Masters of Health Magazine May 2023 | Page 79

Consider Another Option

by Steve Rees, Ret. RN, Harpist

Recent events in our family led me to evaluate the overall current medical system. While my wife and I were driving back from an event in Tennessee, we received a phone call informing us that my father-in-law had just been taken to a hospital in Florida with a broken hip. That phone call brought with it a vast sea of life changes that we are still experiencing. 


In sharing this experience, I want to make it clear that we have a great medical infrastructure when it comes to emergency and trauma care abilities. Our technology allows us to perform miracles in helping people get back on their feet or at least back to their lives following a severe accident or trauma. I am in no way disparaging the doctors and nurses that supply this excellent emergency and trauma care.


What we experienced in the time that followed the initial surgery and recovery, is that the long-term recovery, in many cases, falls short of its stated goal: to return the person back to their activities of daily living at an optimal level, considering the related injuries.


In my father-in-laws case, he was admitted to a rehabilitation facility and entered a physical therapy program to help him get back on his feet and be able to walk on his injured hip/leg. The usual course of recovery should have had him weight bearing and taking steps within the first couple of weeks, but this did not happen.  A month down the road, he was still not able to bear any significant weight nor take any steps.


In the meantime, he had developed severe pressure sores on his tail and heels that were getting worse over time. These sores can be life threatening as they can develop into a severe infection at any moment. There were other levels of care that were not being provided.  Since I am a Registered Nurse (retired), I was comparing the care he was receiving with what I had been trained to give during my years of service. I was not happy to say the least. 


It appeared that the goal had changed from getting him back to his life at home, to letting him dwindle away and finally die so that he would not be a drain on societys resources. One day he said, I dont want to die in here” which stirred us into action to find a way to get him home.


After almost 6 weeks of slow progress, the insurance company decided they would no longer pay for his treatment, and we were given a 48-hour notification of stopping payment to the facility he was in. The only option that he was given was to pay out of his pocket because he did not qualify for the optional payment source. A lot of pressure was placed upon us to find a way to keep him in the facility as a long-term patient for them to do his daily care at a basic level. Not once was it mentioned that we could take him home and care for him ourselves. I will not speculate on their motives.

It became clear that if he was going to get any better, we needed to find a way to get him home. I talked with my sister who helped get my mother onto hospice and she reminded me that a person does not have to be knocking on deaths door to be admitted into hospice care. The fact that my father-in-law had a fracture of a major bone, had open pressure sores, and was 92 years old was reason enough to request a hospice evaluation. Even though they say the patient needs to be within 6 months of passing away, this is not a hard and fast rule. My mother was on and off hospice for about 3 years.