Mrs. T. had been in and out of the psychiatric building numerous times in 2018. This was mostly because of off a rapid decline in her dementia/Alzheimer’s after almost 10 years of slow decline following her initial diagnosis. The struggle of maintaining a semblance of our normal life then centered around things beyond memory loss. That began to include episodes of dangerous wandering, and finally going beyond frustration to anger, agitation, assaults and extreme violence. Weeks of what she called the lockup or prison were intended to find medications that would control or limit those behaviors. For those of you who may be unaware of all this there are stages of this awful disease but in the end every victim can be different. My mom who also had Alzheimer’s simply, quietly faded away. For many the ride is often like a roller coaster things get worse, then temporarily they get better and so it goes. the last time Barb came home after three weeks of treatment I still had hoped for respite. The next morning she had relapsed once again. After three days and little sleep a friend called and asked me how I was doing. I replied with a single word,” horseshit”. He said " I’ll be right over and take you and Barb to the emergency room. It was 30 miles away. I planned to sit in the back to try to keep Barb calm and prevent any aggressive behavior towards our friend the driver. She wouldn’t do it. Of course, because of the nature of things the caretaker is often perceived in these moments as the enemy. She sat in front than next to the driver.
I was quickly reminded when our boys were small and not feeling well we often took them for rides. They had a calming effect. That’s exactly what happened in this case. Upon arrival at emergency in the big city we were quickly signed in and told to wait in a large waiting area. There must’ve been over 100 people waiting in this area as well. It was then I happened to notice a very large sign proclaiming the mission of the clinic and its hospitals. The large words stated …… The patient comes first.
After a relatively brief wait two women approached us and said “hi Barb, it’s time to go see the doctors.“Then Barb stood up looking quite peeved saying ”I’m not going anyplace to see those F$%(@ing doctors. They’ll put me in a nursing home!" And so it went and a large audience grew due to all the excitement. Finally I was told she could not be admitted since she didn’t agree to the plan. I pointed out she had been there in the hospitals psychiatric lock up three days before and perhaps they could call that department and get her admitted. That couldn’t be done either but it was suggested that I call the Police Department and they could presumably bring her in to see the doctors. I suggested this was absurd and I wasn’t going to call the police. I actually thought of calling the local newspaper but then remembered I had never read an article in paper that criticized the world famous local clinic/hospitals for anything.
Then a break occurred which included the two nice ladies saying they would have to check with their supervisor. They did. Shortly thereafter, a gentleman in suit and tie approached me in a calming manner and repeated the usual excuses and bureaucratic jargon to which I responded in a somewhat loud and agitated manner which I will not repeat here. And the audience grew. This was good. Eventually I put my best smile on and leaned a bit towards him saying ”Sir,
I might have a solution to your problem” “Mmmm” What ? Perhaps your people could bring out a wheelchair and set it in front of me and my wife.. I will sit in the chair and if they happen to mention it’s possible this guy could be having a heart attack….” Ok that’s not good but I was desperate. So it happened that is I sat in the wheelchair which Barb quickly grabbed and pushed me down a hallway and into the emergency room. Where I suggested they break protocol and call Dr.*&^% in the psychiatric building. 15 minutes later he appeared and took Barb back to psychiatry. Three weeks later with another round of different meds Barb was moved to memory care in the same city where I visit her each and every day, sleeping well at night myself knowing she has a new and safe home. Our operating motto remains Were still a team, and we keep on trucking.
Protecting your reputation is a key to the reputation of many a big bureaucracy.
Next: memory care lays down the law -part three a bureaucratic basics