Was It a Bad Choice?

My wife’s first evening in her new temporary home (a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility) did not have a pleasant start. Once she was situated in her room, she did not see anyone for several hours, even after pressing her call button for more than three hours. She finally called me to ask me to look up a phone number and call the facility to tell them she needed assistance; she was not sure whether the call button worked.

So, I called. I was told the call button did, indeed work and that the nurse was going into her room at that very moment. I called my wife back and listened as the nurse spoke to my wife and took her vital signs. I overheard the conversation and made notes about it.

A few minutes later, I called the facility again and asked to speak to the person in charge. I was put on hold for a moment, then told that the nurse was speaking to a doctor, but I could hold. I chose to hold. The nurse who had been with my wife came on the line a few minutes later and I expressed my concern that it took three hours for my wife’s need for assistance to be acknowledged. She said she had been on the telephone with the head nurse about staffing. The nurse was apologetic, saying the shift she was on was seriously understaffed, in part because of “no-shows.” She went on to say the upcoming shift and the weekend shifts were much more fully staffed. I told her I wanted my concerns passed along to the facility administrator; the nurse (I’m not using her name here, but I know it) said she would tell Phyllis (the administrator) and would have her call me on Monday. She also said she would record my complaint for the record.

After having heard very positive comments about the facility, I am now extremely concerned that those comments may have been based on past experiences that are no longer valid. I am concerned that I have to closely monitor my wife’s treatment and the responses to her requests for assistance. The fact that I cannot to into the facility, physically, due to COVID-19 concerns makes my concerns doubly difficult.

This morning, I came across Medicare information that rated the facility where my wife is now; unlike other information I had found, this information, directly off of the Medicare website, ranked this facility as “Average” to “Much Below Average” in three of four important areas, with only one being “Average.” I feel helpless; I don’t know what I should do. I want to protect my wife, yet I don’t want to create more problems for her by interfering in ways that could inadvertently be harmful to her care.

I hope—so very, very deeply—the experience last evening was simply a “glitch,” an unfortunate circumstance that coincided with my wife’s admission. All I can do, I suppose, is wait to hear from my wife about her ongoing experiences, since I can’t even visit to witness for myself what is going on. Ach!

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to Was It a Bad Choice?

  1. robin andrea says:

    This is very worrisome news, but you’ve gotten some excellent advice and insight here in comments already. I hope things improve for Janine in every way. Thinking of you both.

  2. Pat Newcomb says:

    John – this is a tough start. Janine is frightened, you’re frightened. A three hour gap does seem quite unusual. Service levels appear to have been severely compromised and I hope Janine was able to get the help she needed. AND I think some patience and forbearance is called for. When my father began this journey of hospital to rehab to assisted living, I was given some excellent advice. “Begin with the assumption that all of the medical professionals you encounter are capable, competent individuals who are trying to do the best they are humanly able to do”. I found that this REALLY helped ME manage my own anxieties and age-based cynicism about humans behaving in large organizations. I also came late to the work of Edward Deming. One of his mantras is “bad systems harm good people”. The timing of your personal crisis coincides with one of the worst health and economic crises to have hit us all in our lifetimes ( esp. Baby Boomers). I hope you have a productive conversation with the lead nurse and his/her supervisor as soon as possible.

  3. Thomas L Swinburn says:

    Dealing with the medical community is almost always frustrating. My experience of course. The problem, or at least part of it is that everything goes through several layers of human contact, and only one of those need be “off” to completely screw everything up. Incompetence, someone just having a bad day, or as happened here an (apparent) staffing shortage can and does lead to frustration and ANGER. The fact you have no control over things magnifies the frustration and anger. It’s bad enough when it’s only you affected, but when it’s a loved one and your hands are tied the emotions are multiplied. I wish there was something I could do, anything to help correct the problems or get Janine moved to a better facility.

    Pass the buck ALWAYS seems to be SOP in any situation in which you, the “consumer” is badly served. In situations where you or a loved ones health is concerned the anger of such BS is amplified by a huge factor. The old saw about “handle it” is totally worthless in such cases. Anger, frustration, fear all combine to drive you right to the edge. And NOBODY seems to be much concerned about it, IT being YOUR problem.

    Just know that we all know what you’re going through and would if we could fix it. Janine and you will be in my thoughts until this is resolved. If there is ANYTHING I can do to help in any way please call on me.

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