Nursing Home Outrage, Part II

off-with-their-fucking-heads

Back in October, I had a first-hand experience of conditions at a Los Angeles nursing home. I was stunned by the blatant inhumanity: I don’t know what else to call it. How can this shit go on? How can people live with themselves after consigning a loved one to such misery and neglect?

Hearing about a 98 year old woman who killed a 100 year old roommate, my first reaction was to laugh. I guess it’s still funny on some level, but I’ve lost the thread of whatever black comedy I perceived there. Now that I’ve learned the circumstances, I am furious beyond words. It’s an obvious case of nursing home negligence, but the nursing home won’t be held responsible and for the administrators and stockholders, it will be business as usual.

Laura Lundquist strangled her roommate, Elizabeth Barrow, at the Brandon Woods nursing home in New Bedford, MA, after Barrow’s son made repeated complaints about Lundquist on his mother’s behalf. Lundquist believed that Barrows was “taking over her room,” and had already made threats to the older roommate as well as an attempt to block her from leaving her bed.

Guess what? When you complain about anything in a nursing home, NOTHING HAPPENS! People might nod as though they are listening, but nothing will happen. The staff is not there to provide care. They are there to earn a low wage and to bitch to each other about how annoying their duties are. The patients are discussed by their room and bed number. “24B needs service” announced on the intercom will not bring anyone to 24B’s room, not until some CNA is good and ready to walk her ass down the hall.

Lundquist has a lawyer who will argue that she has dementia. Of course she does! She’s 98 years old and rotting in a fucking nursing home! I don’t think Lundquist can be held responsible. But I’d like to see the administrators of Brandon Woods be restrained in their own nursing home for the next several years, subjected to bedsores and the ravings of mentally ill roommates.

The CEO of Brandon Woods, Scott Picone, says said the home was “deeply saddened by this tragic event, and our thoughts and prayers go out to both families.” He declined to comment further. But in another statement, the home said the roommates acted like sisters, walked and ate lunch together daily and said, “Goodnight, I love you,” to each other every night.

Here’s a story for you:   Max’s last roommate at Kindred Hospital was a man named Willie. He is an elderly black man who has cancer and may have also had a stroke. At the time he arrived, he was unable to talk. He had a tracheotomy and had some plastic thing in his mouth. He could gesture with his hands though and he had a legal pad on his table where he could write to communicate.   Just before Max was discharged, I saw that Willie had written “Why do they handle me like a terrorist??” Why indeed.

The next day, I paused outside the room and said to a nurse who had just exited: “Willie is such a sweet guy.” She replied: “Yes, he is. Doesn’t talk much, though.”

In the Q & A section of the Brandon Woods website,   one is assured that: “Music, physical fitness, outings, and laughter are the key ingredients to enabling residents to enjoy their environment.”

Ha! Jesus. Off with their fucking heads.

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35 Responses to Nursing Home Outrage, Part II

  1. TheShoeGirl says:

    This is really sad and I don’t really know what to say here other than I’m glad you bring shit like this up.

  2. Dreadfully sad and the care of the elderly is notoriously poor. We know they were slackers and didn’t look after them.

  3. Kate says:

    It’s all so sickeningly morally wrong. Jails that cost, more or less, and the crime being having lived and coming closer to death.

    Where is even a cursory nod to any remaining respect for elders in most affordable nursing homes? It’s in the brochures and nowhere else.

    I used to volunteer at a nursing home visiting the “safe” patients and wanted to get more involved, so I got an after-school job as an events coordinator. When the sick and twisted managerial insisted the first event I hold be an “old folks prom” and then enforced the event, it all came down in the Prom King making a run for the alarmed entrance with his sad Burger King crown on sideways shouting “I’m King Lincoln and it’s my day!,” while a gaggle of women in wheelchairs bumped into one another and hissed and booed at my piano playing, chanting in unison “get me outta here, girlie, help us leave!” Music as a key ingredient, indeed. They showed me how much good perfunctory cheering up does in a place like that. I quit out of shame and the memory is still profoundly depressing.

  4. This story is so heartbreaking. Anyone confined to a nursing home is bound to end up depressed, crazy, or both. My worst fear is ending up in such a place.

  5. Jenny Dunville says:

    Spent last summer watching the healthcare industry make money off of my 97 year old grandmother’s body. Even with children who were monitoring her daily care we found that the hospital/nursing home would circumvent her wishes in favor of more costly procedures that in the end (2 months later) proved futile. Not only do we need more discussion about our final days, we need options that respect our wishes. I’d rather burn down with my house than end up in one of these places & my kids know that.

