My story is not an isolated case. Nursing homes in Onondaga County are either under staffed with unacceptable care, or above the rest and have a right to pick and choose who they will help and who they will deny care to. This is in my opinion, elderly neglect.
What happened to the days when a healthcare facility had to help a patient, especially when that patient had the funds available either privately, or through Medicare/Medicaid?? When did Nursing Homes acquire the right to deny a patient because there would be too much work involved to make them better for short term stay rehabilitation? Is this the way our country has decided to diminish the elderly population? Unless you are mobile and fairly self sufficient, with minimal care, or have one foot in the grave where you can be left in a bed 24 hours a day, the better nursing homes in this area will refuse to help you.
My father has been refused by Syracuse Homes and Birchwood Nursing home numerous times after being in the hospital and needing rehabilitation to get him strong again so he could come back home. Today he was refused again by both places. They don't have to give the discharge planner at the hospital a reason. If you call on your own, they use the excuse that they have no male bed available.
Dad has been sick on and off for the past 3 years. Congestive Heart Failure, and fluid buildup around his lungs which makes it hard for him to breathe. He has been taken to the Emergency Room three times in the past 4 weeks.
My father was in the hospital for almost 2 weeks the end of June. After the hospital diminished the fluid and he was better, he needed short term rehab at a nursing home to get stronger. Birchwood refused him. Our second choice (they do give you a choice, not that it does any good) was Syracuse Home. Syracuse Home agreed to take my father, all the paper work with the discharge planner was filled out. My father was to be transported to Syracuse Home on Thursday July 3rd at 11:00am. At 10am, the hospital got a call from Syracuse Home saying they were delaying the transport till 2pm. My brother and I got to the hospital at noon, got my dad dressed and ready to go. He was excited about getting out and going somewhere that he would not only get better but enjoy himself at the same time. At 1:00pm the discharge planner came in and said that Syracuse Home had to postpone my dads transport till Monday July 7th. We never did get a direct answer why. For the next 4 days, my father sat in a hospital room with minimal care. No physical therapy of any kind, his vitals checked and food brought in.
On Monday, July 7th he was scheduled to be transported at 2:00pm. Once again we went to the hospital and got him dressed and ready to go. This time at 1:00pm a nurse came into his room and said Syracuse Home changed their mind and denied my father care. Again, no explanation why! We had to choose another home.
Before I go any further I should explain that my dad had already been in Loretto, St. Camillus, The Crossing and Iroquois Nursing homes at different times for rehab. While being in all of these places, his health deteriorated instead of getting better so we could bring him home. The physical therapy departments in these nursing homes are useless. They make no effort to get a patient strong and back on their feet.
The Crossing pumped my father full of so much pain medication he couldn't move on his own if he wanted too. That was after having a knee replaced, he wasn't even sick.
Loretto was so short staffed, there was never a nurse or aid around when you needed one. The rooms were depressing, and the PT again was useless to anyone that was trying to get better.
St. Camillus was the same as the others. Short staffed, patients were neglected and whenever you asked a question, you couldn't get a straight answer.
Iroquois was a little more attentive and the staff (aides and nurses) did a decent job for the amount of people they had to tend too. The administration on the other hand was a nightmare. We repeatedly asked that my father be taken off of insulin. He has never needed it and it makes him sick and his dementia gets worse when he's on it. The doctor refused to listen to my brother who is my dads health care proxy. He hung up the phone on my brother and refused to talk to him. Administration first told us the insulin was stopped, when all the while he was still getting it. Physical therapy told my father and my brother and I that dad would never be able to walk with his cane again and would be lucky if he could get around with a walker. Needless to say we pulled my father out of the home and brought him home and within 3 days he was up walking around with his cane again.
We took my father out of each of the above nursing homes while watching him regress health wise instead of getting better. My heart goes out to the elderly people that are confined in these homes with no family or family that doesn't care and never monitors their treatment. Now back to the story:
We were told by the discharge planner at the hospital that Sunnyside Nursing home had an available bed and would take my father. This was a new home that he hadn't been to yet and we really had no other choice because he was too weak to come home where we could take care of him. After another day of sitting around in the hospital he was transported to Sunnyside on Tuesday July 8th. The home seemed ok after looking around and inspecting it. Most of the staff seemed friendly and caring. My father was to receive physical therapy and occupational therapy. The occupational therapy never happened. His doctors orders were he was to keep moving and when sitting for long periods of time his legs were to be elevated so he would not suffer the fluid buildup again. Within 4 days, dads legs started to swell. I continually mentioned this to the staff because my father was left sitting in a wheelchair or laying in bed constantly and his legs were never elevated. I visited my dad once a day, sometimes twice. NEVER once did I go there where I didn't find him in a soaking wet or soiled adult diaper, and his pants and shirt wet with urine. Each time I called in someone to change him I would sit and watch as they peeled off the soiled diaper and put a clean one on without once washing the stale urine from my fathers body. Would they treat their own bodies this way?
My father started getting depressed and his dementia was getting worse. I was concerned that due to the neglect in hygiene he might be getting a urinary track infection. I requested that a sample be tested and was told the doctor in charge would have to give the okay for a sample to be taken. Another 3 days pass with no urine test and my fathers legs were swelling more and more. They measured his legs every morning, yet did NOTHING to try and stop the fluid buildup. He was still left sitting in a wheelchair without his legs elevated.
