Nursing Home Abuse More People Need to Speak Out

posted on:
November 30, 2007

author:
Heidi Turner

Kathleen Sadlier transferred her mother, Rita, from a hospital to a nursing home, thinking she would get rehabilitation. Instead, her mother received poor care and even an injury. Although Rita was there for just a week, Sadlier says she saw so much nursing home neglect that she had to take her mother out of the home. 

Rita was initially taken to the hospital around April 4th of this year. She went in for congestive heart failure, thin blood and liver problems. On April 18th, after the hospital determined Rita was doing better, she was transferred to a nursing home. "My impression was that she would be rehabilitated to get back to where she before she went to hospital," Sadlier says. "She wasn’t in the best of health, but she was getting by. I didn’t expect her to start doing cartwheels or anything. It was supposed to be for rehab."

On her first visit to the nursing home, Sadlier was shocked by what she saw. "I went into her room and my mother was lying naked in bed," Sadlier says. "No gown or anything. I’ve never, ever seen my mother like that-she was modest. So I had to go and find someone to get me a gown and help me put it on her."

Next, Sadlier says that Rita was being given medication and had to go to the bathroom. "My mother was heavy, so I know they might have had trouble helping her to the bathroom," Sadlier says. "But the nurse said ‘just go’ even though there was no catheter or bedpan nearby. All I could think was, ‘Don’t we use bedpans anymore?’ She went to the home so she could learn to do things herself again, and she was being told to ‘just go’ where she was."

The problems did not stop there. Sadlier says that her mother, who had congestive heart failure, had fluid restrictions. However, on Rita’s meal tray someone had written a note to staff: "Force fluids." Another time when Sadlier was visiting her mother, no one even brought in a food tray. She says she had to go ask for one and is certain that if she had not been there, her mother would have missed that meal.

Sadlier says her mother was also supposed to have a special mattress, but one was never put on the bed. After visiting her mother and finding her naked in bed yet again, Sadlier had enough. "She was supposed to be there for rehab, but she was always just laying there. The hospice said that she wasn’t good enough for rehab, but that’s what she was admitted for. The physical therapist said that she was in the wrong section; that she had been put in the Alzheimer’s section instead of rehab and the home said that there were no beds available in rehab to move her to. But I found out later, there were. My daughter’s friend works at the home and told us that someone else had been transferred from the hospital directly to the rehab section. They lied to me."

After an enormous struggle to have her mother removed from the nursing home, Sadlier was finally allowed to take her mother home. However, even that was complicated. "The ambulance didn’t bring her to my home," Sadlier says. "They took her to the hospital because the nursing home sent the wrong paperwork–it didn’t have my signature on it. And she was on the gurney, upside down, with her hands tied to the side of the bed. It broke my heart. She had ulcers all over her butt, back, arms and legs. The ambulance attendant took pictures of it because he remembered her from earlier when she went into the hospital."

Just over a day later, at age 79, Rita died at her daughter’s home. "She was home for a day before she died," Sadlier says. "I’m just so thankful that I got her out of there. I would never have been able to live with myself if she died in that nursing home. There was so much going on there and I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want them to treat her worse."

Since helping to care for her grandmother, Sadlier’s daughter has decided to become a nurse. "She told us we have to turn people who are in bed (like my mother was) every two hours," Sadlier says. "They never did that for my mother at the home. I was there quite a bit. So were my aunt and my sister. None of us saw them turn her or care for her properly."

As for people with family in nursing homes, Sadlier says to be careful. "If you have someone there, really keep an eye on everything to see what is going on. Don’t just think they are being taken care of, because they might not be. I feel sorry for those in nursing homes who don’t have family members to watch over them. More people need to speak out about this."

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