Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nursing Home Care

The New York Times has a column here discussing the increasing presence of video cameras in the rooms of nursing home patients.  The cameras have caught some shocking instances of abuse.  But I think the problem is much wider and deeper than a few instances of severe abuse (horrible as they are).

My mother was in a nursing home for over two years before she died.  I visited her every day.  These are my impressions:

I’m guessing that in her nursing home over seventy-five percent of the patients had some form of dementia.  While these patients could still walk around, they were in a locked ward.  But as soon as they were wheel-chair bound, they were moved down to the regular wards.  I’m sure at least half—probably many more—of the residents on my mother’s ward had severe dementia.  

While I know there are occasional horror stories, that these videos show, another huge problem is just the general level of care.  When you have so many patients who can’t complain because of dementia the care is likely to become careless and slapdash.  When you add in the low wages and difficult working conditions for the aides, I think it becomes a certainty that the care will be substandard.  For example, it was an everyday thing that when my mother would turn on her buzzer for some needed help--as she was almost completely helpless--an aide would come in, turn off the buzzer (so the timer would show it was answered right away), and then immediately leave without helping her.

A huge problem.  I don’t know the solution.

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