  6. dust says:

    I hear same stories here and they say money can’t buy health. I seriously doubt it…

  7. Braindance says:

    I am with Jenny on this one.
    My grandfather was put into a “care “home with a strong spirit and the will to live, a year later, he was dead.
    My mother and I lived 300 miles away when the decision was made to put him in one, so we went and visited him often, even though my mum was surfing the poverty line.
    Shit was sooooo bad, my mother ended up punching one of the “care workers” in the face. I really dislike all violence, but I do remember my 10 year old brain thinking, you deserved that you bitch.
    We decided that we were going to bring him with us to live in the country side by the sea, but it was too late. I will never really forgive my family for putting him in there.

    My grandmother left when my mother was 3, he then bust his balls to raise 10 black children through the 60s and 70s to be rewarded with gangerine in both legs and bullshit care.

    It says something really shocking about our society that we have so many care homes, I may be wrong, but I dont think such a thing exsists in Japan and certain parts of Asia.

    I will kill myself in a blaze of glory before going into one of those places, something like 10 acid tabs and a bottle of vodka, or taking my bony old ass sky diving so the exhilaration kills me

  8. WendyB says:

    I visited my grandmother at a rehab places yesterday (she is 91 and has 5 broken ribs from a fall. Assisted living is the next step.) She didn’t have any water near her bed. Somehow her pitcher had vanished. When we asked for a new pitcher you would have thought we were asking someone for her right arm and first-born child.

  9. annemarie says:

    I don’t know if it’s fair to point the finger at the workers. I used to volunteer in one of those places, and while I enjoyed it (I have a special affinity with old people, don’t know why that is), it is quite a depressing environment to work in. The old people are usually in very low-spirits, not because of the place necessarily, but because they are old, weak of body, all their friends are dead, their family doesn’t visit them, daytime television sucks, and they don’t have the energy to change the channel. Unless you have buckets of energy and a resiliently cheerful disposition, this stuff will get to you. In addition, the workers are the target for much abuse, both from the old people, who are depressed and therefore quite frequently this crabby and hostile towards other people, and from their families, the very bastards who put them in there in the first place.

    I think that the people who work in these places should be better looked after. There should be some sort of group-counseling sessions set up for them so that the emotional grind of doing this kind of work doesn’t break them down, make them, as you said, “inhumane.” And they should be paid better.

    But that will never happen if people go around blaming them for shit and treating them like scum.

    If the workers are happy, the service is better– simple.

  10. Ann says:

    This whole topic has been very heavy on my mind since you shared your first experience with Max in that dreadful shithole. It is disgraceful and sad, especially to read stories such as yours and Jenny Dunville’s, where the family is/was so involved in the daily lives of their loved one but still witnessed and experienced such monumental lapses in care. All I can think is what happens to the people who don’t have an advocate or anyone to speak for them? Oh, that’s right, they get treated like terrorists.

  11. Alicia says:

    un-fucking-believable.

    Well, I can believe it…and that’s the problem. What horror the patients must suffer at the hands of neglect and incompetence.

  12. Moda says:

    Apart from the money-grabbing care home owners and the do-as-little-as-possible staff, I think there should be monitoring/inspectors who come unannounced (like the environmental health do for restaurants in the UK). It’s a really shit situation. The families and the patients are being utterly shafted and very few receive quality care.

    I winced when I read Annmarie’s “the very bastards who put them in there in the first place” because that’s me. I’d do it. My mum has Alzheimer’s and is steadily getting worse but I won’t look after her in my home. It would mean, honestly, sacrificing my sanity to look after her. Not because of the Alzheimer’s but because of the fucked up relationship we’ve always had. She didn’t look after me or any of her other 7 children very well when we were growing up. I do love her but when she inevitably gets even worse, I’ll put her in a home or get a live-in carer if we can afford it. I feel really guilty about that but I’m just trying to point out that not everyone’s situation is black & white.

    Of course she still deserves to be treated with respect and not to be abused. I’d like her to not to suffer. Would I want to die in one of these hell holes? No way.

    Unfortunately I don’t have any answers.

