HIPPA Laws Be Damned

There’s a new hospital opening in town, and this weekend they are showing it off to the public with a big open house. So many RNs running around the place, I was wondering who’s taking care of the patients at the old place, which hasn’t closed yet.

In the fancy, shmansy emergency room area, there’s a big screen on the wall — across from the nurse’s station — listing each emergency room number, patient’s initials, patient’s age, medical reason the patient is visiting today. Why don’t they just put the person’s weight up there too?

And let’s get an audio version too…let’s not overlooked the rights of the hearing impaired to snoop around while hanging out in the emergency room.

Geeezzzz…who thought of this? Have they ever heard of HIPPA laws?

Just about every time someone from our family has been in this hospital’s emergency room, we’ve run into someone else we knew. Now we can just walk down the hall and check out the person’s age and condition. How convenient!

If someone looks vaguely familiar, the age and initials may be just  the information needed to jog your memory.

Heck why don’t they just put a big lighted billboard out front — like the casinos have — and announce the surgeries being performed today, arrival of new babies, shooting victim’s names, etc. Post the newborns’ photos! Dr. Jones – now appearing in the operating room!

Ok, so there’s a private outtake (or whatever they call it) room. That’s nice. But this big screen on the wall is taking technology a bit too far. I would think a small screen behind the nurse’s station would make more sense. BTW..what about those nurses over 50…they probably won’t be able to see the screen from across the room anyway.

The scary thing is…the RN on the tour didn’t think there was anything wrong with having a big screen listing patient’s info.

Have you every been to a bar or restaurant and stared across the room at a TV screen –even though you couldn’t hear the show? Our eyes have been conditioned to look at TV screens — that’s why my dentist was playing some fake talk show TV in his waiting room the other day with an interview promoting teeth whitening or something. Cha ching! Cha ching!

In case you are wondering, this is the new St. Clare Hospital in Fenton, Mo. Maybe some of their officials will visit my blog. I can always use new readers.

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What’s Legal At Senior Housing?

There’s a new senior housing complex opening near my house. It’s one that offers meals and recreation opportunities. Since it is closer than the one my mother lives in, I am curious about it.

I went to a talk there, and a few weeks later a rep called me to gage my interest in renting an apartment. I asked a few questions, and was told, “We’re looking for the more active senior.” Translation: they don’t want somebody with the early stages of dementia.

I suspect a lot of these places, over time, as their residents settle in for a few years, find more and more of their residents are “less active” than when the places first opened up.

Here’s my question – how much discrimination is legally allowed at senior apartment complexes? Besides the fact that you have to be a certain age. If you want to rent an apartment for your parent, and then pay for someone to come in and oversee all of his or her needs, what difference does it make to them as long as you pay your rent?

Are other apartment complexes allowed to “do an evaluation” on their seemingly able-bodied, mentally stable residents? Are owners of senior independent living apartments allowed to make such determinations under the law? I’m not talking about dumping off an elderly person and walking away to let them fend for themselves — that would be abuse. What about the Americans With Disabilities Act – how far does this extend to senior apartments? Are the owners and managers afraid a bunch of people walking around with walkers or scooting around in wheelchairs will tarnish their good image?

Also, what happens when a resident’s health starts to go downhill— but there are no family members or others stepping up to intervene with needed assistance? How do these places handle those situations? Does a 70 year old new resident have to provide a name and number of someone who can be called if this person gets a little loopy and needs help when s/he turns 80?

If you have the answers to these questions – please share.

By the way, this place is surrounded by cement. The east end of the property butts up against a parking lot for a big retail store that’s going out of business. The west end fronts a somewhat busy road. The view across the street is a small industrial looking building. The views on the other two sides are also concrete and maybe the glimpse of the sides of some houses on the busy street. I didn’t see any green space…so I can’t really imagine too many mentally active seniors selling their nice homes to move to this concrete campus.

After telling me my mother wouldn’t be eligible to live there, I’ve started receiving their promotional mailings. It was obvious that both the return address and my address labels were hand-affixed by their staff. I guess maybe they hire “challenged” employees…ones that can’t figure out that my mom’s not the kind of resident they want.

Can We Be Too Healthy For Our Own Good?

