Thank You Health Care Heroes: A Postmortem

Submitted by Chet

Three years ago my Father found my grandmother laying in the bathroom of her home while doing his usual nightly checkup on her. Rosary in hand, she calmly prayed for Jesus to take her home. My Dad called the ambulance and she survived with just a head wound. Unfortunately this incident followed closely after my Dad being forced to take away her keys and the family noticing a decline in her ability to do the things of day to day life. It was clear she could no longer live alone.

The elders of the family got together and discussed next steps. While my grandmother hated the thought of a nursing home, there were few options. My father already took care full-time of an invalid, my aunt offered her house but my grandmother refused to leave the state, and the eldest brother could not agree to let her in due to the constant friction between his mother and his wife. Her dwindling retirement funds made in-home care seem implausible. They finally reluctantly agreed on a retirement home that my grandmother on the other side of the family went to when her dementia became too severe for the family to keep her safe, much to my grandmother’s chagrin. Dad told me, with little enthusiasm, that she will be happy there like my other grandmother was, and they did their best.

The first year had a lot of tension, as my grandmother was under the impression that she would be going back to her own house soon and grew impatient as the weeks passed. She grew angry with the eldest brother, who she felt betrayed him. The nursing home changed their management, and my Dad started hinting that the help wasn’t what he remembered. The food went from reasonable cafeteria cuisine to bland slop, and the younger staff went from cheerful and helping to distant and cold.

When I arrived with my family, we walked into her room, the food from breakfast still on the dinner tray, and the room unusually dark with only a single lamp. WE had nice visit, playing Uno and catching her up on our lives. As we exited through the hallways we felt a sterile coldness about us, and the staff did little to ease this stress. Their demeanor lacking any warmth, and we couldn’t help but feel they saw visitors like us as another inconvenience.

My Dad called a couple months before Covid hit to tell me that they were moving my grandmother to another nursing home, one more expensive and far away but “much, much, better”, he promised. We never got over there to see her before the pandemic forced the nursing home into a strict lockdown. The family could only communicate their phone calls for some time, and there was a dark unease about how she was being treated. My Dad just assured me that this place was good, and we had nothing to worry about. I knew, though, he didn’t believe that himself.

In the fall, restrictions relaxed enough where they would allow visitors outside, and we took the opportunity. My Dad told me to just give them a little bit of notice so they would be able to get her ready, which now took some time. I called first in the morning, getting directed from the lobby to a nurse who supposedly was in charge of her for the shift. She said my grandmother would be outside at 3:00p.m., just as we asked. We started our 2 hour drive to the nursing home, and my wife called to ensure the date was still set. She was redirected a couple of times as before, then got a different nurse, who told us she was not aware of our previous call but would make sure she was ready.

We looked at each other in confusion, but I shrugged it off as a simple mishap and continued to the nursing home. There were two main entrances, and we had no idea on which one our grandmother was going to be. My wife queried some nurses walking out of the building, only to be rebuffed with “We’re off duty”, before my wife was even able to ask her question.

I went to one of the lobbies and inquired to a nurse where my grandmother was going to be, and she replied she was not aware she needed to be anywhere. She checked the computer and saw no record of our calls. She said they’d be sure to get her, but it would take awhile as she was asleep.

So we sat, me, my wife, and our three young children under six, for half an hour. We finally saw the door open and gazed at the sad looking old-woman coming out in her walker, barely recognizable as my grandmother. Her hair was completely unkempt, ratty like it hadn’t been combed in weeks, and far too long. They neglected to put her dentures in, meaning she had trouble speaking. They did not put her glasses on, meaning she could barely see us. Finally, they didn’t put her hearing aid in, meaning she could barely hear us. We struggled with conversation for about an hour but still managed to get some nice quality time in. In the end, she got to hold her great grandchildren, even though it was technically not allowed, and she felt happy and at peace. It was the last time she ever spoke to us.

A month later my Dad emailed saying she was going downhill and it would be good to come over sometime soon. We got in the car and drove to the nursing home again. Upon getting there, I waited for my Dad, as he called on the way saying there was an incident. One of the staffers did not give my Grandmother her prescribed pain killers in the morning, and within a few hours she was in debilitating pain. My aunt stayed with my Grandmother as she screamed and bellowed in pain for hours as the nurse button went ignored and my aunt’s cries in the hallway went unanswered. By the time my Dad and I were in she was stabilized but unconscious. I sat down with her for a while even though she didn’t even know I was there.

A few days later my Dad called saying that she passed away. “They just gave her a morphine shot and her breathing just got weaker and weaker and stopped.” he said, sobbing. I knew what really happened. Whether he would admit to himself as much I don’t know, but I can still see the shock in my father, aunts, and uncles at the hell they witnessed in her last couple of years.

