A few days after having one of many operations needed after a terrible automobile accident, Cheryl had severe abdominal pain. An ambulance arrived to transfer her to a larger hospital in a major city where a specialist was available to treat this complication.
Before the vehicle started out, Cheryl thought to ask its staff, "Do you have my glasses?" She wore special tri-focal glasses with several expensive features to treat an unusual combination of vision problems. The ambulance staff had the glasses and Cheryl was reassured.
Cheryl stayed in the large, big-city hospital for two weeks. Her glasses stayed with her, and she wore them whenever she read or watched television.
"When I didn't want to wear them they were put back on the shelf by the sink. Finally, I was well enough to go back to the rehab hospital in Prescott Valley. My few possessions were bagged. Where were my glasses? No one could find my glasses."
A supervisor was called in.
"Did you have glasses when you arrived?"
"Yes. They were either on my tray table or on the shelf when I wasn't wearing them."
"Are you sure you had glasses?"
"What was their value?"
"We ask that all valuables be sent home or be put in our safe. Why wasn't that done?"
"Because I needed them? I didn't think they would help anyone at home or would be able to see anything in the safe."
"Next time you are in the hospital you need to follow the rules with valuables and put them in the safe or send them home."
Cheryl commented, "I thought that maybe they got dumped into the linen with so much on and off my bed all the time and so much commotion that last day. I know they took a hike the last day I was there. I used them in the morning and I left in the afternoon. Sometime during those hours, the glasses went to see the world without me. We did tell the hospital they might have been in the laundry."
"Impossible," the supervisor said. "Are you sure you had them?"
Cheryl concluded, "It was just useless talking to them."
Her older, spare pair of glasses had gotten crushed a few months earlier when they were accidentally stepped on, and could not be fixed. Her daughter scrounged around and found an old, forgotten pair that was about 10 years old.
Cheryl said, "I squinted to see anything. I could barely read, but they did help a little. I used them for many months. I often wondered if the daily horrible head pain was due to my old, old glasses."
It took nearly two years for Cheryl to get new glasses. Her eyeglass prescription had expired; she spent about a year in rehabilitation facilities and was not physically able to go for an eye exam; and once discharged, at first she was still too debilitated to make the short trip to see the optometrist.
She commented, "What did I learn? If in the hospital, take pictures of you wearing your glasses while you are in your hospital 'show me' gown. Have them dated. Have a picture taken of them held at the room number. Now there is proof you have them while in the hospital and that you wear them."
To go one step further: if you take eyeglasses, a cane or walker and/or other assistive devices to the hospital, make sure that they are labeled with your name. For glasses, a label-maker can create small laminated stickers to wrap around the temples (the side arms that hold the glasses on your head). Label the cases or other containers for hearing aids, glasses and other small items, and insist that these devices always be returned to the cases when not in use. Labels on cases should include your name and describe the contents (e.g., "Max Anderson - left hearing aid"). Take pictures of everything to help identify the items if they go missing. And keep your eyeglass prescription current.
Why not just leave these items at home? To help avoid delirium, people need to see and hear as usual; walking when medically possible also helps to speed recovery.
To tell your story or ask a question, write to email@example.com. Bewley's new book, a collection of 40 articles from this column, is available locally at Hastings and at Peregrine Books and online at Amazon. It is titled "Not Your Grandmother's Nursing Home: Demystifying Today's Retirement Living Options."