  13. Bevitron says:

    My father was injured in a car crash when he was 60, and he spent the last 20 years of his life in a nursing home. He was comletely bedridden & unable to care for himself – his brains were what you might call scrambled. He wasn’t paralyzed, he was spastic, and had lost almost all short-term memory but remembered events of yesteryear amazingly well. He had some use of his right arm and hand, but couldn’t get food to his mouth – he always missed. He spoke every now and then, and made a kind of bizarre sense. We like to think that he didn’t have the ability to contemplate his situation much, but we never really knew. He was “lucky” – his on the job injury meant that every bit of his care was paid for, including the most incredible, and incredibly well-paid, private duty nurses available. 20 years and never one bedsore, and minimal health problems. And he had family who came to see him several times a week. Not just to check up, but to visit. Still, it was awful. Is that any kind of life?

    During that time I saw exactly what you’re talking about, Sister Wolf. Lots and lots of it. People who didn’t have great, high-paid nurses around the clock, people who didn’t have family or anybody visiting them. You’re right – the regular grunt workers in there just drag through the days doing the absolute least required till they collect their tiny paychecks. A thankless, terrible job. They get so they just don’t hear the yells and don’t give a shit about the guy who has nobody to feed him his dinner – I’ve seen it and I’ve helped people eat who didn’t have any help. I agree with the last part of annemarie’s comment, and yes, happier workers, better service.

  14. andrea says:

    Don’t get me started on this! Although I feel bad that my parents (even though they are the root of all my problems!) didn’t live long enough to have to be relegated to that situation, I am secretly glad that I won’t have to deal with this, ever. I remember my grandmother, who was in a nursing home because she could not care for herself anymore, complained to the nurse’s aide that she didn’t want to get out of bed on the day she died. They just threw her in a wheelchair because that was on their assignment. She was found dead in the chair an hour later. And although she was supposedly “senile” (Alzheimer’s wasn’t in the lexicon yet, it was the ’70s), she told me when I asked her about a black and blue eye and cheek, “they do things to you here”. It just breaks my heart that she had to deal with this inhumanity. Someone, (and not me, I have too much going on in my life at present), needs to do an expose on nursing homes. I don’t know if any of you remember Geraldo Rivera’s expose about the Willowbrook home in New York. Not only did he get that place closed, but it made his career. How about you, Sister Wolf?

  15. Deni says:

    My mom was in a nursing home for a several years. Most of the staff spoke her native language (Greek), there was a church on site (important to my mother), lots of outings and events, ethnic food, lots of volunteers to cheer up the inmates, and a lot of indoor and outdoor park-like space. The nursing home was clean and there were a lot of safety measures installed. However, my mom broke her hip on a particular outing, and never walked after that; she stayed in the wheel chair for her remaining years. She was sent twice to emergency due to dehydration, so severe that she was in a coma. The emergency doctor was livid that this sort of thing could happen, he wanted to shut down the facility. (I wanted to hire a lawyer and sue their asses, but living 3000 miles away and knowing there was no better place to be found made it very difficult.) I guess the staff forgot to make sure she was eating and being hydrated. My sister had to hire someone to feed her twice a day, lunch and dinner until the very end. And this was at one of the very best nursing homes in Canada. I’m with Braindance . . . and I hope I have the choice to go out like I want to and not left, literally, dying of thirst somewhere, broken, alone, and depending on the kindness and charity of strangers and low wage employees. So, there should be standards of care that aren’t tied to the bottom line, just on humanitarian principles alone! Why are those that need care the most often neglected the most? Fuck, we suck as a society!

  16. OMGGMAB says:

    Braindance: My dear friend always says that when he is 80, he wishes to have a box of ecstasy and an x-box. He prefers this method of exit to any of the above. May he live so long!

    As for the employees of the nursing homes with which I am somewhat familiar, they are treated badly by the administration too, especially the CNA’s, who have little education and often dim prospects. Yet, I have found that many of them are very caring and only want to make others more comfortable. Too bad they don’t get support from their superiors.

    End of life decisions are always very difficult for family members. Keeping someone alive is not the same as allowing them to live life. When the day is dark, the night darker, and no hope exists, may the death panels come to fruition, for me!

  17. Alana says:

    “If the workers are happy, the service is better— simple.”

    That’s not at all true, and also not a fair statement. How would you feel if your mother went paragliding only to end up dead because the poor under payed, overworked paragliding instructor just didn’t have a the energy or happy state of mind he needed in order to secure the safety harness properly. If I was working in a rest home I would take the same amount of care around the patients (with all do respect) as I would mental patients.
    Those two old ladies should have been separated the moment Linda threatened Elizabeth. If not for their lives merely for their peace of mind.