Maybe they didn’t consciously understand the changes that happened in their lifetime, but deep down they know something terrifying has happened to the country they grew up in. Their high trust society has been replaced by an impersonal, uncaring, bureaucratic hellscape that doesn’t even care about the most defenseless of our society.

For the new generation of nurses, their job is no longer a vocation, but a paycheck. Their patients are no longer people, but inconveniences. Their lives are no longer something that should be risked, but should be protected even more than the patients they are supposed to serve.

And my extended family knows the same thing that happened to Grandma may happen to all of us.

As the Covid ordeal is now almost over and people are taking down their signs hailing those brave front-line workers, I just want to say: Thank you health care heroes. I will always remember what you did.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Robert Harrell says:

    This is a terrible sign for society. What the hell happened to the medical community!? When did they completely throw out the Hippocratic Oath to allow this and abortion!?


    1. stallard0 says:

      The Hippocratic Oath, to the extent that it was ever a universal medical code, has been basically replaced most places since WWII. Medical codes, practices, and standards continue to be butchered by “ethicists” every year. They literally removed the clause to the effect of “my first concern is the health of my patient” from the WMA one years ago.

      Anyone who is reasonably familiar with medical ethics knows it has been dominated by the most black-hearted psychopaths since at least the 60s. I’m just surprised that people don’t seem to catch on despite semi-periodic reports of experiments like Fauci’s that would make Herr Doktor Mengele sick and the outright murder allowed in places like Belgium.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Brother John says:

        Just for some perspective, Peter Singer is an “ethicist.”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Guest says:

    I understand the anger directed at the medical community but it is misplaced. You should be angry at your father for putting his mother in a nursing home at all.

    What is it with Americans who think they can replace the love provided by a family with cash given to strangers? Of course the nurses are surly, they spend all day dealing with hundreds of senile men and women, it’s not a natural environment. Dealing with one is hard enough when it’s your own parent, imagine taking care of dozens of strangers like that for 30-60 grand (depending on title) a year?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Earl Shetland says:

      Nursing homes are all too common here in America. It’s not well known that they basically started as a life insurance scam, when taking out a policy on someone was far more lax.

      But due to their commonness, people assume they’re ok. It’s “normal”. People don’t want to believe that so many people could be doing something so wrong until it’s too late.


  3. miforest says:

    Just had my mom at my home for 6 months. was a lot of work, but putting her in a rehab was NOT going to happen in the covid cruelty.
    strange thing I notice about life, my well to do suburban neighbors put mom in the home , but my dirt poor relatives in west Virginia will always find a family member to have the sick and old live with. the lack of stimulation and stress of those places really accelerates dementia.

    Also, you do not understand Health care staffing. There will be at most 1 real nurse in any of those facility’s at any time . 90+ % of their staff are “aids” or “Technicians” . hey have Little real healthcare training and make $12 to $15 per hour. A real credentialed licensed RN with a BSN makes $34 per hour to start. There is no way they can afford to have many of them at those places.
    It’s time we got back to taking care of each other.


  4. stallard0 says:

    What is it with foreigners haughtily pontificating about matters they know nothing about and then calling other people arrogant? Looking after the aged is as big a burden as raising children, dementia patients even more so, and societal institutions to care for them collectively have existed as long as driving them off the cliff stopped being a solution for a reason. Many people simply don’t have the capacity to do otherwise, especially if we’re talking about dementia. Nursing homes obviously cannot provide the level of care an in-home carer might, but it’s perfectly possible for residents to be treated with respect and receive a decent standard of care. It’s also a reality that many are treated like cattle. Usually blame lies on many different levels, from flown in workers who literally have no connection to or regard for the people they’re looking after to typical greedy administrators to the government trying their best to make everything worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. miforest says:

    here is a link for stallardo


  6. Ireneo Funes says:

    Absolutely chilling. And all of my own anecdotal experiences confirm your point. Of course, none of this is unique to healthcare. If I had to sum up the changes of modern society in general in one phrase, it would be “the transformation of human beings into cattle.”

    I think both our foreign “guest” and stallardo are correct in their own way. The anon is 100% right that no institution can do a really good job caring for the elderly like their family could. They could certainly do a much better job than in the article, but there will always be a degree of impersonalization. And every primary source I’ve ever read from the 19th century and earlier seems to indicate most elderly or senile people lived with their families.

    The issue is, that was possible in earlier times when the woman’s role was usually to manage the household, but it doesn’t work today when both spouses work/commute 11 hours a day just to barely afford their massive debt payments and the rent on their shitty apartment. Stallardo was spot on when he compared caring for the elderly to caring for children. And in fact we see *precisely the same phenomenon* with young children and the horrific “daycare” they are often stashed away in for over half their waking lives. The exact same mistreatment, dehumanization, confusion, and lack of transparency.

