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Let’s Talk About It: Watch out for your loved ones

After a recent hospital stay, my mother, who lives alone, was sent to a government-subsidized residence to convalesce. It sounded like a good plan. But sharing a room?

Forget privacy, uninterrupted sleep, or a comfortable room temperature that both can agree on. Not worrying about food or household chores is a relief, but convalescent care should include a restful environment.

Sharing a room can present its challenges, but sharing the same TV and remote? We all have our preferences: One person may sleep during the day, while the other person may prefer to rest in bed while watching TV. Many seniors have been living alone for years and are set in their ways.

My mother is fortunate to have a supportive and involved family. Since she is reluctant to speak for herself, not wanting to create any disturbances, she will share her feelings with us. I found it difficult to visit her due to the hot room temperature and her roommate’s unwillingness to open the window. Sleeping in an overheated room was difficult. This particular room was known to have a heating problem. Eventually, my mother was able to change rooms.

The air proved to be better in the next room, but my mother was still having difficulty sleeping. She would spend much of the night sitting up in a chair because lying down caused her to have breathing difficulties. Although this issue was repeatedly reported to the staff, they claimed they were unaware of the problem. I requested my mother be evaluated. The facility does not have a physician, so the nurse met with her and concluded she was suffering from anxiety. She does not, however, have a history of anxiety.

We decided to take my mother to her family physician, who confirmed she was suffering from mild congestive heart failure. She was then sent to the hospital for intervention. My mother did not return to this particular convalescence center even though the hospital staff suggested it. She was moved to another facility where she received good care and recovered well.

I always encourage clients who are concerned about how their loved ones are treated to make formal complaints. I followed my own advice and contacted the residence’s ombudsman. The professional was receptive to my report of negligence and promised a thorough investigation. Playing doctor, I searched “difficulty breathing while lying down” on Google, and within minutes, came up with the same conclusion as her doctor. Why did the nurse not see this? Why did she decide instead that my mother was suffering from anxiety? According to the written report I received in response to my complaint, the nurse stated she’d concluded my mother had anxiety based on a medication she was taking for sleep.

I disagree with the report. It boiled down to “He said. She said.” The investigation discovered areas that were amiss, and offered assurances that corrective steps would be taken.

When my colleagues heard where my mother was going to convalesce, I was advised to keep a close eye on her care.

Hopefully my complaint will serve to improve patient care. A watchful eye is always needed and formal complaints need to be submitted.

This was my advice to a client who called me about an inappropriate intervention in a public facility caring for those with dementia, which resulted in her father being hit by the staff on two different occasions. When she reported her upsetting stories to me, I was disturbed to learn that when a family member called the hospital ombudsman to discuss the abuse, the ombudsman’s first comment was “How did you find you about this?”

We need to be the watchdog for our loved ones.

2 Comments

  1. elizabeth wajnberg says:

    Read my memoir Sheymes that takes
    this up in 1995-96. (Amazon; McGill-Queen’s University Press)

    You would help people –if permitted–
    by mentioning the name of the facility that did give your mother good care.

  2. B. Thrasher says:

    I Know it was not a Kindred Healthcare Facility that gave her good care. A word to the wise don’t ever send your loved ones to Kindred for rehab, they will go in healthy and leave out in a body bag.

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