When I worked in LTC, I took care of a resident who was total care, and had dementia with psychotic features. This resident used the call bell a lot and yelled for people to help often. One day I was walking down the hall to this resident's room and it occurred to me---this could be me in 30 or 40 years, and without a clear mind or someone to care enough to speak up for me I would truly be helpless.
There are no guarantees in life. No one came into this world with a guarantee of perfect health and ability until the moment we die. Diseases will happen, accidents will happen; and when they do, we can become disabled to the point that we need someone else to care for us.
Every day we wake up and take care of our ADLs without thinking twice about it. Do we ever wonder---what would it be like to depend on another to brush our hair, bathe us, brush our teeth, toilet us, feed us, and turn us? What would it be like to need all this help and not be helped, because no one spoke up about the bad caregivers?
Years ago when I was younger, I heard of the mandated reporter law, where certain people were required by law to report abuse. At the time, I wondered why the law was necessary. Over the years I found out why the law was necessary---it was because not everyone will report abuse. There will be some who will say to themselves "Don't rock the boat, don't make waves", and there are others who are afraid to get involved, who say "It's not that simple" when asked why they didn't report. In the meantime, the victims suffer.
All of us worry about paying our bills, our groceries, paying off our mortgages or cars, and hoping that we can get or keep jobs that pay enough to take care of all of this. When someone has to go to a LTC facility, they no longer have to deal with bills, groceries, mortgages, car payments, or jobs. However, there is a new set of things to worry about such as:
- Will I be taken care of or neglected?
- Will the CNAs take care of me or leave me in a mess?
- If I'm weak and helpless, will someone feed me, or will they chart meal refused because they didn't want to take the time?
- Will the person who turns me be gentle or rough?
- Will they even turn me at all?
- Will I be seen as a demanding, whiny nuisance or as a human being?
- Will I be treated as a human being?
A long time ago, I figured that if I got fired for reporting abuse or neglect, I could always find a different job. The residents in LTC can't change their circumstances that easily, and they can't choose their caregivers that easily. I haven't read every single news article in the U.S., but it seems like there are more stories about, and more attention is paid to endangered species than to the elderly in LTC,
At any time, anyone of us could end up in LTC; maybe years into the future, maybe next month. When it does and living in LTC becomes necessary, I hope that the facility is a good place with caregivers who truly care, and staffed with people who will advocate for the residents, who will step up to the plate and report abuse and neglect as far up the chain of command and the State as necessary, and who will have the courage to do so.
The residents in LTC are vulnerable and they need people who will speak up for them. It's not enough to just leave a bad facility without reporting the bad conditions---because then the facility gets away with it, and the people suffer.