Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Uncle + This Country's Health Care System = Despair & Outrage

This is a photo of my uncle, back in 2006, taken by Kelvin (who was four years old at the time). His brain tumor was probably already forming by then, right behind the hand that's touching his forehead. My handsome, good humored uncle, one of three of my dad's seven siblings that I'm close to and interact with regularly.

Uncle Oseas has been home from the rehabilitation facility since this past Monday. Not because he's all recovered from his July 23 major brain surgery, due to a benign meningioma, but because he was literally kicked out of the facility. A man who cannot yet stand on his own feet, walk, get into or out of bed, or use the bathroom, sent home. Because the health insurance company, Kaiser Permanente, deemed that it would no longer pay for his rehab. (My uncle is also on Medicare, but they also have a policy with Kaiser to help complement Medicare -- I have no idea how these things work).

Not only that, but they denied any at-home help, such as the 25h of nursing care a week and 3 sessions of physical theraphy they had "promised" when he was discharged from the facility. They said that he seems to be permanently disabled and that there's nothing that can be done for him (as if one could recover from brain surgery in 3 months -- it took Jill Bolte Taylor eight years!! I'm reading her awesome book Stroke of Insight right now).

Yeah, health care my foot!! There are no words to express the outrage and despair one feels in a situation like that. It's just so absurdly unfair and greedy that in this country of yours (yeah, I'm glad it's not mine*) the care of the sick and dying is a FOR PROFIT affair. It's Michael Moore's Sicko all over again, only this time it's in my family!! And what do we do?!?!

And to top it off, like a rotten cherry on top of a putrid cake, my parents have to go back to Brazil on Sunday. Not that they could do anything, poor them. Changing my uncle's soiled "diapers" several times a day, cooking for him, feeding him, trying to get him outside a bit, breaking their already fragile backs (dad is 74 and mom 69) to try to put him in the hospital bed. No, they really cannot put up with that, so it's good timing they have to go back (they already paid fines to postpone their tickets for a month). They're heartbroken, though.

Despair. My mom and my aunt finding one another awake in the silent and darkened house at four in the morning, sleepless, to weep, and weep, and weep together, some more, because what else is there to do?

Of course my aunt is appealing the insurance company's decision. We know that this decision was the result of one lousy and aggravated physical therapist's report. I understand it's a tough job, those of you who do any kind of therapy, but couldn't a therapist be more compassionate and try to learn about the specific brain surgery and its consequences before jumping to disastrous conclusions? The guy, frustrated that my uncle wouldn't learn the daily exercise routine (not that he wasn't improving a teeny tiny bit daily), wrote him off. Said that he was not recovering at the expected rate.

And you know what insurance companies do to keep their PROFITS, right?! (sorry, I have to "scream," it's just beyond outrageous). They take any negative reports and turn them against the helpless patient, denying care right and left. It's part of their BUSINESS. People's lives and well-being are a business, folks, a business!!!

OK, I should stop writing this incendiary post. I just don't know how else to make the pain a little bit more bearable. My parents are driving back from Maryland this evening and we'll know a bit more. I know they won't be the same people I dropped off two months ago, though. They will be forever marked by the despair and outrage of these past days (the "care" of some positively careless nurse's aides at the facility was also very bad, one young woman let my uncle fall from bed -- onto his healing broken arm -- a couple of times!!) .

I wish things could be different. I wish my uncle's doctors had detected this earlier. I wish my uncle's health wasn't so compromised (he also has diabetes and high blood pressure, on top of the brain problems), I wish there was a perfect facility for him to go to... I just wish.

All I know is that yesterday a lady (a nurse?) came to evaluate his situation and she said that he's in no condition to stay home -- yeah, that's really hard to conclude, no?). Today another person was coming, so, hopefully, something will be done. Uncle is taking 16 different medications and my mom said she trembled fearfully yesterday when she was trying to check if all the correct medications were in their little boxes to be administered in the course of the day. Besides, when he came home, three of the medications were missing and his blood pressure was sky high on Tuesday morning. They controlled it giving him my dad's blood pressure.

So, yeah... I'll update when I know more, but this is an unfinished story. Hopefully, it won't have a bitter ending, like the beginning.

* It's in situations like these that I start seriously thinking whether I really want to be a citizen of this place.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry this is happening to your uncle. It's very sad. Unfortunately Medicare doesn't cover nursing home care; it's on the senior citizen's dime. I also think Medicare only covers a certain number of days of rehab.

When you get the chance (no rush) would you write a bit on the health care system in Brazil?

I know we're "supposed" to have health care that is the envy of the world, but I really think that is pushed by politicians. Other countries are far more advanced in ensuring excellent health care for all their citizens.

I've lived in the US all my life, but if I had a chance to live elsewhere I would consider it based on two areas: health care and quality of life. My son is contemplating starting his work life in Germany for just those two reasons.

KarenM in NC

kate said...

This is really horrible. I hope he can get re-evaluated or something. Just awful.

pithydithy said...

What a terrible, unfair, and very alarming situation. It's terrible for your uncle, and terrible for your family. I hope that something (reasonable!) gets worked out.