Sunday, March 13, 2011

Can Anyone Hear Me?


You’d think communication would be easy for me. I write a fair amount. I’m a pretty easy person to talk to. I think I am pretty articulate at work and most of the times in my personal life (Hubby looks at me sometimes with a “what the heck did you just say?” or “why do you want me to do that again?” expression but isn’t that pretty normal for Hubbys?).

Communication is important when arranging care for someone. In Robert’s case, I have to ensure the proper medications are being given at the correct times as well as convey the very clear message: DON’T MESS WITH HIS MEDICATIONS. I need to be sure that people are aware of the kinds of seizures he has. He can fall backwards without warning so watch your animals & small children and don’t let him stand near any glass topped tables (I learned that one the hard way).

It seems obvious to me that since I have known Robert all his life, I would be a wealth of knowledge about his habits, his reactions to situations and his health. That does not seem so obvious to others. Apparently, telling me they are listening is much more appealing than actually listening to a reliable resource. Who is available all the time. Who visits Robert several times a week.

Listen to me. Please. I may have some information you could use.

Robert was congested and sneezing earlier this week. He was also running a slight fever. I explained to the Aide that Robert’s fevers can spike pretty quickly and she should probably give him something to keep the fever down. The Nurse was called but his fever wasn’t quite high enough for her to approve of a dose of Tylenol. He was three tenths of a degree below the “approval” level (100.1 vs. 100.4). Gee, three tenths of a degree. Well, why would you want to bend the rules for three tenths of a degree in order to stave off the possibility of a 104 degree temperature?

Helloooo! Resource over here! Trying to tell you something!

Here’s the routine: Robert gets congested. He blows his nose constantly. His balance gets worse than normal and he falls a lot. He starts to run a fever. He develops a cough. His fever goes up to 104 or 105. He ends up in the ER. It takes several days for the extra confusion and loss of balance to go away. Then he’s better.

I’d like to stop this cycle before we get to the high fever and the ER. Call me selfish but I don’t like spending hours and hours in the ER. Neither does Robert.

Jumping up and down over here! Standing on my head now! Listen people! Let’s do something before you have to call 911!

I explained the usual “Robert has a cold” routine to the Aide who agreed to take his temperature every 15 minutes. I stayed for another hour or so and, after Robert had been resting for a while, his fever declined. The Aide assured me she would continue checking it and I asked her to relay the information about his proclivity for high fevers to the next shift. She promised she would.

There was no call in the middle of the night which was a relief. I called to check on him the next morning and spoke to the New House Manager with the Reassuring Voice. She had no idea Robert was sick or was running a fever the previous night. Somehow the message got lost after two shifts. Whatever happened to reading charts or leaving notes for the next shift (and the next one)? I don’t doubt the Aide I spoke to last relayed the information to the late night shift (I’m confident in her competence). The late night shift most likely didn’t think it necessary to notify the morning shift or the New House Manager.

Waving my arms! Flashing Neon Lights! Loudspeaker: Warning! Warning!

It seems so simple. Please just listen. Let’s keep the cold under control.

I explained the whole, usual scenario of what happens when Robert gets a cold. New House Manager with the Reassuring Voice was very appreciative of the information. She promised to take Robert’s temperature and call me if it was abnormal. I didn’t receive a call so I, cautiously, assumed this was good news.

I called later that afternoon to confirm upcoming appointments for Robert (and, yes, I was checking on him) and spoke to another person I have previously dealt with and who (I think) is the House Manager’s Manager. (I don’t know for sure; I didn’t get their job descriptions.)

She had no idea Robert was sick but, while I was on the phone, she asked someone to take his temperature. (I think her urgency had to do with the way my voice ever so slightly changes when I’m upset – more measured, tight, high pitched, maybe a tad louder, and . . . well, let’s just say it’s pretty clear when I’m upset). There was a delay in finding the thermometer but she assured me she would call if the temperature was abnormal.

There was no call which might mean there wasn’t a fever. It also might mean there was another shift change.

When I visited him later that evening, although he was more tired than normal, he was not running a fever. This was only slightly comforting since he was still very congested.

Two days later, I’m still diligently watching Robert to see if the cold worsens but so far, so good.

If I need to relay any more information, though, I’m buying a Billboard.

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