As a nurse who has worked geriatrics for about 20 years and being the charge nurse over the floor, this new bill (SB 494) for Oregon disturbs me greatly. The bill opens by stating it is “updating a law,” but that is not true. When you read it, you see it’s changing the law.
This bill allows people to starve and dehydrate a person with Dementia-Alzheimer’s. Their theory is the patient is so demented that it won’t realize it (or remember) anyway.
As we inch closer to (natural) death, our bodies hold on to three specific things. We lose these things in specific order as well, an order that does not ever waver.
The first thing we lose is our sexual desires. That usually happens months before death. Many assume it’s years, but that is false. I’ve seen (and heard from colleagues) about patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia being very sexual. There’s even a law that says we (the staff) are not allowed to interrupt the activity if we walk in on them.
We had an incidence once where a male patient was found in bed with the woman in the next room. They were going at it and, suffice to say, she wasn’t complaining, either. After all, the staff had watched them flirt with each other for weeks. In all fairness, we didn’t think either of them could remember what to do because they both had Alzheimer’s Disease.
When his son found out, he lost his mind and started yelling at us, “He’s married! He can’t do that! I’m going to sue this place!”
Long story short, the son couldn’t sue even though his father had Alzheimer’s and was under our care. His dad maintained his rights to cheat on his wife; demented or not.
The second thing the patient will lose is their hunger and that’s usually within days of death. They no longer desire food and will quit eating and drinking all together. Most families become very upset when their Mom or Dad stops eating. They’ll keep trying to feed or give them something to drink in attempts to prevent starvation. The staff sees it as another sign of impending death.
The last thing that goes is hearing. Even while giving postmortem care, we are not to speak about the patients or their family as their hearing is the very last thing to go.
There have been countless of cases where the patient, thought to be dead, overheard a conversation. Once resuscitated, they were able to repeat what they heard word-for-word. In fact, my own father being one of those patients.
He overheard my mother, who was standing in the hallway, tell the doctor she was getting ready to divorce him. To the day he died (for good), he swore that was the reason he came back and then stayed married to her for another five years.
This new bill gives me serious concerns because even though they’re demented, that does not mean they are ready to lay down the rosaries. Starving a patient to death is one of the cruelest forms of punishment and torture. When I read the SB 494 Bill for Oregon, I immediately thought of Adolph Hitler.
If this bill passes, it will open the door for other states to follow suit. It’s cruel and inhumane which violates our 4th Amendment Right that protects us from such behaviors. As a collective society, we need to be careful about who we put into power that makes these unforgivable laws.
Just before Mother’s Day this year, I was in the hospital for major abdominal surgery to have my lap-band removed. The last conscious thought, or memory, I had prior to going under was talking to the doctor.
“I’m sure everything will be fine,” he assured me.
“Pray!” I instructed, “Ask God to guide your hands.”
He agreed and left the room. I woke up in my room and the only two things I remember is seeing my son and wondering where my husband was. The other memory is seeing Denise, a friend of mine’s cousin who is also a nurse. I started to call out Julia’s name when I realized it wasn’t Julia.
Over the course of two weeks of recovery, my family has told me several things. They said I was cussing a blue streak, which I don’t doubt, they assured me my doctor had been in to visit me like clockwork, and that my daughter had walked me down the hall and back. None of these things do I remember.
The best thing they told me still has me laughing so hard every time I think about it. My son said to me, “You were complaining because you had to go pee like every 30-45 minutes and it hurt your stomach to get up and down out of bed.”
“Well, I had abdominal surgery that took three times longer to do than it should have,” I answered in my defense. “I was sore.”
“Yeah, I know,” he replied and then added, “You wanted me to push your bedside table into the bathroom with you so you could eat your jello and take a nap.”
“What?” I asked, laughing (I’m still cracking up even as I write this). “What are you talking about?”
My son kind of laughed and explained, “You said you were tired of having to pee so much so you were going to stay in the bathroom and take a nap. I pushed your table in there for you with your jello on top.”
“How long was I in there?”
“About an hour,” he answered. “The nurse came in looking for you and I told her you were napping in the bathroom. She said, ‘It happens,’ and left the room.”
Holy bedpans! I cannot stop laughing. In all my years as a nurse, I have never had a patient do something so crazy; much less expect that from myself. What a riot!
Years and years ago, we had a doctor in town who was arrogant with a capital “A.” Although he was a pretty good doctor, he wasn’t all that he thought he was. He calmed down a bit after marrying a local nurse. Those who thought he was unbearable after matrimony, hadn’t got a taste of his attitude before his marriage.
Mrs. Gibson was a patient in the nursing home who was in a semi-comatose state. Her condition had not changed much so I was a little surprised when I came in on the graveyard shift to find a note in her chart from Dr. Gamble, her attending physician.
In red ink he had written and underlined three times, “If there are any changes in this patient’s condition, I am to be notified immediately or HEADS WILL ROLL!”
