Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Letters to Editor -What’s a family to do?

Boca Raton, Florida -
by Sharon L. Rahn

My fiercely independent, proud, retired Army officer, and 86 year old dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in October 2006 at the VA in Riviera Beach. His driver’s license was revoked in May of 2005. None of his five professional, adult children have power of attorney.

His neighbors in Port St. Lucie report that he drives, even though my brother disabled his cars. The cars sit in his driveway, uninsured. Late in the evening, he will drive to bars looking to bring home young women “to take care of him.”

I visited my dad on July 21, 2007 to take him to lunch and one of these young women had broken into his house and was passed out on the bed in the guest room. I called 911. They removed her and dad’s physical driver’s license. She is a convicted, meth-addicted, and identity thief.
A set of his keys were missing and never found.

In December of 2007, paramedics were once again called to my dad’s house when a neighbor found him unconscious in a ditch in his front yard.

On March 2, 2008, my sister and I planned to take him to the VA for his monthly Coumadin check. It was our plan to meet with his primary care physician, social worker, and case manager for help in managing my father’s rapidly declining condition. Since attempts to make an appointment with these professionals failed, we were determined to sit and wait. He has congestive heart failure and has had several strokes.

On March 3rd, we awoke to my dad unconscious on the floor of the bathroom. We called 911, again. He fought them and refused to go..we gained his compliance.

The emergency room attending physician called us all into the room and said he could no longer live alone. While in the hospital, he locked himself in the bathroom, smoked with the oxygen on, and refused all tests and medication and they had nothing left to do but discharge him.

Dad had visited an independent living facility in Boca Raton on Thanksgiving and liked it.
He agreed to try it for a month. All of us brought him to Boca in a van. When we arrived, he wouldn’t get out of the car for 3 hours. When he did, it then took another 3 hours to get him into the apartment. He spent the night. We were there along with a lot of his things to make him more comfortable.

The next day, Saturday March 8th, he wouldn’t come out of his room. He urinated on everything and when a visiting nurse came, dad refused to see him. The nurse came out and strongly suggested we contact Department of Children and Families, Adult Protective Services.

This was our dad, and a very difficult thing to hear..let alone execute. We were unconvinced.

Sunday, March 9th, we decided to call DCF when we discovered that he had not taken any medicine since Thursday, March 6th. He was urinating all over the apartment and when we entered..came out violently calling us “crooks” and telling us to get the “f____” away from him.

This is not my dad.

We called the Alzheimer Hotline and they said to call DCF, Crisis Counseling since it was the weekend. We did that with much apprehension..yet with assurance that they could get him stabilized on his medication and help us understand what to do next.

The DCF Crisis Counselor arrived in the evening on Sunday, and said we should leave.
We discussed invoking the Baker Act, and we agreed to do so if that would get him the help he needed.

Hours later, the DCF Counselor called the Boca Raton Police and Fire Rescue to assist her. The officer called me to verify approval to Baker Act him. The family agreed. About 10 minutes later, we got a call from the Counselor saying the police officer had spoken to my father and refused to transport him.
In the opinion of the officer, dad was “fine”.

I spoke to the police officer and offered to bring my dad’s records. His response was “We are trained in these matters and your father is fine. You are liable since you brought him here against his will..you’d better make arrangements to get him home.”

After a 10 minute conversation, this officer assessed all that.

The very next day, Monday, March 10th..my dad, urine soaked, unbathed or shaven, and frail..was found, again, by Boca Raton police officers..wandering at the corner of Yamato Rd. and Dixie Hwy..and they simply escorted him back to the independent living facility. The Alzheimer Community Care Nurse, and the DCF Counselor were notified of the wandering..and still the police would not transport him to the Crisis Care unit in West Palm Beach to stabilize his medication.

On March 10, we drove my dad back to his home in Port St. Lucie where he is today.
He sits, resistant to his family intervention, still urine soaked, unbathed, unshaven, unmedicated and alone.

The System -
At a critical juncture for my dad, in a community of elders, our family failed to secure the resources of a medical institution (the emergency room and hospital), the community (Alzheimer Community Care), local authorities (Boca Raton Police Department, Boca Raton Paramedics, St. Lucie Paramedics), County resources (St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Department), State resources (Department of Children and Families, Adult Protective Services) and Federal resources (the Veteran Administration doctors, nurse practitioners, case managers and social workers).

What is wrong with a system that will not permit our father, a distinguished retired Lt. Colonel who served his country for nearly 40 years; raised 5 children to be professional, responsible citizens; has means and health insurance . . .to get the help he needs until his Alzheimer’s Disease progresses to the point where he lives in filth and incontinence and is vulnerable to exploitation and afraid to allow anyone into his home?

Millions of people suffer from this horrible disease in our community. Until we experienced it, we were unaware of true helplessness.

What is a family to do?

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Sharon, I think I know what your problem is and why you are having a hard time getting help for your father, the answer is money.

Your father isn't flashing the kind of money it takes to get a Conservator/Guardian's attention.

Insurance isn't good enough, he has got to have money,...cold hard cash and lots of it, and real estate too!



1 comment:

AskAngela said...

The police depts are not trained in this area of elder care. In my humble opinion they had no right to make such a blanket statement to the family, " He's fine".

I would contact the police dept and make a report on this policemans behavior and also ask them how are they trained in this area of the law, because obviously they failed your father as well.

Good luck..
Angela