Shocking and unbelievable

I must admit that social media came into my life at a time where I had already learned some understanding of what should and should not be publicly shared.  I also had learned from a young age to follow the golden rule.

So, when I read about the idea of nursing home caregivers posting pictures to social media showing seniors in their care in deplorable conditions or being abused I was beside myself in outrage.  This level of cruelty and depravity cannot be understood or explained away.

Sadly, it is also a symptom of the nursing home industrial complex we have here in the United States.   In a country where the monthly costs of such care can run as much as $10,000 and there are little to no regulations as to caregiver to resident ratios it is unsurprising that those caregivers who really care about the seniors in their care burnout and quit the field entirely.  This leaves behind those who could care less about those in their charge allowing such heinous acts to be committed.

While corporate big-wigs reap huge salaries, overworked and understaffed the caregivers can barely make a living wage.  They often do not have the supplies on hand to provide proper care (gloves, cleaning supplies, adult briefs to mention a few).

Imagine the pain in the heart of a good, caring caregiver who has to show up to work day after day knowing they will never be able to interact with their charges as the human beings they are.  That they will never be able to adequately provide even the minimal amount of daily care because they are stretched so thin among all their charges.  While doing your job you will be barely earning enough to keep yourself housed and fed with your heart being torn out with each moment of heartbreaking toil there is little wonder that they burn out.

The regulations regarding the posting of demeaning photos on social media by caregivers are sadly necessary at this time, but I feel that it would be a better use of Congress’ time to search out what is causing the climate of unfeeling caregivers to propagate.  Perhaps requiring higher staffing levels and allowing the resident to caregiver ratios be based upon resident needs rather than straight numbers will allow the good caregivers to wish to remain in the industry and weed out the bad apples in the bunch.

Here is an article in NPR regarding the posting of demeaning photos on social media:

Exploitation on social media is a form of abuse

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Pretending it isn’t there doesn’t make it go away!

Have you noticed a loved one having difficulty remembering recent events?  More misplaced items? Seeing things (or people) that aren’t there? Asking the same question multiple times? Forgetting appointments? Getting lost in a familiar area? Behaving in a manner unlike themselves?

These are red flags for dementia.  You need to make sure your loved one gets to a doctor sooner rather than later.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your loved one is too young to have dementia!  My dad was only in his mid 50’s when he was diagnosed.

Getting to a doctor and speaking honestly with them about these concerns is imperative.  There are some conditions that may cause dementia symptoms that can be reversed when caught in time.  If the symptoms of dementia aren’t reversible then there are other reasons to get a diagnosis as soon as possible.  First of all it gives your loved one a chance to make sure their affairs are in order and all their care wishes are known.  Secondly, you have a chance to become informed about their condition and what is needed to care for them as the disease progresses.

Finding out that your loved one has dementia after they’ve lost their ability to think rationally can present you with a miriad of additional problems.  They may not have been paying their bills.  They may have fallen victim to one of the many money-swindling scammers that prey on the elderly.  They may be suffering from malnutrition.  They may be suffering from dehydration. They may not have been taking their medications correctly.  They may have thrown out important documents.  They may have started hoarding, turning their home into a dangerous place to be.  They may not be able to legally indicate their wishes for any part of their future.  If there is nothing in place for a power of attorney or advanced directive you may have to petition the courts for guardianship – a potentially complicated and expensive process.

Then, depending on family dynamics, you have to deal with other family members in denial.  Family members who will try to take advantage of the loved one.  I’ve seen more than one family literally at each other’s throats trying to get all they can from a failing parent or grandparent.  These family dynamics can make something like getting court appointed guardianship even more difficult.  Sometimes a judge will look at the family and appoint a 3rd party guardian.

I’m saying all of this because I figure if you’re reading my blog you; 1) really care about people and your family, 2) want to know the truth of the matter and 3) may be in a situation where this is important to know.  Taking a proactive, involved role in helping your loved one is the best way to go.  Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend there’s nothing going on, because it will be 1000x worse in the end.

