Stunned. Disgusted. Outraged. Sad. These were some of the different emotions I felt a little over two weeks ago when my mom was allowed to leave a hospital against my objections, and despite her being in an obvious psychotic state and not medically stable or cleared. I already knew that the mentally ill often receive grossly inadequate care at hospitals. I never imagined it would happen right in front of me.
My mom, initially, was admitted for breathing complications and slurred, incoherent speech. Upon arriving, she was sedated and put on a breathing respirator. She would be in the hospital a total of six days. I arrived on the third day, Christmas Day. The nice facilities, spacious rooms and uncrowded intensive care unit told me right away that my mom was in a private hospital. Many members of the staff were young, seemingly in their twenties and thirties. One of the nurses, who began training in the ICU that very week, told me she was a recent graduate from Bakersfield State College. Her inexperience showed a bit in her demeanor as she lacked the level of empathy and friendliness the rest of the nurses showed. Overall though, for most of the stay, the staff treated my mom well and readily answered my questions and concerns, of which there were many.
I did wonder how or for how long her Medi-Cal was going to pay for this private hospital and knew there would be some wrangling over her discharge. There always is. Hospitals want indigent patients out as quickly as possible. This can lead to premature or inadequate discharges, as it has in the past with my mom. But for the most part, I was being appreciative of the reduced stress the hospital was providing.
The quality of care dropped precipitously, though, on the sixth day. Beginning around 4:00 that afternoon, and over the course of several hours, my mom would become increasingly hostile and agitated. Eventually, she would become fully non-compliant with her medical treatment and, though still weak and unable to stand or walk, would try getting up from her hospital bed to leave the hospital. She, in fact, would start stating that she wasn’t in a real hospital. Almost immediately upon my mom showing an acute psychiatric episode, the hospital staff, particularly the administration, showed little to no desire to help me or my frail, sixty-four year old mother.
You can read more of Mike Gaeta's story on his blog at benevolentneglect.com