Four days after my mother’s death, Michelle Cofano, the Registered Nurse Specialist at the Department of Elder Affairs — also known as C.A.R.E.S. — replied to the email I sent her asking for help. She said:
Below is the information you requested:
There is a program within the Department of Elder Affairs called: Ombudsman Program. This program investigates and resolves complaints made by, or on behalf of, long-term care facility residents. Please visit the website at: http://ombudsman.myflorida.com or call them at: 1-888-831-0404.
There is also an agency called: AHCA. This agency takes and investigates complaints about all healthcare institutions. Please visit the website at: http://ahca.myflorida.com and go to “Contact Us” for info on how to file a complaint.
I replied to her at 11:11 PM EDT on August 17th by saying:
My mother had a heart attack and died the day after I sent you that email. I’m in Florida now.
The doctor who prescribed the medicine never called me to discuss it, even after I refused to approve it. They simply gave it to her anyway.
And now my mother is dead.
The doctor who was caring for my mother refused to sign the death certificate because he said, “I don’t know why she died. She shouldn’t have died,” and, “I want them to perform an autopsy,” and, “An autopsy will give us the answers.”
Then the Volusia County Medical Examiner decided that an autopsy wasn’t necessary; that my mother died “of natural causes”. They are not interested in the facts that she had a heart attack just after a psychiatrist who had never seen her before, who had only one session with her which lasted less than an hour — and truthfully probably lasted less than fifteen minutes — prescribed a highly, highly risky drug, which comes with multiple warnings from its manufacturer not to use in elderly patients with dementia and only to use as a last resort for schizophrenics, and then only if a doctor can vigilantly monitor the patient’s cardiac functions because the risk of a heart attack is so high, without ever anyone saying that my mom had schizophrenia, a drug that I begged doctors to stop giving her in January, a drug that I spent hours and hours on the phone with the nursing home begging them not to give her, a drug that they told me they would NOT give her …
And suddenly — when he learned there would be no autopsy — the doctor changed his mind and signed the death certificate.
My mother is dead. She’ll never get to know her grandson. I’ll never hear her voice again.
And nobody cares.