Elder abuse and long-term care facilities

nursinghome_photoAfter my mother-in-law had her series of strokes she had to spend a good chunk of time in a rehabilitation type of setting.  She had lost her ability to walk although they were trying to get her to walk again with a walker (never quite worked), she had extremely limited ability to speak and the few words she could say, she would sometimes get them mixed up (it’s common for some stroke victims to say yes and mean no and vice versa), but she maintained her memory and a good chunk of her cognitive abilities.  She knew what was going on around her, she just couldn’t quite communicate properly nor care for herself.

Her original goal was to go stay at a home.  She turned down all the offers from all the kids to go and stay with them, most likely didn’t want to be a burden.  After her rehabilitation, she needed a place to live since there was no way she was going to be able to live on her own and quite frankly, she needed 24 / 7 care.  This resulted in two of the family members taking the time to research and tour senior’s homes in the area they both lived in.  I remember them talking about how disheartening that process was.  It’s very expensive to get any level of care and the government simply takes what you can give and you get the bare minimum unless you are financially self sufficient.  She has a very good pension but at that point her house was still in her name and bills needed to be paid and finances needed to be resolved so using the full pension was not something that was an option.

They settled on this little private run facility that was clean and didn’t smell and the residents were quiet and appeared relaxed.  It was close to two of the family members that would be visiting and caring for her.  It’s a very picturesque type of place, no bad marks on record anywhere that they could find.  Seemed quite perfect.  She would have to stay in a ward type setting (four residents to a room with a curtain to draw around you for some privacy).

And then they moved her in.  Within 24 hours, every item of clothing she owned was stolen.  Seriously.  Every.single.thing.  No one knows what happened to it, no one knows where the clothing went.  One of her children had to run out the next morning and buy her something to wear.  The general rule of thumb is to make sure to put the residents name on the clothing so that this doesn’t happen, so that’s what they did with this new batch of clothes.  Little things like her hair brush would routinely disappear.  It was quite frustrating.

It didn’t take long before MIL was asking to leave and made it quite clear that she didn’t like it there.  That’s normal they told us.  It takes about a month they say before the senior person adjusts to life in the residence.  Don’t listen to her they said.

And then we find out, wouldn’t you know, she was assaulted by another resident.  He was (is?) an alzheimer patient and they don’t have a separate floor or area for these folks.  Sometimes dementia and / or alzheimer patients can be violent.  When we addressed it with the home their response was that she could just call for help if something like that happens again.  When we reminded them that she can’t just call for help because she can barely speak and what does come out is barely above a whisper,  well, she can just use the call button when she’s in her room – which is attached to her bed, against the wall and she’s in a wheelchair.  I guess they figure she could just leap out of the wheelchair and climb over the bed rails and find the buzzer…

Then, wouldn’t you know, she fell.  Right off the bed.  One of the nurses was helping her get dressed and they left her sitting on the bed while they turned around or went somewhere and sure enough, she topples right over.  She had quite the shiner / goose egg after that one.  Accidents happen but again, the lady is in a wheelchair.  She doesn’t have the ability to hold herself up very well.

30 days after moving in, all of her clothing is stolen – again.

Might I point that this is one of the ‘nicer’ senior’s homes.

Every time one of the kids went to visit, they found her sitting in her wheelchair staring at the wall.  No television turned on, no radio turned on, nothing.  She appeared quite depressed.

She came to our home one night for supper and it was decided (with her agreement) that she would move in for a while until the house was sold and various other things that needed to happen.  We would re-evaluate then and figure out what the best plan would be.  That week the facility was advised that she would be moving out.  They said ‘no’ and said they were refusing to release her even though there was a clear power of attorney in place that was making this decision.

We were quite surprised.  The power of attorney had to call and make a lot of noise about legal rights and the facility reluctantly agreed.

A week later, they called to say that she had a seizure and that we were not equipped to deal with such things (if you haven’t read the blog post Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare, go check it out and you’ll know that we are actually the best equipped folks for dealing with that very thing).  We advised them we were equipped, thank you very much for your concern and continued forward with the plan.

She did move in amongst a lot of discouragement from every single professional body we were trying to set up to get help from.  When she moved into our home, the facility didn’t give us any medications (she was on a long list for the strokes) and were quite uncooperative in helping to transition her to our care.  We were able to quickly get the list from them and on it we found that they were giving her gravol three to four times a day.  What we discovered later is that this is routine because it makes the residents sleep more and that makes it easier to manage their care (in the sense that you would need less nurses for residents who are sleeping all the time than for ones who are active and interacting with everyone).

Coincidentally, too much gravol can cause seizures.

She stayed with us for quite a few years before moving back into a different long term-care facility.  This one has a stellar reputation and there have been no concerns about abuse to date.  Unfortunately, she has to wear the equivalent of adult diapers at all times because even though she isn’t incontinent, they don’t always have to staff to help her on and off the toilet and she can’t do it by herself so she doesn’t really have much of a choice.

I know no one has a money tree in their backyard to pay for the things that we all seem to need but what is it going to take for us to learn our lessons that not having anyone overseeing or watching these homes means that they are wide open to a variety of abuses?  There are a lot of parallels between how our country managed residential schools and how they’re now managing senior’s residences and I haven’t heard a single story about those residential schools ending well.  We seem to be really good at this patchwork approach of creating something to deal with the immediate issue but then don’t take care of it properly afterwards.  This is our future – all of us – and something that is going to impact every one of us at some point or another; you would think we would be more invested in figuring out how to do it right.


Categories: Assault, Elder Abuse, Trauma, Victimization

Tags: , , , ,

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