It’s so important to recognize the signs of abuse in nursing homes and the steps to take if you feel your loved one is being abused in any way. This blog post by The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver provides a good overview.
Seniors and their families put a great deal of trust in nursing homes. Many of them believe that the decision…
My local newspaper (and former employer, I must disclose) has unveiled an investigative reporting project that is putting a much-needed spotlight on the rampant deficiencies in Georgia’s senior care communities. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Unprotected series recounts heartbreaking stories of abuse and neglect, how potential crimes were never reported to law enforcement and how residents are at risk no matter how upscale a community markets itself to be.
If you’ve ever had a loved one in a senior care facility, you likely will be able to relate to the reports included in this series. Families know all too well that such facilities are chronically understaffed and offer such poor pay that those with questionable backgrounds who lack professional experience are often hired. While family members struggle to pay the several thousand dollars a month that these facilities charge, their loved ones may be suffering and unable to defend themselves.
My parents spent time in care facilities in New Mexico, and I saw first-hand the deficiencies. My father suffered multiple falls and an altercation with a fellow resident at his memory care center. The center used an off-label medication to help keep the patients with severe dementia “more manageable.” It’s a common tactic used at such facilities, though of course none would admit it on record.
My mother’s facility was woefully understaffed, leading to my mother not being cleaned after soiling herself, and almost getting the wrong medication or treatment multiple times. It was only because I could be there daily as her patient advocate that further harm to her was avoided. When the laundry facilities broke down for a week, my mother had to used soiled towels and linens, putting her compromised immune system at risk of infection.
I hope you get a chance to read the Unprotected series and share with others. Encourage your local newspaper to conduct similar investigations if they haven’t already. The more that these criminal acts can be exposed, the greater chance we have in forcing changes in a corrupt system that is putting our elder loved ones at risk.
As part of our #unprotected series on senior care facilities, we have created a new, consumer website with inspection information, police reports and dining facility reports on the high-end senior care industry. Check it out: https://t.co/N474pqW0yd
When searching for senior care for your loved one, it can be difficult to know which option makes the most sense for your needs. There are many different terms out there, and they can all be a bit confusing for those who are new to the world of senior care. Here are some of the terms you need to know to locate senior living that’s a good fit for you and your family.
Many people start off with in home care for their senior. This is when a caregiver comes in at regular intervals to make sure that your senior is safe and helps them with personal and medical needs. This can be everything from making sure that they take their medication to helping with cooking and cleaning or just keeping them company. This option is a good first step for seniors in need of a little bit of assistance.
Retirement Communities/Senior Apartments
There are many communities where seniors have their own apartment and live independently, but have access to resources for seniors when they need it. These communities vary widely in amenities, ranging from almost no amenities offered to lots of social and personal services available. These options are usually called senior apartments, senior communities, or retirement communities. These communities typically don’t offer medical care for their residents.
Assisted living is residential living with assistance offered for cooking, cleaning, personal
grooming, and more as needed. Assisted living gives seniors help with what they need while still allowing them to maintain some independence. There are many large assisted living communities, but you can also find many smaller assisted living homes.
Memory care is designed specifically for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It offers many of the same features that assisted living does, but with a focus on services for patients who are memory-impaired. These facilities for seniors with dementia offer personalized care and provides specialized support for its residents.
Hospice care is not only for those who require end-of-life care, but for those who need constant medical support to treat chronic conditions. Hospice care can be provided at home or in an inpatient center. The focus is on palliative care, making sure patients are comfortable and not in pain.
Using this quick overview, you can determine what the best fit for your senior is. Senior citizen apartments and other senior living options provide seniors with the support and help that they need as they transition into older age.
About the Author:
Holly Klamer is a full-time freelancer writer who is a frequent contributor to blogs and websites that help provide comprehensive resources on senior living options.
I was recently introduced to a resourceful website called StayorMove.org. The site focuses on what is are the most crucial questions as we grow older, such as do we stay put in our current homes or do we move on to a different location or live in an assisted living facility?
