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Hospital “turf”


When The Elephant in the room was a Horse

“There’s a horse in the room.”

My mother was propped up in her hospital room bed, cheery and chatty, having rallied from a dangerous fever, early in her Alzheimer’s saga. 

I glanced toward the corner she indicated, but Seabiscuit, Mister Ed, and various Kentucky Derby contenders were all absent. 

“Mum, I don’t see a horse.”

“Well, Gordon brought him earlier.”

Gordon, her brother, had died twenty years ago.

I’ve forgotten my reply, but when I mentioned the hallucinations to the nursing staff on duty, they airily told me they knew, that my mother’s visions were relentless and expected. Later, other staff from other shifts insisted my mother was always “sharp as a tack.”

Both were wrong--and both were right. When I protested that she was actually “in and out,” one haughty physician/administrator informed me “You are the problem.”

Soon, I transferred my mother to a neighboring hospital. The new doctors confirmed I was correct--and said my mother was “dangerously dehydrated.” They believed she’d refused water when offered it, and had forgotten to drink it on her own. “It’s a good thing you got her out of there,” one nurse said of the other hospital, which closed a few years later. 

Caregivers are often charged with being the voice, eyes, and ears of those with illnesses and disabilities. Caregivers, who see consumers for large spans of continuous time, may indeed witness things the most well-meaning and professional staff miss. 

So, don’t be afraid to speak up. The possibility of “hurt” professional feelings and “ruffled” administrative feathers shouldn’t deter you from your ongoing and valuable role as an advocate.



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