When Your Loved One is Abused in a Nursing Home: A Personal Story

HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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Another organization all caregivers should be aware of is the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), founded in the 1970s and headquartered in San Francisco, Calif. The FCA describes itself as “a public voice for caregivers, shining light on the challenges caregivers face daily and championing their causes through education, services, and advocacy.” More information about the FCA can be found at www.caregiver.org.

My sister opened the door of our mother’s nursing home room one afternoon just in time to see the nursing assistant hit her. It was a real haymaker that snapped Mother’s head back.


“Why did you hit my mother?” my sister asked.


“I asked her to sit up and she didn’t,” the young woman replied. Our mother was 96 years old and blind. She could not walk without help. She was lying flat in bed with no pillow under her head.


“The next time you are lying flat and a strange voice belonging to someone you cannot see suddenly asks you to sit up, what do you think you would do?” my sister said with admirable restraint. The certified nursing assistant muttered something and left the room.


My sister told both our mother’s doctor and the director of the nursing home about the incident. We heard later the woman who hit our mother was “reprimanded.” She was not fired. She essentially suffered no consequences for her action. This happened years ago in a Central Kentucky nursing home. I lived in another state at the time. When my sister called me and told me about it, I said, “It’s a good thing it was you and not me. I’d have beaten the daylights out of that woman on the spot. Imagine hitting a helpless, blind person. I’d be in jail by now for assault or worse.”

WHEN YOUR LOVED ONE IS ABUSED IN A NURSING HOME: A PERSONAL STORY

At the time this incident occurred, my sister did the right thing. It was just about all she could do, short of calling our lawyer and threatening to sue the nursing home and the employee. This is not always the smartest action when your loved one must remain under the power of the staff in that nursing home. A few weeks after the abuse, our mother’s doctor arranged to have her moved to a different nursing home. It was in another town and less conveniently located for my sister, but she was more than happy to drive the extra miles in exchange for the compassionate care the new place provided. About six months later, our mother died peacefully in her sleep.


What people can do in the face of such an outrageous event has improved in Kentucky and nationally since it happened to my family. In 1968, there were fewer than 20 adult protective services in the entire United States. That number gradually increased. By 1985, 46 states had established a responsible office. By 1991, all 50 states had mandated that abuse be reported. Kentucky Adult Protective Services assists vulnerable elder adults and their families in stopping and preventing abuse, neglect or exploitation. KAPS’ telephone number is (502) 564-7043 or (877) 597 -2331.

MARTHA EVANS SPARKS

Martha Evans Sparks is a Staff Writer for Living Well 60+ Magazine

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