Elder Abuse Told By A Friend

Elder Abuse, mothers fighting for others*I met Zoila on Cafemom. We had a few discussions about her father and I asked if she could share her story. Thank you Zoila for taking the time to share this part of your life with us.

“Reports show nursing home abuse statistics that 30% of the facilities are cited for instances of abuse. Still, even more alarming is the nursing home abuse statistics showing that the majority of all nursing home abuse instances are never even reported.” Nursing Home Abuse Resource As you can see this is rather alarming considering that, so many more are unreported even when mandated to, or unreported because there is no advocate for the elder who is being abused. Over the years there has been progress of this issue coming to light, however very little action is taken for accountability. There are many sites to help make families and the elderly aware, such as: HelpGuide.org , National Center on Elder Abuse.

I am going to share the story of my father’s experience with you, something that I have been struggling with these past few months. Let me start off with, we brought my father home and with in a month or so, he is pretty much back to normal. With much help from my brothers, my mom, the home health, myself and most importantly, my father’s vigilant drive to survive, he is on the mend. Currently I am in the process of reporting their abuse of my father to all the agencies I can. So, this is for all you who have parents, or grandparents in a nursing home, or who are thinking about it, and in hope that we will think twice before we send away. I for one never thought that this issue would be so close to home, and I never thought my father would be so close to death, by another’s hands.

I am the daughter of Zoila & John Masiak. My mother has always written about politics, our community and has consistently stood up for what she believes in. Many stories has she written about my hard working brothers, her War Hero Husband of 46 years, my father, John Masiak Sr., my sister who served in Iraq, the family business, local politics, and myself; the daughter with a pacemaker. I am sure not everyone agrees with my mother’s bold views. However, I feel that someone needs to take a stand for my parents and perhaps the geriatric community in general. I do not want your sympathy, only your help to share our story. By helping us sharing our story, maybe someone will hold the staff at Walter Reed Convalescent Center accountable. I strongly doubt that we are the only families who have suffered by their hands.

Recently our ever so strong father has become ill. This is not a sudden thing; he has been dealing with his condition for many years. I know my father will pass, however he deserves a death of dignity, at least as much dignity that he has lived his life. Recently he was admitted into the hospital after falling. He was there for a week or so. Against my mother’s protest, my father felt that in order for him to come home strong he needed rehab. At the time it made perfect sense. Who wouldn’t want their father to come home stronger? We thought that his absence would be the hardest. Oh no, him being away was the easiest. It was watching him suffer that was the hardest thing to endure. If any one of his children were in his shoes, he would not put up with us being mal-treated in anyway shape or form. Knowing this, it was unbearable.

Let me share only SOME of what my dearest father had to endure with you. We were told that he would be seen by a doctor immediately, yet he was there a week without any doctors visiting him. The first day he arrived there was no call button, no way to get help. We found him lying straight on his back (COPD patient) in a hot room and his O2 set to 1L when it was supposed to be 2L. He was struggling to breathe and he was so in fear that he clenched the railing with his arms hard enough to leave bruising on the inside forearm. We complained to the nurses. I set my father up, one nurse did get a fan, but nothing was done about the call button for several days. Because of my Father’s conditions, he must sit up, but can only handle a limited time in the 90degree angel. On another occasion they left him there for 6hrs. My father had to yell for help (because of the broken call button). No one showed up until my mother found him this way. And even after the call button was fixed, it was hard for him to get aid.

On Monday he was supposed to receive rehabilitation. They put him in the wheel chair and left him there from around 8am until well after lunchtime. When confronted the physical therapist, she said his nurses should have brought him down if he was unable to roll himself. However, the nurses claimed that it was rehabs responsibility and not theirs. My father called for help, to which someone came. He requested that he be moved into bed until rehab got there, but the nurse refused and said that he would have to sit and wait for rehab. He received no rehab until my mother again had to complain. The following day I had to speak to the nurse and told her that I felt my father was being neglected and that there was no excuse to not know what the other hand was doing. She said she would look into it. However out of 5 days he was to receive rehab, he only received it for 2 or 3 days.

