Somewhere near a nursing home in … southern Louisiana there is a crisis brewing in the sky as some of the first hurricane winds approach New Orleans. It looks like the devil himself ripped apart the sky with an old sugarcane machete and continuous sheets of water are pounding against one of the nursing home windows.
On the other side of the window is an old Cajun named Dub. Dub is laying in his nursing home bed mumbling Cajun French to himself, not a bit afraid of the fast approaching hurricane. Sticking out of his sheets is the fingerless stub of his right hand where years ago he lost his fingers in a shrimping boat accident out of Golden Meadows, Louisiana. His fingerless hand healed years ago but if you could see under the sheets you would see a stage four bed sore that would make you sick to your stomach.
As Dub lays in his bed mumbling Cajun French, his nursing assistant walks into the room to check on him and change his soaking briefs. Dub’s nursing assistant thinks to herself that the life-threatening bed sore could have been prevented if there were enough staff to properly care for the residents.
Jeni, his certified nursing aide, apologizes to him for taking so long to come to his room. Dub is clueless to the fact that Jeni has 47 residents that she is doing her very best to care for on this stormy night. To Jeni, it’s just about like any other night because there are never enough aides to properly care for the residents that she is assigned.
Spinning through her mind as she does her best to quickly clean Dub is whom she should help next. Jeni knows that several of her residents are two-person lifts that must be put to bed – but she can never find another staff person to help her. Jeni quickly tries to remember which resident she left on the commode.
Before she can finish cleaning Dub, the nurse calls out her name. The nurse needs help with a resident who fell and hit her head. Jeni has no idea how long that resident had been lying in her room in a pool of blood. On the way to help, she sees three of her call lights are on. Once again, she thinks to herself, I love my residents but I cannot physically and mentally keep this up. I am going to have to look at doing something different.
Somewhere near a nursing home in … Guthrie, Oklahoma, there is a resident that everyone calls “Sarge.” The staff knows that he served in the military but he never talks or wants to talk about his service in the military, although he is very alert.
If Sarge’s mind could be read, you would know he served with the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry of the U.S. Army in Vietnam in November 1965. Eighty of the battalion’s men died and 124 were wounded. A sister battalion was chopped to pieces three days later just two and a half miles away.
The battle took place in what came be called the “Valley Of Death.” Not a day goes by that Sarge doesn’t think of those who died and those who survived. Those who lived survived with a look on their face called “The Look Of Death.” That look on the face of those who survived will never be forgotten by Sarge.
It is sad to say but many of our nursing home aides are developing a very similar look on their long drawn out faces. Those eyes, their eyes, have that look of total exhaustion. Why? Why is this happening?
Like Sarge, if you could read their minds you would know why they have that look. It’s because of complete exhaustion from having too many residents to care for, from having to work double shifts because of staff shortages, having to work on their days off and having no time to take care of themselves, much less their own families.
Somewhere near a nursing home in … Dallas, Texas, there is a nursing assistant who made the news because her house was raided after it was found out she was taking care of 43 dogs in her home, which is against the law.
She usually has about 42 residents to care for in the nursing home. Why is it that there is a law against taking care of so many dogs but no one is concerned about the 42 residents she is having to do her best to take care of all their issues?
It is so very clear to everyone that there is a shortage of nursing aides to safely take care of our parents, our aunts and uncles, our seniors who served us as teachers, law enforcement and firefighters, and so many others. Because we are failing to take care of those seniors who need our help they are not – and I say not – receiving adequate care. This inadequate care is resulting in hundreds of bed sores, dehydration, loss of weight for lack of staff to ensure proper feeding, unnecessary falls, poor dental hygiene, depression, anxiety, injury and even death.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Not only are our seniors suffering and dying because of a shortage of nurse’s aides but we have put a dull knife into the hearts of the aides who serve our seniors.
I have never heard it said before but our nursing homes are just about to pass the point of no return like an airplane. If we don’t fix the problem soon, the very foundation of our nursing homes will be so destroyed that the nursing homes will be in such a disarray they will take years to be able to properly function again.
Whose fault is this cobweb of a mess that we have gotten ourselves into with our nursing homes? We can blame so many of us for not educating ourselves about the tsunami that is hitting about every nursing home across the country. We can blame the administration of most nursing homes for not speaking out about the crisis because of the shortage of staff.
We can blame the companies that own our nursing homes for putting profit over proper care. We can blame our elected officials for not correcting this problem. We can blame the lobbyists who do not want change because it will cut into corporate profits.
Don’t tell me we can’t fix the problem because of the lack of money. We have enough money to give our politicians perk after perk. We have enough money for NASA to take pictures of Ultima Thule, which is an object billions of miles away. We have enough money to send foreign aid to countries around the world.
We have enough money to fund some of the most ridiculous studies like if you happen to suffer a traumatic brain injury, don’t be surprised if you experience headaches as a result. In other breakthrough findings: knee surgery may interfere with your jogging, alcohol has been found to relax people at parties and there are multiple causes of death in very old people. Write the Nobel speeches, people, because someone’s going to Oslo!
OK, maybe not. Still, every one of those not exactly jaw-dropping studies is entirely real – funded, peer-reviewed, published, the works. Don’t tell me that if we can fund wars around the world we can’t take care of our seniors who are being abused and dying daily because of a lack of staff to take care of their basic needs.
Yes, don’t dare tell me that we don’t have enough money.