*Due to privacy, names, and locations have been omitted
I currently work part time at a wonderful home healthcare company whose main goal is to provide reliable and quality home healthcare to keep their clients in their homes longer.
With that said, let me take you back to the beginning…well maybe not that far back…but at least to February 2017 when I joined the company I work for and met the family that left an everlasting impression on me.
It had been a good 20 years since I had set foot into a long-term care facility aka nursing home. Back then they were set up looking like hospital wards, short staffed, and smelling like urine and other excrements. I assumed that a lot had changed over the years since the nursing homes had been scrutinized over the care residents receive and of course Medicare/Medicaid having their hands in the mix too.
Anyway, I picked up an ongoing shift at work, pretty much a Monday through Friday, 9:00am-1:00pm shift. I was told my client had suffered a stroke and had left sided weakness. It was perfect for me despite the 45 minute drive it took me to get there.
The client I would be caring for was in the continuing care/rehab facility of an upscale retirement community. As I drove through the security gates, I noticed the landscaping was professionally done, the apartments for the independent living were abundant, in fact they were building more! The place was HUGE! I couldn’t help but think… “Why was I being sent to this beautiful community? To a facility that had staff to care for their residents.”
I walked through the doors to a lovely lobby and down the hall to the room my client was residing. There was a couple of residents sitting in their wheelchairs but no staff insight. Most of the activity was in the dining room…must still be breakfast time.
I entered the room that was decorated to look like a bedroom and encountered an elderly lady lying in bed sleeping. Not wanting to wake her, I went back out to the hallway and found a nurse. Thinking I might get a short report on my client, I approached. I was shocked when I was met with resentment and rudeness. I was speechless.
I went back to the room where shortly later my client woke up and we introduced ourselves. She was a fragile, polite, and quiet spoken woman. Her left side was flaccid and I ended up feeding her breakfast as she was too weak to feed herself. Her son came in bearing additional breakfast items, a regular buffet, I might add. Turns out her favorite meal was breakfast.
Over the course of the week I observed that call light response times were between 10 minutes to… OMG I totally forgot I put the light on… and the attitudes of the staff were hostile! Unfortunately, since my client was a two person max assist, I was dependent on the facility staff to meet the needs of my client. I made a point that I would rise above them and treat them kindly, regardless of their attitudes. The family of my client was very much involved with my client’s care. They were there for her, advocating her rights to quality care. I came to find out, they had arranged through the company I worked for, that they hired a few of us CNAs to come in and supplement care in the mornings through lunch and later in the evenings. Needless to say, we few became the primary caregivers.
One evening I came to work and met the son’s wife at the entrance and she told me that she just heard that my client fell! We rushed down to the room to make sure she was ok. That evening, I saw my client’s family pull together and I now knew how much they cared for their mother! There was anger and frustration pouring out of this family. Their question? How could you leave a weak resident, with a recent stroke and left sided weakness on the toilet unattended? Who knows how long she layed on the floor before someone found her. The staff acted like it was not their fault. These were medically trained professionals…right? It all came down to an issue with short staffing, lack of training, and failure to follow care plans. Fortunately, only minor bruising occurred that time.
Over the next few weeks, I watched the family, my client’s son and daughter, fight to have rehab continue for their mother. My client had started to show improvement with physical, occupational, and speech therapy but according to Medicare guidelines, it wasn’t enough. It was that day, the day before her 80th birthday, my client stood up for the first time and on her birthday, took her first steps!! It was then deemed, she could stay in rehab but time was running out! Insurance was dictating how much longer she could stay in the program.
My client continued to make strides. She even qualified to go back to acute rehab for a couple weeks! Her endurance improved, her walking was stronger, and her speech louder! She was overcoming the odds that had been stacked against her in the beginning. Her family continued to rally on the sidelines. I continued to work with her on her therapies, incorporating every opportunity I could. She was a trooper! She was INSPIRING!
My client returned to continuing care/rehab to finish off her remaining couple weeks of rehab that Medicare would allow her to have. Then she experienced another fall, this time resulting in a fractured thumb, on her good hand! She was left unattended, yet again. It is unknown how long she laid on the floor. My client refused to give up. It was just another obstacle to get around. The family decided it would be best to move her into her son’s home so he could ensure she received quality care and no more falls occurred.
The family was ALWAYS there. The son traveled across the country to be with their mother every other week, trading off with his sister. The family moved their mom to the east coast to live with her son. They welcomed her in, fixed up a room for her and made her feel at home.
In three and a half months, I fell IN LOVE with that lady and her family. I could listen to her stories from her past over and over. I now call her my friend and her family is now a part of mine. I miss seeing her everyday but I know she is in good hands with her family. She inspires me to have strength and persevere through anything that is tossed in my path and never give up.
Her family has shown me the importance of advocating for your loved ones who can’t advocate for themselves due to disability or illness. To be involved in the decision making and the rights for your loved ones. Do the research of facilities that you place your loved ones in. Witness the care the facilities provide. Not everyone is able to move their loved ones into their home but you can advocate by being involved with your loved one’s care.
As far as the facility goes…the facility is beautiful. It turns out that over a three month period of time, the caregivers at the facility are loving and care about their residents. The walls of hostility were torn down over time. I realized the staff is forced to conform to their environment of being short staffed almost on a daily basis and they are doing their best under the circumstances. They see the shortcoming of the facility and wish for more staffing.
So I say, families continue to ADVOCATE for your loved ones. Caregivers, ADVOCATE for your patients, clients, and residents. ADVOCATE for the people who can’t! The healthcare system these days is unstable. Programs are threatened to be defunded that help individuals stay in their home or receive quality care they need. If you aren’t happy with the circumstances then ADVOCATE!!