By the time you see this post I’ll be on my way out of town to see my mother, grandmother, and my grandmother’s brother. My grandmother is in a nursing home, something I think I’ve talked about before.

You know, I’ve been in health care more than 28 years now, and though this isn’t the first time I’ve ever questioned the kind of health care that’s really how people are treated, it’s the closest I’ve been to it for a long period of time. And I’m finding out that it’s not just patients who get the short end of things; families go through some major stress as well.

Although I’d been thinking about this for awhile, it really crystallized for me yesterday when I was having a conversation with one of the nurses at the nursing home. She was telling me that my grandmother hadn’t eaten all weekend and that she was very weak. She then said that in her opinion she didn’t think my grandmother would last more than one or two weeks.

That’s never easy to hear and it’s not easy for most people to say to someone else. However, I could take that. I know how sick my grandmother is. I’ve been to visit and I’ve seen her and I’ve seen her barely touch anything, and she certainly hasn’t been trying to help herself.

However, what got me was a conversation I had with my mother just a few hours later. She’s been going to visit my grandmother every day around lunch time and handling the feeding unless the weather is bad. My mother doesn’t drive in bad weather, and in her area it was raining heavily both days this past weekend, including thunder showers. That and her uncle, my grandmother’s only surviving brother, was trying to get into town from Las Vegas and kept having flight delays. So today was going to be his first time seeing his sister in 7 years.

They’re at the nursing home and my grandmother is sleeping. That happens from time to time. The nurse goes into the room, has no idea who my uncle is, and proceeds to tell my mother and him that my grandmother hadn’t eaten all weekend and that she was just tired and ready to die. My uncle immediately starts crying and my mother felt like it, but decided to console my uncle instead. Then the nurse, whose motives I can’t be sure of at this point because I wasn’t there and thus don’t know how she said it, tells my mother this is something she sees over and over and that it’s time to prepare for the worst.

And her saying that with my grandmother in the room is abhorrent. I have found that she’s not always sleeping, and though she can’t communicate as well as she used to be able to, she’s always listening and knows what’s going on, and she’s proven that on more than one occasion.

You know, even when something tough needs to be uttered, there’s something to be said for good bedside manners from health care professionals. There’s also supposed to be something called HIPAA, which means that just because my grandmother is in a nursing home instead of a hospital doesn’t mean some information told about her shouldn’t be done confidentially. My uncle isn’t a stupid man; he knew his sister was sick. But here’s an 86-year old man that’s spent 2 days in airports trying to get across the country to visit his sister for possibly the last time while he’s alive and he gets side-swiped like that. Who could feel good about something like that at any time?

Of course I could complain more, and did to this nurse while talking to her, about the reality that the people who are trying to feed her never seem to check to see if she’s retaining food in her mouth, which she often does for hours at a time. I could talk about the food, which us as healthy people would never eat and how that could be contributing to her, and others, not eating.

I now have a better understanding of those relative that complain about the care their relatives AREN’T getting while they’re in the hospital or elsewhere. I’m now seeing it up close and personal. I also recognize the reasons why this happens so often, but that will be for another time. Overall, my gripe right now isn’t so much with the health care system as it is about what seems to be a true lack of compassion. That’s something that doesn’t take more money or bodies; it only takes more time to care.
 

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