Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Grandfather

A little less than two months ago, my 95-year old grandfather lost his wife, his beloved companion of 75 years. He's continued to live independently, and family has been stopping by to see him regularly, but it's still tough for him, and I know that he's been very lonely. So Galena and I invited him up from Southern Oregon for a week or so to visit, and to have Easter dinner with family up here in Seattle. He flew in last Tuesday, and I picked him up at the airport. He was excited to see us, excited to be on his first trip in some years, and happy that someone still wanted him.

The next day, Wednesday evening, as he was going to bed, he slipped and fell down our staircase. I heard the thuds from the next room, and ran to find him lying unconscious on our hardwood floor, bleeding from a large bump on his head. I called 911. He recovered consciousness in a couple minutes, and immediately began complaining of a pain to his hip. Several hours later, in the Evergreen Hospital emergency room, an x-ray confirmed that he had broken his hip.

He had surgery the next day. Dr. Roh, a Korean Christian and, by all accounts, an excellent surgeon, repaired his hip successfully.

They've changed their approach to broken hips dramatically over the last decade or so, and the standard approach these days is to get the patient back on his feet as quickly as possible. By my count, they had him walking about 14 hours after the surgery. He was pretty sore, and fairly unsteady, but he was walking, which is more than we had expected.

On Monday, we transferred him to a rehab center. Figuring out where he should go, and getting him there, was a fairly complicated process. I checked out all the nursing homes in the area on the Medicare "Nursing Home Compare" website, talked to half a dozen people, waffled back and forth several times, and finally selected three of the more likely rehab facilities to visit. Unfortunately, neither our first nor our second choice would take my grandfather's insurance. A word to the wise: don't ever go with an insurance plan which has bought out your "Medicare Part A" coverage. From what I can tell, the typical way they intend to be more efficient than Medicare is by throwing huge bureaucratic obstacles in the way of your accessing any of the benefits that you're entitled to. A number of nursing homes have understandably gotten tired of the run-around, and hence refuse to accept this style of insurance. It was pretty frustrating.

We finally managed to place him in Cascade Vista, a nursing home/rehab facility in Redmond, about halfway between home and office. Cascade Vista is a decent place, all things considered, but it's nevertheless been difficult for my grandfather. The quality of the staff is uneven: some of them are amazingly good and caring, some of them gruff or even rude. They had zero deficiencies in their last quality survey, which is pretty good: I checked the "skilled nursing facilities" in Grants Pass, my home town, and many were in the double-digits on that particular metric. But it's still hard for an old, blind, lame dude who has lived independently for 95 years, and on the same property for the last 60, to adjust to being stuck in bed, in a strange institution, with people who, at their best, still don't take the same care with him that his family does.

So we finally decided today that we were going to "break him out", as Keith put it. My Dad is back up, and tomorrow we'll be moving him into Keith's house. (Galena and I offered ours, but we don't have a level first floor, and the only baths and showers are on the second floor: it'll be a while before we let Grandpa navigate stairs again.) We've found a home healthcare service, and will be bringing in a physical and occupational therapist to help him regain his strength and, hopefully, his independence. I don't know that he'll ever be able to live fully independent again, and I'm pretty sure he won't be taking the stairs anytime soon. It's sad to see my grandfather, a strong, healthy, intelligent man, decline like this. But I think he still has some years in him, and hopefully he'll at least improve from where he's at now.

More pictures here.

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