Testing the VA's Inpatient Care Services

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The VA home-based care plan dealt with a new problem in Charlie’s care this week, and they did it in their usual efficient manner. Over the weekend, he developed a low-grade fever and lower back pain—an unusual combination of symptoms. I called the team on Monday, and within a few hours they were in the home with two people evaluating the situation. Their first guess was that he was suffering from a UTI. By that afternoon, blood tests and a urinalysis had ruled out that diagnosis.

When his condition had not improved two days later, they returned and gave him a more thorough physical. This time his lungs had the characteristic crackle of pneumonia. So an antibiotic was prescribed, but that still didn’t address the problem of the back pain. After a five-day regimen of antibiotics, the pneumonia seemed to be gone, but the other symptoms (fever and back pain) persisted. The team decided to admit him to the hospital.

Four days later, we were no closer to a diagnosis than we were a week ago. Upon admission to the hospital, Charlie was placed on IV antibiotics after additional blood work indicated that the might be suffering from osteomyelitis, or a bone infection. Two CT scans, x-rays, echocardiograms, ultrasounds and more blood work later, the doctors are still flummoxed over what is going on.

They then called in a rheumatologist thinking Charlie might have developed polymyalgia rheumatica, an immune system disease related to rheumatoid arthritis. After a thorough examination and history, the specialist thinks the problem may be an infectious process somewhere in the body that was obscured by the antibiotics. I, with my limited medical knowledge, am inclined to agree. I would bet it turns out to be something that resulted from the extensive dental work he recently had, sending bacteria throughout his body. So now it is the weekend and we all know that nothing happens in a hospital over the weekend. We will have to see what next week brings.

In the meantime, Charlie is very confused about his surroundings, why he is there and why he can’t go home. The pain has spread from his back to his shoulders and neck. But the VA hospital care is excellent, and we are very fortunate to live only ten minutes from the hospital, unlike some of the patients who had to drive three hours for medical care.

In spite of the unpleasant circumstances, we did get a good laugh over something that happened yesterday. Charlie’s roommate is a 99-year-old veteran of WWII. He awoke from his nap to find his glasses missing. He searched the room for them with no luck. Then he went to the nurse’s station and asked for help. They finally found them—on Charlie. And Charlie had no idea he was wearing the wrong glasses.

You can always find humor in things—even under trying conditions.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For AgingCare.com, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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