Resources for Health Crisis in Florida
April 10, 2019 3:43 AM   Subscribe

About a week ago I went to Florida to visit my parents for a few days. The next thing I know, my father went into heart failure and my mom's falling apart. I'm worried about both of them and not sure what I should do or what resources I need.

I'll try to keep this brief. My dad (newly 79) has suffered from arrhythmia for years and, possibly related to new and fierce meds he was trying for that, went into cardiac failure this weekend. He's in the hospital now, stabilized, and will be released either today or tomorrow with a new combination of drugs and a life vest. My mom (78) is not managing the stress of all of this well. She's easily confused; she's missing vital medical information in our meetings with doctors; she has lost a lot of weight and has no appetite; and I think she's starting to have panic attacks. In the middle of the night last night, she came running down the hall asking "Where are the cats? Where are the cats?" referring to a pair of Maine Coon cats my parents had in the 1980s. When I got to her, she was hyperventilating and slumped over, and I was afraid she was going to collapse. I got her back to bed but she was still hyperventilating and not making much sense.

They live in a gated community in Florida and my father is adamant that his condition be kept secret because he doesn't want the gossip mill churning about him. My mother needs help and I'm not sure where to turn--I've called her primary care doctor twice asking to see him but have gotten no response. Today I plan to ask at the hospital what I might be able to do for her. I'm a freelancer and can manage to be here for a while; I have a sister who could maybe get away from her job for a bit but she's not as portable as I am. I'm concerned that as my father nears his discharge from the hospital my mother is growing increasingly incapable of taking care of him, and I don't want HIM to stress about HER. They have great insurance (Dad is retired military).

Should I be taking up residence in their GP's office? Should I ignore my father's wishes and ask some of their friends for help? Is this the kind of thing that a hospital social worker is for? This is our first major crisis (I know we're lucky) and I'm flying without instruments here.

Many many TIA for any advice you might have, specifically for Florida. I'm happy to take advice relating to my mom OR my dad. Dealer's choice!
posted by fiery.hogue to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
Are they members of a religious organization? If so, share your concerns with their pastor (or whatever their tradition calls it). Do your parents have any living siblings or close cousins and, if so, do any of them live nearby?

The neighbors probably already know something is up. Is this a seniors-only community?

Is it possible that your mother's doctor is not responding because your mother has not authorized him or her to share information with you? Stop by the doctor's office and pick up whatever form they want her to sign.

The hospital social worker should, at the very least, be able to point you in the right direction.

Once your father is at home and stable share your concerns about your mother with him. I hope that once he's home she returns to normal. Intense stress can do strange things to people. If it's at all possible stay for a few weeks to make sure they're both ok.
posted by mareli at 5:40 AM on April 10, 2019

Make an appointment for your mother with the primary care provider and attend it with her.
posted by metasarah at 6:01 AM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this. I wish I had a lot of tips to share, but having gone through a little of this with my mother during a health crisis she had last year, I'm not sure what to tell you other than it's great you have the flexibility to stay down there. A lot of this might fall to you amd I don't think our culture/society/government has done a great job of creating other community supports for elderly and sick people. Not surprised you haven't heard back from your mother's dr's office in the least.. unfortunately. But on that front, you could do 2 things - 1 make an appointment, go with her. If no soon apptments make a far one and call daily first thing in am to see if cancellations. Secondly, at your appt (or you can fax this form before hand if they'll send it to you), have her sign a form authorizing them to discuss things with you.

I guess another small thing that comes in handy - sign up for an acct with an online fax service - i've had great experience with "my fax central" - it's 10 dollars a month and you get your own fax number - and put their app on your phone. Also put a scan-to-pdf app on your phone .. if you have iOS i recommend "tiny scanner" (might be paid version if so i think its under $5)..

These two things have made my life immeasurably easier and helped me stay organized with my mother's documents and made dealing with communicating with their offices so much easier. A lot of the things they need sent back and forth cant be emailed, or they won't email them so .. this has really really helped. Plus if you do this faxing stuff for her you'll have some documents handy in the event she herself is not great at keeping track. So if she has two doctors in two health care systems, and you have her bloodwork in a pdf on your phone, you can just send it , even during an appt, to the one who never got the records (for example)

You're lucky they have one another and also to have a sister - if you all get along definitely keep her involved from the beginning and let her help in whatever ways she can, even if the ways are .. remote ways.

If your mom is loosing weight due to poor appetite, and she doesn't hate it, there's always ensure in a pinch. Or milkshakes from burger king, etc. not ideal but .. desperate times and all.
posted by elgee at 6:11 AM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Look into home health care to get regular checks on them. Start this while you are there. Try to get the hospital doctor to prescribe home health care visits. Then try to set up private home health care for your mom to come in a couple hours a day. If you plan to eventually leave, you'll want something like this in place to do something every day so you have a check on how they are doing. Def get your mom in to see the pcp, they might be able to prescribe physical therapy or occupational therapy or something (what else would help her?), ask for a cognitive assessment, see if you think her pcp is doing a good job. Make sure they are properly taking their meds. I have been going through this and my grandparents moved from Florida up to assisted living near family just last month. Feel free to memail. They were near Naples.
posted by RoadScholar at 6:20 AM on April 10, 2019

Before your father is released see if you can connect with the hospital social worker - that's a great resource you currently have access to. Explain the situation and see if they can connect you with some external resources for seniors. Home care would be good.