Once in a while I’ll watch a TV show or read something in the paper where I don’t understand fully the technical explanation, but I do get what the bottom line message is.

Recently I read a blog entry pointing to flu shots as a contributing factor to the causes of Alzheimer’s, dementia and other diseases.

In the past, I was doubtful that vaccines could cause autism, although many parents believe so. A recent court ruling indicates that there may be some convincing scientific support for this argument.

A friend of mine, a 30 year veteran of an elementary school, says something is wrong. From her teacher’s seat, she’s seen an amazing rise in the number of kids with autism. She doesn’t have any statistics outlined on a spreadsheet….just a practical, first-hand, close-up look at change over time.

Since the followers of Christian Science don’t go to doctors…are they as affected by these health issues? What are the rates of autism and dementia among their followers as compared to those being vaccinated?

When I was a kid, I carried one of those original metal Flintstones lunch boxes with a peanut butter sandwich inside. Our biggest food fear at the time was mayonnaise on a warm day. A PBJ sandwich was our insurance against food borne illness. Today, some schools are banning peanuts and peanut butter in the classroom to protect kids who are highly allergic to this legume. What has caused this change?

I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know this. The world is not flat and Pluto is no longer a planet. Science changes over time.

Yesterday as I struggled in Wal-Mart’s dressing room, trying to get Mom to cooperate/understand how to move so we could evaluate the fit of a new pair of pants….I asked myself, should Mom start skipping flu shots?

Encounter With A Doctor

My mom had an “encounter” with her ophthalmologist. At least that’s what the bills says.

 I’m assuming this medical practice bought some off-the-shelf software that didn’t allow for an office visit. Or is this a new medical term that meets the needs of the insurance company?

 Or maybe it really was an “encounter.” It just struck me as an odd way of stating things on the bill.

When Peter Pan Came to Visit

Today was the first day a home health aid has been hired to help my mom get dressed and moving in the morning. She has dementia and gets overwhelmed in the morning. We also want to make sure she’s taking her meds regularly. Sometimes we’re not sure if Mom’s perception of reality is a little off target.This morning there was some miss-communication and the aide came late.Then my sister called me…she was all concerned because Mom said the woman put make-up on her and was dressed like Peter Pan. Sandy though she was hallucinating. I said well maybe the lady put Oil of Olay on her face and Mom’s calling it makeup. What’s Peter Pan look like? I didn’t have a peanut butter jar handy to look at, but I didn’t think there was any cause for alarm.

“Well he dresses in a long blue top and wears tights!!”

Well maybe that’s how the lady was dressed. I don’t know. Maybe Mom couldn’t think of another word, like clown. You’ll have to ask the agency what the gal had on. Calling her Peter Pan doesn’t really sound that bad. She said she was dressed like Peter Pan…she didn’t say she was flying across the room. I can go out there and look at her face and see what she looks like if that will help….I need to drop off some soda anyway.

To me, most of the scrubs the health care aids wear look kind of like pajamas. But what do I know about health care fashions. Peter Pan sounded like a reasonable description to me. Some of the scrubs have cartoon characters on them. I sometimes struggle to find just the right word to convey a thought.

Later my sister called back after talking to someone at the facility. Turns out the aide was wearing all blue. She did put some face cream and a little lipstick on Mom’s face…..she said most of the ladies kind of perk up when they have a little make-up on.

When I got there, Mom told me she liked the way the gal had put together her outfit. She really did look nice with everything matching. Mom described how she was so groggy this morning that she thought maybe she had dreamed the lady had come in and helped her. Mom pointed to her eyebrows and said the woman had put something on them.

Two weeks ago my sister said she and Mom stopped by her house to pick up something Mom needed. “I don’t know why she thought it was there, I couldn’t find it.”

Dear sister, there were about three items in Mom’s empty bedroom closet. You will find what you were looking for on the bed now…..sorry to spoil the surpise.

Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine (for me)

The staff at Mom’s retirement community told us a local hospital has a program where they spend a couple of hours evaluating seniors’ mental and physical status.


Mom’s been taking an anti-depressant, but doesn’t seem to be feeling any better. On Saturday she tearfully told me she wanted to jump out the window. I told her not to as she was only on the third floor, and thankfully she said she is too much of a coward.