It’s questions we all should ask ourselves, but many people wait until a health issue makes the decision for them. That’s why I like the approach found on the StayorMove website, which is easy to navigate and uses a series of videos to address the pros and cons of a variety of housing options.
I also appreciated the fact that growing old in a rural environment was addressed. Those who follow this blog know this is an issue that’s important to me, because my parents’ health care was compromised by living in a small town with limited medical resources. They have a series of videos on the Village movement, which seeks to connect neighbors and volunteers to help elders age in place, while valuing the contributions of elders to the community. I’d love to see this concept expand.
The videos are brief but informative, and hopefully will encourage the “stay or move” conversation to continue. The more people are educated, the better decisions they can make about their own aging and housing choices.
Dad was not a big fan of the outdoors. Mom pointed out recently how he would never sit out on the quiet, peaceful back deck of their condo. He did enjoy going on long walks, but that was about the extent of his connection with nature.
But at the assisted living facility that Dad was at for almost a year, he loved to wander the grounds of the garden. It was safely enclosed to make sure the “Memory Care” residents didn’t wander beyond the walls of the facility, but it also didn’t seem like a prison. I remember Dad taking jerking, stumbling walks around the sidewalk that lined the garden and encircled a gazebo area, where families could “socialize” with their loved ones.
The last photograph of dad and I together, July 2011. We are in the garden that was attached to the memory care unit of the assisted living facility.
Other than one “field trip” it was the only time Dad was able to breathe fresh air, to escape those long, dreary hallways of the locked ward that he was confined to due to his dementia. I’m not sure if he felt better outside or not. Towards the end of his stay there, it was so hard for him to get comfortable. We were never able to fully understand why. I guessed it was because he was so emaciated and the hard metal outdoor chairs hurt his body. At any rate, he could never sit still for long. He would have to fight his mind and body hard just to stand up again, then he would be off on his tottering pace that had me racing to catch up to him and offer him support.
Dad never had a green thumb, but at the end of his life, he learned to appreciate his time in the garden.
It’s been 10 months since Dad’s death. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed, and all of the events concerning my Mom’s health that have taken place since then.
Recently, I walked by what was once the assisted living facility that Dad stayed at oh-so-briefly beginning around this time last year. He was so sick by then that I don’t think he realized how close he was to home. The owner of the facility was not well-liked in town. It was a big struggle for her to get approved to open the 3-bed facility, and she only lasted in town about a year before she had to close.
The window on the right was where Dad’s room was at the assisted living facility.
I visited Dad’s room once there, when he was sick in the hospital across town. The building was kind of run-down and looked like it could have once been a medical office or business of some sort, so it did not have a homey feel to it all. It was chilly and a bit damp. They had ordered him a new bed to prevent bedsores. The owner was trying to find a chair for the room so Dad could sit in it when he returned.
I don’t know if she ever found that chair, or if he ever set in it. He returned back to the facility for a brief few days before he landed back in the hospital, even more ill than before. He then ended up in Albuquerque, where he eventually died.
The space where the assisted living facility used to be is undergoing an extensive renovation. It looks like the insides are being gutted. I don’t know what’s going to replace the facility, but I’ll always remember it as one of Dad’s last homes, no matter how brief his stay was there.
While I was visiting Mom, we went through two boxes brought over from the last assisted living facility that Dad resided at. In fact, he spent very little time there, as he was mostly confined to the hospital by that point.
Mom was not looking forward to the process, even though we both suspected that many of the items in the boxes would not be Dad’s. We were right. It’s a bit disturbing to handle clothes that belonged to strangers. Who were these people, and what were their stories?
And who ended up with Dad’s clothes and belongings?
We also found two photographs of someone’s grandkids, most likely, their smiling portraits foreign to us.
I did score a couple of Dad’s old jackets, which are precious to me, so it was worth the unsettling experience.
While certainly my dad’s death did not come out of the blue, his sudden decline did catch my mom and I off guard. From most of the accounts I had read about Alzheimer’s, patients seemed to usually experience a slow, but steady decline. For my dad, his overall health took a nosedive over the course of just a few fateful days. He would never recover.