Definitely get in for an appointment with your mother and her doctor.

It sounds like your father, although he has a heart problem, is pretty coherent? It might be beneficial to have a conversation with him. Do your parents have a long-term plan for their care, like does their community offer any aging-in-place services or feed into more supportive housing? These are tough conversations to have but they unfortunately don't get any easier.

If he's insistent about the neighbours not knowing, that could be a plus in that you could say "you need some kind of home care help so that you don't end up having to ask for help from the neighbours."

You might be able to use your time there to set up a few things to help you help them. Make sure they have a set up where you can video conference with them. Ask if it's a good time for you to get any legal documents you need for health or financial stuff.

The good news is, your mother may bounce back. My mother was behaving oddly when my father had an aneurysm and she has done fine since. It was, however, a serious wake up call for what things will be like. I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:24 AM on April 10, 2019

Seconding the home health recommendation. Don't wait for your father's doctor to recommend it—ask them to prescribe it. I find that health professionals tend to assume that there are family members around to provide care. You also need to get a more accurate medical picture of what's going on with your mom too, and see what services she might qualify for. There are also agencies that provide different kinds of care and companionship for a fee.

I am going through a very similar set of circumstances (Tampa Bay Area) and we are in the process of moving my dad to an independent/assisted living arrangement. It's taken months of convincing, but we are finally making it happen.

You may already have the legal documents in place, but insuring that you and your siblings have power of attorney for both parents is really important at this stage. We recently re-did my dad's in order to have more complete decision making power. In addition, a Living Will, and a Designation of Health Care Surrogates and HIPAA authorisations so that your parents' doctors can speak freely with you. Now is the time to also get access to their financial stuff, if they are willing to share passwords and whatnot, or at least know what accounts they have. I arrived to a very similar situation a few months ago, and already they were delinquent in some bills, including their home insurance. We had a lot of catching up to do, just to restore equilibrium.
posted by amusebuche at 8:17 AM on April 10, 2019

Does your mom take any medications for anxiety that she might be leaning on a little more than usual lately? A lot of women in that demographic have a bottle of Xanax or Ativan or Ambien in the medicine cabinet; her confusion and (what sounds like) delirium overnight could easily be from taking more than usual (especially if usual is none at all).

I agree with metasarah that my first step would be scheduling a PCP appointment and going in with her.
posted by telegraph at 9:43 AM on April 10, 2019

If your father still in the hospital, the Primary care doctor wont know anything. They get that info after discharge. Talk with the social worker at the hospital and have them set up an phone call with the cardiologist who is seeing him in the hospital. The hospital doctors are the ones who will order home health care.
After discharge he will need to follow up with his primary care doctor and with the cardiologist. Your mom should be educated before discharge about what to do when the life vest fires.
posted by SyraCarol at 12:06 PM on April 10, 2019

Response by poster: Metafilterians, I can't express to you how grateful I am for your help today. You really do give me faith in humanity and I want to mark all these answers as "best." Thanks to you all, I managed to sort out the HIPAA paperwork for my mom (you were right--I wasn't covered, and that's why the dr's office wasn't answering me), speak to the hospital social worker, make initial inquiries with two home-care agencies to start that process, make an appt for my mother with her PCP, and get my dad home from the hospital with his Life Vest. I will stay down here until home health care is installed, a long-term plan that we all agree upon is in place, and all necessary paperwork is current. You all really bailed me out today. For everyone who answered: know that you made a concrete, positive difference in three people's lives today.
posted by fiery.hogue at 6:58 PM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

One more thing - before you leave, make sure your parents finances are set up in a way that you can cover for them if needed. if your dad is in the hospital again, your mother might be too stressed to take of the bills. The easiest way, if everyone is comfortable with it, is to simply add your name to their checking account so at least you can pay bills for them. This may a wake up call that will get them to share more with you than would have before. In my experience, a trip with one of them to the local branch of the bank did the trick.

Find out if they have wills, power of attorney and health care power set up. If they do, make sure you and your sister get a copy. If not, consider if it is worth trying to push for it while you are there.
posted by metahawk at 8:25 PM on April 10, 2019

If you and your sister have a decent relationship and you do get involved in your parent's finances, make a serious effort to over-communicate with her. People get weird about money - make a clear effort to be transparent and include her in what is happening is a good investment in your future relationship with her.
posted by metahawk at 8:28 PM on April 10, 2019

« Older Former manager unfriended me on LinkedIn and...   |   Advice for bidding on a freelance writing job? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.