When Nurses Are Too Busy, Family Members Cant Be
This is the eighth
column in a 10-part series by Sacramentan Joyce Christensen on her experiences
caring for her elderly mother, Thelma Price. To
read the previous installment, CLICK
When a facility is short-staffed, often it will call The Registry. This is the shorthand name for any of the local agencies with trained personnel who work at nursing homes all over the area. They are paid more than the certified nursing assistants who are directly employed by the facility.
Registry people like the flexibility and variety of working in different places. They can also accept or decline work when called by the agency.
The staff at SunBridge Brittany Care Center, the Carmichael facility where Mom now lived, spoke negatively of most of the registry people and accused them of not caring about the patients. Many problems that occurred were blamed on registry help sometimes fairly, other times as a cop-out to make the nursing home look better.
I made it a point to stay and talk with registry caregivers when I found they were on the schedule. I learned to ask them what they knew about my mother. Their answer across the board was nothing.
When we come on shift, everyone at SunBridge is too busy to review patients with us, I was told. We are told to go to work.
That was the reason I would come to see Mom and find she had been fed without her teeth in, and her glasses not put on, and her hearing aids not in her ears. She could not ask for these personal items. I was even told, Your Mom didnt tell me she had false teeth and glasses. I explained the reason she didnt was because she was not able to communicate well with anyone.
Many of the registry people have extensive backgrounds in elder care, either through home care or having worked at a nursing home in the area. They said SunBridge was one of the cleanest, nicest places in the area. However, it was not a favorite facility to work in because the general attitude was dont worry about details be sure to look good when a family member is visiting.
Because Mom had been cheated by a scam artist a few years earlier, her retirement income did not amount to $4,700 per month for her nursing home care. My savings were limited, but my husband agreed we would pay whatever was necessary to give Mom a nice place to live.
Within four months, we knew financially we could not keep up. I researched information about Medi-Cal and applied for Mom. It took a few months, but she did qualify, and went on the program. Thank goodness I never had to find out what would have happened if she had not qualified.
As stated in a previous column, I made many great friends at the nursing home. One family member who worked at a hospital asked me if I checked Mom at least once a week for bedsores or rashes. I hadnt been checking in fact, I had politely left the room whenever Mom was being changed or dressed.
I learned that another lesson is watchfulness of your elder loved ones. One day as Mom was being changed, I saw she had several pretty bad looking bedsores.
I asked if they were being medicated. I was told the medical nurse would take care of them right away.
At least a dozen times over the next year, I requested that the med nurse check on a terrible rash or skin tear that I discovered. I checked daily to see if the prescribed medication had been used. Many times the rash was dry and scaly, which meant medication was forgotten, or hadnt been used that day.
When I asked how it had been overlooked, it was assumed it had been done.
Then I would request to look at the medication chart, and yes, Moms rash medication had been overlooked. However, it would be taken care of right away.
My question to this day is why should anyone ever have to ask if prescribed medication is being used as ordered by the doctor? Just try to get a straight answer when someone forgets anything prescribed by a doctor.
Before I share more of my experiences with Mom in the nursing home, I want to stress that we had good times. We played bingo together. I went to church services with her on Sundays. The room lit up when Mom smiled, and we shared our love every day with other patients.
By the time Mom had lived at SunBridge for two months, we knew everyone by name. From time to time we found small gifts for people who were especially lonely. Everyone needs to feel loved! We made friends with most people who came to visit the patients.
Getting involved and cultivating friendships are the things that make life work better at any nursing home. Anyone who saw Mom and me together had no doubt of the love we had for each other. Many family members continue to be my friends today, even though Mom is in heaven. In a way, we were all soul mates with a single goal in mind ... quality care and a sense of dignity for our loved ones.
Whenever I met a person in need of advice regarding a person in a nursing home or other elder care facility, I shared my knowledge. I want to help people learn before they make mistakes in decision-making for their elders. I always seemed to make the mistakes first, then learn what I should have done.
Mom had been a patient at SunBridge for seven months. We had settled into a day-to-day happy routine. I could hardly wait to see Mom, because I knew she had been waiting for me to walk through her door. She made me feel very special. She hated to hear me say, I have to go home, Mom. No matter how much time I spent with her, she always wanted me to stay a few more minutes.
One day, I walked into a puzzling surprise. Mom was not in her room, and most of her clothes and belongings had disappeared. I asked the nurse where Mom was. She told me to talk to the social worker, Angela, who said it was time to move Mom to the long-term care wing.
Another move. Another adjustment to new surroundings. The big surprise was yet to come.
Next week: Moms new roommate lives up to her negative reputation.
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Last Updated 4/15/03