They made him use a pediatric bed pan and refused to get him an adult sized pan. The nurse’s excuse was that, “We didn’t know were they kept them.” Why would a nurse of a facility, where the majority of the patients are elderly, not know where adult bedpans were? Why in the world would they not have adult bedpans? My mother spoke to them many times about this issue for several days before another aid said she would get him one. At one point, my mother found his bed pan, soiled with feces, in his drawer with his clothes. I do believe a nurse from 3rd shift had to scrub the bed pan clean, because it was stuck and dried, rather then just getting him a new one.

My mother found him laying on top of his fully made-up bed with just a sheet over him. She asked the nurses why he was laying on top of his blankets instead of being covered up properly. Her response was, “That is the next shifts duty and that is the way we do it here.” They didn’t want to remake the bed? Isn’t that just part of the job? On another occasion my mother went to use the bathroom without the nurses knowing she was there. To her horror, she walked in on two nurses man-handling my father. They didn’t warn him, but instead shoved him down on the bed after they were done with him. Once they realized my mother was in the room, they gave her no eye contact or spoken words and just pushed through her as they walked by.

The night that we decided to take our father home, we had enough of their excuses for treating him badly. My sister found him in a bed full of urine. He said that the nurses were harassing him and he needed help to get out of bed to uses the toilet. Yet no one helped my father. When my mother wanted him out they were very argumentative. They refused to discharge him to Home Health upon my mother’s request. And that was after we called the family doctor they said that our father could leave at anytime and that the nurses would set up Home Health for my parents. Not only were they very combative about the issue, they actually used the line; “Well if he dies, it’s going to be your fault.”

It felt as if my father was sentence to prison camp. He stopped eating, he began loosing weight, he started to act fearful, and stopped talking to mom about the things that were going on. All these things are so personal to our family. Something needs to be done. You must be thinking, “Why didn’t anyone go to a doctor or administrator?” My mother did. She went to the nurses many times, and to the administrator, and well there was no doctor to be found to go to. As for the doctor, he never came around not even once. I know we are not the only families who had a hard time with this facility or others like it. If these actions are taking place under our noses and with many complaints, my fear is who will stand up for the patients whose families are not around or aware of the abuse?

I urge anyone who has family in a second rate nursing home to pull them out if they are able. If not check on them often, and make sure that the staff is doing everything they are supposed to be doing for the one you love. After all it is our tax dollars and our insurance that is keeping these businesses a float. We have every right to know if our loved ones are being abused or neglected. We have every right to discontinue their services if we feel they are not being cared for properly. None of us should feel that we are being pressured into doing something that we feel undoubtedly uneasy about. Look out for signs of depression, lack of eating, lack of un-engaging communication (especially if there once was), bruising, and cleanliness of beds, bathrooms, or the facility in general.

Rich we may not be, however we are very supportive and protective of one another. I know not all of us can take their family member out. However, I encourage all families to do the same for your elderly as they once did for you. I would like to see our community take a stand on this issue of geriatric abuse, if not for our neighbors, but for those we love, and for ourselves. We are all going to grow old. And growing old is not for the faint hearted.

If you have a complaint about neglect of abuse, here are some websites that you can submit a complaints to. An investigation can be done. However it is a slow process, and a tedious one, but we all have a voice. It should not be silenced by ill mannered nurses, by doctors, or administration or by anyone else for that matter. They are not GOD; they can be and should be held accountable for their actions.

www.JACHO.com (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations)

www.ama-assn.org (American Medical Association)

www.aha.org (American Hospital Association)

www.dhp.state.va.us/enforcement/complaints.htm (Virginia Board of Medicine)

www.msv.org (Medical Society of Virginia)

www.vahs.com (Virginia Health Services, Inc.)

www.ncea.aoa.gov (National Center on Elder Abuse)

www.aoa.gov (Administration On Aging)

Question Often. Be Thankful To Be Alive.

Zoila Nusbaum

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