Archive for January 29th, 2008

Creative Hospital Discharging of the Mentally Ill

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

This post falls under my Recollections posts of my experiences with my son DS in 2007, who has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. As I began to explain in my Third Hospital Admittance post, my son was hospitalized for third time in three months last summer on August 1st, 2007.

My husband and I and DS’s two youngest siblings were in Florida at the time he was taken to the emergency room. We were returning to our home in Georgia the next day when I received a call from DS on my cell phone. He was very anxious and fearful about the delusions and hallucinations he was having. He begged me to get him out of the hospital. “Begging” is actually too mild a word. I have never had anyone ask me (over and over again) for something with such fervor and earnestness. If it was in my power to to do anything, I think it would have been very difficult for me to do nothing. The power to release him from the hospital was in the hands of a doctor, as I told him again and again. I was extremely upset by our “conversation” if you could call it that.

DS was in the hospital until August 15th. In the interim, I made and rescheduled three optometrist appointments for DS. I was told by MG at the AM personal care home that DS had broken his glasses. I asked if it was just the lenses that broke or whether the frames were also broken. She did not know. She was only telling me what another resident had told her: he saw DS break his glasses. Apparently no one knew what became of the broken glasses. I remembered DS telling me earlier that there were microphones in his eyeglass frames that “they” were using to spy on him. I knew from the strength of DS’s prescription he would be rather uncomfortable from not being able to see as well. On the telephone, he complained of bumping into walls in the hospital because he could not see. I think to him it was more evidence of how he was being affected by the illicit “drugs” (narcotics, meth) that “they” were trying to kill him with. I felt horrible about him not being able to see, so I kept on rescheduling appointments at the eye doctor’s office. I did not have a clue when he would be discharged, and I wanted his appointment to be as soon as possible. I felt bad every time I talked to the receptionist about changing the appointment.

She never asked a reason and I never gave one, and I silently thanked her for that. Through this whole experience I have learned to try to be less critical of people. I do not know what it is going on with their life and if they do not tell, it may be that it is too painful to tell. On the other hand, I remember, too, the critical librarian who ran my preschool children and I out of her quiet sanctuary the day we needed some refuge from DS, following his first hospitalization. It still hurts; I do not think I have been back to that library branch since.

Now I will tell you about the “creative hospital discharging.” DS was not happy with AM, the personal care home. He did not want to go back there when he was discharged; he wanted to come home. I reminded him that he felt no more safer at home than he felt at AM. I knew DS was still going to be too much of a handful for me and his five-year sister and three-year old brother to live with. I knew I had to stand firm. He could not come back to our house. On the 14th of August, I learned DS was being discharged. I asked JC the social worker, “How are we going to do this? DS says he refuses to go back to AM.” He said, “Don’t say anything about where you are going. Just pick him up and drive him to AM.” I did not think it would work, and I told him so. DS and I had had many conversations before that day, and DS knew where I stood on the matter.

So I show up at the mental hospital, Wellstar Behavior Health, in Austell, Georgia to pick up my son, DS. My five-year old was at kindergarten, but I had my three-year old with me, who was tired because it was his nap time. He clung to me the whole time we waited for them to bring DS out to the lobby. It seemed to be taking a very long time. When DS came out he was walking between two male staff members. This is the only time I have seen this. (On one of his previous discharges he came out with one female nurse who gushed, “we just love having DS, he is so sweet.”) I had the feeling that just before DS came through the door they were physically forcing him to move. The first thing DS says to me is “Mom, I can’t believe you are doing this.” Then he changes his tact and starts saying, “this is not my mother, I am not going with her.” DS had been saying the “you are not my mother” thing a few days before and earlier that summer. I am not certain if it was a delusion, or a way of trying to hurt me. I think he knew that he could hurt me worse by saying “I hate you, you are an idiot,” which he did, and still does on some occasions. A piece of me thinks the “you are not my mother” was a delusion he fell upon when I was not doing what he expected I would do and disturbing his reality.

Anyway, after discussing it for a while, it was obvious DS was not going with me. He was also saying things like “I would rather be homeless than go back to AM.” DS is standing there between these two guys the whole time, and one of them picks up the telephone and calls a RN nurse to come out. She came out and looked at me without a word with one of the coldest expressions I have ever seen in the healthcare profession, or to be less critical of her, maybe she had already had her fill of DS’s behavior for the day. (Why do they think people who are this unreasonable are ready to be discharged?) I surprised myself with my own strength when I said to her in a very calm voice, “He is delusional, he says I am not his mother and he would rather be homeless than go with me. He is a danger to himself.” She says, “ok,” and back through the door they all go. I carry my sleepy three-year old back out to the car for the fifty minute drive home. For a change, I think I do not shed a tear.

The next day, I am determined I will not answer the telephone if the caller identification says it is the hospital. JC calls once and leaves a voicemail that DS will be discharged that day even if it means discharging him to a homeless shelter. I start formulating a plan for how I will help DS if they discharge him to the homeless shelter. I figure I can show up in the evening when he is standing in line for his slot and give him his medication. I can give him food and some money for food. But I will not bring him home. This is a really brutal thing that is happening to DS. He has never lived away from home before that month, always dependent on us his parents. It was a waiting game all day. Later, JC calls and leaves a message that Dr. K. says DS will not be discharged to the homeless shelter, and JC will work on finding him another personal care home.) A sigh of relief for a brief reprieve.

The next morning I realize I have another voicemail from the day before. I do not know why I missed hearing the telephone ring. It was a call from MG at AM, the personal care home. (Sorry about all the acronyms.) DS had just shown up in a taxi on their doorstep in the evening and he did not have his discharge papers. It is one of the regulations; she needs the discharge papers. I call the hospital and request they fax me the papers. (The fax machine to the rescue again. I am telling you, if you have a mentally ill person in your family you need a fax machine.) I believe I call MG back first with apologies for not returning her call sooner; I am incredulous. DS appeared in a taxi? Who paid the taxi? It was prepaid. Did the hospital call you first to let you know he was coming? No.

When I visit DS, he is very subdued and despondent. I have never seen such a picture of abject misery. I see him still in my mind’s eye with his head in his hands as I ended our visit. I cry bucket loads of tears for him on my ride home. I guess for all of his talk about preferring homelessness he realizes he is better off to stay at AM because he could get up and walk out the door anytime if he wanted to. A couple of days later, when I get the courage, I ask him how he ended up in the taxi. He said they told him he was going home. I did not know, and I still do not know, whether I should be angry that they lied to him, or glad that he did not end up homeless in the street. I was so angry and confused I knew I could not discuss it with anyone at Wellstar. I am sure someone very smart could defend their actions by saying “we said he was going home and AM was his home.” I am sure they knew full well that DS would not understand it that way. I am still wondering who orchestrated the whole thing: the doctors, the nurses, the social workers, or all of them.

Well, how about you, my readers? Have you ever been lied to like that when you were in the hospital? Do you think I should be angry about the lie or glad that my son ended up where he would probably be safer? (I am not even sure what I mean by the last part of the last question: safer than being in a hospital that lies to you or safer than being homeless?)