February 15, 2010 – MELTDOWNS OF THE MIND AND HEART (Psychiatric Ward Experience)


Forgive me if I sound a bit automated with this written recap.  The accompanying video clip will tell you the additional information you need to know.

Unbelievably, it was nearly a week ago that my father was transported by ambulance from Sunrise Assisted Living to Botsford Hospital’s Geriatric Psychiatric Ward for Involuntary Admittance by the State after repeated bouts of aggression and physical violence at the nursing home.  Apparently, this is a new stage he’s at in which you never know when the aggression is going to rear its ugly head.  Our family and friends have never personally witnessed one of these full-blown outbursts.

Dad was initially transported to Botsford last Tuesday afternoon and he wasn’t allowed visitors until Thursday evening when Mom and Frank Jr. went.  Mom then went back on Friday, only to be told that Dad was tranquilized and in isolation and that it had taken 3 security guards to hold him down for the tranquilizer shot.  The next day, I visited Dad at the Psychiatric Ward for my first time and I left with a heavy heart.

The few positive things I can tell you about this experience is that, first and foremost, the point of the hospital admittance is so that Dad can be strictly observed while his meds are tweaked until we discover the magical combination of drugs to return him to a calmer, happier, more peaceful state of mind.  Also, when we visit and explain to him why he is there, he agrees he should be there, he shows a heroic willingness to want to “get better”, and he can’t stand the thought that he might harm anyone (isn’t that SO much more like him?).  Lastly, I had a loving, heartfelt visit with Dad on Sunday – Valentine’s Day.  I will never forget that visit with him.  It melted my heart with love and helped make up for the sadder visit the day before.

However, it is touch and go and today Dad was in isolation again when visiting hours began. Mom and Frank Jr. were there and were allowed to help Dad out of the isolation room, but I am told that it required a wheelchair and that it took nearly half an hour until he was conscious or aware enough to look them in the eye or  respond to them in any way.  Before leaving, Mom gave Dad his first shave in a week while Frank Jr. held him up in a chair.  Mom says she is getting used to all the drama that seems to endlessly come our way… but I somehow just can’t believe it.  Sometimes I can’t believe any of this.

11 Responses to “February 15, 2010 – MELTDOWNS OF THE MIND AND HEART (Psychiatric Ward Experience)”

  1. Amanda Davis said

    Always holding you all in the light & love of God’s healing grace!

  2. Aunt Kathy said

    Hi Hon, I am so sad for all of you. I truly wish there was something I could do. I pray for you all every night and ask God to give you all strength and to give your dad peace. Love you all. Try to keep your strength and your chin up.

    • Thanks for the support over the miles! Sounds like they have to try introducing YET another drug, as they haven’t cracked the code with Dad’s moods yet. What are we at now… 4 or 5 drugs, I think. What a complicated job they must have! Obviously Dad won’t be out within the 5-10 day estimate we were originally given, being that this ia already Day 9…

  3. Great blog. I will be returning.

  4. Andrea said

    Thank you so much for your video. I feel the exact same way 😦
    My dad will be admitted there tomorrow and I am torn up.

  5. Gale Lee said

    I have just had my first experience with a Geriatric Psychiatric hospital unit. Two weeks ago, after conferring with many, many people, I admitted my father. We were desperate, his behavior had become so hard to deal with – cursing, stomping around, mad at everything. but still walked, went to the bathroom, enjoyed car rides. But at my home, we have mother, 85 who is frail, and he was making it impossible for her and for us to care for her. So, I did the only thing that I thought was possible and admitted him. This was supposed to be so that he would be evaluated and medications adjusted or added so that he would be calmer. Here’s what happened. About the third day he became a wheel chair bound zombie. Having had no input from the geri-psych doctor I arranged to talk with him and the social worker. Got a list of his medications. The Doctor said “I’ve been doing this a long time”, i.e. you’re stupid and don’t know anything. I continue to press for better results. Two weeks from his admittance they have backed off of the zombie drugs, but Dad can no longer walk. Tried to get him to walk just a little at today’s visit, his legs shook so badly he had to sit down. And there’s the other little lady at the geri-psych unit that’s been there for the same time Dad has. A few days after Dad was admitted I visited and the lady was playing up a storm on the piano – just rocked it! Now, she is always slumped over in a wheel chair with hardly a stir. I did not know that geri-psych was the fast track to their decline. I’m heartbroken. And, no one from the Geri-Psych unit ever gives me an update or arranges for visits with the doctor, I have to make all of the moves. Joleen, please keep letting the world know what goes on here.

