A nurse and a social worker

I got some facts today that have improved my outlook about Mom’s circumstances. The most important: There is some law on our side. The nursing home is required to give us 30 days to vacate after they provide written notice that they want Mom to move out. There is no written notice as yet and ideally there never will be one. But at least now I know they can’t actually dump Mom. I called the county long-term-care ombudsman to find this out. I did not lodge a complaint against Mom’s facility that would set off an investigation. But I asked questions, got some information about the places I am considering, and just generally wanted to talk to a disinterested third party about what was going on. Getting the information about the law made me very glad I made that call.

I also talked to the nursing director at Mom’s facility and the social worker handling Mom’s case. Though it remains true that Mom is probably not a good long-term candidate for their facility in their eyes, the nursing director was reassuring about the care Mom will receive until she leaves. I left her a voice mail saying I was seeking a second opinion beyond what Noah had told me. She called back within about an hour and a half and we had a lengthy talk. She had read the nursing notes about Mom to familiarize herself with the details. She said she has seen Mom camp out by the front automatic doors, as if she wants to pounce out of the place at her first opportunity. She also had a couple of more details about Mom’s toilet issues. In addition to pooping in a chair in one man’s room, she pooped into a trash can in another room. So that is undesirable behavior – not something that should get her kicked out, but part of the package. She is entering other residents’ rooms with some regularity, which is among the reasons she really needs to have the one-on-one. The nursing director was at least kind, acknowledged that this turn of events sucks for me, said she can imagine I am shocked about the whole thing, and said she promised Mom will get good care until I can find a new place for her. I told her I was really worried about that – not because I had any indication the staff were mean but because I imagine less is invested in short-timers in general. I made a point of telling her how many aides and nurses I had talked to and how involved I have been. She also asked me to seek her out and introduce myself to her. So I feel that she is not going to avoid me. And even if it is only a public relations move on her part, it is helping me feel less completely hostile about what’s going on. She made the mistake of also recommending the secure ward in their Grove City facility, where she also used to work. She said, “Now this isn’t a ploy or anything,” and then talked about how great that place is. I can’t help it, I just refuse to go there. But maybe I will tour it just out of curiosity.

While I was talking to her, the social worker left a voice mail on my cell phone. My first nursing home choice for Mom had called her to let her know I did not get either of the two beds that were open yesterday. But a bed is expected to open up next week. Sadly, this means someone is dying. I know the deal about how most beds open up in nursing homes, especially those devoted to Alzheimer’s care. So I called the social worker back just to clarify how this will work – will she get notice about an available bed or will I? She said either of us could. She said she’ll check in with that facility Monday. I told her it is my first choice for a variety of reasons. Finally, she said, “How are YOU doing?” This goes a long way, I must say. I told her I am better today than yesterday, that yesterday I was really mad. And she said she could understand that. Everyone wants Mom to be safe, she and the nursing director said. I want Mom to be safe. Even if she did get completely comfortable there, it is true with Alzheimer’s that she might walk out a door someday with no warning, as long as she can walk. I understand that part of all of this. I totally do. Anyway, the social worker offered to be MY social worker if I need to talk. So that is progress.

I also toured two other facilities, one another all-Alzheimer’s center and another with a secure ward within a regular nursing home. The all-Alzheimer’s center I toured is a very close second to my preference, the Columbus Alzheimer Care Center. Its patient rooms are the most home-like I’ve seen. The rest of the place isn’t as open and bright, but it would certainly do. The activities room was packed. The staff I encountered were terrific. Mom’s neurologist is the medical director. It’s farther away from my house, about 7 miles, but that is not a disaster. I did not get a call from admissions today as I was supposed to, so that’s an irritation. The other place I toured would be a desperation backup only. The facility itself is cosmetically really nice looking. But the Alzheimer’s ward was depressing, the activities room was empty, the dining area was tiny and the residents looked really out of it. The nursing and aide staff did not acknowledge me in any way while I was looking around. I think it might be all looks and not much substantive care.

Meanwhile, I decided to visit Mom today, too, an hour and a half before lunch. I went in just assuming no one knows anything. I chatted with staff, said hi to the nurses, checked Mom’s room. An aide told me she was in the activities room, and I found her there, waiting for a music program to start. Her one-on-one was sitting at a table in the back of the room, and I sat down with her for a little while. She said Mom seemed OK, not angry about anything. Not exit-seeking. Not mean to the aide. She was looking forward to the music. I then went and sat next to Mom on the floor. We sang along with the tunes performed by a woman playing a guitar. Mom had dog/cat, so that is good news. (I liked this about the aide: I said, “Oh, good, she has her dog.” “That’s cat,” the aide said. Righto, missy.) I wrote Mom’s name on dog/cat’s tag while I was sitting there. I noticed Mom wasn’t wearing a bra and her hair was a mess. This could have to do with what she lets people help her with, I think. I ran my fingers through her hair to try to brush it a bit. Her hair seemed clean, so I figured she must have had a shower recently, and the nursing director confirmed that later, that she had been agreeable to a shower a day or so ago. After the program, I walked Mom to the dining room and waited until her food arrived and I left. She didn’t say a whole lot, but she did say, “This is a good place.” That, plus just walking the halls, made me weepy. By the time Mom has to leave, she will have come to feel at home. And I realized this is affecting me, too. I like this place. I am comfortable here. I know many staff members’ names. I know a few residents by name and personality. I know where things are, where the best lounge is, the shady spots in the courtyard. I will be experiencing a loss, too, when I move Mom out of there.

3 comments so far

  1. Jeff on

    This corresponds to the information we received from the social worker we talked to after Mom’s first day – that there were laws and that they couldn’t just kick her out immediately and stick her on the sidewalk in front.
    I’m glad to hear that they seem to be committed to continuing care, even for a short-term resident.
    While I’m not looking forward to someone’s death, I do hope another bed opens up at the Columbus Alzheimer Care Center, and I’m glad that you feel like there are other realistic and acceptable options too. Oy.

  2. Jeff on

    I found the nursing notes to be so different than anything we observed while we were there. Tom mentioned that the fact that Mom sits by the entrance doors (I can’t believe she can actually even find them in that maze of hallways) is just like her gang hanging out by the entrance at the Gardens. It was the socializing location for her for two years, and seems like she has found it again. Pounce? I can’t imagine that descriptive EVER for mom, especially lately. I feel like they are projecting their own story on her rather than noting factually what is happening. The toilet issues – well…I got nothin’…
    Love You!

  3. momsbrain on

    Jeff, I may have used poetic license with the “pounce” description, but they definitely didn’t like it that she was parking herself near the door. But you and Tom make a good point – that may have been the only familiar thing to her in the whole place – doors that open automatically, just like the ones that she looked at all day every day in the Gardens. And one nurse, the one I like the best, did tell me that Mom went out those doors once and was agitated about being brought back in. I am not in forgiveness mode, necessarily, but I know they are afraid of that parking lot being so close to Olentangy River Road.

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