Assisted Living Facility Nightmare

Mom enjoying a resident's dog.
Mom enjoying a resident's dog.

The Third Eldercare Facility

I want to share another part of our journey. Hopefully none of these events will ever occur for your family member or friend. My entire purpose in writing is to open the eyes of the public to the condition of Eldercare in our country. I have not included every event but have written generally to let you know some the things you may encounter. My encounters are not necessarily common, but they do happen!

Each elderly parent has their own needs and finding the "best fit" for these needs will help them to thrive! The cost for each of the facilities we chose averaged $3500.00 per month plus medications and personal items. I do not believe that more money spent means better care. The facility may be prettier but you are still dealing with people, some of who don't like their job or who see it as an easy job. The daily operations and flow of care is key to success.

ThIs facility was just ten minutes from home. A family friend owned it. From all first appearances, it was homey, well staffed, had plenty of room and was small enough to easily navigate from the bedroom to the living area.

Mom was placed into a very large bedroom with an attached bathroom and another bathroom. (I'll explain later.) There was a double bed and four drawer dresser. We moved her recliner into her room for a place to sit. A roomy closet was available at the far end of the room.

The wooden floors were easy for Mom to navigate with her walker. Just outside her bedroom door was a small nurse station and several recliners facing a flat screen television over a large fireplace. A dining room table was close by with a galley kitchen just a few steps away. Four other bedrooms were located on the far side of the living room.

Large windows overlooked an enclosed porch and a large backyard. We moved Mom into the new location a few days before Thanksgiving.

Staff during the day included the director and one other aide. The director helped with breakfast along with general paper tasks and was a trained LVN. Evening and overnight staff were limited to one per shift.

The House With Pets

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The loudest bird of allShedding dogUseless rabbitBirdcage corner
The loudest bird of all
The loudest bird of all
Shedding dog
Shedding dog
Useless rabbit
Useless rabbit
Birdcage corner
Birdcage corner

I Love a Housepet Too But ...

The Director adopted a large dog prior to our arrival. His nature was pleasant and he rarely barked. He let the staff know when he wanted to go out. Unfortunately, the staff did not care about the dog and considered him an additional responsibility on their shift. That dog shed heaps of fur into every crevice of the living area. Luckily he did not venture into the bedrooms but his fur blew into the bedrooms with the air conditioning. Dog hair filled the washing machine and Moms clothes came out of the dryer with dog hairs stuck to her dark slacks. Ugh!

Somewhere in the history of the facility, four birds were donated to the home. They were a conversation piece but screeched many times during the day. One would have been reasonable, but four created quite a mess.

One of the residents brought their dog into the mix. The daughter visited once a day to walk the dog. Otherwise the dog was enclosed in the husbands room using the closet for a bathroom. Staff did not feel this dog was their responsibility.

The owner bought a rabbit and kept it at the house. The staff refused to deal with it. Can you imagine the dog's interest when a rabbit comes into the house? It created a lot of tension in the house as the dog gazed out the glass back door at the rabbit, whining to go out.

The Pros Of This Facility

Mom was able to sit in a recliner near her room without interruptions. She had plenty to look at as medical personnel came through the house for appointments. She could watch meal preparations because the kitchen was close by. Staff brought her fluids during the day to sip and the bathroom was not far away.

Why Did We Stay Six Months???

I am writing these articles to save you from making the mistakes that I made. These events really happened. I am generally an optimistic person. Optimism worked against me whpile dealing with these issues. I kept hoping that things would get better. Some problems did get better but many did not. If there is constant turmoil in your "knower" or gut about a facility, MOVE ON!!!

The best thing we had working for us was that we never signed a lease at this place. A formal lease was never requested and it gave us the ability to leave when the time came.

The Cons

Mom moved in just before Thanksgiving. The house was its cleanest during that season. It was decorated and the mood was festive. The food was better than usual because of special donations and lots of family visits.

Sometime in December, the septic system backed up in Mom's bathroom. Her bathroom became unusable. Mom was forced to walk across the house to the other bathroom. Mom was just learning where her room was, where her bathroom was, and she was forced to walk across the large living room and down a hall to use the restroom many times a day. I fully understand that a little inconvenience is not a big deal. It was a month before this issue was remedied. Her bathroom was not sanitized when the septic tank issue occurred. The shower and tub in her bathrooms were both backed up and were not were not cleaned during that entire month.

My husband and I both pressed the issue several times. In hindsight, I should have called the DADS state agency and reported the conditions in the house to authorities. They would have produced quick results.

