On Christmas Day, my mother — visiting Dad's family in Southern California — lost her balance, fell, and broke three ribs. She's being treated at Palomar Medical Center, a brand-new facility in Escondido, and for the first couple of days it's all been pretty straightforward: no real treatment beyond Percocet, she just needs to heal.
But now she's about to be discharged and things are getting . . . interesting. Escondido is about 600 miles from Chico, where she lives (alone). The million-dollar question: How shall we get her from here to there?
So here I am in Boston, making phone call after phone call (and being constantly second-guessed, in the most loving way, by my sister-in-law who works for a medical technology company), and learning more about long-term health care options than I ever wanted to know. The funniest wrinkle is that Mom is having me investigate private medical transport by air; I said, "Where did you hear about this?" and she said, "I read it in a Dick Francis novel." Gotta love it. I'm looking at airlines, train travel, private van + gurney + EMT, travel with a medical escort, and, yes, a private plane – and I'm also talking to her doctor at home, her social worker at the hospital, and two different rehab places, one in Escondido and one in Chico, since we don't think she can stay alone yet.
And in the course of all this, I've learned a valuable phrase: "medically necessary." These are the key words to get Medicare to cover the costs. "Will this meet Medicare criteria?" That is my go-to question.
Another fun wrinkle in all this is that major airports don't fly into Chico; the closest we could get her is Sacramento, which means a drive of a couple of hours, which means that she has to get into and out of a car, which was hard for her even without broken ribs. I've mentioned that my mom has the strength of a kitten, right? And now it's come to bite her in the patootie.
Youngest brother (with the "helpful" wife) is a big fan of "tough it out" and wants Mom to get on a Southwest flight and take the airport van home to Chico. Older brother hasn't offered an opinion beyond a cheerful e-mail saying, "Thanks for keeping us in the loop!" Youngest brother and I are done with him.
The family she was visiting has their own issues: Aunt D's husband was in the hospital and might have died, though it looks like he's going to be okay, and Aunt V, who's done the bulk of the driving and caring for Mom, even with her two children visiting from across the country, is down with the flu. Uncle S's mother-in-law just died, at his house, on Christmas Day; Aunt N has volunteered to come stay with Mom but has a bad back herself and can't really help Mom in and out of chairs.
Anyway. Lots going on! And it will all work out, one way or another. And hopefully this is the wake-up call my mom needs in order to start taking her health and fitness more seriously — or she won't, and she'll end up in assisted living in her 70s. Que sera sera. She is a big grown-up girl in full possession of all of her marbles and this is her choice.
Which is probably why, of the three kids, I end up dealing with all of this — because while I do argue with Mom, I also respect her decisions. Plus, frankly, I'm the only girl. Youngest brother questions everything and gets huffy and cold when you don't agree. Older brother smiles charmingly and does nothing. I told a friend recently that these are our titles:
- The Bossy One Who Pulls Her Weight and More
- The Lazy One Who Coasts and Gets Away with It
- The Stuffy Sarcastic One Who Is Always Right, to Hear Him Tell It
Coping means tactical intervention, not passive acceptance or hoping to change the personality of the difficult person. The seven types are the hostile-aggressive, the indecisive, the complainer, the negativist, the silent-unresponsive, the know-it-all, and the super-agreeable/super-unreliable.He gave me a look. I said, "Don't you think I should take it?" He rolled his eyes and said, "If you think you need it." I said, "Thank you, Mr. Super-Agreeable/Super-Unreliable!" He said, "No problem, Mrs. Know-It-All."
We know each other so well.
I've talked to a million people so far today and now am waiting for folks to call me back. Did I mention that I woke up with a migraine and have barfed quite a bit? What can you do.
But I think I'm going to sit quietly now and just be still for a bit. Husband is bringing me a Big Mac (migraine treatment food) in a while, the house is quiet. Being still sounds very lovely. As Will Rogers once said:
Never miss a good chance to shut up.
p.s. Mr. Bacon and Monsieur Tofu have joined our nativity scene. Bacon looks like he's sneaking up on Mary, and Tofu is lecturing the Wise Men. Too funny.