When you have a loved one suffering from dementia, you have to adjust your expectations greatly. While at the nursing home, my dad suffered from repeated falls and had to have a catheter placed because he was having difficult urinating, but he also had a great appetite and was fully ambulatory. He stayed in this fairly stable condition for several months, and mom and I adopted an uneasy new sense of “normal.”
The last photo of Dad and I together, July 2011.
There was finally an opening at an assisted living facility much closer to my parent’s home, so dad was to be transferred there on Nov. 1st. In mid-October, my mom went to see my dad and he bumped her as she was talking to one of the nurses. He was fairly alert and totally ambulatory. He had a doctor’s visit that day and did well there. My mom had lunch with my dad and he ate everything on his plate, and had some of mom’s food as well. She felt like it was one of the best visits she had with him in quite awhile.
On Oct. 26th, I had talked to the staff at the facility he had been at, to thank them for their care. I clearly remember the update the nurse gave me that day: Dad set off the alarm when he tried to leave the unit, but she was able to coax him to take a walk in the facility’s garden by giving him a lollipop. And he had a huge bowel movement that morning and they had to put him in the shower to clean him off. In the alternative world of Alzheimer’s, this is considered a good day. While the pessimist in me had doubts about the move, I held out a bit of hope that things would go well and mom would get to visit dad more, which would have meant so much to her.
But alas, it was not meant to be. On the day he was transferred, my mom and the director of the facility he was being moved to went to pick him up. He was asleep, more like knocked out, and had to be helped into the van. He supposedly had a bladder infection, and then was diagnosed with pneumonia. He spent the last two months of his life almost exclusively in the hospital. If there is one thing that this disease taught me, it’s to expect the unexpected around any corner.
I saw this article the other day about Johnson & Johnson paying out a $158M settlement over Risperdal. I took notice because unbeknownst to us, dad had been prescribed the generic version of this drug (Risperidone) at the assisted living facility he resided at for ten months. The drug is to be used in treating adolescents with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. The FDA has not approved this drug for use in the elderly with dementia, but it is commonly used anyways, and is legal to do so. In these cases, studies have shown an increase in stroke risk and an overall increased risk of death. The list of common medications Risperidone can interact with is disturbing as well.
Dad and I at the assisted living facility, March 2011.
I’m sure nursing home staff would defend their use of such medications as a way to keep patients calm and safe, especially when aggression and violent outbursts can be a symptom of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. My mom never liked the fact that they could wander in and out of each other’s rooms, but what was the other option, lock them up like animals in a cage?
I clearly remember my first visit to the facility where my dad was living. It had a separate, secure wing that was just for dementia patients called the “memory care” unit. I’m not sure what I expected to see, I guess something closer to an asylum than a daycare. But what I saw was eerily comforting, a bunch of seniors just sitting around calmly, while workers scurried about, cleaning up bladder and bowel accidents and doling out the meds that no doubt kept these patients in some twilight state somewhere between being stoned and being in a coma. I’ll venture a guess that dad wasn’t the only one being given Risperidone on a regular basis.
When I first saw my father, I couldn’t help but think of a zombie. He was shuffling down the hallway, wearing a gray t-shirt which had a noticeable wet spot on it (later I learned it was from his constant drooling) and Scooby Doo pajama bottoms and canvas slip-on sneakers. At first, I could not believe it was Dad because Dad had never owned a pair of sneakers, and he certainly did not lounge around in boy’s pajamas festooned with cartoon characters in his former life as a normal person. But the bony frame, the steel-tinted shock of hair and the eyes, still emerald green but no longer gleaming, that mouth set in a tense slash of determination, those all belonged to my father. I walked slowly to him, wanting to run, afraid he would vanish into thin air, then chiding myself for wishing that he would, to be put out of this benign yet suffocating version of hell. Instead, I said, “Hi Dad,” as naturally as I could and as his eyes searched mine in some feeble attempt at recognition, I wrapped my arms carefully around his fragile and stiff frame, while whispering raggedly into his ear, “I love you.”