Painkiller theft a national problem…
The local news in my town makes my blood boil most every day. My therapist tells me not to consume it.
But I don’t listen. The latest news story to send my blood pressure through the roof was reported by the Quad-City Times last week: “Nurse charged with stealing painkillers.”
Not only that, but she allegedly tampered with records at the nursing home where she works to cover her tracks.
Talk about a trigger. Caring and advocating for my dad with dementia nearly killed me, and nearly a year after his burial, I still suffer from the trauma of it all, each and every day. I have a PTSD diagnosis related to all of the bizarre things I went through once he became incapacitated, including being banned from his memory care facility for reporting an intruder. I even was thrown in jail and held there for two days, stripped naked with only a straightjacket to cover myself with, on no charges at all.
So triggers are not a good thing for me, or for anyone with PTSD. And that story was a really bad trigger.
As you get to know the people who work in these facilities, you learn that tampering of records occurs all the time. As it relates to resident falls, for example, most frequently. There are plenty of CNAs all over America who have no problem attesting to this, as the working conditions at most of these places are so terrible that turnover is a churn. Loose lips sink ships, in theory, but in places with lax or incompetent nursing home oversight nothing ever happens.
This story came as no surprise, as it was just another example of the substandard care our elderly get in the facilities that are robbing them of their life savings. My dad spent well over $100,000 in his memory care facility. They did not even send a plant when he died.
I have had a very difficult time the past week – nightmares, inability to sleep, anger, rage. The ramifications of being my dad’s advocate has resulted in mental and physical distress, lost wages, and many other damages.
I’ve been encouraged by lots of people to pursue litigation against the facility and the county (which operates the jail). I’m more inclined to write a “tell all.” It would help more people, be far less stressful, and potentially far more lucrative for me from the way things are looking. I need to recoup the financial blow the entire ordeal struck somehow, especially at a time when I had only been back to work for two years after being unable to work and/or being underemployed while caring for my dad.
Without getting into the details of my case, I already live in fear of my life every day and recently spent hundreds of dollars on a home security system (not to mention the monthly fee and permitting fees associated with it). More stress is absolutely the last thing I need.
While dad convulsed to death, Ativan was delayed
Back to the story last week. The more I sucked on that story, the angrier I became. After dad was removed from the memory care facility when I sought state intervention to be reunited with him, he was placed in a nursing home. Three weeks after they moved him, he was near death, his brain deteriorating rapidly, literally, from frontotemporal degeneration.
Dad had gone mute about two weeks prior. Three days before his death, he went into convulsions. His face was bright red, he gritted his teeth in pain, he floundered like a fish out of water. But no sound came out. They were “silent screams” and just watching your parent go through that, that alone, could result in a PTSD diagnosis, not to mention the outrageous, criminal, and unbelievable things I actually have been put through (and have written about extensively).
When the convulsions began and dad’s death obviously was imminent (he had not eaten for a week and had developed pneumonia as well, and also had three unexplained broken toes) we chose a different hospice company. Dad had been on hospice before, but the former company’s poor reputation had come to light in so many ways.
Dad had an alarm mat next to his bed. When I would go visit, it was never plugged in. The facility would say the alarm mat belonged to hospice. So I guess that meant they were not responsible for plugging it in? I don’t even know who to blame or point the finger at anymore. Rock Island County is known for its substandard long-term care facilities in caregiving and legal circles, and I point the finger directly at the incompetence of the local elder ombudsman organization, which has a reputation for not returning telephone calls, among other things.
I have no issues with the second hospice company we chose. Their compassion was stellar. They immediately ordered morphine and liquid Ativan, both of which were given in drops under his tongue.
However, it took several hours for the Ativan to arrive. I was told by a nurse at the nursing home that the bottle had fallen over in transit and broke, and so a new bottle would need to come on the next haul.
I later was told a slightly different version of the story by a different nurse at the nursing home. It’s possible that the bottle did fall over and break, but…give me a break. A benzodiazepine? I remember having an “A-ha!” moment right then, wondering home many addicts and criminals have field days at nursing homes and long-term care facilities with the painkiller and anxiety medications intended for the elderly they serve. I want to be clear I’m not saying that the nursing home stole my dad’s Ativan; I felt this nursing home treated my dad well despite all the problems that occurred there. His teeth disappeared the day after the memory care facility got rid of me (second set they had lost and refused to replace…what a joke) so he was malnourished upon arrival at the nursing home.
But I am saying the Ativan was delayed, and I did think at the time….hmmm….really? Incompetence regardless of what caused delay. For God’s sake the man was convulsing. Absolutely ridiculous.
Med thefts in elder care facilities a national problem
A tiny bit of internet digging showed that indeed, theft of medication from long-term care facilities is a national problem. In fact, the internet is teeming with law firm blogs like this one that have all kinds of things to say about this issue.
Not only are the nursing homes getting rich off our elderly, lawyers are making bank off their already financially devastated loved ones who want justice at any cost.
But I think I’d be better off using my pen and my reporting skills, as I have been, than hiring a lawyer.
The chorus of people who have tried to say that I have exaggerated (as nobody ever has tried to claim that what I’ve reported about my caregiving experience isn’t true) is being muted more and more each day as the facts have begun to trickle out over the past year. Now there are just a few frightened (but powerful) people doing their darndest to ramp up the discrediting and mental abuse. Some have even struck at my livelihood, emailing lies about me to my clients.
I turned my life around more than two years ago, getting sober out of the love for my father and the realization I could not be an effective advocate otherwise. That is 100 percent how the miracle of my sobriety occurred.
I have worked tirelessly as a reporter to advocate for the elderly and squash stigma related to addiction, mental illness, alcoholism, and people living with HIV and Hepatitis C.
I am a wonderful person and God knows it. He does not want me to lose my temper, to worry about how I will pay the bills, or most of all, to let bare-faced evil people in my community cause me any bit of bother.
I’m going to keep on writing and keep on keepin’ on.