It’s Time to Start Name Calling

Who will take care of you when you’re old? You’d better hope it’s not a nursing home because they are licensed to kill.

I’m not kidding about this, so don’t think for one minute that I am. In fact, I’m not sure my father will live through the night, and if he doesn’t, it will be because they murdered him.

He rings the bell and they don’t come for 20 minutes–at a minimum–and sometimes it’s an hour and a half. He could be choking; it wouldn’t be the first time; but they don’t care. And if it’s some “minor” problem, such as diarrhea, well, one nurse has actually said she’d rather he had diarrhea in his bed than have to come help him to the bathroom. After all, yanking off the sheets takes less time than walking him to the bathroom, waiting for him, and walking him back.

That hasn’t happened so far. Why not? Because he can’t bear the thought of it. He’s a proud man, a man who worked hard his entire life to support his wife and six daughters; a man who never complained when there were extra expenses of cheerleading uniforms and sports carnival dresses; a man who, existing on social security alone, has still insisted on helping his daughters out with a hundred dollars here and there. And he’s a man who’d rather be dead than mess in his bed.

So he gets to the bathroom on his own, even though the doctor has insisted that he have a 24-hour bed alarm because he’s fallen so many times. And he continues to fall. And still, these so-called healthcare providers don’t care. I suspect they think if he dies, that’s one less person they have to take care of. They must think that, or else they wouldn’t turn off his bed alarm so that they don’t have to answer his calls.

But the worst thing is the lying. They rob him of his dignity by saying he’s confused when he knows exactly what’s going on. True, he is extremely anemic, and he may not know exactlywhensomething happened and he may not know the name of the person who did it. But he isn’t demented. He isn’t making up these stories–these incidents where he says he rings the bell when he has finally made it to the bathroom and the aide comes in and says that since he got there by himself, he can just get back by himself; or when a nurse refuses to help him sit up in his bed, insisting that he push himself up with his arm, the arm that has the broken elbow–because every one of us has witnessed these things.

My father has been many things, but never has he been a liar. When he complains about things that are happening, I can assure you they are happening, but still these people shake their heads with this look that says, oh here he goes again, poor man–he’s senile. But he knows what’s happening and so do we, and they are the LIARS.

So it’s time to start name-calling, and the name is Island Health & Rehab Center of Merritt Island, Florida. Remember it, because believe me, it’s a matter of life and death.

My father died of kidney failure in the hospital where the nursing home sent him. They sent him on a Friday just after I arrived to check on him. They didn’t even tell me until they had it all arranged. I had called them Wednesday to check on his status since I had the medical power of attorney, and no one even bothered to tell me that he wasn’t putting out any urine. They also didn’t bother to mention that his blood count had dropped 2 whole points in two weeks, even though they knew I was very concerned about that. They didn’t bother to tell me that his PT was 149 seconds and that they had to give him a shot of Vitamin K so that he wouldn’t bleed to death. (PT is the measurement of how quickly your blood clots. It is supposed to be no more than 11 seconds or so.) Nor did they bother to tell me that they were no longer helping him to the bathroom, and just letting him have diarrhea in his bed. Only God knows how long they left him lying in it before they cleaned it up.

During the ten weeks that my father was in the nursing home, we visited him daily and stayed for hours, and yet we were still helpless in this situation. The stress of trying to deal with these nurses was worse than any stress I’ve ever experienced, and believe me, I have lived through a lot of stressful situations. Ex: After he refused to take any more physical therapy, they put him back on antibiotics for three weeks so that they could continue to get money from Medicare for skilled nursing care. Yes, they said they were concerned about his knee wound, which was totally healed over, but I finally realized what was going on. They couldn’t have cared less that the antibiotics were causing him diarrhea. Ex: Once I called there to ask them to fax me the regulation on over-the-counter medication since they would not let my father have anything for his constant nausea (and yet they wouldn’t answer the bell to give him something, either). The nurse manager started screaming that I was calling her a liar because I asked to see the regulation. I’m sure she was screaming for the benefit of all the people who were listening on her end. She was without a doubt the most unprofessional person I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet, and I won’t even get into her “bedside manner.”

No one there gave a damn about the suffering of my father because Island Health & Rehab Center is not a healthCARE organization. They make their money on Medicare patients who are too ill to fight back, and as far as I’m concerned, they are making a killing.

Disclaimer: I am relating my opinion in this essay. Yes, we witnessed everything I mention, but we have no proof since Florida is one of the states that doesn’t want nursing homes to have video cameras in them. (The nursing homes and healthcare organizations are fighting it–gee, I wonder why???? Day care centers have them, but evidently, the safety of our elderly is not as important.)

I feel it’s my responsibility to tell everyone out there considering a nursing home what our experience was with this one. Maybe they are all the same. I hate to think that’s true, but until cameras are legal, we’ll never know.


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