I asked the nurse I was relieving what had happened to which she replied, “I have no idea. All I know is Dr. Gamble was adamant that we better notify him STAT if something happens. Nothing has happened so far, though.”
Right after 3-11 shift clocked out, I was called to Mrs. Gibson’s room. For the first time ever, she was having a seizure. As I went to the phone, I thought to myself how odd this was as she is not on any seizure medication and has no history of having them.
Dr. Gamble answered the phone and I began telling him about Mrs. Gibson’s seizure. He quickly interrupted and said, “Why are you calling me?”
I pulled the phone from my ear and looked at it like, really? and then began again with the change in the patient’s condition.
Dr. Gamble interrupted me again, “It’s after 11:00 at night. I don’t understand why you woke me up to tell me about a seizure, Michelle.”
“Because you wrote in the chart to notify you immediately if there was a change,” I answered. “I’d say a seizure is a pretty significant change in a patient who does not have a history of them.”
“Oh, I understand now,” he said quite condescendingly, “You don’t know what to do with a patient who has had a seizure. Right?”
“No, I do know what to do,” I replied. I was holding back, but not for much longer.
With more attitude than I liked, he demanded, “Then what is so urgent that you had to wake me up in the middle of the night?”
“I woke you because YOU said to let you know immediately if something changed. Well, something changed,” I insisted and then yelled before hanging up on him, “I DIDN’T WANT MY HEAD TO ROLL!”
The next morning my boss called me and said, “Did you and Dr. Gamble have words last night?”
“You could say that,” I answered.
With a laugh she asked, “Were they nice words or were you being charming and diplomatic ‘cough-cough’?”
“I was charming and diplomatic,” I answered honestly.
“The family was here visiting yesterday when he was making rounds so he wrote that in Mrs. Gibson’s chart to impress the family,” she explained. “I meant to have Lee take the note out of the chart before you got here. Sorry about that. Don’t worry about him, though, he’s an ass.”
I had never heard of sunblock before moving south. Up north we would pour the tanning oils and lotions all over us trying to brown ourselves but here in the south, the old cliché “a little dab will do you,” carries a lot of truth in it. It isn’t that the sun is different in the south than in the north, however, I think being closer to the center of the equator makes the difference.
When my husband and I took our children to the beach one afternoon as a precaution, I brought along sunblock with SPF 5. At the time, SPF 5 was the strongest sunblock anyone could buy. It was primarily targeted toward children and babies.
In spite of the fact I kept my children swathed in sunblock, I also kept a watch on them to make sure they were not getting too pink. It’s been known to happen. Even with the strongest of sunblock I have been sunburned before when out enjoying the occasion.
Because we’re old shoes at this and live around here, we could lie on the beach and spot the tourists that flooded the white sands. They’re easy to spot because they are all just as white as the silt.
When a nice family parked a few feet away from us and I saw the milky white color of their skin, I pulled the sunblock out of the ice chest and offered it to them.
“Oh we’re fine,” the mom said. “We are used to getting tans at home.”
“Oh,” I said noticing the ghostly white color of the three small children with her and her husband. If this was tan, this must be a family of Albinos. “Where is home?”
“New Jersey. We lay out on the beach all the time there.”
An hour later, I noticed Dad’s bald head was turning a nice shade of pink. Looking at the children ages toddler to preteen, I saw, they too, were getting a little pinkish.
I went to the mom again with the sunblock. “Are you sure about this? I know we use the same sun but honestly, it’s quite different here in the Carolinas.”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure, but thank you anyway,” she refused.
Looking at the children again, I said, “Okay, it’s here if you need it though. Just ask and it’s yours.”
An hour past that, we decided our own children were starting to turn pink and we need to go in. In the south, you don’t really redden until after you go inside and shower. Then what was once pink often turns red and painful.
I glanced over at our visiting New Jersey family and notice that Dad is coming up the beach with all three children in tow, and all three are red as lobsters. I also noticed Mom was packing to go.
Still, in a last ditch effort, I went back to the family and explain we’re leaving and offer the sunblock just one last time. "If for nothing else, just as a soothing lotion."
All my efforts were again refused. As we headed off the beach, I went over to mom the final time and said, “You guys are way too red and you are going to pay for this later.” Then, I gave her directions to the local hospital. As red as that family was, they were going to need it.
During a doctor's visit one afternoon, my doctor and I were discussing his documentation of office visits, or lack thereof. I expressed to him he needed to do better than he is. For example: I have fallen and sprained my shoulder 3 times in the last year. He has not documented this.
I asked him, "Why not? What are you documenting?"
He answered, "I try to document pertinent information."
I said, "Don't you think me falling and spraining my shoulders 3 times in a year is pertinent?"
So he started typing it out on his laptop and said, "Okay, its in there now."
As I was leaving, I said to him, "Are you sure you're not a prostitute? I pay all this money to come in here and see you and I walk out feeling like I just got screwed!"