Aging in the Coronavirus Plague Year – Part 3

Photo by Cristian Newman at UpSplash

Although the arthritis in this woman's hands is severe, if she were in a nursing home she would be placed among the general population, able to enjoy whatever social programs the nursing home provided.  I'm going to tell you of another situation.

My sister's mother-in-law, a woman named Emma, had a form of arthritis that was the result of an auto-immune condition.  During her lifetime, the drugs that are now helping auto-immune patients live improved lives did not exist.  By the time she was 90, she was virtually immobile.  Her two sons did not live near her and, without understanding the ramifications, admitted their mother to a nursing home.  Although Emma was immobile, there was nothing, nothing wrong with her mind.  She had no memory loss.  She was a delightful person.  So what was her fate?

She was put into the section of the  nursing home with people who were non compos mentos.  The staff never took her out of her room to join social events with ambulatory residents.  Nada.   She was starved for companionship, conversation - everything that makes life worth living.

One day, Emma turned her face to the wall and died.

What bothers me is that few of us have the kind of information about nursing homes to make intelligent decisions for older relatives.

Ok, Now let's talk about my  grandmother, the one who lived to 89.

After she had a stroke, my grandmother went to live with my uncle and aunt.  Over the years she slowly declined.  When my aunt developed breast cancer, she could no longer care for my grandmother and my uncle put my grandmother in nursing home that was recommended as very good.  Over the next year or so, the nursing home called my uncle whenever my grandmother was unwell and he came to trust them.

One day, the home called to say that my grandmother had fallen and broken her ankle, seeking permission to have the ankle set.  Because he had found the home trustworthy, he told them to go ahead and have it set.  When he left work that day, he stopped by the home to see how things were doing.  My grandmother was in pain, but her bones were brittle and he thought and hoped that her condition would improve with care.

I don't know how long it takes to develop complications, but my uncle received a call from the home saying that my grandmother had developed gangrene and they needed to amputate her leg.

Never did my uncle expect to get such a call and, for the first time he didn't follow what the home suggested and brought his family doctor to examine my grandmother.  Looking at my grandmother's ankle, the doctor said it was the worst set ankle he had ever seen.  He also said that he didn't think she would survive an amputation and therefore he would not recommend it.  Given her age and condition, he said the best thing was to make her comfortable and let her go.  And so my grandmother died of gangrene.

And my uncle died, I think about six months later, of a massive stroke. The stress he endured and the grief he felt about her care was more than he could bear.

If you are going to put a loved one in a nursing home, talk to as many people as you can.  Get all the details you can.  Ask questions of the nursing home, so that they know you will be paying attention.  And do that, do not just leave your elderly relative and forget to visit and keep watch.

Better yet, if you can, find a home care service that has people like Olivia.  You will give your relative the best care possible and they will benefit from living with family.

My next door neighbor is a Nurse Practitioner.  She discovered that while her mother was confused when visiting other relatives (at a party at an aunt's house, her mother got lost trying to return from the bathroom).  But in her own house, her mother knew her way around and was much more connected to reality.  My neighbor decided to hire a couple of part time aides to come in and do things for and with the mother along with my neighbor's visits to her mother.

Addition 8/3/20:  If a nurse practitioner wouldn't put her mother in a nursing home . . .?

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Tags: aging, nursing home horrors

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