Friday, June 20, 2014

Nursing Homes: Killing Time or Someone You Love

Our society carefully monitors the safety of children in public schools with qualified educators, security cameras, and carefully planned and monitored activities, but this is not the case in the care of the elderly.  Over the course of several years, I have heard nothing but horror stories from the facilities in my state and I could guess the problem is every where.  Most middle income people work and can not afford to take time off to care for an aging parent, so they often select an assisted living facility where the elderly parent is provided care with a certain degree of freedom.  For my father, this was the route my siblings selected for him.  He was becoming senile and was profoundly deaf and in a wheelchair.  The facility that was selected looked clean and comfortable, but looks can be deceiving.  Every time I visited my father, he was sitting in his own feces.  His wheelchair was encrusted with dried feces and never appeared to have been cleaned.  Since his mental facilities had declined with lack of any interaction, he didn't seem to notice or care that he was in this state.  He didn't want to be in the institute and left often,  sometimes traveling as far as five miles trying to find his home.The police were often summoned after he had been gone for several hours, but I was never contacted.  I was personally never notified of any of this although my siblings may have been.

 During his final days, he appeared to have disappeared again as he was lost from two to four hours before they contacted my older brother (again, I was never contacted).  When they found him, he was at the bottom of a very steep staircase.  He had apparently opened a door, and ridden his wheelchair down the stairs where he lay for four hours. My brother noted that although both of his shoes had fallen off, they were neatly found at the bottom of the stairs side by side next to his head.  He was sent to the hospital and returned to the center after a few hours in the emergency room as he had no broken bones. My brother called me and told me, "Dad rode his wheelchairs down some stairs. He was taken to the hospital, but he has no broken bones,  They gave him something for pain. He is sleeping now, so there is no reason for you to come up."

He died two days later.  If the facility had G.P.S. devices on each patient, they could have found him.  If the facility had alarms on each of the doors leading to the staircase or if the facility had a cameras in the halls, they could have discovered where he had gone and if any individual (as I suspect) helped him down those stairs.  If the facility had a caring staff who checked on the patients and cared for them, especially those with diminished capacities, he might not have died.

When I spoke with a friend whose a mother had been in another facility, she told me that her mother required assistance to visit the rest room. After buzzing the nurses for two hours, she attempted to take herself into the bathroom, but slipped and fell.  She lay on the floor for two more hours before anyone checked on her.

I realize that people with less financial clout can never expect the level of care of the wealthy, but still some level of professionalism is expected.  With the technology that is available, these two situation should never have occurred.  As a retired teacher, I know schools work vigilantly to make schools safe.  I know legislation and policing of these centers could give the other elderly (our other vulnerable population) safe as well.