You may find yourself embroiled in legal battles with family members.

You may have to make decisions about end of life care.  Do you know if your loved one will wants to have feeding tubes?  CPR?  Placed on life support?  Antibiotics?  These difficult decisions could be yours to make without any input from your loved one, along with the heartache of never being certain that you’ve done what they really wanted.

If I could have one wish for the millions of families in this country having to face a diagnosis of dementia it would be that the diagnosis is made early and they take that time to get everything in place for when their loved one is no longer able to make rational decisions.

Scary!

Each state has an agency that is responsible for investigating reports of abuse or neglect of seniors by care facilities and their staff.  These findings are supposed to be available for the general public to help inform them of which facility may be the safest for their loved ones.

Recently the main newspaper of my neighboring state did an audit of actual complaints vs what is available on the agency’s website for public reference and they found a huge discrepancy.  It makes me wonder if Oregon is unique in this or if a similar audit for other states will show the same results.

Oregonian’s Audit of Nursing Care Facility Complaints

Good Gloving for our family

Sometimes people wonder why they need to wear gloves while performing personal care on a family member.  They think that because they are dealing with a family member and not a stranger that general PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as gloves aren’t necessary.

The truth of the matter is wearing gloves while providing personal care on a family member is very important to protect your family member from getting preventable infections that could lead to extended hospitalizations or premature death.

In case you’re wondering what I mean by personal care, I’ll let you know.  Personal care includes;

  • bathing
  • assisting with toileting
  • perineal cleaning (the perineal area is the groin and anus)
  • changing adult briefs
  • wound care
  • applying skin lotions and creams

Let’s face it, if your family member needs you to perform personal care for them that means their health is poor, and their immune system is most likely compromised.  There are bacteria everywhere that a healthy person (with a healthy immune system) can defend against, but your family member (with a weakened immune system) cannot.

So, let’s start with the basics.  Wash your hands, often.  Before performing personal care, when preparing food, and after doing these tasks.  This includes washing your hands after handling raw meats before handling anything else.  Also you need to wash any surfaces or utensils used with the raw meat before using them for anything else.  (Yes, by washing I mean using soap and warm water, not just a quick rinse of water.)

When providing personal care, wear gloves.  If you’ve just finished cleaning their perineal area and need to do other care (such as wound care or applying lotions or creams to the body) put on a clean pair of gloves between tasks.  This may seem excessive, but it will prevent the spreading of contaminants from urine or bowel (feces) to other parts of the body.

Click here for a good video showing the proper way to remove medical exam style gloves without getting anything on yourself.

So, what are these terrible diseases I’m talking about?

  • E. Coli – which can cause urinary tract infections and diarrhea
  • Streptococci – which can cause wound infections that may lead to sepsis (a severe reaction to infection throughout the whole body) and death
  • Clostridium difficile (often referred to as C. diff) – severe diarrhea, colitis and death
  • Mycobacterium – tuberculosis
  • Staphylococcus – skin boils, pneumonia, endocarditis (inflammation of the sack around the heart), sepsis, death
  • Candida – causes what is commonly referred to as a yeast infection which can be deadly to someone with an impaired immune system
  • Listeria monocytogenes – diarrhea, can attack nervous system, death
  • Salmonella  – diarrhea, fever, death

This is what we need to protect our loved ones from when performing personal care on them.  This is why we need to wear gloves and wash our hands often while providing care.

Pretending it isn’t there doesn’t make it go away!

Have you noticed a loved one having difficulty remembering recent events?  More misplaced items? Seeing things (or people) that aren’t there? Asking the same question multiple times? Forgetting appointments? Getting lost in a familiar area? Behaving in a manner unlike themselves?

These are red flags for dementia.  You need to make sure your loved one gets to a doctor sooner rather than later.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your loved one is too young to have dementia!  My dad was only in his mid 50’s when he was diagnosed.

