Getting into Rehab is Easy. Getting out Requires a Fight.

“Mrs. Rosenberg, we generally don’t discharge patients unless we’ve evaluated them for seven days.”

“Well, I’ve evaluated my mother-in-law after only three days, and if we don’t get her out of here, she won’t make it to seven.”

So went the talks that felt more like hostage negotiations while trying to free my 89-year-old MIL from a famed rehab facility. Instead of attempting to help her regain her strength and balance after a short hospital stay, they stuck her in the dementia ward where the highlight of her day was listening to an accordion player who kept checking his phone, probably to see if he’d landed a better gig than playing for an audience that was too sleepy to clap.

NO! Not the accordion player again.

NO! Not the accordion player again.

Rehab sounds so promising. Have no fear. Your loved one will be like new when they leave. Ha! If it’s up to the facility, patients will be there for so long, they’ll forget what was wrong with them in the first place. Something to do with Medicare reimbursements, which are the mother’s milk of hospitals and institutions. Can’t provide all of this great care if people don’t stick around long enough to run up massive bills.

But provide actual rehabilitation? A nice concept if you can get it.

For the vast majority of the day, my mother-in-law was left in a wheelchair in the corner of the dining room. Thanks to adult diapers, she didn’t need to be “toileted”, so no need to check on her. To break up the monotony, she was served breakfast, lunch and dinner. Observing how much (or little) she ate was low on the list of priorities. As was searching for her brand new hearing aids, which mysteriously went missing soon after her arrival. What about bringing her down to her allotted 30-minute session of PT? “She said no, so we didn’t push.”

I understand that most hospitals and rehab centers are understaffed, and that it’s hard to keep up moral when the conditions and salaries are sub par. I do believe there are angels in all of these places who truly provide compassionate care. I even believe that their intentions are good. Unfortunately, too many hospitals/rehab centers are run by corporate entities that suck the lifeblood out of humanity in the name of profits.

"Are you sure you want to leave? We were just getting started."

“Are you sure you want to leave? We were just getting started.”

The only thing patients can count on are being turned into billboards for big pharma because injecting them with expensive drugs is good for business. As is keeping them in a prolonged stupor so that their recovery time is longer.

What’s the lesson? Brace yourself if you or a loved one are admitted to rehab. It will be nothing like the website and more like a quagmire of paper work, phone calls and fast-talking doctors and nurses who rattle off diagnoses faster than you can say Namenda, the drug of choice for keeping patients quiet.

As for the weary accordion player? In between renditions of I Could Have Danced All night and the Beer Barrel Polka, I bet he was praying it was time to run to his car. I know that’s what I was praying when I ran to mine.

If ever my mother-in-law and I needed to share a bottle of red with a straw, it’s now.

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