The first golden day of autumn has become the cold, barren winter of my Mom’s life. A week ago, I was planning to take Mom on a flight to Romania to see her siblings one last time. As I attempted to renew her passport, I remember wondering if the bureaucratic wheels will turn fast enough in sixty days. Would she still be able to travel then? How prophetic those words have become! Now she is locked inside a body that can no longer move. One moment she was vibrant and mobile, and the next moment her life was turned upside down.
The doctors ordered tests and more tests but were unable to find what caused her ataxia.
The hospital staff operated a tight business around the elderly “units” of ObamaCare. Everyone wore a cardio monitor and the beds were fitted with alarms in case the patients decided to wander unauthorized. The goal was to have as few accidents and falls as possible and an ideal infection control.
The nursing staff was fantastic, well-trained, and highly dedicated. The doctors, hailing from many third world nations, were too busy with private practices to meet with patients’ families. Their orders for tests, drugs, and charts were relayed through third parties. Most did not even make eye contact with other humans, keeping their faces down in the elevator.
It seemed to a keen observer that the lost art of human face-to-face medicine has been replaced by mounds of paperwork, electronic dictation, and non-medically trained baby sitters.
How would they function if the entire ObamaCare-mandated electronic system crashes? Would they still be able to write down the patient’s name, medical history, the type of drugs administered, and do simple math to calculate medicine dosage? Who will control and share the patients’ sensitive data and how will it be used to help them or against them?
I had to fill out tons of Medicare paperwork with some highly intrusive and unnecessary questions. Mom had to sign one sheet herself. With shaky hands, she was able to muster the first four letters of her name; the rest became a blob of black ink, a far cry from the beautiful cursive writing of the past.
Without a stroke, a heart attack, or any obvious cause for her distress, Mom was a patient in urgent need of discharge. Her “case worker,” a very cold and businesslike individual, made arrangements to discharge this “unit” before the infection cleared up. The last antibiotic IV dose was finished 15 minutes before she was whisked away in an ambulance. Her bed was needed for the next case.
I wished I could carry mom to the deck, and sit her on her favorite glider. Her colorful straw hat that shielded her eyes from the sun is still resting on the floor. Mom’s usual eagle eyes are dim and clouded with fear and confusion now. She sat in this chair for hours every day, watching the birds, the squirrels, the occasional blue heron, the resident pair of red foxes, the regular deer family grazing in our back yard, and the beaver running from the pond into the woods.
On this beautiful first day of fall, Mom became resident in a rehab nursing home, hoping to relearn how to walk. My eyes filled with tears as Mom scanned my face for answers, and I had none, just words of encouragement. She misses Bogart, our Snowshoe Siamese. A highly co-dependent cat, Bogart senses her absence. Meowing at her closed bedroom door, he decides to sleep on the floor as if waiting for her immediate return.
Few well-established and desirable rehab nursing homes take Medicare patients. Most are now private enterprises or advertised as faith-based, keeping unwanted individuals away.
Mom survived communism, the drab life there, and socialized medicine. She is making a full circle back to the drab life of survival in a nursing home in the most civilized nation on earth that chose to replace its stellar medical care with the failed socialist model a la Castro Care, in which rationing and “death panels” force Americans past the age of 70 into “unit” status.
I am not sure if Mom will every walk again. God only knows, and we pray that she does. It is scary enough being old and sick, but even more frightening for someone who does not speak much English, having to function in an unfamiliar environment among total strangers who are paid to help her survive, far away from home, far from everything and everyone she holds familiar and dear.
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