Please Be Careful. You could be putting someone you love in a horrible place.

Disclaimer: The following is my opinion.

For me, it is a disturbing thing to see older adults with mental disabilities mistreated, talked down to, and having their basic human dignity ignored. Yet, I have seen this way to often.

I have seen an older man forced to the floor, exposed, and have his diaper changed in front of a group of residents he lived with. I have seen a woman in an advanced stage of dementia slapped because was tugging on a table cloth. I seen a wheel chair bound woman, whose only ability to communicate is to cry, left setting, crying in front of a bathroom door for over an hour because a worker though she was going to the restroom too often. I have seen and heard staff members taunt and tease residents because of their disability.

Did you report these things? Yes I did. I was told I was not being a team player and it would be better if I kept my mouth shut.

If you were a potential consumer (the parent or guardian of an older adult) and you were trying to decide if you should put your charge in the hands of this business, you would be shown an area decorated like a hotel, the residents engaged in an activity, and told how well your charge would be cared for by a slick well-groomed salesman. You would be told the thing you are doing a good thing for this older person. Sadly, you basically be giving then over to a human cattle farm for $6600 dollars a month. You would be sentencing them to a decorated prison without a trial without any truly viable way to hold the business accountable for how the person is treated.

When you come to visit the person the staff would have been given warning and so the person will be dressed properly, groom, and present to you as a happy camper. The staff knows the person will not remember the horrible treatment they had received that morning and so they have little fear of being found out.

Most of the people who are the “care givers” go to work for these places because they cannot get work elsewhere. Many of the workers resent the “old white people” they are asked to care for. Many jump from one facility to another. Mind you, the work is hard. It demands patience. It requires compassion which I saw little of while I worked there.

I worked for a for-profit “memory care” facility for the past six months. I enjoyed working with the residents in trying to make their daily lives better. I was told to follow “programming” but in reality, I was just there as window dressing for the sales person. I tried to help the residents with spiritual direction, creature comforts like coffee and snacks, prayers, and any activity I could try that didn’t treat them like children. I was told I would get what I needed to do the job (it is amazing what employers will tell you to get you to take a job no one really believes in). After finally figuring out that I if I wanted to help I would have to provide much of the materials I felt would help out of my own pocket. However, I found out this could also be a mistake. I purchased some hand drums but was told it was too loud when the salesman was trying to close a sale. No more hand drums. Okay, so I began to get other materials but would find that if I did not take them home with me at night they would be stolen by other staff. If I complained, I was not being a team player. Enough about my problems.

Please be careful. If you are going to place someone in your charge into a care facility, first a foremost make sure that have cameras that cover the entire facility and that the recordings are kept for at least three months. Second, try to go with a not-for-profit organization. Most of these groups will treat the individuals better and will reinvest any money back into the facility and not in investors’ pockets. And third, plan to make several surprise visits at different times to the facility.

Morton Kelsey writes, “There are few greater social evils in our society that the way we treat our aged and dying. Nursing homes and rest homes (as they are euphemistically called) are often places where we put people away so that we need not face our mortality and responsibility.”*

I could not make a difference from within. The only thing most of these businesses care about is money. There are some people who work there who have ability to pretend like they care and others who have become numb to what takes place. Hopefully, someday, our culture will change.

*Morton Kelsey, Companions on the Inner Way, Crossroads, page 190.