    Sometimes the motivation for daycare/nursing homes is greed or laziness. But sometimes it is desperation.


  7. Frank Columba says:

    Modern medicine has allowed millions of people to exist that would not have survived a hundred years ago. There’s a price though.

    Fifty years ago the majority of pensioners lived with their kids, or if childless they were wards of the state, when they needed end of life care there was a county home for them, but there were private homes also, my great grandfather lived with his children for over twenty years.
    Many farmsteads had small cottages for the older parents to live in.
    People back then were practical.
    First you need to have a support network, which in the past meant you needed to breed the next generation that would care for you, so get a wife or a husband.
    Next if you’re not living in a rural area you’re crazy. You need to build a place that has a future. Cities aren’t a good bet.
    Next don’t be an asshole. Treat your kids well, raise them with the knowledge that whoever takes over your homestead when you retire, you come with it.
    Make it part of the will, don’t let the kids get something for nothing.
    Don’t be dumbass Boomer.
    Love your kids treasure them, love and cherish your wife.
    Decades ago there were places for people, everyone had a place, if you wanted it. Maybe it wasn’t great but you were not sleeping under an overpass.
    Now our insane citizens are free-range , our kids are feral, raised by no one and our elderly are warehoused.
    People talk a lot about the future they want, but you have to plan and create that future. You have to do what no one wants to do, you have to get dirty and work for it.
    I’m not talking about bootstraps,
    I’m talking about nation building.


  8. NC says:

    “For the new generation of nurses, their job is no longer a vocation, but a paycheck. Their patients are no longer people, but inconveniences. Their lives are no longer something that should be risked, but should be protected even more than the patients they are supposed to serve.” That is the crux right there!
    On a personal note my last grand parent went into one of these memory unit places. It specialized in it. It was a hard choice by my late 60s mother and her husband , but they could not take care of her any longer (3yrs). We got lucky, pre covaids (2018) and the place was actually decent. Old girl lasted 9 months before finally expiring at a young 94. Imaging taking care of “X” number of toddlers but they are all adults and only regress in learning. Plus most of these nurses don’t make a ton. Not making excuses for good vs not good employees.

    Our system makes $$$ on us from cradle to grave (day care to day care).


  9. miforest says:

    for some reason my math on economics of keeping the wife home did’nt survive modertion , I would just say that if you look at the extra taxes and child care cost, most women work for free


  10. Frugarn says:

    I have a family member who retired after working at nursing homes for about 20 years and she’d always remark about how the quality of staff has been on a downward trend. I’d hear how the youngest staff just want to be on their phone and how they see the patients as inconveniences, like the article mentioned. In her experience, the issue. This included administrators and other people in charge.
    The only time they’d do a halfway decent job at caring for the patients is when the state, or a patient’s family was visiting.


  11. GDR says:

    Boredom and monotony accelerate mental and physical decline. Keep them around their grandkids and great grandkids and they’ll be pretty spry.

    And as bad as it is, it may be a better idea to take the L from cancer or heart disease in your 60s and 70s, or “go hunting” in a blizzard, than to deal with nursing home NKVD liquidators. You’ll get a cleaner death and your kids won’t blow your life savings on a nurse sheboon’s weave and nails.


  12. JG says:

    My mother and grandmother both worked for a rural nursing home. Known as ‘County Homes’ in those far-off days of the 1970s, they were places that cared for the elderly (usually farmers) when they got to where they couldn’t farm or work anymore and didn’t have family they could move in with. They subsisted on county and state money and with fees charged to the families of the residents. They never tuned anyone away, regardless of financial status as long as they were a resident of the county in good standing. When my grandfather quit farming he worked at the County Home as a barber/handyman for a few yeas before fully retiring and later being laid low by a debilitating stroke. My grandmother kept him at home for as long as she could but he lived out his last few years at that same County Home.
    My mother knew everyone there by name and considered a lot of them personal friends. The first dog I remember having was given to us by a woman who went to the County Home after her husband died and could no longer keep a pet. When daylight savings time came around, my mother would come home from work with a bag of watches from the residents for me to set to the proper time to save a bunch of arthritic fingers from having to futz around with tiny stems and buttons. I guess you could call it my first real job, as I was usually paid in small treats from the residents when their watches were returned. On Halloween, the first stop on the way to trick-or-treating was always the County Home, so the residents could see our costumes. Those people were extended family for the employees of the home.
    Those days are gone.
    Nursing homes now are piss-smelling human warehouses staffed by indifferent immigrants. I wish I knew some way to fix this; to bring back the idea of a community supported way to support people who can’t support themselves but I’m at a loss unless a lot of things change.


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