During the second week of his stay at Sunnyside, I went to visit him and found him sitting in the dining room, soaking wet once again. I wheeled him to his room and proceeded to undress him to clean him up and put fresh clothes on. When I removed his wet diaper, I found blood on the front of it. I finally had had enough, to put me over the edge. I demanded to see the nurse in charge. She came in with a male aide, and I told them to explain to me why there was blood not only on my fathers diaper but on his penis. The male aide looked at my father and said "Oh, it looks like he might have cut himself with the sharp edge of the urine bottle he was trying to use." Excuse me????? This cheap plastic bottle had a ragged sharp edge on it, yet was given to an 87 year old man to use. I then voiced every complaint I had to the nurse in charge, who agreed with me. She made notes of my complaints, which the home had an excuse for everything even though there was no excuse that would be acceptable to the neglect my father was receiving. 45 minutes of physical therapy in the morning, and 23 hours of the remainder of the day left sitting in a wheelchair sleeping. No effort by anyone to get him off his feet for a short walk throughout the day to keep him moving so the fluid would not go back to his heart and lungs unless my brother or I got him up.
We had our meeting with the nurses, social worker and administration on Monday July 21st. We voiced our concerns and complaints, that nursing homes mottos are to maintain a patients health or make them better so they can come home. Neither was done. We then decided my father would get better care from my brother and I at home and we would take him to outpatient physical therapy. He was to be discharged the next day in our care. At 6am, Tuesday July 22nd (the day we were to take him home) my brother received a phone call from Sunnyside saying that my father had difficulty breathing during the night and they had sent out for a chest X-ray to be done. The X-ray was taken at 8am. I went directly to the nursing home after hearing the news to be with my dad and start packing up his things. It took over 4 hours for the results of the X-ray to be faxed. The nurse pulled me aside and said the X-ray shows Congestive Heart Failure and fluid around your fathers lungs. She wanted to know what I wanted to do. I looked at her and said you're kidding me right? Call an ambulance NOW, and get him to the Emergency Room!!!
He was taken to the ER and more tests were done. The doctor in the ER said they would keep him overnight and try to get rid of as much fluid as they could. We were to come pick him up in the morning. The neglect of Sunnyside, sent my father back into the hospital in worse shape then when he left 2 weeks earlier. I have filed a formal complaint against them with the Department of Health, and they are doing an investigation.
Dad was home with us for seven days. He was going to outpatient therapy and back to his adult daycare at Silver Fox which is one of the best places for elderly people to go. The staff is wonderful, the place is beautiful and they truly care about each and every one of their members like they were their own parents. I can't say enough good things about them. My father was on lacix to keep the fluid down, and we constantly had his legs elevated when he was sitting or resting. Even with our effort 100% of the time, because all of the fluid was not dissolved in his overnight stay at the ER, it built back up in his chest and lungs again. On Friday August 1st, while dad was at the daycare, he was having chest pains. The girls immediately called 911 and my father was taken back into the hospital. Congestive Heart Failure and fluid in and around his lungs. He is still in the hospital as of today, and I have never seen him in such bad shape. He is left sleeping most of the day in bed, he's weak and his dementia is worse then it's ever been. Physical therapy comes in early in the morning and wakes him from a sound sleep, then expects him to stand up after he's been laying down for hours and hasn't even had breakfast yet. They then write in their reports that he is too weak to receive therapy. These are the same reports the nursing homes see when the hospital no longer wants responsibility for a patient and gives you the choices of nursing home rehabs.
Back to square one. Our choices were Birchwood and Syracuse Home. We were told this morning that both places have once again denied my father. He is too weak for us to bring him home, we would never be able to get him up the 3 stairs to get into the house. What choices do we have now??? Send him back to one of the places who neglected to keep him healthy when he was there before, or try to take him home where we can keep him clean and fed but do not have the medical equipment or knowledge to monitor his health so he doesn't suffer CHF again.
Now, I ask you....how can these nursing homes be allowed to pick and choose their patients? Don't they have any compassion for the elderly that really need them? Are they afraid because a patient has a family that cares and monitors their parents care, that they will be exposed for the same kind of neglect other nursing homes have been exposed of?? Are they too lazy to take any patients that need a little extra care and attention? Is this now our country's way of disposing of the elderly due to the lack of good healthcare available in nursing homes? These establishments are paid good money to do their jobs, yet they do only the minimal with a shortage of staff. Read the obituaries and see how many elderly people are dying in these nursing homes. Are the families closing a blind eye, or are they afraid to speak out for fear of further neglect to their loved one? I do not want my father to be another statistic. I want him to be healthy as he is capable of being, and I expect the nursing home that he is a short term resident of to do their job. Is that asking too much?
We are all going to be in this situation at some time during the rest of our life cycle. After seeing what my father is going through, I would rather die healthy then put my daughter through this trauma and heartache. It's a disgrace that nursing homes can deny patients for whatever reason. They are supposed to be here to help all elderly people. If we don't start raising our voices, it will never get any better. I can only pray that there are still decent people in Onondaga County that work at these nursing homes who will do something about the discrimination to our elderly community.