Moms New Roommate Lives Up to Bad Reputation
This is the ninth 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
As I said goodbye to several of Moms favorite CNAs, they said they hoped everything would be OK since her new roommate was a challenge.
I found out what that meant within an hour. The new roommates personal items took up three-fourths of the room. Moms things were scrunched into a small part of the room.
I encountered the roommates husband, who proceeded to tell me about his problems with the nursing staff, and used a few choice words regarding the certified nursing assistants. I simply said I did not want to hear anything negative about the staff.
Please do not use profanity around my mother, I added. The husband stared at me for a minute, turned on his heel and walked out.
I went to the social worker, Angela, and asked her why Mom was put into such a negative environment. She said this was the only empty bed on the long-term side. I asked her if this arrangement would be permanent. She quickly said if it was not a good roommate match for Mom, she would be moved to another room. But we dont have another room available right now, she said.
Mom was surrounded by negativism, anger, a roommate that used more foul language than I had heard before, and a cramped space for two weeks. We made the best of it. I told Mom we were having a new adventure in life. I gave her a lot of credit for trying to adjust.
Sometimes, something good happens when something sad occurs. A man that had become a nice friend of mine lost his wife unexpectedly. His wife was in one of the largest and nicest rooms in the long-term section. I took my friend a poem I hoped would be comforting to him. He said, Would you like your mom to have this room? If so, I want you to tell the administrator to move your mom today.
I felt it would not be the right thing for me to ask for a room change, since he had just lost his wife the day before. He personally made arrangements for us to move. The new location was bright and cheery. The new roommate and her husband both were congenial. I had a sense of contentment. Everything was going to be OK.
Another move, unfamiliar surroundings and new faces brought with it upset and insecurity for Mom. I brought her flowers, and fixed up her room to look like home. I asked her advice on everything I did. I put up lots of family pictures, and brought some of her favorite stuffed animals for her to sleep with at night.
Something I havent mentioned. Mom had a good memory, thank goodness.
She was even-tempered, and tried very hard to buy into my exuberant enthusiasm. During this last move, she began to laugh again with me. Of course, she knew how happy that made me. She even told me one day I was such a delight to have around. She often brought tears to my eyes because she made me feel so loved.
It took Mom a couple of weeks to adjust to new surroundings. She stayed in that room the rest of her life. It proved to be a blessing.
Moving to a new area in a nursing home meant learning, again, about the many nurses. I would like to tell you moving to the area for long-term care patients meant better care and fewer problems. I cant. For some reason, there was a lot of discontentment among the people that would be my mothers caregivers.
Like always, I tried to be helpful and build their loyalty to us. I even found a couple of the CNAs who began putting Moms makeup on and fixing her hair.
That was wonderful.
Mom and I settled into a pretty good routine. Every Tuesday I took her to the in-house beauty salon. I set my schedule to be with her every day for lunch so she would be fed while the meal was warm.
Mom had lived at SunBridge Brittany Care Center in Carmichael for a year.
Everything was not perfect, but, like always, life is what you make it. Then one day my world seemed to turn upside down ... again.
Usually, I arrived for my visit with Mom around 10:30 a.m. A lot of times she was dressed and sitting in her wheelchair, but with her personal needs not yet taken care of. I would announce with a lot of energy, Good morning, Mom, your personal beauty consultant has arrived! I got busy and put on her make-up on, combed her hair and added some jewelry. Her smile and sparking eyes showed me she felt pretty. We ladies always feel better when we know we look our best.
I thought I had made friends with the staff, and could count on them to have Mom up by at least 9:30 a.m. so she would be ready for the activity program.
Yes, there were times they disappointed me and I would find Mom in her room waiting for someone to notice her. But there was a higher percentage of good things than bad things.
One day I had a business meeting and arrived at SunBridge at 1:15 p.m. I was excited to see Mom, because I had a neat little gift for her. It was pretty much a day-to-day event that Mom was wheeled into the lobby after lunch so she could watch the people coming and going. She had always been a people watcher, and loved hustle and bustle. When I arrived, she was not in the dining room, nor the lobby, nor the TV room. Not too concerned, I walked back to her room. What I found made me as sad and heartbroken as I had been since Mom moved there.
In the back of my mind, I remembered there wasnt anyone at the nurses station when I walked by. I was so anxious to find Mom, I didnt even think about it. Yet it was an eerie feeling not to see any staff members. What I didnt know at the time was that everyone except Mom was at a party in the dining room, having fun.
As I walked by the nurses stations, a terrible thought ran through my mind, just like the second day Mom was at SunBridge more than a year earlier. I started to run toward Moms room. And there she was, sitting in her room in the dark. She was slumped in her wheelchair in front of a blank TV. She had no teeth, no hearing aids, no glasses, and her makeup was on from the day before. Her hair was not combed, and there were no visible signs she had eaten lunch.
I frantically looked for someone. Why had she been left unattended? I went back to check on Mom. When I walked out in the hall again, an unfamiliar face was behind the desk. I asked her name and if my mother was her patient. She was from the registry one of the temporary agencies for nursing home staff.
Yes, Mom was her patient. I asked if Mom had her lunch. Her comment, I didnt feed her, but Im sure somebody did in the dining room.
I asked the nurse to come to Moms room. I asked her why the room was dark, and why my mother was almost falling out of her chair. Where were her teeth, and her hearing aids? The response: I didnt know your Mom needed teeth or hearing aids.
What it all came down to was that everyone had forgotten her since early morning. I did not get angry with the girl from the registry. Obviously, she had been put to work with absolutely no instructions regarding the patients she would be in charge of. I left a message at the front desk for the administrator to come to Moms room as soon as possible.
The director of nurses walked in and asked what was wrong. I kept my cool, holding back tears so I wouldnt upset Mom. She was extremely perceptive when it came to me. The problems were pretty obvious. I spoke calmly as I reviewed each and every concern, including no lunch.
The nurse looked me straight in the eye and said, Joyce, you know if you are not happy with our care you could
Move? I said, finishing the sentence.
Yes, the nurse said.
I simply stated, We have no intentions of moving I want to get Moms care back on track, get her some lunch, and be assured I would never find this situation again.
The administrator walked in and passed me without a glance. She asked what the problem was. The director of nurses reviewed my concerns almost word for word. All of a sudden, Mom said as clear as a bell, Why are you making my daughter upset? Then she started to cry.
That broke my heart, but I still held back the tears as I hugged Mom and told her, Dont worry, its OK.
That was all the administrator needed. She leaned down and gave Mom permission to kick her butt since everyone goofed up. Mom smiled and said, No thanks. The topper was when the administrator said, See Joyce, she doesnt need her hearing aids. She can hear without them.
End of story. Oh, by the way, the administrator avoided me and did not speak when passing me in the hall for almost three months. Just the type of person needed to be in charge of a nursing home.
Little more needs to be said, because the state was starting its annual review the next day. Nobody on staff wanted the state auditors to talk to me.
Well, thats the way life went at SunBridge. I cultivated special friendships with several people who were there long hours every day watching over their wives.
We made a pact with each other. We would check on each others family every day. Some came in at 7 a.m., others stayed until 7 p.m. We helped each other by increasing the potential of better care with so many eyes watching.
Next week: After 90 of years of love, lessons and struggles, Mom passes away.
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Last Updated 4/22/03