Would You Like Oxygen with That?

I’ve never moved anyone into assisted living before. I talked to people, asked questions, looked at various facilities, and selected the one that seemed best for Mom. Mom is now on oxygen. When the head of the medical staff of Rosewood Gardens visited us, Mom was sitting there with oxygen tubes up her nose, so there would have been no question that they knew about it before she was admitted. However, I can’t swear that the medical person didn’t say, “She’ll have to manage her own oxygen, because we don’t do that.” Maybe she said it, maybe not. I had a lot on my mind.

Also, I didn’t know yet that the portable oxygen system that uses the small tanks is more complex than the portable system that uses the big tanks. Mom was using a big tank when she came home from the hospital. Nobody told me that the small tanks were refillable, or that the valve they used was more complex, or that the refilling unit sits on top of the oxygen concentrator that’s the fixed, in-home system, thus making a hardware unit that’s more complex and requires some additional steps to learn.

Mom’s eyes aren’t good enough to read the little dials. She doesn’t suffer from dementia, but she has no background in technology, she’s 88 years old, and it’s probably harder for her to learn new stuff these days because (big surprise…) her brain isn’t getting quite enough oxygen. Plus, her hands are unsteady. To attach a valve to a tank, you have to fit two little pins into little holes without being able to see them. You have to do it by feel. That alone is impossible for her. She can’t do it.

So she moved into the assisted living place, and for the first ten days or so the care-givers were helping her switch from the fixed, in-room system to the portable tank so she could go down to the dining room. It didn’t quite make sense to me that nobody was telling me about any extra fee for this service, but I had a lot on my mind. In the first couple of days the staff made a couple of mistakes with the oxygen equipment. I alerted the management to this situation, and they didn’t say, “Well, we’re not supposed to be doing that, so we should probably stop so as not to assume any liability.” Nope — what they said was, “Oh my gosh, we’ll give the staff some more training!” A reasonable person might well have concluded from this that the facility was prepared to provide oxygen maintenances services into the future.

Today I arrived at the facility just after Mom got back from lunch. The care-giver had switched her from the portable oxygen tank to the in-room concentrator, but had forgotten to switch on the concentrator. The hose was in Mom’s nose, but nothing was coming out of it. If I hadn’t been there and noticed that I wasn’t hearing the motor on the concentrator, she might have been without oxygen for the rest of the day and (if she asked to have a dinner tray brought to her room) through the night.

When I went into the director’s office and told him about this, he was apologetic and polite and voluble, but he did say something about how they don’t provide oxygen system services. I said, “Do you mean you charge extra for for them, or do you mean you don’t do that at all?” No, he said, they don’t do that at all. Eek! That means we’ll have to move Mom somewhere else!

A New Ending: I’ve deleted the rest of this post, because it turns out the director was wrong. They do provide oxygen services. The med tech was out sick that day, and the director was winging it.

The good news is, while scrambling around trying to figure out what to do, I learned a few more things about available services, such as Medi-Cal and Hospice. I really ought to write a memoir about all this. I understand memoirs sell well. But there are too many other things I’d rather do.

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