“Hello?” A man answered the phone.
“Mr. Myers?” I asked.
“Speaking,” he said, in a curt tone.
“This is Doris, the social worker. I’d like to set up a care plan meeting so we can discuss your mother’s medical changes”
“Again?” Mr. Myers queried in an explosive tone of voice. “I already got a phone call from a nurse telling me that my mother is getting worse, and that she needs to be on hospice. What’s the deal with you all? Haven’t you read her Advance Directives? This is unacceptable. Do you want to kill my mother? Is it what you all want?” Mr Myers screamed, as he hung up the phone.
I was astonished. Not so much with his poor acceptance of his mother’s condition as I was with his questions. “Haven’t you read her Advance Directives?” echoed in my mind.
To me, that was a bizarre question. An Advance Directive is the document that reflects one’s wishes concerning medical treatments at the end of life. Most of the Advance Directives I had read gave clear instruction of what medical procedures were to be “withheld.”
What did I miss? I pondered.
Mr. Myers’ mother, Daisy, was a resident, with a very poor medical prognosis. She needed total care. She was confined to a wheelchair. She was non-verbal. Her eyes were normally closed, even during meal time. She needed to be fed by the staff and only ate small bites with much encouragement.
But now Daisy was not eating at all. She had become more lethargic. Her weight loss was significant. In an inter-disciplinary meeting, it was suggested that hospice would be on her best care choice.
With Mr. Myers’ admonishment still ringing in my ears, I looked for Daisy’s medical chart immediately. I read her Advance Directives and living will carefully. It was a thick document brimming with legalese.
“Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed. I hadn’t noticed the “not” word that changed the whole context of the living will: “..not to be withheld.”
The following day, Mr. Myers came to the facility and dropped a five-page letter to the nursing home administrator on the receptionist’s desk. It was a very hostile letter, questioning our phone calls and the interpretation of his mother’s Advance Directives. He had sent copy of the letter to state offices and other overseeing institutions.
I panicked. My worries grew as I thought of the consequences of misreading the document and making the wrong phone call.
But I also wondered why Mr. Myers had overreacted. He could have simply declined the option of hospice, and educated us about the content of her living will.
Our corporate legal office followed with its own investigation and sent a response to Mr. Myers. In the meantime, Daisy continued getting worse, and had to be sent to the hospital. Sadly, Daisy spent her 87th birthday in the ICU where she remained for a couple of weeks, on a ventilator, tube fed and on IV fluids.
Until the Lord had mercy and took her to heaven.
Weeks later, a well-dressed and polite lady came to my office. She introduced herself as Lois, Daisy’s daughter. I was taken by surprise because I never knew about her. “I live out of State, and my brother didn’t let me get involved in any issues regarding our mother.” She said. “I know all about my brother causing trouble. My sister-in-law told me. I am really sorry for you all having to put up with my brother’s behavior.”
Lois explained that her brother had lived in their mother’s home for many years. Daisy had set up a trust which provided that her assets were to be equally divided between the two children after her death. Somehow, Mr. Myers had convinced his mother to sign an Advance Directive with instructions to extend her life. A living will that appeared to merely reflect the son’s wishes.
And certainly his greed.
"Wow!" I mused, and sighed.
I felt some peace of mind in learning the truth that fired Mr. Myers’ reaction to our concerns for his mother’s care. I hoped that someday he got on his knees and asked for forgiveness.
And for the Lord to have mercy.