Getting to a doctor and speaking honestly with them about these concerns is imperative.  There are some conditions that may cause dementia symptoms that can be reversed when caught in time.  If the symptoms of dementia aren’t reversible then there are other reasons to get a diagnosis as soon as possible.  First of all it gives your loved one a chance to make sure their affairs are in order and all their care wishes are known.  Secondly, you have a chance to become informed about their condition and what is needed to care for them as the disease progresses.

Finding out that your loved one has dementia after they’ve lost their ability to think rationally can present you with a miriad of additional problems.  They may not have been paying their bills.  They may have fallen victim to one of the many money-swindling scammers that prey on the elderly.  They may be suffering from malnutrition.  They may be suffering from dehydration. They may not have been taking their medications correctly.  They may have thrown out important documents.  They may have started hoarding, turning their home into a dangerous place to be.  They may not be able to legally indicate their wishes for any part of their future.  If there is nothing in place for a power of attorney or advanced directive you may have to petition the courts for guardianship – a potentially complicated and expensive process.

Then, depending on family dynamics, you have to deal with other family members in denial.  Family members who will try to take advantage of the loved one.  I’ve seen more than one family literally at each other’s throats trying to get all they can from a failing parent or grandparent.  These family dynamics can make something like getting court appointed guardianship even more difficult.  Sometimes a judge will look at the family and appoint a 3rd party guardian.

I’m saying all of this because I figure if you’re reading my blog you; 1) really care about people and your family, 2) want to know the truth of the matter and 3) may be in a situation where this is important to know.  Taking a proactive, involved role in helping your loved one is the best way to go.  Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend there’s nothing going on, because it will be 1000x worse in the end.

You may find yourself embroiled in legal battles with family members.

You may have to make decisions about end of life care.  Do you know if your loved one will wants to have feeding tubes?  CPR?  Placed on life support?  Antibiotics?  These difficult decisions could be yours to make without any input from your loved one, along with the heartache of never being certain that you’ve done what they really wanted.

If I could have one wish for the millions of families in this country having to face a diagnosis of dementia it would be that the diagnosis is made early and they take that time to get everything in place for when their loved one is no longer able to make rational decisions.

Shocking and unbelievable

I must admit that social media came into my life at a time where I had already learned some understanding of what should and should not be publicly shared.  I also had learned from a young age to follow the golden rule.

So, when I read about the idea of nursing home caregivers posting pictures to social media showing seniors in their care in deplorable conditions or being abused I was beside myself in outrage.  This level of cruelty and depravity cannot be understood or explained away.

Sadly, it is also a symptom of the nursing home industrial complex we have here in the United States.   In a country where the monthly costs of such care can run as much as $10,000 and there are little to no regulations as to caregiver to resident ratios it is unsurprising that those caregivers who really care about the seniors in their care burnout and quit the field entirely.  This leaves behind those who could care less about those in their charge allowing such heinous acts to be committed.

While corporate big-wigs reap huge salaries, overworked and understaffed the caregivers can barely make a living wage.  They often do not have the supplies on hand to provide proper care (gloves, cleaning supplies, adult briefs to mention a few).

Imagine the pain in the heart of a good, caring caregiver who has to show up to work day after day knowing they will never be able to interact with their charges as the human beings they are.  That they will never be able to adequately provide even the minimal amount of daily care because they are stretched so thin among all their charges.  While doing your job you will be barely earning enough to keep yourself housed and fed with your heart being torn out with each moment of heartbreaking toil there is little wonder that they burn out.

The regulations regarding the posting of demeaning photos on social media by caregivers are sadly necessary at this time, but I feel that it would be a better use of Congress’ time to search out what is causing the climate of unfeeling caregivers to propagate.  Perhaps requiring higher staffing levels and allowing the resident to caregiver ratios be based upon resident needs rather than straight numbers will allow the good caregivers to wish to remain in the industry and weed out the bad apples in the bunch.

Here is an article in NPR regarding the posting of demeaning photos on social media:

Exploitation on social media is a form of abuse