I called the hospital today to make the evaluation appointment. I took pot luck as far as which doctor to see…I just picked the best day and time for me. At the end of the conversation, I asked the appointment gal how many geriatric doctors were on staff. She starts reading down the list of names, “Morely, Thomas, Tran, Flaherty, KEVORKIAN”. I laughed, “Well Mom might want to see Dr. Kevorkian.” I guess she’s heard it all before as she had no response.

Out of the Blue – A Funny Response

Paul Karason has been treating himself with a silver  for years. He first came up with the silver concoction in an effort to cure his dermatitis, but claims it cured some other health problems he had instead.

In the process, the silver has turned his skin blue.

As mentioned in a previous post, my mother is in the beginning stages of dementia, but she still has a great sense of humor. Today I asked her if she had seen the man who turned blue from the medicine he was taking…and her quick response was, “What was he taking, Viagra?”

Out of the Mouths of Old Babes

My mother recently moved to a senior apartment due to declining health. Although the sign out front says “luxury apartments”….believe me, she’s not living on a golf course.

The facility provides three meals a day, 24/7 on-site staffing, emergency pull cords in the apartments, housekeeping, and planned activities.

Mom is showing the early signs of dementia. For the most part she knows what’s going on, but she gets confused easily and she often comes up with observations that don’t quite hit the mark. She’s not crazy about living there….feels like she’s locked up, but she does enjoy the meals and twice-daily desserts.

She frequently complains about the super small kitchen sink, “I feel like a squirrel in a cage. Can’t do anything with that sink.”  (There’s really no need for a bigger sink.)

One thing I’ve noticed is she can be very funny. At least she makes me laugh. For example, there’s a woman who lives there with long grey hair parted down the middle. I know it’s not nice to say this, but Mom described her as “spooky looking”…and you know, she would look at home on The Munsters or The Addams Family.

At Christmas time, I was visiting and there was an announcement that a concert would be starting in a few minutes. “Let’s walk down the hall and see who it is.” The building has a big atrium that opens up where you can look down at the other floors and see what’s going on. It was a Salvation Army volunteer that day and she said she had heard him before and didn’t want to listen. “I’m getting tired of all their amateur entertainers,” she whispers.

One day Mom was worried because her table mate Mabel said she had seem Mom and another woman “shooting up.” I tried to explain that nobody would believe it…or she could just go along with it and tell the lady she was shooting up insulin. Mom just couldn’t see the humor in it and is worried someone is going to believe she’s a junkie.

Another day Mabel had me in stitches describing how she’d seen Mom “and four other women” on TV…and that someday she’d be laughing when everyone realized she knew what she was talking about. We’re all sitting in the lobby and I’m laughing so hard by side hurts as Mom and Mabel quibble about this silly story and two other ladies are mumbling that I’m laughing too loud.

One of the other ladies looks like my Aunt Irene…and I realize, old folks are a lot like babies…they all kind of look alike.

Mom’s complaining she can’t wear one sweater “it’s too wrinkled”…I don’t point out that only one of the socks she is wearing has stripes as I don’t want her to loose her confidence in her ability to get dressed each day.

Another day Mom told me a story about another resident. She thought they were “trying to hide the old man.” When I asked her who he’d be hiding from, “From the insurance company. I think they’re looking for him. I think he was in an accident or something.”

The number of friends I have who have a parent living in this place is rising. On Christmas day, one friend was dropping her mother off and she told Mom her mother loved it there and said it reminded her of a luxury resort. She asked Mom how she liked it, and her assessment was, “It feels like a prison.”

 Today when I called Mom, she said in a somewhat delighted voice, “We had some excitement at breakfast this morning.” A gentleman she introduced to me last week didn’t make it past his bacon ‘n eggs today to see his 103rd birthday this year.

“It’s too bad he didn’t go quickly like he wanted to.” She said he coughed for several minutes. I told her I thought that was about as quick as one could expect as I assumed what he meant was he didn’t want to be sick for days, weeks, or even months.

I guess when you reach the last chapters of your life…there’s comfort….and hope….in seeing someone else getting released from the place.