Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - Section 12

Another fall, a wound on her shin that wouldn't heal (Ma is diabetic), and then turned gangrenous (because Ma wouldn't let me take her to the emergency room, and she thought the necrotic tissue was a scab) landed Ma in the hospital to have the wound debrided. After the three day stay, the hospitaler, the doctor in charge of discharging patients and signing forms, was reluctant to send Ma home. A trip to rehab to transition to long term nursing care wasn't going to fly. Ma was sent home with complicated instructions on how to care for her wound. The visiting nurses would stop by to see how she was doing.

Of course, Ma wasn't doing. She wasn't taking her medication. She wasn't able to care for the wound by herself. She wasn't cooking so she and Dad weren't eating properly. I received daily complaints from the visiting nurse manager and then a follow up call from Julia, the state social worker because of the Elder at Risk report filed by the visiting nurses.

After several of these calls and at my wits end to get Ma the long term care she needed, I asked, "You have enough Elder at Risk reports to wallpaper a small office. At what point does the State step in to help the family? If my parents were children, the State would have removed them from the home a long time ago. I'm sick at heart every time I leave my parents to go home because I am leaving children home alone." She agreed, and because there was no healthcare proxy in place and more importantly power of attorney, she started the ball rolling for the legal procedure known in Massachusetts as Section 12: An emergency restraint and hospitalization of a person posing risk of serious harm by reason of mental illness.

Once the visiting nurses heard the okay was given for the Section 12, they immediately sent the police and fire department rescue to forcibly remove Ma from her home and to take her to the geriatric psych unit of the hospital. As you can imagine, the procedure turned into a horror show. For Ma, the stories she had heard of people being removed from their homes in Nazi Germany during World War II became a very real nightmare for her.

The visiting nurses in their zeal to get Ma the proper medical care she needed, never informed me or Julia how quickly they were going to move. I was never told the police and rescue squad would be sent on such and such a day. I was never told so I could have been with Ma to perhaps remove some of her fear and soften the blow. In hind sight, the outcome wouldn't have changed.

I did get a call Wednesday, 9. March 2011 at 7 pm from the ER doctor to tell me Ma had arrived, what had happened (Ma fought tooth and nail), and I had better get to the ER faster than right away. Himself and I made the hour trip. Ma was madder than a wet hen, and beyond being able to be calmed down by me.

The ER doc also informed me that the hospital's geriatric psych unit couldn't accept Ma as a patient because patients admitted to that floor had to give their consent or a power of attorney had to be in place. So Ma would be put on another ambulance that would take her to a state hospital about an hour away from her home.

Next Week: Becoming My Own Grandmother


  1. Oh my goodness! That sounds like some nightmarish movie. I am just so sorry you have to go through all of this...and your parents. I'll be praying for you all.

  2. Thank you, Sherrinda, the worst is behind us.

  3. For what comfort it may give you, you have my support and send you prayer for the strength and patience you need, for your whole family.


  4. What a situation to find yourselves in! Hope things are settling down bt now and that your mum is getting better.

  5. Retroactive (and continuous) {{{hugs}}}

  6. :( Poor old lady, poor police and firemen, and especially poor you, who was doing the right thing but felt so wretched about it. :(