    People who sign up to work in care homes should know the dangers of ignoring the requests/complaints of old people, regardless of whether the old people want a glass of water, or to be moved to another living space. Regardless of whether they are treated badly by the administration or not, they should still make the effort to do their job properly.

  18. Braindance says:

    Alana has a very valid point, People who work in care homes because it is their vocation, I respect, and take my hat off to them, because I know it is a job I could not do, even if it was mega high paid. They do make the difference to many people who have nobody else

    The rest of them can Lickadickdo, (Lickadickdo came into my vocab after being FORCED to watch Apocalypto with Mel “I have a God Complex” Gibson)
    Some of the methods I saw employed on helpless people in my grandfather’s home scarred me, and helped me decide on a few aspects of my demise.
    Who is responsible for regulating these places? Why do we as a society think it is ok to send generations of decent people to such a humiliating decline?

    Moda, I can empathize with you, my mother also is a turd a lot of the time, and it does not make me relish the idea of looking after her if/when she goes loopy, but I am going to bust a gut to have her looked after in a place like Bevitron described. Selfish reasons mainly, I aspire for good karma.

    OMGGMAB, A box of pills and an x box sounds like a plan, I like his style.

    How about stealing a tank (c’mon, it’s easy) with machine guns attached to the roof, and driving through London shouting through a tannoy system
    I am going to die, so are you, you Fuccckkkkkkeerrrss!!!!!!!!!

  19. annemarie says:

    Alana does indeed make a valid point but to say that:

    “If the workers are happy, the service is better— simple–

    THAT’S NOT TRUE AT ALL, AND NOT A FAIR STATEMENT”

    …..IS SO FUCKING STUPID! ARE YOU AN IDIOT?

  20. Alana says:

    annemarie: If the workers are happy, it is not problem solved. It is not as simple as that. There are many other ways that the service could be better (employee’s taking more responsibility is one of them). If you take away the word simple, from your statement it would have been true (though not fair).

  21. annemarie says:

    And tell me Alana, do you go to work everyday because it is your “vocation,” or do you do it so that you can earn enough money to live with dignity and some degree of comfort? Your self-righteousness is galling.

  22. Alana says:

    Seen as your so interested, no I do not go to work every day because it is my “vocation”. I don’t work in a place where my efforts (or lack of) would effect other peoples lives so much either.

    I like your blog. i like the creative way you write. Have a good day.

  23. Sister Wolf says:

    Alana – Hey, don’t go! I agree with you! annemarie is such a contrarian.

    These nursing home stories are heartbreaking and enraging! The mother stories are especially resonant to me…I hated my mother until she got cancer. It was enough of a nightmare without the added horror of a nursing home. xoxo

  24. annemarie says:

    Alana: Oh, so you agree with me then? You think that nursing-home jobs ARE extremely important and that the workers should therefore be compensated adequately? Ah, good. On the same page, as they say.

    But wait a minute: if you yourself only work for money and not because of your vocation, but that’s ok because your job does not “effect other peoples lives so much,” YET you find it your right and duty to denounce those people who actually DO take on that kind of job and put themselves on the firing lines, THEN WHY THE HELL DON’T YOU GO AND GET YOURSELF A JOB LIKE THAT AND STOP BITCHING ABOUT IT?

    Get off the computer this instant and go wipe an octogenarian’s bottom. They will appreciate it, and so will their families! (See your own comments if you don’t get the irony there.)

  25. Alana says:

    I’m sorry Annemarie but blah blah blah blah blah. Don’t you think this arguments getting a little stale?

  26. Alana says:

    Sister wolf: Thankyou

  27. Juri says:

    Sometime in the early nineties in Finland I was ordered to work at a nursing home for demented people. It was a community service gig and I wasn’t too motivated, obviously. I was never introduced to the people who lived there or told any of their names by the regular staff. One of my first assignments (as far as I recall) was to go feed a toothless old lady who had no strength left to move her arms, let alone hold a spoon or take it to her mouth.

    Luckily for her, a 20 something druggie had just been “appointed” to help her with her porridge.

    After one or two indifferent spoonfuls she refused to open her mouth. Then she turned her face away as she was still able to move her neck.

    About a week later I had had enough and walked out of that place. A few months later my community service was transformed into 4,5 months of prison. That was not a big deal but I still feel guilty for not being able to treat that nameless old woman like a human being.

