Posted in Grindstone, Life, Mental Health


One of my favorite comedy bits is from “A Fish Called Wanda” (which is full of greatness, by the way).  Looking into the empty safe where the loot is supposed to be, Otto (played by Kevin Klein) says, “Disappointed!”  To refresh your memory, here’s The Best of Otto – the bit I’m talking about is in the first thirty seconds.*

My mom, who is still in the Geriatric-Psychiatric unit at Tuality Forest Grove Hospital, has not been taking her medication.  Well, she will, then she won’t.  She continues to exhibit many signs of mania.  She has barricaded herself in her room, wandered around wearing only her bra, and has been ordering the other patients around like a third grade teacher (which she used to be).

Here’s where the legal meets the medical.  When my mom first went to the hospital, it was on a voluntary basis.  This means she can walk out whenever she wants to.  Last Thursday (after one week in the hospital) she started refusing meds, and she slapped a nurse.  So they put her “on a hold” (you may know California’s shorthand for this, which is 5150).   This is a legal designation meaning that ‘she is a danger to herself or others’ and an investigator from the county decides whether that is true or not.

The investigator called me on Monday.  I answered the questions.  Is she a danger to others? Well, not really.  She is not going to be released from the hospital and continue to have a vendetta against the med nurse she slapped.  In fact, she may not even be able to pick that med nurse out of a line-up.

Is she a danger to herself?  Is she suicidal?

Well, I said, if you know anything about this disease you know that that question doesn’t exactly apply here.  Is she a danger to herself?  Yes, she is, because she is manic.  During a previous manic episode, she got in the car and decided she was going to drive from Oregon to southern California to visit me.  She was found by the paramedics wandering the streets of Sacramento at 2:00 am.  She had cut off all her hair and lost her teeth.  (There is something universal about the human face with no teeth that just screams “I am a homeless bum.”)

Is she suicidal? Is she pointing a gun to her head?  No.  Does she believe she can fly off a bridge?  Well, not yet, but mania can go there (she once told me she could fly across the room).  Is she a danger to herself during a manic episode?  Absolutely.  Does she meet the strict criteria that Washington County wants to apply in this instance?  No.

The hold was taken off, but I could tell in the investigator’s tone of voice that she agreed with my line of thinking.  Especially after she visited my mom in the hospital.  My mom had just gone to lie down for a nap.  She hasn’t been sleeping well (sign of mania) so she has made it clear to everyone that she is not to be disturbed if she is lying down.  She even had the doctor put it in the doctor’s orders.  So the investigator gets there and wakes up my mom.  The hospital wants her to sign herself back in on a voluntary basis, but she’s very upset that she’s been disturbed; she’s confused.  She calls me in tears and says, “They’re trying to railroad me.”

Then yesterday my mom’s physician called to say that if she doesn’t take her meds, and if she insists on leaving, they will release her.  So I immediately called my mom and busted out with “You have to take your medicine and stay where you are.  I will see you later this week.”  My mom took her meds right there on the phone with me (thanks to Nicole, who happened to hear my mom say she would take the meds and was right there at the ready).  Apparently, she took her meds last night and this morning as well.

So am I disappointed?  Right this sec, no.  Disappointed comes from two weeks in the hospital and negligible improvement.  Disappointed comes from seeing how completely stubborn my mom is—partly because of the disease, and partly because she just is.

Here’s what she needs but does not want to take: Geodon.  Bipolar disorder is such a painful, debilitating chronic disease.  It is so hard to watch my mother suffer.  Take the meds, mom.  I know you don’t want to feel like you’ve been drugged, but if you don’t take the Geodon, your climb down from mania will be much slower.  Not to mention that you might get released from the hospital, and you are not ready to go home yet.

What is a post without a photograph?  A post needing a photograph.

Near Las Vegas, Nevada.  Photo by The Scout.  The Scout is still in Arkansas with his mom.  It’s become clear that she will not be able to live on her own without assistance.  There are no family members in the area…so for now The Scout is there, trying to figure out what do to…

*A shout out to Suebob, who, like Otto, does not like to be called stupid!

Posted in Self Care, WTF?

Mother’s Mania

I have spent quite a bit of time in the mental health units of a couple of Oregon hospitals. Not as a patient, mind you, and not as an employee either. I like to call it ‘patient advocate.’ My mother is 73 years old and is bipolar. She has been in the hospital multiple times, with the frequency increasing during the past decade or so. My brother and I are the chief witnesses to these events. Continue reading “Mother’s Mania”

Posted in Grindstone

Jessica Starr

Hello from Oregon. I’m here in Forest Grove, northwest of Portland. I’m visiting my mom, who is in the hospital. Usually, being in the hospital is not a good thing. It means something bad has happened.

In this case, being in the hospital is good. My mom is bipolar, and she is having a manic episode. She needs to be in the hospital right now; she needs care, and she needs medication to facilitate a reduction of the mania.

“Mental health care is broken in our country.” This is what Ann, one of the Emergency Department (ED) nurses at St. Vincent’s Hospital said to me at 5:15 am this past Sunday morning. We had arrived at ED at 1:30 am, and it was full of other patients, including a larger-than-usual number with some form of mental illness. St. Vincent’s psych unit was full, and other patients were already in line to get in there.

“There are no psychiatric beds available–in the whole state of Oregon.” I had just settled into the idea that I might need to schlep the 90+ miles to Corvallis or someplace else in Oregon to find a psych unit with an available bed when Ann (the nurse) said this.

Enter Jessica Starr, superhero. I love it when people have a name that describes them perfectly. Jessica is one of the social workers at St. Vincent’s Emergency Department. Thanks to Jessica’s determination, perseverance, and tenacity, my mom was transferred to a geriatric psychiatric unit at Tuality Forest Grove Hospital (less than 10 miles from my mom’s apartment). A hospital-to-hospital transfer is a big deal because of the legal and financial issues involved.

I overheard a little of what Jessica had to do to find a place for my mom. She had to persuade the physician that my mom was “that bad.” She had to emphasize the many hospitalizations over the past 15 years. She had to confirm that the payor source (in this case, Medicare parts A, B and D) was in place and would cover the stay.

Jessica waded through several phone calls to make the right thing happen. I happened to be standing near the nurse’s station when Jessica got the final okay for the transfer. She hung up the phone, heaved a smiling sigh of relief, then held up her hand to me for a big ole high five.

When we got to Tuality Forest Grove, one of the employees told me that there are only 14 geriatric psychiatric units left in the entire United States. I felt like we’d won the lottery.

Jessica, you rock.