I feel like I’ve been here forever. I’m not sure what day it is. I haven’t seen you for so long. Did you forget about me?
I’m sorry that I haven’t written in a while. Someone takes my pen and paper while I’m sleeping.
I hear her coming down the hall. Why does she have to be so mean to me? I can’t help having to go to the bathroom. That aide can’t stand the sight of me. She hates cleaning me up. I hate having to beg.
I smell so bad. I’ve kept myself clean all my life. And now, I can’t bathe myself any longer. Does that mean I have to lay here like this? It may be days before I get cleaned up. And when I am, they are so rough with me.
I’m very sore. I lay the same way day after day. I wish I could flip over to ease the pain.
The woman down the hall, she’s always screaming, asking for help. I would help if I could. I can’t help myself, much less her. I’m so sad Roy. It wouldn’t be so bad if I were treated like a human. To be treated with respect.
Sometimes I cry. I cry as quietly as possible so I won’t be yelled at. They don’t like troublemakers or complainers. Often, the aide will yell, “Shut up Mable!” I just lie here, quietly, covered in my own misery. Maybe if they cared or pretended to care, I wouldn’t wish for dying, to be with the Lord.
Although there are many fine nursing homes with dedicated workers, many individuals can relate to Mable’s situation. A study prepared by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee found that 30 percent of nursing homes in the United States were cited for almost 9,000 instances of abuse over a two-year period - January 1999 to January 2001.
There are measures in place to ensure safety and adequate care for our loved ones. The
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services works with the states to conduct annual inspections of nursing homes. Individual abuse complaints are investigated by the state.
Under the Texas Health and Safety Code, nursing homes and assisted living facilities must conduct criminal background checks on employees and applicants. The Home and Community Support Services agencies are required to conduct criminal background checks on volunteers and vendors having contact with residents or clients.
Although there is a process in place to prevent hiring of criminals, it is hard to gauge how caring an individual is. It takes a special kind of person to selflessly care for others. Unfortunately, there are those in nursing homes who provide inadequate care and in some cases, physical and psychological abuse to residents. When necessary, it is our responsibility to complain.
You may file a complaint with the Texas Department of State Health Services if you have a concern about the quality of care your family member gets from a nursing home and do not get results from its management. Inspections are conducted when a complaint is registered about a nursing home, which may result in a citation. Reasons for filing a complaint are poor care, neglect, abuse, under staffing, unsafe or unsanitary conditions and mistreatment.
The number of patients is rising for nursing homes across America. A recent ABC Dateline program performed a study on nursing home conditions, revealing a number of disturbing facts. With either patient overcrowding or staff shortages, staff members often lack time to feed and clean the residents. In some nursing homes, the staff to patient ratio can be as high as one aide to 20 or more patients. This leads to an increase in medication error, illnesses and infections. Broken bones often go undiagnosed.
In America, nearly 2 million people reside in 17,000 nursing homes. State and Federal funding to support nursing homes is low. A nursing aide’s wage averages only 8 dollars per hour. This makes it difficult to attract and keep a quality staff in nursing homes.
Abuse and atrocities against our loved ones are inexcusable. The percentage of nursing homes cited for violations has increased every year since 1996. Staff members have been accused of committing physical or sexual abuse, as well as failing to protect people from abuse by other residents. Sadly, a number of residents have been slapped, punched choked and kicked by staff or other residents.
An investigation found a Chicago nursing home with dozens of residents in physical
Inspectors found a San Francisco nursing home with hundreds of ants crawling over the body and in and out of the mouth of an 83 year old resident.
We need reform. There must be an improvement in nationwide nursing home care. This
should include increased funding, improved disclosure of nursing home conditions, minimum staffing levels per patient and greater fines and accountability for infractions.
Two weeks after Mable wrote that letter, she was gone. I believe she died of sadness - a broken heart. Mable’s spirit was broken. Her letter was found inside the pocket of her robe.
With our busy lives of work and family, it is easy to forget about our loved ones. When dealing with a nursing home, it is important to stay engaged. Visit often and become familiar with the staff and procedures. And if necessary, make that complaint.