Drug Mistakes for Elders happen more often than you think
Dad goes to the rehab wing
Last summer I spent a couple of weeks caring for my aging parents, who then both lived with my sister. I described in a day in the life what taking care of them is like, both in the practical sense and in the emotional.
One thing I have learned is that elderly people can take a turn for the worse very quickly. A couple of weeks after I left, Dad developed even more weakness on his right side and needed assistance to get off the toilet. They took him to the hospital where it was declared that he had a urinary tract infection caused by scar tissue from a TURP operation he had 5 years ago to try to relieve issues with an aging and enlarged prostate.
While Dad was in the hospital receiving antibiotics for his infection, he suddenly seemed to lose the ability to walk. They didn't think that he had another stroke, and no one is sure why he suddenly quit walking. When his infection cleared up, they kicked him out of the hospital but he really was not in any shape to go home. So my sister found him a place in what seemed to be a nice nursing home. He wasn't even there for three days when they made a serious medication snafu. Instead of my Dad's normal high blood pressure med and baby aspirin, he got instead a cocktail meant for a hospice patient in the final stages of cancer. This woman was receiving palliative care.
Palliative care is when they no longer try to cure your illness and they no longer worry about damaging your vital organs with drug side effects. The one and only purpose of palliative care is to control pain and make it easier for these people to check out Palliative care cocktails are normally laced with heavy doses of narcotics, because, over time, patients build up a tolerance for them. If you google Oxycontin or Hydrocodone or any of these drugs you will see warnings that state that these drugs in high doses may be fatal to the newb who has not built up a tolerance for them.
My dad's condition is not causing him pain, and what is more, he has a known allergy to demerol. When my sister and my mom arrived one fine summer morning for their daily visit, they met an ambulance leaving the nursing home. Guess who was in it--yep, it was Dad. He had gone into respiratory arrest 15 minutes after taking the equivalent of about 10 Oxycontin, just as the people who gave out the meds were discovering their error.
What happened next
The nursing home owned their error. There would have been no point trying to cover it up. The hospital would have tested my dad's blood and found all those drugs that were not in his plan, and it would have been blown open anyway, and Dad might have died while they were trying to figure out what was wrong with him. So the nursing home informed the hospital, knowing that this error would have to be registered and it would automatically put them on probation. Trying to cover it up would have probably got them closed down. I assume that somebody rightfully lost their job on the spot. (Probably some barely literate aide who was making minimum wage and who should never have been dosing patients in the first place.) There was a syringe full of narcan (the antidote to narcotics) waiting for Dad in the ambulance. It probably saved his life.
Although he went through what Mom called the worst sickness she has ever seen anybody through, he pulled through. His doctor estimated that there was still some tread left in the old geezer. The nursing home paid for this hospitalization and they took him back after for free, for a while. Now why would we put him back in the place that nearly killed him? Mainly because there was no other choice. Many places will not take people who only have medicare. And all the ones that would have taken him were all full at that time.
Dad lived there for six weeks, and the determination was made that he is not making any progress at his rehab. So they wanted to move him to the other part of the facility--the part I call the old people storage unit. It is not nearly as nice as the rehab wing. The rooms are much smaller.
Meanwhile a bed opened in a facility closer to my sister's home. Dad moved there, even though it's a little more expensive. All the money Mom and Dad saved up will probably go to pay for long term care. None of us kids is losing any sleep over the money we won't inherit but It was always such a point of pride to my Dad that each of us was going to get a nice chunk of change when he and mom passed on. It's hard to tell where he is mentally because his communication skills are greatly diminished. Let's just hope that he is beyond that point of pride and is not sitting around all day fuming about it. I know he would have been if his nest egg had been sucked away in his younger days.
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