    • Gale ~

      Thank you for sharing. My heart breaks for you! My dad’s geri-psych ward experience was also the most disgusting, horrendous thing I’ve ever witnessed. You mean to tell me that THIS is the BEST way our “specialists” know to deal with the problem?! In between sobbing and a nervous breakdown of my own, I kept thinking we MUST be on Candid Camera–it’s so backwards and inhumane in there! I still can’t believe that this is how our nation deals with our beloved elderly who are sick and in need of support. Just silence them and disarm them from any kind of physical movement?? Just like your experience, the hospital made all of my dad’s medical decisions with zero input from us. He went in singing and dancing to within a week drooling and needing to be strapped into a wheelchair all day long to keep him from slumping over and falling out of the chair. His permanent posture was now his head bowed at a 90-degree angle; this visual still strikes me as a poignant “I’ve been defeated and broken” posture. He was NEVER the same. Once the ward finally decided he was “stable” and no longer “a threat to society”, this shell of a man was released and then died within a month and a half. Still unbelievable to me a year and a half later!

      In my father’s case, he was admitted there against our knowledge after his residence called 911 during a medium outburst (which I believe could have been handled in a different way). The police ordered him to be taken to the geri-psych ward via ambulance, where it took 1-2 hours to get him admitted, and only THEN were we called and informed. He had a BIG sign above his bed which said he was NEVER to be taken to the hospital without his family’s pre-approval. The fact that the police admitted him automatically made him a Ward of the State, removing all of our power to defend him and act in his best interest. He was in this cold sterile white environment with no stimulation (and no music–his main connection!) for 5 weeks. He was regularly tackled to the floor, drugged, and placed in solitary confinement. He was only allowed visitors for 2 hours a day, which we tried to make the best of, but then eventually the doctors had the gall to ask us not to visit him anymore. They said our visits upset him–because he always acted out after we left. HELLO, what that shows is that he MISSED his connection with us! The goal shouldn’t have been to take away his only last meaningful connections (music, family) but rather to ENCOURAGE them. THIS IS HOW BROKEN OUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS. This is an example of what inspires me to share my story and make a difference in caregivers’ lives and to help create a shift in the way the world deals with this disease.

      The people living with Alzheimer’s are not the enemy. Please stop treating them this way. Introduce some love and compassion. You can never go wrong with love.

      Frankly Speaking,

  6. K said

    What can be done to change this awful “best” system??? My family’s experience is so similar!! My beloved father was all of a sudden violent in the lockdown, and then we got different versions of the incidents from different staff members. My father was held just the amount of time that medicare allowed payment……the night before he was to be released, he was so bombed out of his mind he couldnt stand up and a thought a tornado was sucking everything up in his room… but he was “good to go”. No, it was not based on my father’s health or any goals or outcomes. It was systematic greed. (Got him home, off 50 % of the drugs, and he came to. The in house doctor never called to ask about him, and when we skipped the appointment set for 4 weeks later, never called to see why. Caring? This system conjures up every horror “one flew over the cookoo’s nest” does. It is the same system. NO ONE CARES!

    • My heart goes out to you. Those types of grievances seem nearly unforgivable–I know, I remember. Unfortunately, the system is overwhelmed on top of being broken, and an outdated impersonal clinical mentality is used all too often instead of truly getting to the heart of the matter. Drug them and sweep the problem under the rug–a truly despicable approach, especially when it’s your loved one.

      On the brighter side of things, Pres. Obama signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Plan Act (NAPA) this year, and government money and resources are being used to address this critical issue on many levels. Government money is even being given to for-profit businesses to work in conjunction with non-profs –this is refreshing. NAPA is a big step in the right direction. Even though a lot of the world is ahead of us on dealing with Alzheimer’s as a national priority, the good news is that this pressures our government to get busy.

      Obviously, With such a complicated disease as this, not everything will be fixed nor overnight, but every small stride is a very important first step. This is why it’s SO important for families to stand up as advocates on behalf of their loved ones. Good luck to you, your dad, and your entire network. May you all find peace.

      ~ Joleen

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