Thinking Out Loud

May 3, 2015

Institutionalized Seniors Lose Independence, Privacy, Dignity

Last night my mother was attacked by another resident in the seniors complex where she lives. He entered her room, sat on her bed, and then hit her about seven times, in her forehead, face and torso. She screamed and screamed for help.

seniorsIt’s not the first time this has happened.

Each time it’s been caused by a different resident.

There are three levels of care in this facility:

  • independent living
  • assisted living
  • long term care

Just over two years ago, she went from the first directly to the third, skipping the assisted living experience entirely. It was a rather abrupt transition. She went from basically renting an apartment to experiencing the regimen and routine one would expect in a hospital. From doing her own thing to doing their thing.

While I have great respect for the nurse in the independent living section of the building who made the decision, and while there were short-term circumstances that seemed at the time to warrant it, I will always second-guess that decision and our willingness to agree to it.

In the meantime, there are no locks on her door.

While many people she lives with are experiencing different levels of onset dementia, she is still totally with it. She has all her own teeth, bladder control, and reads without glasses. Moreover she sees everything that takes place on her floor; she knows the staff members who care, and which ones are just punching a clock. She is aware of the many instances of injustice that take place in that community, and is a victim of several, including being forced, for 27 months now, to sit in the dining room with her back to everything going on there, despite various requests by her and us for a seat change.

Because she is hard of hearing, she sometimes blends with the not-so-higher-functioning people on the floor. She struggles with remembering nouns and peoples’ names, but this is not a new thing. So she uses pronouns without having qualified them, or introduced a name at the beginning of a new spoken paragraph.

Sometimes, on the phone, she gets philosophical and describes the boredom of her day-to-day existence, in terms not unlike how one might describe a prison experience. Some day, as a writer, I may share her story in a broader forum.

Last night she was scared. They said she didn’t want to go back to her room, but a caring PSW agreed to be her “security guard” until she got to sleep.

The family of the man who attacked her was also notified. After we were called, I pretty much identified who the man was. He’s new to the floor, and was wandering around all day acting weird when I made two rare, twice-in-one-day visits. He will probably need a greater level of restraint, possibly on another floor of the building.

My mother has no alternatives, no other options. What do you do?




  1. I am not shocked. I watched as my grandfather went thru a similar situation. He lived through so much. My father tried to make things better. But things only improved a little.

    Please, let your mother know that I have said a prayer for her! Also I’m praying for wisdom for you. It is very hard.

    Comment by angie — May 3, 2015 @ 9:43 am

  2. Your mothers’s situation is obviously sad and no doubt frustrating. You say your mother has no alternatives.” Have you contacted your local AREA AGENCY ON AGING? There is an Ombudsman Program, “designed to ensure that people who live in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities receive quality care. An ombudsman is a specially trained and certified advocate who works to improve quality of life and care of residents living in long-term care facilities. They visit facilities and offer a safe and confidential way for residents to voice their concerns…..” Area Agency on Aging, Region One, Inc. 2014 Elder Resource Guide–Maricopa County. Hope this is helpful.

    Comment by susan — May 4, 2015 @ 11:50 am

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