filled with a sliver of hope for golden moments now and then, "All I can do is be a presence, speak sweetly to him and rub his back."

Hugs to you, Susan.

Molly said...

Since his behaviour is not uncommon for Alzheimers patients I too can't understand why they're can't take it in stride. If he was manageable there'd be no need for them. What the hell are you supposed to do? At least the doctor in this listens and seems to have a few brain cells. Eat your wheaties.

the only daughter said...

Echoing the other comments here.


Word verification word: util


heartinsanfrancisco said...


I saw the social worker today, still no luck finding a place. Much of the problem is that Medi-Cal will be paying for it and they don't pay as well as private insurance and/or wealthy patients.


Thanks for your kind thoughts. I'm trying not to lose heart but if the good guys always won, Flip would not have this disease.


Casablanca is my favorite film of all time. I know every line.

It certainly is an obstacle race and I'm really tired of running.


My stress has given me shingles, hives and a colossally stiff neck -- I think I've hit the trifecta.


I believe nursing homes want their patients neatly packaged in wheelchairs, passive if not downright comatose, and no trouble. Ambulatory need not apply.


I want to write about less heavy stuff here, I do. But I write what I know. The whole thing is like a roller coaster ride in hell, and I appreciate the hugs.


The ER doctor listened. There is another doctor attending Flip in the hospital. We spoke on the phone this morning but he stopped to see Flip during the 20 minutes I went to the cafeteria so we still haven't met. I ate part of a salad and a cup of soup, and actually felt the life energy pouring into me from food.


At least it wasn't "futil..." Peace is a good state to attain. I'll try.

Friko said...

Molly sent me here because I asked a question regarding Alzheimer's on my blog today.

I am so glad she did, I've only read the current post so far, but I am deeply touched by your matter-of-fact, unsentimental and un-selfpitying attitude.

I am following in order to continue reading and get to know you.

If you can bear it, I would be happy if you had a look at Friko's World too.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I read your sensitive and caring post about your friend whose husband may have AD, but am responding here in case she doesn't like what I say.

I always want to know the truth because knowledge is power. But not everyone has the ability to face up to hard facts.

As you know, my husband suffers from early onset Alzheimer's. He was diagnosed at age 53 and is now 59. I am considerably older, so it was particularly blindsiding for me to become his full time caregiver. There are numerous medications which may or may not slow down the progress of this horrible disease. None worked for him. At this time, the only definitive diagnosis is autopsy, but PET scans and other tests can diagnose with a high degree of certainty.

I do believe your friend not only should, but MUST try to determine what her husband has because it will inevitably get worse. Denial will only work in the earlier stages; after that, it's impossible, and if they are in a position to make plans for that eventuality, they should do so now.

Thank you for your visit, and thanks to my good friend Molly for suggesting that you do so.