Thinking Out Loud

October 16, 2015

Imagine Being Told to Spend 3 Hours a Day Standing in the Corner for 3 Years

My mom lives in a long-term care seniors facility. I haven’t written much about that here because frankly, I am saving up a lot of the things that have happened there for a much, much larger media forum. I’m a writer after all, and for the sake of those who will follow her, which in a sense includes you and me, I want to try to do some good.

On her floor there are two dining rooms, each one seats about 30 people. When she arrived there, she was assigned to the table in the farthest corner, and in the seat that faces the corner. She really can’t see anything else that goes on in the room, nor can she tell when a server is nearby or approaching so she can ask for something. There is a window, but the tables are on an angle, so her best view is of the roof of the adjoining part of the building.

In her previous facility, they had a great system. Each person rotated one seat to the right every month. Once or twice the whole bunch of them got to move to a different table. It made for change, and it also created equity.

seniorsIn this facility, nearly a year went by and she started to feel the inhumanity of her seat assignment. So I started asking questions on her behalf. The treatment I got was about equal to what she was experiencing.

“In order to change her seat, we would have to contact the families of the other three people at her table;” I was told. Really? Seriously?

I told them that I would not want or need to be contacted if her seat at the dining room was being changed. I don’t even see the relevance of family being part of which table she sits at. In that exchange, I really felt I was being played for a fool.

Soon it will be three years. She’s a rather slow eater, so we’re talking three hours a day. Every day. Every week. Every month. For three years. Staring into the corner. No visible indication of what’s going on in the rest of the dining room. Not given the dignity of honoring her request for a change…

…On Wednesday she told me that a woman at her table had spilled some soup. She cleaned it up herself with a paper napkin, and then proceeded to eat the napkin.

“Why;” my wife asked, “Would you want to be party to seeing more of that?”

It’s a fair question. But I think she (and we) should have some choice in the matter.

I’ve appealed this before all the way to the top. Usually, when I do things like this on behalf of people, either logic or a sense of justice wins. Not this time.

Did I mention this is a “Christian-owned” facility? It’s run by the “Benevolent Association” of a large Evangelical denomination. Benevolent to whom, exactly? What’s worse, decades ago she was a long-time volunteer at this same facility. Her own mother and mother-in-law were residents. Her picture appears in their commemorative, anniversary book. And she’s treated like crap.

Right now my prayer is that the people who head up this place find themselves, when they reach that golden age, placed in residence at the facility they now manage.

It will be a most appropriate revenge.


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?


Blog at