Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Foreign Territory

It's been four years since I quit working in hospitals. I'm still pretty comfortable in hospitals, but it's easier now for me to see how foreign they are to everyone else. Even if you're just going to an outpatient surgery center for a minor procedure, like my Mom did this week, it can be a pretty overwhelming experience.

Mom was supposed to be at the center Monday morning at 9:00 for a 10:30 procedure. The phone rang at 7:40, and it was the center asking if we could be there at 8:30. Mom was still in the shower, but I told them, yes, we can be there close to 8:30. I'm thinking perhaps we'll be out sooner.

We get there at 8:35. Mom gets checked in, and we go to the waiting room. We wait. People get called back. We wait some more. More people get called back. We wait some more. At least the TV has the Today Show on, and not Fox News. And the volume is low, so it's easier to ignore. Finally, around 10:00 they call Mom back to prep for surgery. They let me go back about 20 minutes later.

In the room, it's cold. I wore jeans and a sleeved shirt, because I knew it would be cold (unlike the person I saw in a sleeveless velvet contraption over running pants, with a yellow mini skirt). I was still cold, though. Mom was cold too, and it seems the nurse didn't help Mom get ready, because the gripper socks they supplied were not on her feet, but on the table.

We wait another hour. The anesthesiologist comes in and asks questions. The surgical resident comes in and asks the same questions. The nurse anesthetist comes in and seems to be the only one who really knows what is going on. The surgeon himself comes in. She finally goes back for the procedure at 11:30. I wait in the waiting room some more. So much for being done sooner.

The procedure takes less than an hour,  and she was not fully anesthetized for the procedure, so she's mostly awake when I'm allowed back. She's still kind of groggy, and not really understanding that she can't leave until her blood pressure and heart rate come down. The nurse never really tells me that's what is going on. I just know what to listen for, and I can mostly read the monitors. Finally, after about another 40 minutes, two different nurses adjusting the blood pressure cuff numerous times, there's a reading low enough. But the nurse is out at the desk. I know to go get her, and she literally comes running to see the reading and start turning all the monitors off. I wonder how many family members would just sit there and not get the nurse.

Anyway, we got home, and Mom is doing fine. I realize that I really don't like being in a hospital where I don't know anyone. It's easy to be spoiled when you get all kinds of professional courtesy. And I keep wondering about all the families I work with, and how helpless they feel, because they don't anyone, and they don't know hospitals work. And hospitals don't do much to make it easy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reverse Mortgages

I sometimes have people ask my opinion about reverse mortgages, and I have to tell you, I'm not a fan. I think the number of people for whom a reverse mortgage is a truly good idea is extremely small, and for too many people I think they are downright dangerous products. 

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I got a great deal on my house because it had a reverse mortgage, and the heirs were desperate to sell quickly so they could pay the reverse mortgage off, so I guess I would have to say a reverse mortgage was good for me, it just wasn't MY reverse mortgage.

Anyway, I bring all this up because the AARP has sued HUD over a rule change that is putting a small number of reverse mortgage holders under the threat of foreclosure. The New York Times has an excellent article on the story, which includes some great links of it's own to other sources of information on reverse mortgages. 

I encourage everyone to read this article, and follow some of the links included, to learn more about reverse mortgages.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One Person's Trash is Another Person's Treasure

Some of you may know that I've done some presentations on hoarding. I've recently been reading the book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee. Frost and Steketee are the gurus of hoarding, and I think Randy Frost is a consultant on at least one of the popular hoarding shows on TV.

Any time I have done this presentation it seems that most people in the audience know someone they suspect is a hoarder, are related to someone who hoards, or they worry that they themselves are hoarders. Frost and Steketee report that between 2-5% of the population, or anywhere from 6-15 million people hoard. That's a lot of people with a lot of stuff.

I'm only part of the way through the book, but I'll share some tidbits:

  • Hoarding may not be as closely associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as once thought. Rather, it seems to be more characteristic of an Impulse Control Disorder (ICD), like kleptomania or compulsive gambling.
  • Hoarders often place high value on things that appear to be junk to the rest of us. They have difficulty distinguishing between things with true value and things that are trash.
  • Perfectionism appears to play a major role in hoarding.
  • Some studies have indicated a high correlation between compulsive gambling and hoarding.
  • There also seems to be a connection between possessions and a sense of security, with some people  starting to hoard after suffering a severe trauma.
There's no doubt that this is a complex and difficult issue to deal with. I will keep you posted as I work my through this book.