In 2005, my mother was admitted to a local nursing home. She was almost 82 and had experienced a severe stroke almost two years earlier. Although her need for 24 hour care since the time of the stroke was sporadic, it now had become necessary. The facility was, and still is a mid-sized, well respected five star nursing home. After extensive research, we felt it was the best choice.

I am the 10th of 11 children. All of us, along with my father were very involved in all aspects of my mother’s care. Every one of us visited often and stayed for hours. My accountant brother handled the finances and two of my RN sisters monitored mom’s medical care. However, they never saw her medical chart. It was not easily accessible. All resident charts were kept behind the main desk. So instead, we watched and asked a lot of questions. Questions like, “Why are my mother’s legs so swollen? Why are her feet blue? Can you change her medication, the Temazentam makes her sleep walk? And, what can you do about her urinary tract infection, it is making her miserable?” Most of the time we found ourselves speaking to certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who despite their good intentions, couldn’t really answer our questions.

Mom had urinary tract infections the entire time she was at the nursing home and had to use the bathroom often. She couldn’t always wait the 15 – 30 minutes it would take for one for the CNAs to help her, and she refused to use the bedpan. So, we’d do it. Lifting her into a wheelchair to take her to the bathroom was always a very emotionally and physically taxing project for all of us. My siblings and I chipped in with many other care tasks as well. We took her on walks, into the whirlpool, occasionally dressed her and helped keep her clean.

Once while I was visiting, my mom started choking, then convulsing. I hit the call button, then ran down the hall frantically looking for help. We got help, but it was not immediate. It took what seemed like a few minutes before the CNAs and nurses came to her aid. I was afraid mom was going to die right there. I felt helpless. I couldn’t stop the choking and was even unable get her caretakers to react quickly to what was obviously an emergency.

As a result of incidents like this and others I became increasingly worried about my mother’s quality of care. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the CNAs. They were all very nice. My mom required so much care at times. I think they just didn’t have enough time or staff to attend to all of her needs.

My mother passed away in May of 2005. Her 5 months at the nursing home were filled with suffering. I don’t blame the CNAs who cared for her because I honestly believe they did the best they could. Regardless, I think there could have been a better way. If we had an outside service monitoring her care, I think our questions would have been answered, better care would have resulted and mom’s suffering would have been greatly minimized.