I got the call.
It was from my 86-year-old father in the middle of a workday.
I knew it couldn’t be good.
My stomach turned over.
“Wendy, your mother fell and broke her pelvis.”
Oy vey. I felt responsible.
I gave myself a kinehora (Yiddish for “evil eye” or “bad luck”). I had just been thinking the other day about how my parents survived the Covid-19 quarantine unscathed and without incident. They kept themselves physically active and mentally stimulated. I know the crisis is far from over. Why did I have to think that and tempt the evil eye?
OK, enough of that.
In my world as an elder law attorney, I counsel scores of adult children coping with a parent’s significant health and care needs. It is never easy juggling the demands of working, raising a family, and caring for aging relatives. Conflicting emotions are expressed about many complex issues and concerns. A combination of frustration, anger, stress, and sadness are the common themes. They say: “Why didn’t my parents plan five years ago? I told them to talk to an attorney.” I’ve heard these utterances countless times. And while I completely understand and empathize with their emotions, I always advise them to move forward rather than lament about their parents’ perceived failures.
Now I surely can sympathize. No, not about the lack of planning, for my parents have an elder law attorney for a daughter and good long-term care insurance policies. But now I can truly commiserate with the feeling of dread about the long rehabilitation process, concern about loss of independence and quality of life, and the toll it will take on my mother, the patient, and my father, her caregiver.
And, to be completely honest, about how it will affect my life. I am already stretched too thin.
So I feel a bit like the adult children of my clients. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as it provides more of a window into their daily struggles and emotions. It is one thing to be innately intuitive, compassionate, and empathetic, qualities which I have always considered part of my persona. It is another thing to be thrust into the client experience and forced to navigate that world.
The former possibility of needing appropriate care quickly became a stark reality. I just experienced first-hand how effective advocacy is essential to obtaining proper care and attention during a hospitalization. While I appreciate my father and admire his 61-year devotion and dedication to my mother -- who has always been an effective advocate for herself -- I felt the need to kick into gear as her third advocate. I reminded myself about the importance of listening and inquiring. As an example, my mother told me that she did not expect to be assessed by physical therapy for another four days. My internal reaction was that nothing good comes from lying in a hospital bed for six days. An occupational benefit is knowing just enough about geriatric health and care issues to be appropriately alarmed. So I contacted the nurse’s station and requested a status report. Parenthetically, despite my status as dutiful daughter and alternate health care agent, the nurse placed me on hold and obtained my mother’s consent to speak with me, which was the right action. I expressed concern about my mother lying idle in bed for six days without a PT consult. After consulting the chart, the nurse indicated that my
mother was provided with exercises to do in bed. Of course, my next call was to my mother who
advised that she was never instructed to perform any exercises. I told her to discuss this with the nurse which she immediately did. The chart turned out to be incorrect. Shortly thereafter, my father reported that my mother was seen by a physical therapist who got her out of bed with a walker and showed her the exercises she could safely perform in bed.
I provide this actual anecdote not to toot my own horn, but rather to sound the alarm about the critical importance of education and patient advocacy. The unfortunate reality is the pervasive absence of both.
My mother was just admitted to a subacute rehabilitation facility. So I may blog again as my mother and I experience what many of our former and current clients have already experienced and future clients will undoubtedly experience.
At Goidel Law Group, our Concierge Care Coordination process was designed to provide holistic services delivered by experienced and compassionate geriatric social workers and elder law professionals. In times of crisis, there is no substitute to collaborative services provided by a team dedicated to protecting patients and encouraging their agents and loved ones to be effective advocates. And through the implementation of innovative programs, we can become those agents and advocates if necessary.
Please encourage your friends, relatives, and clients to make the difficult decisions and create long-term care plans. This is invaluable advice, as if and when their adult child or agent gets “the call” they will have a roadmap to follow and know where to turn for help.