Thursday, August 09, 2007

News from the Hospice

I'm at Charlie's place and Tony has to make some funeral arrangement calls, so I have a couple of minutes to write.

Charlie thought his death was imminent and so he decided he would go to a hospice. The hospice is pretty rough: dirty windows, small rooms, two patients in a room, overworked nursing staff that complain about patients being too demanding. The nurses don't seem to be aware that the patients are dying and have a right to be demanding. I heard one nurse say to a dying man, "You've pressed that button 7 times, there's nothing I can do for you. I have other patients to take care."

It's called "The Hospice by the Sea," and when I first heard Charlie was going there I had this image of a place near a beach where you could look out a window and see waves under a rising sun, and trees and gardens. But it's not that way. The place is in the middle of Hollywood, Florida, a heavily urban city just north of Miami. You can't see the sea. There are some pictures though of water.

Anyway, Charlie is there waiting to die, and it's not happening as fast as he thought it would. In fact, he perked up as soon as he got there. He started complaining about the room, the nurses. He's in some pain too. They only give medication on demand for some reason, and Charlie has always been shy about making demands. He went 8 hours yesterday without anything.

He thinks that the stronger the pain gets the closer he is to death. He's afraid that the morphine is forestalling death. We got him to agree to take something for the pain finally when it got impossible.

While Tony and I work on the condo and Charlie's stuff, Linda is there from 9 am to 8 pm each day. Keeping an eye on Charlie and arguing with the nurses.

Yesterday, we were sitting there and the guy next door got so annoyed that he couldn't get a nurse's attention that he knocked his chair over, and started banging it against the wall.

Finally, a nurse came. I don't know what this guy's story is, but he's from Peru, he's dying in Hollywood, Florida, and his wife is in Peru and doesn't know where he is. He wants to call her up but the nurses just hand him the phone and he can't figure out how to make an international call.

At one point his wife called. The nurses put her through to his room, but he couldn't handle the phone and lost the call.

Linda and I are furious with this place.

But Charlie is adamant about remaining: "I'm staying here until I die."


Urkat said...

This is really upsetting to me. I've seen enough situations like this that it gets me really riled. People aren't getting the care they need and deserve and no one seems to care. Someone needs to call the owner or the president of the company and raise hell.

Geo-B said...

Three weeks ago, my 85 year old father went to a hospital in Florida with a high fever. After waiting until 4 in the morning for a room, he was finally admitted, given pain drugs. The next day, from the drugs, and being up all night, and having his hearing aids out, he appeared to the hospital staff as a little out of it. They assumed that was his general state, and put a sign out side his door: Falling Risk. We his family were there to reassure them that he was robust guy, capable of understanding as well as walking, but we couldn't really get through to them. He's fine now, got out after 3 days, but even with his family there to speak up for him, they had pretty much removed his identity and plugged him into one of the patterns that was easiest for them to deal with. Try not to get old.

Marty said...

Damn. I thought the whole point of a hospice was to make death as comfortable and positive as possible. I'm sorry, John. Please tell Linda you're in our thoughts.

John Guzlowski said...

Hospice. I think the lesson I get from Charlie's hospice is that not all hospices are alike. My mother was in a hospice that understood her and her dying, and what all of that meant to her and to me. If I were dying, I would want to die there. The people were human. My mother was dying for 3 weeks and in all that time there never was a concern that the nurses there didn't address.

The place uncle charlie is in is the opposite. Lost souls, weeping, nurses with blank faces, doctors standing around gossiping with nurses for an hour at a crack.

And the place is jammed--every bed taken, every room full.

Urkat said...

John, Find out if Charlie has any recordings of himself playing trumpet. I'd love to hear some. I'll bet he was quite the player in his day.

John Guzlowski said...

Hi, Matt, I do have a recording of Charlie performing. He cut a number of 45s for Columbia and for Songbird records in the 50s. He digitalized them and put the songs on CD. If I could figure out how to run an audio file on my blog, I would post a song or two. My favorite is a lush version of Love Letters in the Sand with Charlie singing.

Urkat said...

Great. Let me know when you get it working. I'd love to hear it. We don't celebrate people's gifts like we should.