No one puts Bonnie in the corner
Recently, my eighty-two-year-old mom had pneumonia which caused her to lose strength in her legs. She could no longer stand long enough for the staff to transfer her from the bed to her wheelchair, from her wheelchair to a recliner, etc. Ultimately, her pneumonia worsened, and she had to be checked into the hospital. She gets pneumonia quite often, but because she had lost so much strength and mobility, the hospital recommended she be transferred to a local rehabilitation nursing center (non-hospital affiliated) to rebuild her strength rather than discharge her to return to her assisted living center–her home.
What we didn’t appreciate at the time, but do now, is how poorly the rehabilitation nursing home was staffed and managed. My mom was grossly ignored for several days and was not receiving any physical therapy to rebuild her strength. Instead they were performing mental tests and assessments all in an effort to make a case that she stay at their facility for the rest of her life. She was starting to decline under the care of the rehab facility. There was no rehabbing a-happenin’. She’d try to talk to the nurses, but they just spoke over her. She tried asking for her doctor, nothing would happen.
What most people might not know is that many nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are privately owned, and they can easily get twenty days of treatment approved by Medicaid to keep a patient in-house for convalescence, and they want the patient to stay for those twenty days because it’s guaranteed money and the same amount of paperwork if the patient stayed only two days. But after that twenty days, the funding stops so the only way to keep the patient–and the bed rent coming in–is to convince them they should become a permanent resident. And the most effective way to do that is to tell them “there is no other choice.” Rather quickly, the social workers at the nursing home started messaging to my local siblings that “we need to have a talk about your mom’s future” and speaking with authority as if the representatives were in a position to make the choice for my mom that she not return to her assisted living center—a home we had chosen for her. They implied my mother’s current home didn’t want her to return. They were totally prepping her to never leave their facility–a facility she was rapidly declining in. My mom was becoming a victim of some shifty salesmanship.
Now, if you’ve been reading my newsletters for a while, you already know that my mom, Bonnie, is a fighter, and when she gets backed into the corner, the Bonster Monster is sure to come out. She is not so easily manipulated, and she wanted to get home to her things, her friends, and the staff she has grown to love. So she started systematically calling several of her children to get her out of “this hellhole.”
I checked in with my mom’s current living center, and they had no issues with my mom returning home. After some research, my oldest brother, youngest sister, and I found out that the powers that be at the nursing home were holding my mom hostage. A meeting was called. My brother and sister attended, and they caught on quickly. They were smelling what the people were selling, and they didn’t like it. When they asked the staff what they were treating my mom for, the staff said they didn’t know. When my sister asked why my mom was there then, the staff said it was in her best interest. Huh?
My siblings demanded that my mom’s discharge papers be prepared and that the nursing home call my mom’s assisted living center to coordinate a transfer. The staff said they would do it. But guess what? Two days went by and nothing happened. When my siblings and I called to follow up, we got different answers–one time they left my brother on hold, and after seven minutes, he hung up.
My mom called my brother at four o’clock in the morning because she was so scared. She called my youngest sister non-stop. She called and asked me, “What if I fall in here and break a hip? I’ll die in this prison.”
Now, I’m used to working within the confines of a process and red tape. I’m a diplomatic and professional person, but this? THIS? This brought out the grit in me and my siblings. No one messes with our family!!
I called the nursing home immediately and was told they hadn’t even talked to their in-house doctor yet. I asked when that would be (because previously they’d said nothing about speaking to the doctor), and they said not for a few days because “he only comes in on Wednesdays,” and then even if he approves, the “medicaid process” requires a three day waiting period. Yep, see what was happening? We were getting the run around while they held on to my mom and continued to collect the government’s money.
So we said, “We are waiving your process and picking our mother up in thirty minutes. The paperwork better be ready.”
My oldest brother dropped every thing at work to go and spring my mom out of her prison. When he walked into her room, my mom–who knew he would normally be at work–asked him, “Am I going home?” And Ken said, “Yep. Right now.” He said he’d never seen her so happy.
I would have loved to have seen her face, and the faces of the staff who had tried to turn my mom into red tape, when they realized we weren’t only serious about busting my mom out, but had coordinated with her assisted living center to meet us there with a wheelchair friendly van. No one was going to stop us.
But more than anything, I wish I could have been there to see my mother’s and brother’s faces when the van pulled up and they saw that their get-away driver was a Spartan.
My mom has been home ever since and is doing very well. Thanks for joining me today and thank you for being you.
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