There is a story about a sweet older lady who dialed the hospital with a request for information. In a weak voice, she politely asked about the condition of Norma F. in Room 302. The operator checked with the nurse and returned after a few minutes with the good news.
“Norma is doing very well. Her blood pressure is improved, her lab results came back as normal and her doctor has scheduled her discharge for Thursday.”
The old lady was so grateful, “Thank you. I was so worried. God bless you.”
The operator asked, “You’re so welcome. Is Norma your daughter?”
“No, I’m Norma F. in Room 302. Nobody tells me sh*t.”
I laughed the first time I read this, but the reality hits a little too close to home.
My mother in law was hospitalized recently for “testing” that has turned into a bit of a nightmare for her. She went in with the normal aches and pains of a woman of 86 years; her new physician was concerned about edema and wanted to explore further.
On admission, they were slow to administer the pain and anxiety medications she has taken routinely, prescribed by an arthritis specialist. Her anxiety and blood sugar have spiked, she is depleted in sodium and potassium from the diuretics, she developed a heart murmur, she is refusing to eat. A cardiologist and kidney specialist now monitor her rapid descent.
Things have escalated very quickly. And she has no idea what is going on; the doctors only consult with her adult children.
She is praying to be sent home to die.
It reminds me very much of my own mother, who was admitted for what she believed was a bladder infection. She had stage 4 cancer, which she only discovered when she was sent home and a neighbor asked. “So, what kind of cancer do you have ?”.
They might have used the excuse that she “couldn’t handle the information”, since her chart prominently showed a recent psychiatric hospitalization.
This was in the late 1970’s, and I assumed things were better now; that patients were granted the dignity of being informed.
Maybe, not much has improved. We wait and watch.