At hospitals, taking steps to expose and then resolve possible issues of patient mishandling can be a fleeting proposition. Because when medical staff are caught up in carrying out their hurried objectives, their acts of “unnecessary roughness” can be quick and often near undetectable. Caregivers will almost need video proof to show that misconduct ever happened. And that would be after the deed has been done.
Filing complaints take time and red tape. Those grievance departments are certainly contaminated with conflict of interest. I know because I lodged one in my mother’s behalf to no avail. Besides it will be your word against theirs. They hold all the records and files. So, caregivers must be creative in handling these issues otherwise. Sometimes they have to show quiet assertiveness to help protect the often borderline maltreatment of their ailing seniors who are often vulnerable to the whims of medical staff.
This is why caregivers are entrusted with a uniquely important duty when accompanying their “special needs” seniors to medical facilities. They should never hesitate to request going into those Lab Rooms with their seniors whenever certain medical exams are to be performed. Sometimes they don’t want you in there during those exams.
–So what possibly could go wrong at a hospital, you may ask yourself? Hopefully nothing. However, every lab tech is not the same. Some border on the line of course handling when positioning the bodies of ailing seniors. Who knows? –They may be having a bad day. So, Russian roulette is never a safe bet when you choose to leave your frail seniors alone with medical staff where you can not visually observe them.
All seniors are not the same. An 85 year old immobile senior with Dementia who is not able to speak, have contractures and can not properly position herself is at the mercy of sometimes heavy handed lab techs. Too often, medical people are overly influenced by schedules, time constraints, and busy waiting rooms. And some can be quite unforgiving on frail bodies behind closed doors.
As primary caregiver, one must constantly monitor how medical staff are handling your senior. You must speak up when you witness inappropriate mishandling.
One late evening, we had to call EMS for our mother to be transported to the ER. After arriving at the Emergency room, I quickly told nurses that I was the primary caregiver. They began asking me a flurry of relevant questions. I signed some forms; they got her ready for testing. So they drew some blood and then prepared her for x-rays. That meant she next had to be carted off down the hall into some remote lab room. Bells began ringing off in my head.
Without question, I knew that she would be terrified. I also knew that she would become even more terrified after they had begun forcefully pulling apart her contracted arms. She didn’t know these people or the cold room in which she would soon find herself. I politely asked the exam techs could I accompany her. My being there next to her certainly would have offered her much needed familiarity and calmness amidst her fears and anxieties. But, they refused.
As a matter of fact, my request had been taken as an insult. That had never been my intention. Suddenly I began to feel their chilly gazes and snippy replies. “–We know what we’re doing”, one lab tech quickly retorted. How dare I insinuate that these trained professionals would not take care of my mom. “–Don’t worry! We’ll take care of her”, they added. Still I followed them.
I continued to politely ask to be present as they quickly wheeled her toward the lab. I tried explaining to them that she had contractures. I reasoned that I was more adept in dealing with them. Giving x-rays to a contracted senior with late stage Dementia could be scary and painful. I had to make certain that they were uniquely aware of her delicate situation before them.
Finally, they allowed me to enter the room. They both got on one side or the other and began struggling with her limbs. Gradually I inched myself closer toward her as theyroughly began pulling legs and bending arms. They were having a very difficult time. They called for help. We waited.
I knew only too well how fragile she was. I knew that they would find it more difficult in trying to unfold her arms enough for them to take quality x rays. Then the other staff arrived. With taut faces, they all seem to be “loaded for bear”. The bending and twisted had begun.
I could see the obvious pain on my mom’s face as she grimaced with each pull. Her contractures gave them the wrong impression that she was being resistant intentionally. That put the techs into a sort of “fight mode.”
Yes. She had Dementia. But, she was not the combative type. Their standard procedure of wrestling, pulling and torquing limbs were met with immediately instinctive resistance by– more so–frozen muscles instead that of a resisting patient. Pulling too quickly only prevented the muscles from releasing. They apparently were not aware of that subtle difference.
So, they continued to “double down” by applying more pressure to force her into the positions that they needed. “Ms. McCray, stop resisting” , they said in frustration. Their gritty efforts to accomplish their objective became painful for me to watch. My mom could not speak. She could not tell them of her visible discomfort and pain. So, I once again spoke up. I told them that I knew a better way of doing it.
And once more, they saw my request as an intrusion–an affront to their “medical expertise”. Only this time, I joined in anyway. I quietly took my mom’s arms and maneuvered them into the proper positions myself by slowing down the pace. Softly I spoke to her–telling her that I was there and that it would be ok. Her muscles relaxed. So did she. The x-rays were finally taken.
In the end, I think I gained a little respect from the staff. It had been I who had gently showed them how to properly guide my mom’s arms in the correct positions. She responded more to my gentle touch, patience and softer tone of voice. It all was a matter of technique. But, I had to be persistent. I had to gain control of a situation fraught with impatience, frustration and ego…for my mom’s sake.
Please understand that all lab techs or nurses do not respond nor behave in this stubborn manner of refusing advice or help from (of all people) the primary caregiver. Some are very accommodating. They will allow primary caregivers to join in helping their seniors. However, in this instance, the techs were obstinate and uncooperative. I had to assert myself. Sadly, it would not be the last time that I would encounter this type of behavior.
Remember. Seniors with “end of life” issues often have long lives ahead of them. Just continue to provide quality care. Some terminal illnesses do not mean necessarily that your senior will expire in a couple of months.
So, if you are involved in caregiving for a terminally ill senior at home, you must be prepared to take untimely visits to the Emergency Room. It makes no difference whether your senior is signed up with Home Health or not.
Always try to stay close to your seniors when lab x-rays need to be done. Allowing her to be wheeled into those isolated lab rooms alone sometimes subjects them to heavy handed lab techs who have a tendency to brush every patient with the same brush. You will not know the more attentive ones. Unfortunately, they may not adequately acknowledge the level of your seniors’ physical restrictions. And they may not know or respect the extent of your caregiving knowledge.
So, persistence is the key. You do not have to be inappropriately rude. Always request to watch, participate or simply provide comfort–when feasible. Afterall, who is more familiar with her than you? It is you who live with her everyday. So, you know how to handle her. Don’t be reluctant to alert exam techs or nurses of questionably inappropriate mishandling . Some of these people may not be aware of their own strength! So, you must be there. Your senior depends on your resolve and courage.
Caregiving At Home For Seniors With Late Stage Dementia