Monday, February 21, 2011

Best Intentions

I think most people navigate through life with thoughts and actions generally focused on getting the best outcome no matter what they are dealing with.  I mean, really, none of us go into a situation saying, "Well, I hope the worst thing possible happens," right?

But sometimes our best intentions can be completely derailed, simply because life happens.  In these past 4 days I have seen my best intentions with eating and exercise flying about looking for a landing pad. Eating has not been bad per se, just extremely erratic. Exercise, which is about 99% of the time a no miss for me, has become almost non-existent.

Last Thursday my father-in-law was rushed to the emergency room because he was choking and couldn't breathe.  Unfortunately he chose to have someone drive him there and not go by ambulance.  I say unfortunately because whomever was triaging decided that it would be OK for an 83 year old man to sit in a chair in the emergency room waiting area for almost 3 hours before he was put into a room to be examined.  One of my husband's cousins who is a nurse agreed that ER's are overwhelmed with uninsured/under insured people who walk in and use them as primary care physicians but she also stated that the triage nurse should know the difference between a person who cannot breathe and a person who may have a cold, flu, or strep throat.

It took another 6 hours before he was properly diagnosed and decision made to admit him.  I suspect the only reason it didn't take longer is that when the ER nurses had a shift change, a family friend came on as the charge nurse and when she saw what was going on, she pretty much took over his case and advocated to the doctor to get things moving along.  She also correctly diagnosed what was happening to him, which probably saved his life.

It took an additional 2 1/2 hours from the decision to admit to actually getting him in the room, which meant from time of arrival at the ER to time of arrival in the bed, it took 11 1/2 hours.  There is something very, very wrong with that.

The condition he had is life threatening and though he was admitted and they tried to stabilize him until morning, he almost died in the middle of the night.  Finally, an ENT was called in and that doctor immediately put him in the ICU. 

As I write this, after 3 days of IV anti-inflammatories and antibiotics he was moved to a respiratory step down unit where he finally got to eat some real food.  If he continues to progress he will be allowed to go home, but someone will need to stay with him as this condition can flare up quickly again even though he might still be on meds.

In the midst of all this, Mr. Helen and his siblings have suddenly been thrown into a situation they never hoped would happen:  the care of their mother who is in end stage Alzheimer's.

She should have had professional home care or been admitted to a certified nursing facility long before now but my father-in-law insisted on keeping her home.  Over the last year he has become progressively exhausted but refused to "give up" on her (his words).  I know for a fact that his best intentions were to let her be in her own home until the day she died.  He meant well but the facts are that his emotions got in the way of a good decision.  In turn, the kids have not known what to do because they have been in the very tenuous position of trying not to parent their parent.

Yet now, the best intentions of everyone have come to this, and the family is in crisis having to make some terrible, stressful, awful decisions that are way overdue.

As I witnessed the siblings' family meeting last night and saw the stress and emotions flying through the air like acrobats looking for a safety net, it occurred to me that there are times when we all need to lay down our best intentions and recalculate, readjust.

And there's nothing wrong with that.


  1. Oh my, that's tough on Mr. Helen, his siblings and on you. I can understand that your father-in-law would want to take care of his wife by himself but now that he's gotten sick, the situation has changed. It's a difficult decision and I wish everyone strenght to make the right one.

    11.5 hours of waiting? Unbelievable and unacceptable in my opinion. I had to take my hub once to the ER (he broke his foot while he was at work) and we were there waiting for 5 hours before we got help. I was angry too and he wasn't even in a life threatening situation.

    Take care Helen the next couple of days.

  2. Aging is very difficult to witness and to have to talk about, but so important.

    My thoughts are with you and your family.

  3. Yep, time seems to stand still in hospitals and I have no idea why. Thank God someone got involved when they did!

    And while I am sure your FIL had the best intentions taking care of his wife, it's hard to let go and not be in control anymore.

    Sending huge hugs to you and Mr. Helen! :D

  4. Wow you have so much going on. You're right to just do the best you can. Sending good thoughts!

  5. Hugs and prayers are being sent your way. :(

  6. You said it best, and I'm glad things are going to get better for everyone involved. Care-taking a parent on a long-term basis is tough...I know Bobby has to be worn out. Hope your FIL continues to improve after the complete insanity of that ER situation.

  7. I am so sorry to hear all of this, and for what your family is going through right now. Such an awful situation, all the way around. I hope you find some time for a little exercise; it will help you deal with all of this stress. :(

  8. Wow.
    Is this a chronic condition? or did it just come on suddenly.
    Poor Grandpa Helen.
    YOU GUYS HAVE HAD TOO TOO TOO MUCH crisis in the time I have met you. I wish I could wrap you up in a Snuggie and protect you from more of the same.
    On a lighter note, I happened to just notice that the 180 Blog has 180 followers :)

  9. It almost sounds as if this all had to come about so someone's hand would have to be forced. Know what I'm saying? Very sad to hear about the FIL. When I read the post on FB, I wanted to comment about how the only way to get quick help in the ER is to arrive by ambulance. But after I wrote out a small bit, I erased it (I think) and decided to keep my mouth shut which is pretty unusual for me.
    But it seems like folks are pulling together and that FIL will have to give up some of his attempts at controlling what he cannot. Sad and it makes me sad for the family too. (and you, of course.)

  10. Decisions regarding parents are so hard. So heartbreaking to have to make such difficult ones as these. I feel for the whole family and hope there are some services where you live that are able to provide respite when needed. Thinking of all of you, Helen.

  11. You said it, right there.
    Readjust. That's what it's all about.
    And it good! Very freeing.

  12. Im with Janell in that I wrote a few choice words on FB too and decided to bite my misfit tongue.

    hugs prayers and cheers (for your wisdom) from Austin.


  13. Oh Helen. I'm sorry. That is stressful. My thoughts are with you while your family goes through this difficult time. ((HUGS))

  14. Heavens, Helen, sometimes life really just SUCKS. And all you can do is to let it suck until it gets better again. And it WILL.

    Complaining about professional health care here in Africa, we often live under the illusion that in the 'civilized' world it is better. Seems sometimes we're all just in the same boat.

    Prayers for all, and hugs!