Too Busy To Care

As a nurse it is a vital part of my profession to keep to the strict laws concerning patient privacy, but as a nurse it is also my duty as an advocate to speak out, in general, about how this generation of people are too busy to care for their loved ones.  I see a great number of ailments in the emergency room.  The ones that always break my heart the patients from nursing homes.

In our area, I see commercials on the television about how great these homes are; about how this place or that place would be the best place to send your loved one in their “golden years”.  They put on a good show and I can assume their tour times have residents all spiffed up and in community areas playing games.  But what comes to my emergency room is blatant disregard for human life.

Rarely do I get a resident that isn’t full of bedsores from the nursing home not turning them, ambulating them, or doing in bed physical therapy.  They come crusted in their own feces.  They come with a week’s work of gunk stuck to their teeth and mouths that smell like garbage cans.  I just don’t understand how a person can go home at night knowing they have treated someone’s loved one this way.  What if it were their mother or father in that bed?

In defense of healthcare, in acute situations we find these conditions appalling and having rounded in nursing homes during my education, I can tell you it is grossly understaffed and the staff they do have are uneducated.  They are people trying to feed their families and make a life for themselves.  They are not given the tools to do their jobs with a modicum of heart.  They aren’t educated.

For those of you that don’t know, “skilled” nursing facilities are very expensive.  They run in our area a room in a nursing home costs $4,000 to $8,000 a month.  When a resident comes in the hospital with the conditions I spoke of earlier it makes me wonder what the hell they are spending the money on?  Why as family members aren’t they taking a stand and insisting on the care they are paying for? They would insist  on top notch work if they hired someone to put a roof on their house, but not when it comes to how their parents are treated at the end of their life?

I had several patients last night that were from nursing homes and it obviously spurred me to think about this issue again despite it being on my mind every time I set foot in the ER.  It made me think about my own relationship with my parents.  I am not close with my father.  We have been in each other’s lives for maybe 8 of my 39 years, most of which was when I was a baby and can’t remember.  My mother and I have had a more tentative relationship in the last 5 years.  I was forced to think about what I would do if they needed to go into a home like that.  I’m not sure I could stand myself if I did, but living 6 hours away from each of them, what else could I do?

My mother takes care of my grandmother.  My gran still lives in her own apartment, but my mother visits her nearly every day…helps her with the trash, goes to the movies with her, helps her maintain a garden.  My mother allows my grandmothers “golden years” to really be that.  My grandmother has her dignity and her privacy.  My mother makes sure that my grandmother gets access to all the services that are available for seniors in her area because they are free.

I believe the generations now who have parents that are aging need to get prepared and look into other opportunities to care for their elderly.  Weigh out the cost of them living at home with a combination of home health care and family.  Use all the programs provided for them.  Contact the Office of the Aging in your town.  They are more than willing to help you give your parents some respect and self-worth in the end of their lives.

From my experience, old folks that go to nursing homes are more depressed and often have little dignity.  I do understand that some have severe medical conditions that require more skill than families can handle, but  we always have to remember the amount of time our own parents sacrificed in our early years when we needed them the most.  They didn’t let us fail.  They did their best to give us the best of everything and we should do our best to pay that forward when they need US the most.


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