Unfortunately nursing home neglect and injuries are more common than we think. Read below for some of the worst stories we have heard.
The first memory I have is of my mother’s mother – my Gigi. I didn’t realize until I was in my 20’s that Gigi was actually “G.G.” for “great-grandmother.” She was just my Gigi. The memory is of sitting on her lap in her living room. It was dark, as always, since she didn’t want to waste electricity by having the room too bright.
I could feel the bones of her legs under mine through my green corduroy pants and her faded wool skirt. She smelled of moth balls and chicken soup. Knowing Gigi, she had probably dabbed a bit of both behind her ears. She was reading a book to me; a book she was holding with her thin, almost translucent hands.
Help is Needed
Those hands were so delicate and yet so strong. With them she had raised 8 kids, battled the Great Depression, grieved with the country with the Kennedy’s were assassinated and listened to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Those hands, covered with dark spots the size of quarters, whose edges almost overlapped until there was more dark than light in places. Those hands, with rivers of dark blue running in relief, like a 3D map of her life. Those hands that could no longer stay still. Those hands that had soothed and punished her three boys and five girls. Those hands that could no longer take care of her. Gigi started calling me by my mom’s name, by my aunt’s name … sometimes even by her dead sister’s name. Then Gigi couldn’t drive anymore. Then Gigi couldn’t remember where she lived or if she’d taken her medicine or what year it was. Gigi came to live with us for a while, but she left the gas burner on once and started a kitchen fire. Then she went for a walk in the middle of the night and the police from two towns over brought her back.
Shortly after that, Gigi moved into a nursing home. When I was old enough to drive, I would go to see Gigi after school. She was almost always asleep when I arrived, but would perk up as if she had been napping to get extra strength to visit with me. One time, I walked in to find her room smelling of urine. I asked if she was OK and she confessed that she’d had an “accident” and pointed to the panties draped over a lamp. I ignored the accident bit – I’m sure she was embarrassed enough – but just had to tell her that it wasn’t a good idea to hang anything flammable from a heat source.
While I never saw anything as bad as the nursing home horror stories on the news, I know something about nursing home neglect. My poor Gigi, who was such a strong and confident woman, became a shell. The lost nearly 40 pounds that she didn’t have to spare. She always said she wasn’t hungry, but managed to eat if I fed her. I asked the staff several times if they couldn’t please make it a point to have someone help her eat at least once a day. I was always told that they did the best they could and Gigi was eating as she should. I know that wasn’t true. In the end, Gigi had less than 90 pounds on her 5’8” frame. She died of “natural causes” but I knew that wasn’t true. She died for lack of attention, nutrition and entertainment. She died of boredom and starvation. She died of embarrassment because she was too strong to ask for help eating.
Not the Worst Nursing Home Horror Stories … But Not Good Enough
I’m glad that Gigi didn’t die of exposure like the poor man in Oak Lawn, IL. Nor did she ever have sores untended so long that they developed maggots. What she also didn’t have was someone that took care of her on a consistent basis, someone that was held accountable for Gigi’s status. I did the best I could to take care of Gigi while my mom worked 3 jobs to take care of me. I wish I had been able to do more for Gigi. I know that if it ever comes to the point when my mom needs more help than I can give, I’ll hire home health nurses or do whatever I have to do to make sure I don’t lose Mom like I lost Gigi to nursing home neglect.