    The moral of this anecdote? The happiness of the staff does matter. People “sign up” for nursing home jobs for a variety of reasons. I don’t know how it is in America but here in Denmark it is VERY easy to get a job as an assintant “nurse” in one of those homes as they are desperate for staff and hire anyone. My adoptive “mother” in Finland has worked in a nursing home for 20 years and absolutely loves her job. Sadly for the patients, not everyone working in the field does.

    This is a problem that should be taken care of but it won’t. Having seen what I’ve seen so far (I was also hired as a night attendant for a respirator patient, once, but I’ll skip that story for now) I can only hope that I have not caught my two grandmothers’ (both in their late 90s) genes but those of my grandfathers (both died in their 80s). I don’t even want to imagine the level of indifference and neglect we will experience 30-40 years from now.

  28. Pop Princess says:

    Unfortunately it is this way all over the world.

    I worked as a volunteer visiting the elderly in Australia and the attitude of the staff was appalling.

    The the particular lady I was assigned to was dying and continually vomitting. They didn’t care at all. It seemed an inconvenience to grab her a bucket to vomit in.

    It made me so infuriated, sad, frustrated and scared. Scared because this is where most of us will one day end up.

  29. annemarie says:

    Alana:

    I think ‘blah blah blah’ just about sums up your real level of concern about nursing homes.

  30. hammie says:

    It is often the same with those working with anyone perceived as intellectually disabled or learning delayed. Half the people in there are doing it because they want to feel power over someone – in their otherwise powerless lives.

    The Elderly and infirm need advocates. xx

  31. amanda says:

    well i work in a nursing home and have for 2 years and if people are reated like that in the nursing home u work at thats crazy somone should call state. any ways i love my job and the people i work with. just because u hear things about some nursing homes doesnt mean that they all are bad. its seriously a very time consuming hard job, i usually have 9 – 10 residents in a day to take care of and i cant tell u how many scratchs and bruises i have had from taking care of some of the people there. and not everyone gets bed sores it all depends on if that resident was properly taken care of. not everyone is cut out for this job it takes a lot of will power and a strong stomach to do what i do everyday. at the nursing home i work at yes people have died but not killed each other, and i think thats horrible that no body got in trouble. with out people like me and the rest of the cna’s and nurses that work there the elderly would have no place to go. yes nursing homes are expensive but u have to realize that they get 3 meals a day cooked and prepared for them, free tv, and card for 24/7. so no not all nursing homes are abusive like the one u but some arent. i mean take this for example if ur 78 year old dad was 350 lbs and incontinent how would u take care of him plus work all day and take care of your kids? u wouldnt. he would develop bed sores that i could stick my arm in and yes ive seen them like that. so some smart person came up with the idea of making a home they could all stay in a be cared for, dont take for granted the people that take care of your loved ones, form experience i love the residents just as much as their own kids do, and to some i am the only family they ever see. i agree the state needs to investigate people more on things like that but please belive not all nursing homes are bad. thanks.

  32. Pia says:

    I’m really saddened and shocked by this Blog and the comments on it.
    Abuse and negligence certainly doesn’t exist at the nursing home I work at here in Australia. I’m an 18 year old assistant nurse, studying to become an RN.
    I think the care is exceptional where I work. I work by the motto of treating all the residents as if they are my own grandparents which is why it really bothers me reading all these generalisations about care workers sitting on their asses.
    My pay isn’t amazing, but it’s not terrible either. It’s no secret that the most important jobs in society are underpaid. I work mostly with dementia patients, which is hard work at times but you just push through it and try to give the best care you possible can.
    I always respect dignity. If a resident doesn’t want to get up and dressed before breakfast, I don’t force them to because the nursing HOME is their HOME, so it’s their choice.
    If they feel like lying down in bed all day, that’s fine, I’ll just give them a sponge bath and feed them by their bedside.
    I make sure the residents are washed/showered, clean, in fresh clothes. I moisturise all the residents to maintain their skin integrity, prompt them to clean their teeth, or assist them to. For the ladies I put their lipstick on for them if they wish, give them a spray of perfume, blow-dry their hair and put on their jewellery. For the men I put their deodorant on for them, maybe some aftershave and make sure they’re clean shaven.
    We have an activities officer who reads the residents the newspaper, does exercises, sings songs, bingo etc. I try to be as gentle and reassuring as possible with personal care, and make sure people are toileted often. I just do my job, and so does everyone else I work with. We just CARE. And I’m quite upset that this isn’t the same in all other nursing homes. It’s disgusting.

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