April 14, 2016 my mom was transferred to the Senior Care Unit at the Mille Lacs Health System in Onamia. This is a geriatric behavioral health unit. At that time, we didn’t know what was really going on. Fast forward a little and we learned that my mom was suffering from Dementia.
You can read more about what has been happening by clicking HERE and reading a post from April 26.
Initially, we didn’t visit. We were told that it would be a good idea to let my mom get settled in and let them figure out what was wrong with my mom. My sister and I did go and visit, but we didn’t actually see my mom. Instead, we talked with the social worker and the head nurse. We left feeling confident that our mom was in the right place. We got good vibes. It was hard not to see her, but honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would handle it. She wasn’t herself, so to speak. Dementia has apparently taken over her brain and there was/is little left of the mom we knew.
But, we felt good about where she was at and who was taking care of her.
(This photo was taken on Mother’s Day)
Over the course of the next few weeks, I spoke with the social worker on a regular basis. I called just about every day and talked with whichever nurse was on duty that day and talked about my mom – how she was doing, if there was any improvement, etc. I even talked to my mom several times on the phone. Not that much of what we talked about made sense because of the Dementia. But we still talked. She seemed happy. The social worker was great about emailing me and the line of communication was open and good. I never felt uneasy. About anything.
Two of my brothers went to visit my mom at the end of April. They didn’t have too much to say about the visit, other than it was interesting. They felt a little uneasy, but no real “red flags” came up.
On Sunday, May 8 – Mother’s Day – we – my sister, Karen, and I – decided we would go and visit our mom. And this is where things get a little interesting.
I called that morning and talked to a nurse. I asked how my mom was doing and how her night was, typical of my conversations with the nursing staff. We talked for a little bit; I was told that “she’s kind of handful,” when referring to my mom’s behavior. I knew that. I apologized – this is not the first time I’ve said I am sorry. The reason I feel obligated to apologize is because my mom’s behavior is not “normal” – it is eccentric, I guess. She can be loud. She uses colorful language at times. She’s needy and demanding. Her delusions are grand and at times, a bit odd. But, this is NOT my mom. It is THE disease. I apologize because they don’t get to know the real Leona. They don’t know who my mom really is. All they deal with is the diseased version of my mom. For that, I apologize. I feel bad for them that they only see that side of her; the Dementia side.
Keep in mind, that I realize it is their job. They chose their profession. They chose to work with people who have mental disabilities. I shouldn’t apologize nor should I feel like I have to apologize, but I do. I truly feel bad that they don’t get to know the person she really was.
They don’t get to see the happy, bubbly, friendly, helpful, spunky, religioius, loving, talented, fun, charismatic, musical and all around genuine human being that she is.
Back to the phone call. I talked with the nurse for several minutes – betwen five and 10. I finally mentioned that my sister and I were coming for a visit. Immediately, she asked, “What time?” I was taken aback by this question because we were told visiting hours were from 3:30 to 5 p.m. seven days a week. I didn’t think we had a choice. I answered back, “Around 3:30.” She replied, “Oh. Well, I should probably tell you that your mom fell last night.” I asked if she was okay, to which she replied, “Yes.” I was a little shocked that I wasn’t contacted by a staff member informing me of this information and that it wasn’t until I said we were coming for a visit that I was told about the fall.
I kind of blew it off. I told my sister about the conversation though.
Well, my sister and I arrived at the facility shortly after 3:30 p.m. What happened after that was not at all what we expected. Yesterday, Friday, May 13, my sister posted on her Facebook page about the incident. Here is her account of what happened:
“Sorry that this post is so long, but I am so pissed off right now, I hope some of you will take the time to read it. I wasn’t planning to post any of this, but I changed my mind after talking to my sister.
Last Sunday my sister and I went to visit our mom in Onamia. She has been in the behavioral health unit for awhile now. Celeste had called that morning to see how mom’s day was going, and was told that mom had fallen during the night, and was now considered a fall risk. And as such, would need assistance to walk without a wheelchair. When we got there, a large man (side note from me – I am not sure if he was a nurse or an aide) and another aide let us into the locked unit. When we told them we were there to see my mom, they exchanged looks that both Celeste and I thought were suspicious. They mentioned that mom was quite a handful, and that since she was a fall risk, they had put mats on the floor for her to lay on. When we entered her room, we found her face down on the floor, with her head on a mat. The male lifted mom into a wheelchair without using a gate belt, even though I asked him twice to use one. (side note from me – the male and another person, a woman helped my mom into the wheelchair without lifting her properly) When mom asked to use the bathroom, the aide told us that mom could walk to the bathroom herself, even though we had been told that she needed assistance. He went on to say that when she fell, they thought mom had put herself on the floor and then said she had fallen, so they thought she was faking it. After mom finished in the bathroom, Celeste and I helped mom get her pants up, and we noticed bruises. One large one on her upper thigh, one large one on her forearm, and several small ones on her upper arm that resembled finger tips. Both Celeste and I were heartbroken to have to leave her there, and the next morning I sent an email to the social worker there, demanding copies of incident reports explaining the bruises her fall and the reasons behind not using a gate belt. I also sent the pictures of the bruises. Later, I got a phone call from HR saying that they were launching a thorough investigation and that the aide (the male) from Sunday had been suspended until the investigation was complete. I also made a report to the state, and was told by HR that they had also reported to the state. Yesterday, mom was transferred to acute care in the hospital after exhibiting symptoms of pneumonia, which was later ruled out. So today, when Celeste went to visit her, they talked to her about discharging mom back to the behavioral health side. Celeste said no, she didn’t want mom back there, so the hospital agreed to keep her until she could be discharged to the adult foster home Celeste had found for her. When Celeste went to get mom’s things from the behavioral health side, she was shocked to see the male working. The one that we were told had been suspended. So I am pissed, to say the least. We trusted the higher ups to look out for our mother, and now we feel like we weren’t even taken seriously. So I don’t feel bad at all telling people about this experience. Maybe it will open the eyes of other care givers, and maybe the state will see that this guy get suspended, or better yet, fired, until the investigation is complete.”
I am so proud of my sister for writing this. We were heartbroken and angered, to say the least. The way the male talked to us, how he treated our mom in front of us was uncalled for. He not only disrespected us, he disrespected our mom and didn’t treat her like the decent human being she is. It is not her fault how she acts. It is the disease that has taken over her brain.
At any rate, we know now that our mom is not going back there. I spoke with the social worker yesterday and the head nurse and they were both geniunely apologetic about the incident and asked if we would reconsider bringing our mom back. They feel they can help our mom. They said they have not had anything like this happen and that the senior care unit is one of the top-rated in the state. And they might be. But we, myself and my siblings, all agree that we don’t want our mom back there. We just don’t feel comfortable with it. I do have to state that we also understand that elderly people bruise easily. We get that. We understand that. But it goes beyond the bruises. It goes to treating our mother like a human being – with care, dignity and respect. I don’t think that is too much to ask. Do you?
NOTE: The facility is under investigation. My sister, who is a mandated reporter, reported it to the state. They are investigating.
Mandated reporters are professionals or professional’s delegate identified by law who MUST make a report if they have reason to believe that the abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult has occurred.