Saturday, 5 February 2011

Tempering the temperature and soothing the fevered brow

Dr P is still in hospital. He is better than he was, and his pain is definitely less. He switches between lucidity, confusion and forgetfulness. There is a respite care bed being kept for him until Monday, but it is uncertain whether it will be reserved for him after that. I might get some idea after the doctors' rounds on Monday morning.

He was in a four bed ward, with three other men. The male sex is really very odd. Not one of these four men said a word to any of the others. Had it been a female ward, greetings would have been made, and names and details exchanged. Not this lot. Dr P wanted the ceiling fan on, and then the other three suddenly protested loudly. That night Dr P said he got no sleep, as at least one of the other patients yelled and groaned loudly with pain. I'd heard him yell myself, and he certainly made a lot of noise, poor thing.

This led to Dr P wanting a single bed room. He was advised against this, as there are only two single rooms, and that part of the ward is not air conditioned. It faces west, and gets all the afternoon sun, and as we are having a rather unpleasant heatwave, it has been extremely hot in that room. He moved anyway, despite advice, and got very hot, distressed and confused.

I wonder, and obviously so does the nursing staff, what administrative genius approved the air conditioning of half the ward, but not the rest of it. The hospital is an old building, and used to be a general hospital but now is partly for rehabilitation, and I am not sure what other conditions it deals with. It is understaffed, and missed out on approval for additional staffing, as it does not do acute care. But it does have many old and decrepit patients, and they are very labour intensive, what with constant calls for bedpans, being helped to move around, and frequent calls for help of one kind and another. I have been very busy with Dr P during my visits, soothing, calming, explaining, reiterating, fetching and carrying, reciting the sequence of events, fetching drinks, tissues, nurses, pans, etcetera.

His room was so hot yesterday that I wondered what I could possibly do to cool it down. I thought about my windscreen protector, which has suction caps to keep it on the windscreen, and went to the local bathroom shop to see whether they had any suction caps, They did, so I bought two, and went home, to retrieve a roughly window-sized piece of blockout fabric that had been used to keep heat and light from the window above my bed. The bedroom is on the top level and faces east-west, and gets fearfully hot. Possibly the architect did not know that hot air rises, nor did it occur to him that better climate control is achieved by putting the windows on the north side.  Perhaps I could have had a prosperous career giving out advice about such elementary facts.

I sewed strips of elastic to fit over the hooks. Alas, the suction caps failed to suck, so that was a waste of $26. Grrr!

This morning when I got to the hospital one of the nurses was up on a ladder tying the blockout fabric to the top of the window. That certainly helped, although the piece of blockout was not quite long enough to cover the window. In the afternoon I brought in a towel and used my handy packet of safety pins to attach it to the blockout, and thus cover the window.  There were three fans in the room all working very hard. I think the temperature today must have been close to 40 degrees C. Is it not amazing that family must resort to such expedients?

To help the patients cope with the lack of air conditioning, patients were moved into the TV/lounge, dining area, which is air conditioned, and Dr P and an old lady were parked there all day. The old lady obviously has dementia and she apparently keeps stripping off all her clothes, so there she was curled up naked from the waist up, and doing her utmost to remove her disposable pants. This happens all the time. Dr P was fretting that he had no buzzer to summon help when required, but the staff assured me that they were in and out constantly.

As well as researching/ringing, visiting nursing homes, in between visits to the hospital I have been paying some attention to tidying up Dr P's desk and sorting his documents, so that his stuff can be taken to a tax person to do his tax return for last year. Or I sit around meditating about the rest of my life. And sending emails to the step-daughters, before suddenly remembering that there are members of my own family, and friends I should ring. There are the legal and practical issues to deal with too, aided by my excellent brother in law. He is in contact with Dr P's solicitor, who visited Dr P today and who realises that Dr P cannot handle his affairs any more, and that there are matters to be resolved. I suggested that the stepdaughters should give the money back, to pay for an accommodation bond for a nursing home. My sister thinks that there is a snowflake's chance in Hell of this happening. I think she's right.

No rest for the just. The wicked continue to thrive.


Anonymous said...

I had to read this twice - I think the reference to 'the male sex is really very odd' threw me...

I am amazed to hear of the lack of air conditioning in a care facility. I didn't think that was possible these days.

VioletSky said...

This all sounds so very unpleasant (not just the heatwave.)

I do hope that some reasonable accommodation will happen soon.

dianne said...

your reality does NOT correspond with my mental image of life in modern Australia - no air conditioning and no window coverings in a care facility with elderly patients is a bit archaic, innit?

i think your sister is almost certainly spot on, though - which really, really sucks.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that I have missed your recent posts, as I'm currently travelling. This must be a very stressful time for you, but from reading over your posts I can see that you are managing with grace and courage, as you always do. I bet the heat has made everything just that much worse. I am impressed with your enterprising methods to cool down his room! I hope he recovers soon and can leave the hospital with adequate care arrangements made.

Meggie said...

Oh, I do so empathise with you! I can scarcely believe that there is no airconditioning in that hospital. Just because people become elderly, or demented, does not mean they do not suffer, and feel pain and misery. Sometimes I am shocked by the thought that animals are treated more humanely, than our elderly!
Your lot is very hard at present and my thoughts are there with you, along with mental hugs.
Gom has been in a Public Hospital, and in an old part of the building, but it has adequate airconditioning, and sounds better than Dr P's situation.
Perhaps because we are in a small centre, the patients seem to all acknowledge each other at this Hospital. (Apart from the ones with dementia.)