There is a lot written about nursing homes involuntarily discharging “difficult” residents. But nobody seems to be writing about the opposite problem!
My father was admitted to a nursing home (rated best in the area) for “therapy” after a week in the hospital. The nursing home (and his complicit doctor) both turned a functioning attorney into a blithering idiot who saw butterflies buzzing around him. And they threatened his wife when she tried to get him discharged.
It all seemed simple enough at the start. My 90-year-old father was still a functioning attorney, taking a case here and there, driving himself everywhere, golfing and taking lunches with district attorneys and judges. Then he was rushed to the hospital with a staph infection in his spine which burst a disk in his back and paralyzed him from the waist down. He was stable after a week in the hospital, so they discharged him to a nursing home for therapy.
At the nursing home, lazy (or overworked) aides didn’t want to take the time to use a lift when moving him from chair to bed — despite having several lifts lining one hallway. Instead they used the “buddy system” to lift him. This pinched dad’s ribs which were especially tender because the infection had spread to his rib cage. As a result, he would scream out in pain whenever they picked him up. Did this cause them to use one of the readily available lifts? Heck no. They kept lifting him under the arms and pinching his rib cage; and dad kept screaming and eventually fighting back when they hurt him. BTW, once his wife got him safely home, she rented that apparatus and was easily able to pick him up with it by herself (it has gears) and move him comfortably from bed to chair and back.
Forced drugging by the nursing home
Deciding dad was a “difficult” patient, the nursing home then got his doctor to agree they could dose him with Seroquel, to make him more “manageable.” There were three main problems with this:
- If they would have moved him the correct way, he wouldn’t have been “difficult”
- The drug carries clear warnings about seniors being more sensitive to the side effects
- The drug made him nuts
Overnight my father changed from a functioning attorney to incompetent and mentally deranged.
Seeing this mental deterioration, dad’s wife tried to get the nursing home and the doctor to stop this drug. They both refused. The nursing home refused because dad was more “manageable” with it — yes, he was off his rocker but he was also compliant. Guess which they cared most about! The doctor refused because the nursing home said they couldn’t “handle” dad without it. And the doctor assumed dad would soon be dead anyway at his age. (Yes, the doctor later implied this by stating how shocked he was that dad recovered once his wife got him out of the nursing home.)
Tough luck if you want to switch doctors!
“Dump the doctor and get a better one,” was my naive advice. I soon learned that other physicians in this smallish town wouldn’t take on a new patient where the family wanted to countermand the orders of his current physician.
Before continuing this story, let’s take a moment to wonder where the hell patient rights are when a doctor and nursing home can forcibly drug a patient despite the stated wishes of that patient’s wife. If dad lived alone, he would have stayed in that nursing home, drugged against his wishes, his craziness entertaining the nursing home staff, until he died.
More drug problems at the nursing home
In addition to making dad crazy with Seroquel, they also arbitrarily started giving him Ativan shots which were bad for his heart (especially paired with Seroquel) and which caused his feet and legs to swell. They refused to stop this drug as well.
Equally bad, they didn’t bother to give him medicines that he was taking before he entered the home — which he desperately needed. Dad’s wife found out they “forgot” for 6 weeks to give him Alfuzosin and Finasteride — both of which he needed for his prostate. She found out when she forced (against the home’s wishes) an appointment with dad’s urologist — who hit the roof over this negligence.
You can go in — but you can’t get out!
Realizing her only chance to save my father was to get him out of that home and away from their forced drugging, dad’s wife tried to check him out. But the nursing home was getting nice insurance checks for dad’s stay, and didn’t want to let him go. In fact, they were able to keep him there, against the wishes of dad and his wife, for three months — not coincidently the exact length of stay dad’s insurance paid for.
They told dad’s wife if she checked dad out and he then died, they would have to report her to the authorities. That it would be elder abuse that led to death. That she would go to jail for this. Dad’s condition at this point was so bad that everyone expected him to die soon, so this was a very serious threat.
Thank god for a patient advocate
Dad’s wife was finally able to see a patient advocate who ordered the doctor and nursing home to stop the Seroquel and the Ativan. (The doctor showed his annoyance by taking two full weeks before signing the order to stop those 2 drugs.) Once dad was “sane” again, he was able to go to physical therapy and prepare for going home.
Once home, with his wife’s help, dad was eventually able to stand up again, then walk with a walker. He could walk to the kitchen for food and walk to the bathroom. He was able to go out and visit with friends. He was even able to play golf again. But his mild case of dementia quickly grew. How much that was the result of his forced drugging, we will never know. It certainly could not have helped!
Dad lived another four years, two of them very good.
What should YOU do?
My mother told my sister and I that if the choice was to put her in a nursing home or dump her by the side of the road — we were to dump her by the side of the road. She made us promise. And she repeated it each time we visited with her. Mother had died before all this happened to dad, but it looks like she knew what she was talking about.
My Living Will instructions include this statement: “It is my desire to NOT be placed in a nursing facility or extended nursing facility. I do NOT grant my Agent or physician the ability to do so under any circumstances. My desire in this regard is so strong that if it were a choice between a nursing facility and leaving me by the side of the road, I would wish my Agent to leave me beside the road.”
What do you think? Have you had similar problems?
Marlene Jensen is a 71-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, medications, and bath tubs you walk into.