Saturday, April 2, 2011
Life when you cannot speak for yourself by fran lewis
Life When You Can’t Speak For Yourself
Many people go into hospitals and have no family members to advocate for them and no one to protect their rights. Many feel so alone and need the support of others in order to get through the ordeals they will encounter just being in the hospital. But, imagine someone that cannot communicate with others or someone that has limited speech with no one to protect them, make sure they are fed and taken care of in a hospital, isolated and all alone. This person feels afraid, scared and does not know whether those coming in to care for him/her have their best intentions at heart. All too often you hear about nursing homes and other facilities that abuse their patients or you witness it first hand. My mom has Alzheimer’s and up until this week she was at home with home health aides. She is in the last stages of the illness and is in the hospital where I spent most if not all of my day. She is now on a ventilator, feeding tube and although she cannot communicate verbally she can respond to questions with her eyes and even at times mouthing words. The nurses in the hospital treat her really well. I am there most of the day but I know from the way she appears when I come to see her each day that the care is really good. Nothing is ever perfect and people cannot devote their entire shift to one patient but when she went into cardiac arrest the team on her floor moved faster than a fire truck going to a burning blaze.
Courage: My mom has so much courage and she is so brave to have withstood all of the things she has been through these last seven years. Alzheimer’s destroys your mind and brain and takes no prisoners. It is a disease that anyone can get and it destroys your dignity, your self-worth and self-esteem. Cures are not in the horizon and all the research in the world has not helped to find one pill or many that can halt the disease or even prevent it. My mom has had more than her share of illnesses and stays in the hospital. Nurses and doctors become jaded after a while and the prognosis they give you is often grim. You need to be on top of everything, call when you are not there for updates, insist that calls are returned and make sure that if there are any changes that you are notified. Tall order but nevertheless necessary.
The staff of many hospitals is shorthanded making it difficult to address many issues that require more care. One to one care is out of the question and families need to become vigilant and make sure that you are there to ask the necessary questions about your family member’s care. When meds are administered you need to know what they are and what they are for, as does the patient. You need to know how many times a day they are given and if the patient needs help eating that there is someone to feed them as in the case of my mom. All too often patients that are alone with no family feel sad dejected and give up and that is really unacceptable. Not that it is the fault of the staff of the hospital but when they know you are there and are calling to find out about your loved one or family member, the care usually improves and they know you are aware of what is happening.
I have been to many nursing homes and facilities and the care that I saw substandard. The staff was cold and unfeeling at all of them and the patients were lined up in the hall sitting in wheelchairs overmedicated and not saying a word. One aide sat facing them like a prison warden daring them to move or say anything. Looking afraid you could see the fear in their eyes as the person in front of them had this angry and mean look on her face and not one patient moved or smiled. How horrific. In one facility the patients came for day activities and no one spoke while doing arts and crafts or even sang when music played. How sad is that! Why do people take these jobs if they really hate what they are doing or do not like the patients they are caring for? People that are attendants, aides and nurses have a special job which requires caring for people that are not family members and those who you care for value and appreciate your kindness. Volunteers are special people who need to understand how these people feel when you smile and walk into their room and just make them feel wanted and special.
Courage: My mom is so brave and so amazing I just hope that she pulls through this newest stay in the hospital. But, one thing is for sure the care she gets will be the best and I will be there everyday hoping and praying for a miracle.
Everyone needs to be more vigilant. When checking out facilities make sure that you look into the complaints that might have been filed. Eldercare abuse is wrong and there are many homes that are guilty of that and get away with it. Make sure you visit daily and not at the same time. Make sure that you check you loved one for bruises and take pictures of your family member everyday making sure that you record their appearance so that any changes can be noted.
Most of all: Be there for them no one should be alone.