Did I mention her unusual bathroom arrangement? There were two bathrooms. One had a commode and tub (not used) while the other had two sinks and a shower (also not used). Residents were bathed in the bathroom on the other side of the house.

The unusual layout was due to a remodeling job Sometime in the past. The room with the sinks was remodeled.

More Cons

I knew there were staff issues when a young aide offered to give Mom her pain medication one afternoon. I was in the restroom with her and he knocked on the door with his offer for medication. I told him she did not take pain medication and has no presenting pain. After researching the medication list with him, we found it belonged to another resident. Whew!

The head day shift aide was caught stealing patient narcotics and fired. Another employee counted the pills during the shift change and pills were missing.

A night shift person put all the patients to bed by 6:00 pm, closed all the bedroom doors, and sat at the computer for the rest of her shift. Our frequent and unexpected visits put an end to that. My Mom is a night owl. The aide was giving her Zyrtec at 4:00 pm to make her sleepy.

Mom was mobile then. With closed doors and no night light, she fell in the darkened room. I had asked the Director for an alert device to be used so that Mom could be escorted to the bathroom at night. He ignored my request until her fall!

Meals

i encourage all caregivers to be alert and aware. After the Holiday season was over, I began noticing that the residents were not getting a real meal in the evening. The evening aide would pick up a pizza for dinner. Instead of sitting at the table, the residents ate pizza in their chairs. One of the aides would pick up a small greasy pepperoni pizza for the house - seven residents! They were each given a slice which most barely touched. Most of the residents were very ill and pizza was not a good food choice. There was a time when pizza was served four times in one week!

Cars in the backyard
Cars in the backyard

Cleaning and Laundry

In a home like this, it is necessary for laundry to be done during all the shifts. For seven people, it requires several loads of wash per day to meet the house needs. In addition, it is common practice for staff to clean during the quiet hours of their shift. Tasks include sweeping, mopping and bathroom cleanup.

Some of the staff refused to do laundry or clean. When it was done, Moms clean laundry was often found crammed into a lower dresser drawer. I would notice clothes were missing, locate them and then hany her slacks and shirts where they belonged. Many times dog hair was still clinging to the fabric. Further research showed the washing machine was caked with dog hair and filled to the brim with clothes. Staff had crammed as much laundry as they could into one load.

Dog hair floated into Mom's room in wads through the open doorway. I swept her bedroom floors more than once. The bathroom was rarely cleaned. I would frequently ask the Director to have it cleaned. I don't think the floors were ever mopped. I cleaned the sinks in the bathroom as well as the mirrors over the sink when I could not stand it anymore.

The bushes along the front walk became overgrown. Huge branches could slap someone in the face if not carefully navigated. Large grassy areas to the side of the house grew tall and weedy. Junk cars began to appear in the backyard. I am paying several thousand dollars a month for this?

Time to move!
Time to move!

Things Need To Change

Many conversations were held with staff over the issues I have mentioned. The issues were addressed individually. Some things improved, but many did not. My husband and I eventually called the Director for a meeting. He responded immediately. We named all of our issues with the facility and addressed the solutions. He agreed to all of our requests.

What happened? Two of the ladies on the day shift cleaned the house. They picked up the clutter and dusted everything. They appropriately cleaned the bathrooms. The house looked amazing. The staff began to fix meals again. The Director trimmed the bushes on the front walkway and raked up the many bags of leaves In the front yard.

Things were better for a couple of weeks and then the fervor was lost. The Director was not there consistently. There was no leadership for the staff. We were fighting a losing battle.

My Mother had another fall at night. It was time to move.

Another transition

Finding the next facility took only days. There were so many emotions rumbling around in me. I gave the Director a verbal three day notice. The family pulled together and got Mom moved that same weekend. The owner, my friend, was very upset with my decision. She confronted me with the conditions of the contract that I had signed. I was able to inform her that I never signed a contract nor was I ever presented a contract. A shocked look appeared on her face and she stormed out of the house. I imagine that she had an interesting conversation with her Director after that.


Eldercare For Mom/ Part Four

This six months was difficult but I now know I can be a strong voice for Mom. In retrospect, I could/should have called DADS about this facility. I am so glad for every unannounced and unexpected visit that I made and for the things I saw. Most likely, many lives were influenced for the better because we observed and addressed many issues.

I have seen many adult children with elderly parents enter these facilities with glazed eyes, stopped up ears, and an "I don't care attitude." Folks, this is what we face in coming years! Let's do for others what we will want done for us!

Be sure to look for Eldercare For Mom/ Part Four. The fourth facility is different from this one and a better fit. There are still issues to address. Find out more in the next hub!

Cast your vote for Eldercare For Mom - Part Three

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