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.

Blessings,

Annie