Monday, August 9, 2010

Dark and Twisty

Crazy life, mine. Have you ever experienced having a parent be abused, whether physical or emotional? It stinks.

Let me tell you what has been going on with my mom for the past couple of weeks.

Right after I got home from Steve's family reunion on July 24th, I checked caller id and the messages on the phone to see what & who we missed while we were gone. There were several calls from my mom's nursing home, with only one vague message from the social worker there saying that she'd like to talk to me about my mom.

Since it was Saturday and no one from admin. is available on Saturdays, I called my mom to see what the social worker might have wanted. My mom's reply was, "It was probably about my wheelchair." Wheelchair?? Why would she call about her wheelchair? My mom explained that she ran into the refrigerator that is out in the common area. She explained that she was getting some ice in a cup, no one was around when she got there, but several people were around when she was trying to leave. She said that as she was manuvering to not hit anyone, she must have ran into the refrigerator, but that she hadn't even realized that she'd done anything.

The next day when she was in her bed sleeping, the administrator and director of nursing came into her room and told her that she'd damaged the fridge. They somehow decided that she'd ran into the fridge because of how worn out dialyis made her, and they said that they thought her electric wheelchair should be taken away for a week. She "agreed" by saying ok. Her wheelchair stayed in her room, but the nurses and nurses aids were told not to use her electric wheelchair for anything but her dialysis sessions. She was given a manual wheelchair to replace hers.

I called the administrator on Monday morning, and he put me on speakerphone with the social worker, director of nursing, and himself. I explained that for the past several months that she lived there several things had happened such as: the wrong medication being given (she took a med for 3 days before they realized the pharmacy had sent the wrong pill), the medicine given at the wrong time (high blood pressure pill given before dialysis when dialysis lowers her blood pressure anyway - my aunt died from her blood pressure going too low and them not being able to raise it), tylenol being given in place of a pain pill but telling my mother it was her pain pill (my sister's friend discovered this had been going on for a while), and yet when we talked to them about these problems they said that "accidents happen". Yet when my mother has an "accident" her mobility is taken away.

I reminded them that my mother is unable to use a regular wheelchair by herself: she cannot push the wheels with her arms, nor pull herself with her legs. I told them that taking away her electric wheelchair was the same as shackling someone who can walk to the bed or a chair.

I was told that it was "for the safety of herself and others". I reminded them that it was a fridge, and that she was trying to *not* hit anyone. "But it *could have been* a person," was what they replied. I asked if they had ever hit a dog, cat, bird, rabbit, fence post, mailbox, parking lot divider with their car, because if they had, perhaps their driver's licenses should be taken away because it *could have been* a person.

How can I be sure it was punishment and not "for the safety of others and herself"? Because:
When I told the director that taking away her mobility was abusive the director said, "So you are saying that we are abusing her?", to which I replied, "It seems abusive to me." Then he said, "Would you like the number for the ombudsman" (for adult protective services), I said, "I absolutely would." THEN he said something to the effect of (meaning I don't remember word for word, but do remember the message that he said) "What if we did give your mother her wheelchair back, should we just have her pay for the damages?" THAT, my friends, was when my accusations were confirmed: the wheelchair had *not* been taken away for "the safety of herself and others" but as punishment for running into the refrigerator. (My response to his offer was that he would need to talk to my mother since I'm not her agent but that she makes her own decisions.)

No matter what I said they didn't budge and didn't give her wheelchair back for a week.

During that week, on Sunday, the aids tried to get my mother up to go get her weekly weight check. Because the manual wheelchair's seat doesn't raise or lower (when the seat is lower than the bed it is easier to "slide" into the wheelchair) and because my mother wasn't strong to begin with, but had also lost more strength by laying in bed for three days (she didn't get out of bed because she couldn't go anywhere anyway), when they tried to stand her up her legs were weak and she was "lowered to the ground". To me that just means that they helped her have a controlled fall. When they tried to help her up, she heard a pop in her shoulder, arm, or back. Thereafter she stayed in bed hopped up on pain killers. In fact, I hadn't been able to have a coherant conversation with her since that accident until this past Saturday.

On Saturday she called and sounded good, except that she needed to get off of the phone so that they could help her change position because she hurt too much to do it herself. She also told me that she can no longer stand *at all*. They now have to use a lift to get her out of bed because she lost so much strength by not getting out of bed for a couple of weeks. She and a nurse have told me that she has bed sores. They have probably gotten so bad because she has just used her depends since her wheelchair was taken away. At firt, she couldn't get herself to the bathroom, and now since she can't get up at all.

All of this because she hit a refrigerator.

I have contacted two state agencies: one agency is for the protection of the elderly, the other is the agency that licenses the facility. I hope that my mother's nursing home is forced to change their policy --currently their policy is that on the first infraction **without any warning** they take away the patient's electric wheelchair for one week, on the second infraction it is taken away permanently. The patients don't even realize that this *is* the facility's policy until it happens. It is not on the admission papers that the patient signs before entering the facility.-- My mother is NOT the only one who has ever had her wheelchair taken away, and until the policy changes, she will not be the last.

It is also my hope that my mother changes nursing homes, but it is her right to stay in an abusive situation if she wants to. *That* is the hardest part to bear.


  1. I am just furious, and yet not surprised. I worked at a nursing home for 1 day. Yep, 1 shift. It was the night shift, when no family members or friends are around and I was sickened by how horribly the staff treated the patients while no one was around to see. :(

    I feel so badly for you Melody...having to watch this unfold. I imagine knowing your mom is in control and can stay there if she chooses is so hard to face every day.

    Hugs and thoughts and prayers dearie. ♥

    P.S. Did you ask them why if she's dangerous with her wheelchair did they take it away for only a week. Seems to me if she really were dangerous, it would have been taken away permanently, which only proves they were using it as a punishment. Shame on the staff and administration.

  2. This is absolutely despicable! The first clue that there was something amiss was when you indicated in the beginning of your post that the nursing home took her powerchair away for a week (what, to think about what she had 'done'???). It sounds to me like the nursing home has ZERO respect for their residents!

    For the record, I ran a senior citizens' apartment complex for a few years. Although we were not "responsible" for the residents legally, we were aware if they seemed to be having some more problems than typical. It was part of my job to talk with the families of the residents to discuss any of these issues and work to resolve them, not to threaten to throw them out or punish the in any way.

    Not to mention, I'm a powerchair user myself, and no matter how careful you are, there *will* be scrapes and nicks and hits to inanimate objects. It's just part of the deal, and the nursing home staff should know that as well.