What I Want from Healthcare Professionals, Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about the gap between where my head is at as a caregiver and where the healthcare professionals’ minds seem to be. Because of that gap, these last five days of respite care resulted more in emotional trauma than rest for me.

Original painting of an angry state of mind

Disconnects started immediately. Our nurse comes in our front door where there are stairs, so without asking any questions, she sent five men and two transport vehicles to take Larry to the hospice house. She never asked if we had a ramp. I don’t know how she thought I took him out in his wheelchair. After I showed them the wheelchair ramp, four guys and one vehicle left.

I followed them to the hospice house to help him get settled, even though she said I didn’t need to. I was glad I went because the nurses had never seen the Cough Assist machine, one of his required respiratory treatment devices. I had typed out some information about his disease along with an example of how we spend our typical day. I explained the equipment, the list, answered their questions, then visited a bit with Larry. I also had to correct their list of meds which had many errors. My goal was to help them help him have the best stay possible.

It was SO hard to leave. I felt so guilty. So sad to leave him in that depressing environment. He watched me walk out. AHHHH!

On the way home, I received a call from the hospice nurse who’d received a call from her clinical supervisor who’d received a call from the nurses I’d met with. Instead of empathy for what was so difficult for both of us, and appreciation for providing useful information, I was chastised for the detailed list I’d prepared which they felt required “one on one nursing care.” I was told they weren’t set up for that.

My heart started racing. If the nurses had had concerns, why didn’t they tell me while I was there? Why not ask questions of me then when I could have answered them, or I could have taken him home if they weren’t prepared for his situation? I had assured them the information was just the way we spend our days at home, not a schedule.

Our hospice nurse didn’t listen to me. She didn’t seem to care what the emotional impact of her comments were on me. She didn’t care about where I was coming from. She had an agenda from her supervisor. She just kept repeating to me that I had to tell her I was confident that the nurses would provide good medical care their way.

I was worked up by the time I got home to an empty house. Then the phone rang. It was the hospice house clinical supervisor telling me they couldn’t provide “one on one nursing care” and didn’t know if they’d be able to do all his respiratory treatments with the cough assist, because they’d never seen it before, and didn’t have staff or volunteers that could help him with his daily exercises.

I was furious. So much for rest and relaxation. I was ready to jump back in the car and get him but it was 8 PM and he was 45 minutes away (which was another unpleasant surprise of the day – I thought he’d be going to one of the hospice houses only 10 minutes from our home.) I told the supervisor I’d drive down and take him home the next morning if they couldn’t use the equipment. So much for the reassurances from our hospice nurse that they’d just “follow his plan of care.”

The next day they were, if fact, able to use his equipment, and I received a call from another nurse thanking me for the helpful information I’d provided. But it was hard to unwind the damage to my headspace. I was guilty, I was angry. I didn’t have much confidence.

I visited a few days ago. It’s a horribly depressing place. It’s drab, it’s brown. It’s full of ugly drab brown art – someone’s idea of death?

I found out that he was the only patient there who was NOT bedbound. No wonder they thought he was going to be a lot of work. Those nurses were used to a different type of patient. They weren’t prepared for where we were. And we weren’t prepared for where they were.

I told him I’d take him home that afternoon, that he didn’t have to stay. He said no, he’d “stick it out.” That’s love. He was doing it for me.

If we’d had clear expectations of how it was going to be, we wouldn’t have done it. If the social worker and hospice nurse had asked about our concerns about respite instead of making assumptions, they might not have encouraged us to do it.

He’s coming home in an hour. I can’t wait. We won’t do respite again. Not there. Not in that way.

What I Want from Healthcare Professionals

What I want from all the healthcare professionals we encounter seems to be too much, because I don’t get it from most of them. I assume clinical competence. I hope for emotional competence.

Hand drawn postcard

I get assumptions rather than questions. I get excitement about diagnosis but not compassion about its impact on us. I get intimidation and scolding rather than appreciation for sharing information. They seem far more focused on where they are rather than where we are, on what’s important to them rather than what’s important to us.

An acquaintance from a Parkinson’s support group recently called to ask if we liked our neurologist. She and her husband were unhappy with his doctor. We’d had his doctor and left the practice. That neurologist was very pleased with himself, with having a community reputation for his diagnostic abilities.

Larry was frustrated with the Parkinson’s meds not working and that same doctor offered up the possibility of a potential ALS diagnosis. He seemed intrigued with the possibility and potential satisfaction for getting a diagnosis right, but showed no compassion about what that might mean to us!

Then there was the hospice social worker who called three times without identifying himself other than a first name, and then proceeded to insist on coming to visit Larry early in the day, though in our chart it asks for afternoon visits only. I explained that Larry sleeps until 11. He said he’d come at 11. No, I explained, he needs to dress, eat breakfast, and have his respiratory treatments. He said he’d come at 11:30. No, I said, nothing happens that fast here. He proceeded to get angry. His goal was to check off appointments on his list, not help us. Rather than offering support, he completely irritated me.

Most recently was the disconnect between my concerns about Larry going to a hospice house for respite care and the assumptions the hospice nurse made. Also, the scolding I received for the information I provided when Larry arrived at the hospice house.

My concern was his quality of days at such a place, and my guilt that it seemed to be a selfish thing to ask of him so I could rest. Our hospice nurse thought I was worried he wouldn’t get good medical care in case of emergency. I was worried he’d have a miserable lonely time and they wouldn’t understand his disease. She assured me they were highly competent nurses. They’d know all about his equipment and could just follow his “plan of care” on his record. I wanted to bring him there and get him settled. She thought he should go by medical transport.

See any disconnects? Tomorrow I’ll share the result of those disconnects.