Admitting Nurse: “You say she’s confused. But you just said she’s 92 years old–of course she’s confused. What’s the symptom that made you bring her here today?”
Me: “I don’t care if she’s one-HUNDRED and two! She’s NOT senile. She’s sharper than I am! She does the Times crossword puzzle every day. She beats me at Scrabble with words like ‘toque’–do YOU know what that means? She’s funny, and witty! Her confusion IS her symptom—it’s why I brought her in!”
We’re in the E/R of a well-known Los Angeles hospital. Let’s call it…Geezers Die-Die. “We” is me and my close friend Millie.
Today, Millie stayed in bed for hours. When her husband’s helper Marcus knocked on her bedroom door and asked if she was okay (Millie’s husband has a part-time helper because he has Alzheimers), Millie complained of a bad headache. Marcus is a wonderful man—smart, and always considerate. He was concerned, and gave me a call.
I raced, as much as one can in L.A. traffic, to Millie’s Beverly Hills home. Her answers to my questions didn’t come quickly enough. The woman is whip-smart and sassy, but now there was a time-delay, as if we were communicating Earth to Moon. So I rushed my Moon friend to the E/R.
Along the way, her responses became more and more sluggish, and the content of her answers even closer to outer space (Me: Millie, is there anything you want me to bring you from home later?” Millie: “I think that the place with the trees would be just lovely.”)
What a relief to reach the famous Geezers and their E/R and know that—how to put this delicately—Millie’s head would be examined! Because, clearly, something had gone wrong up there. I assumed she had experienced a mini-stroke, although she had no actual slurred speech or paralysis.
What I never expected was the extreme and outrageously-abusive ageism that Millie and I encountered–The ageism that caused Geezers to leave my friend laying in bed untreated for three long days–The ageism that unnecessarily cost her much of her strength and balance, and a portion of her former wit.
The admitting staff outright REFUSED to accept that the sole reason I brought Millie to the E/R—the primary admitting symptom—was her mental confusion, which followed on the heels of a severe headache.
The horrifically-obnoxious E/R individuals literally argued with me that confusion in someone of Millie’s advanced years was merely a given—never a symptom. The situation worsened when they asked for a list of Millie’s medications.
We phoned Millie’s house so that Marcus could read her prescription bottles. When it came out that Marcus was a medical aide—oh, well, that sealed it. Immediately, the horrible ageist a-holes turned to me and said “I thought you said she wasn’t SENILE?”
I said “She ISN’T! Marcus isn’t MILLIE’S helper—he’s the caregiver for her HUSBAND!”. Marcus said the same thing. The Geezers staff did not care. Any aide in a house with old people proves that all old people in the house need help, and need it because they all lack mental accuity.
Finally, though, after much further effort, I thought I had at last succeeded in getting my message across. Millie was admitted. I left. I continued to check on her progress, and notified her extended family of what had occurred.
Millie’s condition worsened rapidly. By day three, she was close to death. And no wonder:
The stupendous, fantastic, oh-so-impressive Geezers had only been humoring me by pretending to listen during those last moments in the E/R. They continued to ignore the primary admitting symptoms of confusion following major headache.
They ran all sorts of tests on Millie, running up her bill, BUT OVER THE COURSE OF THREE DAYS, NOT ONE BRAIN SCAN.
Turns out, Millie’s headache had been caused by an aneurysm. A very tiny one. But due to Geezers Die-Die‘s negligence, the tiny bleed had been allowed to continue uninterrupted for three days, all the hell over Millie’s formerly-brilliant brain.
Geezers had even managed to accelerate the bleed, after deciding to place Millie on a blood thinner—just because. Had they bothered to scan the brain of a woman admitted with symptoms of severe headache followed by rapidly-accelerating mental confusion, they wouldn’t have done that. Whoops.
After they finally realized their error, there was so much damage, everyone at Geezers wrote Millie off. Happily for Millie, her neurologist and family physician did not.
This woman was in fantastic shape beforehand, physically and mentally–before Geezers got to her, that is–so she made an amazing recovery. It took time, but post-Geezers Millie is still witty and still does crossword puzzles.
She did lose her independence: Thanks to Geezers, she lost her ability to balance and to drive herself–she had been an excellent driver. I thought she should sue, and so did her neurologist, but Millie is just too darn nice.
So the Geezers Die-Die folk learned absolutely nothing from their abuse of her, and have probably continued to treat older people with exactly as much disdain as ever.
Well, most people younger than 40 assume all old people are senile and incompetent anyhow, don’t you? Just wait, children, just wait.
The first picture is not of Millie (she wouldn’t like her picture on the web), but is very similar to her and her usual expression of cheerful kindness.
2014-03-10–shrank pics; page was draggy.
2014-02-22–changed title from “Hippocrates vs. Hippocrites” etc., ’cause it was clever, but didn’t apply, AND, I later noticed, because I misspelled “hypocrites” (blush!).