What to Do If You Suspect Neglect or Abuse in Your Parent’s Retirement Home
I think most of us approach the idea of sharing the care of an elder with a lot of trepidation. We have cared for them with one-on-one loving attention. We know their history, their preferences, their tempers and their needs. Bringing others, no matter how experienced, into the equation is counter-intuitive.
However, for many of us, the time comes when we have no choice. Over the course of two decades I cared for seven elders. All but two spent some time in a senior living facility — whether it be an assisted living community or a nursing home During the 15 years I visited daily, I saw three changes of ownership. Each was good, though the last (and present ownership) has been the best, from the viewpoint of a family member.
Dad was the true heart-breaker. He had surgery for complications from a World War II brain injury. Not only did the surgery fail, it put him into a paranoid dementia and introduced a voice in his head who we came to call Herman. The shock of his personality change after the surgery is indescribable. His emotional and psychic pain was one of the worst things I’ve had to bear. He survived this way for 10 years.
When Dad went into the same nursing home as my uncle (and eventually the rest of my elders), we watched the home closely. He was so terribly vulnerable, and we felt helpless in the wake of the changes. Yes, we knew the home was excellent. We knew most of the staff, as my uncle had been there for years. However, dad was on a different floor with different staff.
And this is where I went wrong. There was a male CNA on the floor who worked nights. Dad started talking about how rough the person was when he cared for dad at night. We knew by then that Dad hallucinated and went in and out of paranoia. So, we were quite careful about taking everything he complained about too seriously. Still, nothing he said was ever taken lightly. We always were aware that he could be right.
I began talking with members of other families who had loved ones on the same floor, and we kind of developed the “mob” mentality. Generally, I’m pretty mild-mannered, but when it comes to protecting vulnerable people, I’m a tiger. And this was my extremely vulnerable dad.
When other people began agreeing with me that this CNA was too rough and that he may be frightened some of the people, we agreed to write a letter to the administrator with all of us signing it. We felt that was the right thing to do.
That is something I still regret. I don’t regret my vigilance. I do regret not going through proper channels. As it worked out, this man became one of the best aides in the home, and I can’t tell you what his care for my mother meant to me after Dad died and…
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “For anyone having to walk the last segments of life with a loved one, read this.” …Delores
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