Do NOT give grandma a sleeping pill while the basketball game is on …

Things I learned while staying with my grandmother at the hospital and rehab center:

= Nurses at the rehab center are not the same as nurses at the hospital. Nurses at a hospital are nice, with good bedside manner. And they come when you push the call button. And they don’t roll their eyes and act annoyed on a regular basis. And on the same note, daytime nurses at the rehab center are not the same as nighttime nurses at the rehab center. Daytime nurses are slightly less annoyed than nighttime nurses. Daytime nurses sometimes repond quickly to call buttons. Daytime nurses at least pretend to care a little bit about what the patient needs.

= In other words, once all of the visitors have gone home for the evening (except for me! I was Mia’s secret weapon!), it turns into a whole different ballgame. One in which I was glad to be there to speak for and stand up for my grandmother. Otherwise, she would have been given the wrong medicine on a few occasions, two regular baths (because of her surgery, she was only allowed sponge baths), about 3 TB tests, and she would have been stuck in her left arm (which is a no-no due to a mastectomy she had.)

= Did I mention call buttons mean nothing around there? The first night we were there, Mia needed assistance getting to the bathroom. We pushed the call button. Twice. I went to the nurses’ station. Twice. 25 minutes later, and I grabbed a nurse distributing medicine down the hall and Mia finally got her bathroom escort. 25 minues is quite a long time to hold it. And this was normal behavior at this place.

= There is an assumption that every patient is completely crazy. It sometimes took both my grandmother and I very forcefully stating things before the nighttime nurses would listen.

= If you complain to administration, they will hear you. I told them after the first night that a) my grandmother is of sound mind; and b) should be treated as such. I told them that she needed to be told what medicine she was being given at all times, and that there should not be an assumption that she’s bat shit crazy. Because she’s not. Things got a little better after that.

= The therapists were wonderful at this place. And a few of the nurses and CNAs were also wonderful. There was one in particular, Brett, that we liked so much that we sought him out even when he wasn’t working on her hall. But there were some nurses and CNAs that were just terrible, including one that tried to make Mia take an Ambien (sleeping pill) at 9 p.m. while the basketball game was still on. As if.

= In other words, I say all that to conclude that if you’re going to send a loved one to a place like this, make sure they have a bodyguard.

= If I can sleep in a chair for 5 nights, anyone can sleep in a chair for 5 nights.

=  The rehab center made me really miss the comfy couch at the hospital.

= Mia contemplated sleeping in a recliner one night because her bed was so uncomfortable. So I joked that I’d move to the bed since I was sleeping in a chair. And Mom joked that I better watch it because the nurses would come in during the night and poke and prod me intead of Mia. And Dad joked that I would wake up with an IV randomly in my arm. We all laughed, but I decided to stay right there in my chair …

= If you’re not hard of hearing, you have a lot more awareness than if you are. I was doubly aware of everything going on compared to Mia, who left her hearing aid at home. She didn’t hear the man yelling “I am a colon” every few seconds the first night we were there. She only heard the woman who yelled “Help me, somebody please, help me” about half the time.

= Visitors are gold. I repeat, visitors are gold. We both lived for the moments when Mom or Dad or my uncle Larry or Jeff or Kevin or Jenn or my nieces would come by. When you spend 24 hours a day with someone, it helps to have another dynamic to the room, another person to have a conversation with. Bringing me food and doing our laundry was also gold.

= The better Mia felt, the more antsy she got. And the more particular she became. And I learned it is hard work taking care of another individual. I’d be in the middle of one task when she’d ask for another. It was all I could do to keep the blinds up or down at her request, the lights on or off, the TV on or off, the blanket tucked into her chair or on her bed …

= The more particular she became, the more we were both ready to get the hell outta there and go home. And when the day came, I’d been with her for 24 hours a day for a week. And I thought I would need a few days away from her. But when it was time to say goodbye for a couple of days, it hit me just how much I would miss her. We both started bawling and hugging like we would never see each other again. Crazy how all the nitpicky parts dissolve at that moment, and what’s left is a bonding experience that neither of us will ever forget.