adult children of alcoholics, alzheimers disease, mental abuse, mental health, mental illness

Lack of Compassion for Depressed Nursing Home Residents

Something happened at work that really offended and upset me. It is so disgusting that nurses, doctors and other people in the health field are so insensitive and uneducated about mental illness. Health care should be about the whole person and not just their physical body.

We have a resident that lives in this particular facility who suffers from moderate to severe depression , that fluctuates from time to time. Sometimes she is very depressed. When she is in  that downward spiral , she tends to stay in bed. She will still eat if food is brought to her room, but  she does not want to go out to the big dining room and interact with people.

Being an introverted person myself, I can attest to the fact that it is very traumatic, triggering, and extremely anxiety provoking to have to be in a room full of people when you are is a state of depression. You simply cannot do it.

Forcing yourself to go out amongst people who will not understand your mood, is not a good thing to do to your brain. All those people having small talk and asking you “how are you” is like a torture chamber.

So, this sweet little old lady was in a very depressed state today. We will call her Nora. So, i went in to visit Nora at 4pm, when I began my shift.   I could see that she still had her pajamas on and had not been out of bed all day. This is a clear sign that she had spiraled down into a depression state.

She said that she did not feel well and that she did not feel up to coming out to the big room for dinner. I went over the dinner menu with her and together we decided that she would eat scrambled eggs and toast in her room. I then left the room to place her order with the kitchen and requested a tray be brought to her room. The kitchen was no problem.

Then I went back to Nora’s room to let her know that the tray had been ordered. As I opened the door to the room, I saw that my supervisor (the charge nurse) was in the room, speaking with Nora. The supervisor said to me that Nora would have to have a “Sick Tray”.

I learned today that  Sick Tray is a tray that they give to people who have a stomach virus and are too sick to eat a real meal. It is to keep them from vomiting up all of their dinner. You know when you have a tummy sickness, you don’t want to eat .

The Sick Tray consists of hot tea, gingerale  jello, and toast . It is not something that you are supposed to force on someone. It is mainly to make sure that they have something offered to them, even if they say they do not want to eat at all. What it is not , is something to be used to withhold food from someone.

Yes, that is what I said. Withhold food! So sick, isn’t  it ??

This nurse said to me the following, “Nora is not sick. She does this all the time. She is JUST depressed. She is saying she is sick but she is not.  If she is going to stay in bed sick then she gets a Sick Tray.”

I asked her if there was any physical reason Nora could not have the scrambled eggs and toast that she wanted.

The nurse said “NO. But she does this all the time that she refuses to get out of bed. If she is going to fake being sick just because she does not feel like coming out, then she can just have a Sick Tray”

This is punishment. This is a clear punishment of someone because they have a mental health issue. This punishment is unfair and will cause the depression to get worse. Poor Nora was hungry and did want to to eat. She asked for the eggs and there was absolutely no reason she could not have them.

The supervisor was so disgusted by Nora’s continued pattern of depression ans self isolation that she decided to punish her by actually making her go hungry.

I was so upset and angry but there was nothing I could do. i did go back in to the room late in the shift. I won’t say weather ot not I snuck her in a snack. What is your guess? (wink, wink )

But what if I had not been there? This will happen again and again. To make her go hungry and to treat her with such disrespect, is detrimental to her mental health. It further isolates her.

She was willing to have me visit her in the room. The right thing to do would have been to bring her whatever she wanted from te kitchen and for me to sit with her while she ate. Then I could spend some time to talk with her about how she was feeling and she would have at least had a dinner she enjoyed.

What else can I say? I have hundreds of stories like this. I have collected them for 5 years. There is little or o compassion for people with mental illness in these facilities.

There are a lot of elderly people in nursing homes that have severe depression due to the many losses they have experienced. They have lost their home, their spouse, their car, their drivers license, their pets and many of their friends and family have passed away.

it is a very hard time of life and many people end up depressed and isolated, when they become old This is a horrible failure of the health care system and a lack of compassion from health care workers.

More awareness and re-training of the nurses is needed, if people are going to have lives worth living in the long term care facilities.



25 thoughts on “Lack of Compassion for Depressed Nursing Home Residents”

  1. My experience is similar; if a person doesn’t want to go to dinner they are going to be cajoled and then forced to go, and made to feel guilty until they do. It still takes months for staff to conclude that it might be depression and it might need intervention. I am guilty of this as well, I don’t know why I have been so dense about it in the past. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don’t feel bad. If we are open to learning things that will help other people then we are caring humans 🙂 It is the nurses that are fully aware that someone has depression and then punishes them for it that should be re-trained. There are a lot of things that go on in the nursing homes that are not fair . I am thinking of setting up a blog for that.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. People in the facilities are lost in with the crowd. The managers have their own agenda and want everyone to follow it. it is sad that people are not always treated like individual humans with individual needs. I am thinking of making a blog specifically about the elderly, dementia, hospice and nursing home stories. I have a lot of funny stories and human stories. I also have tragic and sad stories. I have a lot of suggestions and helpful advice to anyone who is thinking of (or already has) putting their parent in a nursing home or an assisted living facility. I would also like to talk about home care of an elderly person or dementia (alzheimer’s disease) loved one also.
      That is a lot of topics. I need to think of a name for the blog that will encompass all of that.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The little things are big things to them. The residents are lonely and they miss having their homed that they worked their entire lives for.

      They have lost loved ones and most of the thingd they worked for all of their lives.

      It is easy for me to understand why they would be depressed. Other nursing home workers do not always think about it that way.

      They were young like us once.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment.


  2. Your bold, fearless disclosure is a testament to the depth of your heart. You are an amazing embodiment of empathy like I have never witnessed in my life! And, yes; nursing homes are often [often] sites wherein callous, insensitive, and jaded behavior toward the elderly pervades. I know; my father spent his last months in more than one. The scenario was almost nightmarish, in my view. Had I the physical strength to lift and carry him, I would have done so – up, and out of that mind-numbing hole, and back home where he belonged. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. But, antidepressants are the BANE of nursing homes, Annie. Because my father had a tendency to elbow the aides, though he was only 120 lbs they urged us to allow them to medicate him. His blood was SO clean that the drug had a major effect on him. He KNEW he wasn’t feeling like himself, and the expression on his face the whole time tore my heart out of my chest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These situations are sad. These people had lives once and have now lost their spouses, their homes and most of their belongings.
      The workers do not always remember that or think about how they would feel if they were in the same place.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes i have met homeless veterans at the soup kitchen. I used to eat there, because my husband left me with no money. I met one man that was a veteran and he suffered from clinical depression. There were others that were also homeless or living in rooming houses. I sat and ate with this particular man for many months,until I could afford food. He was a very kind and caring man. It was sad…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. These acts to which you refer are abuse. The residents of these homes are individuals, who have the right of choice. It is the residents home and staff are there to facilitate the residents choice. The home is there so the residents can live their own lives and all the staff should respect each and every resident. Tne homes should be run for the residents and not the convenience of the staff. Where abuse is done it is the responsibility of all staff to report it, for if they do not they are condoning it and are as guilty as those committing the abuse.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have seen lots of mental abuse and violation of rights of nursing home residents over the years. The last place I worked was so bad that I had to leave and come to this place. There were horror stories of my last job that gave me nightmares and I had trouble sleeping.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That is really sad what happened to Nora. What happened to her should have been reported. It is not right at all. I actually have worked in nursing homes as a CNA. A lot of the nurses and people around are not really caring and should not have chose nursing as a career because they don’t seem to care about the people they are supposed to take care of.

    Liked by 2 people

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