Updated: Jun 15, 2020
Taking care of seniors is a very difficult job. Many senior facilities are taking care of people with a variety of health issues, and, as we all know, those issues can change over time and sometimes become worse. What do facilities do when a resident who has lived there for several years develops memory issues or other behaviors that can be a danger to themselves or others?
My mom has had two instances where a person with wandering issues has caused her to fear an unintended injury. There was a women on my mom's floor that was always wandering the halls when I would come. She would open and close windows and doors while calling out and asking where someone was. I even asked the nurses a few times about it as it was clear she had some memory issues. They acknowledged her and her issues, however never said much was being done about it. It seemed to be a common occurrence that nobody was concerned with. One day I received a call from someone telling me that my mom had fallen out of her wheelchair. They explained that a women had wondered into her room and was going through her things and seemed to be looking for someone or something. My mom kept telling the women that she was in the wrong room and that she needed to go back to her own room. The women obviously wasn't able to communicate with my mom or able to understand her request. As she moved toward the door my mom stood up to close the door behind her and a nurse pushed the door from the otherside and it bumped her and she fell. My mom can't use her hands and has limited leg use so she obviously fell easily.
I was very upset and so was my mother. She can't have the doors locked due to the fact that she has no hand use and also the fact that there are nursing staff coming in and out all day. Most rooms on this particular floor are left unlocked. In the end my mom was fine but scared and I felt that if this was something happening a lot with this women then she probably needed to be moved to a facility that handles memory issues as the care for that issue is much different. The care being provided at my mom's facility does not include memory care and therefore the staff are not educated enough to care for them with the quality of care they deserve and require. The Executive Director told me that they knew about her and they would be talking with the family. That was all she said which in her tone told me this had been going on for a while. I felt that the concern about the possible danger it caused to my mom and could have caused to others was lost on her.
Last week I received a call from my mom telling me she was on the floor and had slid out of her wheelchair and could not push her pendant to call for assistance and nobody had been in for a while to check on her. I called the facility and asked them to call up for someone to assist her and they did. I was told that a gentleman that lives on her floor (who I have heard about numerous times before) had wandered out of his room and walked down to her room area and was yelling "help" outside her door. He has done this for months but I usually heard it as I passed his room never outside his room. My mom was worried someone was hurt so she tried to get up to see what was wrong and fell. A nurse came in and said that they didn't know he was "all the way down here". I contacted the Executive Director again and she told me that "it was her understanding that this resident was much improved but likely still has moments of confusion due to his diagnosis. She said she would talk to the head nurse about how they could help him and in turn the other residents on the unit."
I think that facilities need to make sure they they can properly care for their residents as their needs change. Any amount of danger caused by trying to keep someone in your building that you can't properly care for and who could endanger other residents is too much. So something I would recommend to all people is that when you choose a facility for your loved one make sure that the care allows for health changes. Dad or mom may not have memory concerns now but they may a few months from now and if the facility has no memory care they won't be able to care for them properly. The staff may also not have the special training that goes into caring for patients with memory issues. Make sure you ask about these issues even if you have no health concerns so that you know what you can expect from the facility and the environment you will be living in.