Friday, February 4, 2011

Advocates Must Stop Hospital Staff From Abusing Elderly

As an advocate/care-giver/adult daughter of a dad, I watched many events take place in hospitals, clinics, Emergency Departments (Duke University in Durham and Raleigh North Carolina)

As with all hospital stays, some procedures and events were positive and some were negative.  But sometimes, I actually needed to intervene because hospital and medical staff were abusive to my dad.  This is precisely why family members cannot just leave the elderly at the hospital and expect total strangers (albeit medical care professionals) to have your loved ones best interests at heart.

As a care-giver and advocate, you may find yourself in the position of witnessing abuse on your loved one.  There isn't time to make a phone call or have a discussion.  You must just intervene and speak up immediately.

Below are two of my personal examples:


My dad was in the hospital and the physician ordered a foley catheter.  Two very young nursing assistants (20 somethings) were assigned with the task.  I left the room to give dad some privacy.  But I did not go too far.

As I leaned outside the door, I heard the two young ladies alternating between giggling and yelling at my dad to remain still while they were jamming a cath up his penis.  

And then a heard a slap sound.  And then I heard my dad's frightened, quivering voice begging "don't hit me."

My response - I immediately opened the door and told the ladies to stop whatever they were doing.  Before I get further than "stop that is enough," one of the ladies yelled out "we need restraints."  

I told the nurses "no restraints, no catheter."  As they left the room, one nurse informed me "the cath is already in."

I looked at my dad and he was shaking and in tears. I held dad in my arms until he stopped shaking.  

I was in shock at the nurses' behavior and could not immediately process why the nurses would have be requesting restraints ... unless they wanted to punish my dad for some unknown reason.

If you ever hear a nurse yelling (much less hitting) your loved one or if you hear your loved one frightened then you must intervene and stop the behavior.


I was in the hospital with my dad when he was post operative and in need of 24 hour observation.  I was the "observer" as many hours as possible.  But for the few hours that I drove to my mom's home and helped her out with meals and caring for the animals, the hospital placed on of their employees.

One evening, I arrived back to spend the night in dad's hospital room.  When I arrived in dad's room, I was horrified to see that the hospital employee (called a "sitter") had turned all the lights on and was chatting with a friend on her cell phone.  She had the television on loudly.  There was zero consideration for my dad.

I said "hello" to my dad and smiled at me.  Then I turned down the television.  I politely told the "sitter" that she could leave now.  She said that she was told to stay with him all night.  I told her that was unnecessary.  

My dad thanked her for keeping him company.  Then, the "sitter" asked my dad (with almost an evil grin on her face) "do you remember me"?  My dad said "sure."  Then, the "sitter" asked (as if to taunt my dad)  "okay, then what's my name"?  Before I could answer for my dad, there was a knock on the door and another hospital employee entered my dad's hospital room to deliver the "sitter" the Dominos Pizza she ordered for herself.

My response - I excused myself from the room and went to the nurses desk.  I asked to speak with the charge nurse.  I explained to the charge nurse what had transpired and then stated that I did not want that "sitter" in the room with my dad ever again. Period.  

There are many more examples of times when I intervened at Duke University Medical (both in Durham and Raleigh) to protect my dad.  I will share more later.

All advocates and care-givers should protect the elderly from abuse - even if the abusers are medical care providers.

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