Successfully navigating one senior maze

Last Wednesday I posted Lost in a Maze of Senior Services out of frustration. Today I want to share one small success story.

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready to make my weekly trip to Dayton to visit Mom and Dad, my sister Carol called me to give me a heads-up. The previous night they had an incident where my dad went into  a bad coughing fit. (We haven’t been able to resolve, or really treat in any measurable way, his coughing episodes). Anyway, the incident shook everyone up including my dad whose arms were visibly trembling as he sat in a chair in the living room. Long story short, they had to call my other sister Kathy and her husband David to come over and help my dad get out of the chair and make it to his bedroom. When Carol called me Dad wasn’t up yet and she wasn’t sure he would be able to get up.

I threw a few things in an overnight bag just in case this day ended at a hospital, and packed a little food for Arthur who was going with me. I arrived at my parents at about 11 a.m. to find Dad sitting up at the kitchen table. That was a big relief after a half hour’s drive worrying what situation I would be walking into when I got there.

It was good that Dad was able to get around a little bit with his walker and assistance, but he was weak and he still had a severe, although thankfully only occasional, cough. Carol, Mom and I had a little conversation around the kitchen table while Dad’s home health aide was helping him get ready for the day. We had taken Dad to the cardiologist the previous week to rule out a heart problem. That was a relatively unproductive trip. We hadn’t heard any results from the blood work or chest x-ray and were operating on the assumption that if he was having a crisis of some sort the doctor would have called. Mom’s phone calls back to the cardiologist in the morning hadn’t provided any satisfaction. The earliest appointment they had for a follow-up visit was May 9th.

Mom just wanted to get some kind of medicine to help Dad with his cough. “He needs to see his regular doctor,” I said. “Maybe he needs an inhaler.”

Mom called the doctor’s office and was told that they wanted him to come in. She told them she wasn’t sure she would be able to get him there. There was no way he could get himself into a car in the weak condition he was in, and we didn’t have any other transportation option set up. We were debating the necessity of just calling an ambulance and going to the ER.

Carol had already contacted the local fire department who gave her phone numbers of ambulette services in the area. I sat at the table and started dialing, basically getting the same message, “You need 48 hours notice to schedule a ride,” or “You have to call three days in advance,” or “We don’t have anything available today.” The services ranged in price from $60 to $120 for a round trip. On my fourth and final call, I struck gold, “We can take him between 3:00 and 3:30.” Now we needed to get the doctor’s office to open a slot for him at that time. The only free appointment they had was at 5:00.

Here is another example of human kindness—people will work with you if you really need help. The nurse left the phone to check with someone in the office and came back to say, “Try to be here by 3:30 and we’ll see him then.”

A fringe benefit was that I had brought the certification application for the public bus system’s Project Mobility, which is a much more affordable ride for the disabled. I was able to get the required doctor’s signature saving us another trip to the doctor’s office later.

Dad got a steroid shot and an inhaler for what the doctor convinced us was bronchial spasms due to allergies. He assured us that Dad’s coughing should subside once the shot started taking effect in 24 to 48 hours.

It was an expensive outing at $120 for a 10-mile round trip. But the ambulette brought a wheelchair which we hadn’t yet acquired for Dad (although it was ordered and due to be delivered later in the day) and used an electric lift to get Dad into the van. We suffered a little anxiety about our ride home when I couldn’t get an answer at the number we were told to call and had to leave a message at the number I called to originally schedule the appointment. But I am able to be something of a persistent pest at times, and two messages and one phone call later I was able to confirm that the van would be back to pick us up. Our total wait was about 40 minutes, which didn’t seem too long at the time.

All-in-all it wasn’t a bad way to travel.

Mom and Dad with his new wheelchair which was waiting for him at home when we got back from the doctor's office. April 27, 2011
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8 thoughts on “Successfully navigating one senior maze”

  1. Those jerks in congress have no clue how everyday Americans struggle to navigate health care. What do the elderly with no family do? And now they want to privatize soc sec and med so the banksters and megacorps have another pool of money to steal all over again.

  2. Christine,
    I read both of your posts about navigating the senior maze. I work in the field, and it is a-maze-ing to me as well. It sounds like your family has endured all of the twists, turns, unavailability, eligibility, frustrability, etc., that seems to plague my profession. As I was reading your posts, I was talking to you, but every time I made a suggestion to you, you had already done it in the next sentence. Please know that you have a friend who very much understands what your family is going through and from a professional standpoint, your family is amazing…which is a true tribute to your mom and dad for strength they instilled in their children and each other. Sending hugs to you.

  3. As I age, and become acquainted with more elderly folk through senior citizen friends, I’m amazed at their struggles to survive, let alone enjoy quality of life.

    God bless all of us, for we’ll all need good samaritans as we wend our way through the maze of later years.

    your family will be in my prayers…going forward…hugmamma. 😉

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