Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dancing with Nonagenarians

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am sick to death of the never ending bullshit over the ACA website. Not a day goes by that I don’t get some sort of user alert warning that something in our computer system isn’t working.  A few months ago, when we switched to an entirely different platform, we would crash for hours at a time. Eventually the big stuff was fixed and we went on from there. So people, give this a rest. It’ll get fixed, people will register, and no one will remember any of this in a year.

Besides, I’m busy having new adventures in Heathcareland. And no, I am not having fun.

Right now, my father-in-law is in transitional care at Sholom East, the local Jewish eldercare center in St. Paul. Let’s just say I am more than thankful they had an available space for him. But more about that later.

When he was admitted to Woodwinds Hospital, things were seamless. From the emergency room to check in to the nurses and doctors, I have nothing but praise. They made a scary situation much less scary for this 92 year old guy who'd never been in a hospital before. When we had to transfer him to St. Elswhere because he had developed some bleeding issues, we were less successful at achieving seamlessness. From the moment we arrived at the hospital until we transferred him to Sholom, it was one communication issue after another.

I have to confess, I am not a fan of this new “hospitalist” system. The hospitalist is a rotating position. The hospitalist who admitted you on Monday might be going off shift, only to be replaced by another hospitalist guy. Neither the hospitalist who admitted Grandpa Sieg to St. Elsewhere on Monday, nor his replacement hospitalist on Tuesday had a significant command of English. Or if they did, their accents were so thick understanding them was a challenge. And if you’re just a little hard of hearing like Sieg is, it’s a BIG challenge. When the doctor was telling him about needed a certain procedure: an endo-skopee.

Sieg:   What’s he talking about????
Me:    I think he means an endoscopy.
Dr.:    Yes. An endo-skopee. That’s when they take the little tiny tube…..
Sieg:   I’m a doctor; I know what an endoscopy is. I just don’t understand what a skopee is.

The hospitalist thing is not like he’s getting this on Medicare or some other low cost program. Grandpa Sieg is a retired Fed. He has plenty of insurance. This is just they way they’re doing it now. I am not impressed. Seems like the hospitalist at St. Elsewhere had a whole lotta patients and not nearly enough time to thoroughly understand the needs of each patient. There were too many missed and miscommunication moments to make me comfortable with this process. Perhaps a doctor more comfortable with spoken English might have helped, but there is no guarantee if would’ve made a difference.  I’m guessing this is the new face of medicine, socialized or otherwise, and we’re going to have to get used to it.

What I cannot seem to get used to, however, is medicine with a profit motive. First do no harm has given way to first, see the insurance card.

That’s not to say specialists he did see weren’t terrific; they were. A special shout out goes to the cardiologist, Dr. Granrud. Dr. Granrud addressed Dr. Siegfried doctor to doctor. Sieg, despite his weakened conditioned asked a lot of rather technical questions and I kinda think he was enjoying the conversational answers. By the time Dr. Granrud left his side, Sieg was convinced the pacemaker was definitely worth a try.

So now, Grandpa is safely settled in at Sholom. The nurses tell me he's charming. Charming? Sieg? Not exactly a word I would use to describe him, but ...hey! the man did woo three wives.... With hard work and G-d willing, he should be home in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch….

Down south, in Bell-ray Beach, it’s a slightly different story. My other two nonagenarians are preparing for their 70th wedding anniversary. Mom decided on a small brunch to be held on Sunday, the actually date. She’s positively atwitter at the idea all of us will be down there. And if that’s not enough, two of the brunch guests were also at the wedding. It will be a lovely weekend, the folks will be happy, and everyone will have a good time.

Across the board, all three of my “nonas” are getting frail. I consider us all incredibly lucky that they’re here and in relatively good shape… even Grandpa Sieg. I am thankful for each day I get to hear their voices and laugh at their jokes, and even reprimand them for being unreasonable.

As long as they are all reasonably unreasonable, I’ll know they’re just fine. What more could I possible want?

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’ the Week
When visiting nonagenarians, locate the nearest closet with a shelf
so you have a place to  stash your head for the duration.


  1. Experienced a hospitalist stay once and didn't like it a bit. No one seemed to know who was in charge and in a four day stay I never saw the person(s) face-to-face. Strange way to do medicine, I think.

  2. Your blog post reminded me of a pacemaker article I read a few weeks ago. Had to do with the ethics of pacemakers keeping people alive during their end of life. If you're interested, I can dig up the link.

    1. I read a number of articles on that topic when I was researching the outcome expectation. My father-in-law was actually a good candidate because he's in pretty good health otherwise. The junior son is a pacemaker engineer (yes, Grandpa has one of his pacemakers) so that conversation was had on a number of levels. Since Sieg had the final word and it was "yes," we went with it. The difference is huge, and he's making great progress. And we're hoping to have in home in a couple of weeks!

  3. I have some experience with the nonagenarian. My father made it well into his 90s and he had a pacemaker for about 10 years. It improved the last years, not merely extended them. It significantly improved his thinking, sleeping, talking... in short, all systems worked better being regularly supplied with oxygenated blood. He felt better, and that's what counts.

  4. Your mom's on Twitter? I'm impressed. I don't even trust Facebook.

    1. Not _on_ twitter....atwitter...as in all excited. It's an old fashioned word, one worthy of nonagenarians!

  5. Scary, scary stuff, Susan. Hoping that all works out and that you are not 'home alone' too much longer. Hooray for david and his fabulous skills!

  6. I can hardly wait for the nonagenarian update in your next blog -- rumor has that it's gotten a lot more exciting!!!