Elderly care crisis strikes close to home

On April 1, 2000, on your front page, there was an article regarding "elderly care in crisis." How well a family knows the experience of having to place a relative in one of the facilities in this area.

In 1995, my husband experienced his third brain surgery having a shunt replaced, and I nearly losing him. The neurosurgeon said he had done "all there was to be done." It was irreversible, and that I would have to have home health care and/or eventually place him in a nursing home.

So we went to Life Stress at Carson-Tahoe who had him admitted to Cottonwood Center in Gardnerville in 1996 as I was barely able to take care of him. They placed him there in a room which must have been blocks away from the dining room. When I arrived before lunch the next day, my husband was on a walker, trying to walk all that distance. I found a nurse who summoned a CNA. No one supervised his ability to feed himself, so I drove from Carson City every day for the 20 days that Medicare paid for and then took him out of that environment.

At that time, the nursing homes were advertising for applicants still in high school to become CNAs by offering a bonus.

Meanwhile, I finally had home health care most of each week, for personal care and therapy. But soon, we placed him in Carson Convalescent at our expense where the attendants did not do any more than necessary. Then my husband began to fall, so we got him a wheelchair and an attendant at home. But he suffered a very bad fall in the bathroom, was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and the doctor insisted that I send him back to Cottonwood or the alternative was to take him to the physician nursing home in Sparks.

While there, he fell out of his bed, over the foot, at 3 a.m. and laid there sometime before he was discovered. So we brought him home and had more health care at home plus a CNA whom we paid. The doctor ordered rehab for him at the new rehab center, but did not last long as the CNA had a tragic thing happen to her son and his wife, so our son helped me until my husband had another bad fall and was taken to the hospital again.

The doctor there sent him to Sierra Convalescent, which was not any better than the other - an hour of rehab and some supervision of his meals. There were two CNAs on that hall, and both did not take adequate care of him, did not clean or replace his dental plates, or shave him unless I reminded them. Eventually he developed pneumonia and returned to the hospital. Then the house doctor (who only saw the patients in the nursing home once a month) tried to persuade us to put my husband on life support - tube in nostril and throat, which I felt very undignified.

By then he had passed his 80th birthday, and was not improving with all this happening. So we brought him home. The doctor ordered Hospice and home health care and he lasted two weeks and two days. The home health eventually sent a bill which extended beyond the day my husband passed away. I reported it to Medicare and never heard any more about it.

It seems that aging and ailing seniors are getting the "short end of the stick" and no one seems to do anything about it or care. I have tried to put these experiences behind me, after losing my dear husband of 56 years, but cannot help but wonder how other older persons will fare. I wish some of the families would speak out regarding the nursing home problem.


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