Posts Tagged ‘Watching over mom’

Who is watching over mom when you’re not there?

My parents: Dale and Rose

My parents: Dale and Rose

Women today are faced with a real dilemma as Caregivers:  How do we manage all our roles: as wife, life partner, mother, business owner or career woman, volunteer and more often as primary caregiver to our parents?  This is known as living in the Sandwich Generation.  I call it being the Designated Daughter.

My Story:  Last Sunday, I went to check up on my mother who resides at a local, very upscale, assisted living facility.  What happened next was scary.  Because of my professional training as a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Senior Advisor and my recent experience helping my step-father during his final year long struggle with lung cancer, I may have been more prepared to notice “red flags” in her care.  I just wonder, however, what would have happened had I not stopped by that night, or had been living out-of-state.  Let me first fill you in. 

What happened two nights before (Friday night):  My mother who suffers from Dementia had been in the hospital just two night prior after complaining about heart pain.  She had been receiving the physical therapy that I had requested after her last hospital visit only 30 days prior.  The facility had given her a nitro glycerine pill which had caused her heart rate to drop dramatically.  The facility called an ambulance and sent her to the hospital.

I was called, and when I arrived at the hospital, I found her disoriented, exhausted, in a weakened condition andin very poor hygiene.  I won’t go into detail, but I was very embarrassed for her, and after her vitals were normal again, I took her back home to the facility, where I made sure that she received a shower.   I had not idea at this time, that she had a low grade urinary tract infection and that she should have stayed at the hospital.

Caregiver Red Flags:   This was still Friday night after bringing my mother back to the facility for a shower and helping her get settled.  I went to the nurses station and requested to see her personal file and medical file.  This is when I found that she was still receiving Vicodent to manage her pain on a daily basis.  The Vicodent had been prescribed about a month ago for the pain related to “old” compression fractions. 

Next, I went out to talk with the employees of the facility to see if they had noticed any changes changes in her health or ability to take care of herself, this is what I was told:

  • She had been more tired than normal
  • Spending a lot of time in bed complaining about pain
  • She also seemed to be “out of it” most of the time

My mother has always been very social and very active.  On July 4th, she had played pool with my husband for a couple of hours, helped me in the kitchen and garden.  In addition, she would play cards with her friends for hours.  I would often join them after dinner and we would play until 10 pm.  I was told that in the last month, she would sit at the card table and not even be able to play the cards in her hand because she was “so high or out of it”.

What they were referring to was the combination of prescriptions she was taking, plust the added dose of Vicodent that she had been prescribed for a urinary tract infection last month.   This also explains why she was getting weaker and weaker.  I noticed that over the last month, she had been riding around in a wheel chair, but I had no idea that Vicodent had been prescribed for long term pain management.

So on Sunday night, after receiving a call from the nurse that my mom was not feelling very well, I decided that I would  stop in to check on her.  To my horror, she seemed to be close to death.  She was lying in bed shaking (she had a high fever from a urinary tract infection)

  • She was dehydrated (I gave her a 12 oz. glass of water with a straw and she sucked it down in one gulp)
  • She could only speak in a whisper and had no idea anything was wrong with her. 
  • She looked as frail as a little bird and I knew she was dying. 

Right then, her caregiver walked in

  • I asked her if my mom was receiving food or water.  She said that the day before, my mother was in so much pain, that she was not really eating or drinking. 
  • The young, pregnant caregiver also said that when she tried to help my mother get to the bathroom, my mother had put her arms around her and lifted her legs like a little monkey to be carried.
  • My monther was also in a diaper because she could not control her bladder.

This is when I walked out into the lobby and asked for an ambulance immediately.  It was now almost 7 pm, Sunday night.  Thank God I had stopped by.

When we arrived to the hospital, she was put on an IV and given antibiotics.  She had a very high fever and a urinary tract infection.  This is when the nurse discussed the dangers of the sepsis infection with me.  The high levels of Vicodent may have been masking the pain she was experiencing from the urinary tract infection.  In addition, she had not been drinking enough fluids because of the drugs causing her to be “high”.  This may have caused the UTI to simply get worse and continue unnoticed.

This story has ended up okay, my mom is now safe and recuperating well at Fox Run in the skilled care section.  Because I am experienced in issues related to caregiving, this is what was going through my mind when she first arrived to the hospital on Sunday:

  • my mother needed a three day hospital stay to qualify for Medicare to cover rehab/skilled care for up to 100 days.  
  • She was very week and needed to build her strength and get back to her prior level of strength, but there was no exercise equipment at her current facility and this may have  attributed to her declining health.
  • I better get busy and figure out where I wanted her to live when she left the hospital, because although I loved the social aspect of her current facility, they may not have  a proper protocol when someone’s health is on the decline.
  • I contacted Fox Run, an Erickson facility that had a new skilled care/rehab center and also offered 5 levels of custodial care and I wanted to make sure she could go there, even though the hospital care manager would request 3 different rehab facilities
  • I would need to check my mother’s assets because Fox Run requires residents of the Assisted Living Facility to come up with a $99,000 cash deposit and then go through financial underwriting to see if she qualified.
  • Also, my mother had a long term care policy that paid $150/day benefit for a skilled care facility.  Currently she was only receiving 60% of the benefit since her current facility was classified “assisted living”.

There are so many decisions a caregiver is required to make when dealing with a loved one.  I just hope by sharing this information, I will be able to help others “be prepared for that call in the night”.  Currently, I am working with the management at the assisted living facility where my mother is living to help them see what went wrong so it won’t happen to another resident.  I honestly have loved her current facility…they have been wonderful and this is her home. The problem is that by simply missing a few red flags, a resident’s health can change very quickly.  Also, I needed to be contacted more frequently with important information about her wellbeing. 

Be sure to download your free copy of, “Your Caregiver’s Manual” right here on this website.  It will take you step by step how to get organized financially when helping a loved one.  If you would like a consultation about your own personal situation, please feel free to email me at   

I am interested in your stories.  In fact, I am currently writing my new book, The Designated Daughter:  How to Be Prepared for that Call in the Night and interested in your challenges, and success stories of being a caregiver.  I would love to hear from you on this blog, so please leave a reply. Thank you!