July 27, 2017: One year ago yesterday, when I went to visit Mom as I did every day, I found her in bed rambling incoherently and highly agitated. She was on oxygen. The charge nurse told me Mom had had a seizure and fell in the morning. I don’t believe that’s true.
I believe she fell because she was left unattended in the bathroom. I think she tried to get up from the toilet by herself, but because she was no longer able to stand on her own, she fell and then she had a seizure as a result of a fall that could have been and should have been averted. But no one will ever know exactly what happened. That’s why, like UK campaigner Jayne Connery, I’m all for CCTV cameras in long-term care facilities.
The next day, Wednesday, it seemed like she had recovered somewhat, though her right arm was completely black and blue and she had lots of bruising on her face. I reported this on my personal Facebook page:
Care partner update: Thanks to everyone for sending good thoughts and prayers for me and my care partner who had a seizure and fell yesterday. Today was a much better day. She is bruised, black and blue in many places, but says she’s not in pain when asked. Remains on oxygen, but when the nurse went to put it in her nostrils, she said: “I don’t like that! It’s too hard!” Still feisty, despite everything. Eyes were clear, able to sing and know most of the words to the songs. Counted to 20 without any help. I put cream on her hands, and read her a story; we sang a few songs together. Thank you for your prayers and good thoughts from around the world XOX. I told her everyone is sending hugs and kisses.
On Thursday afternoon, she was asleep and unresponsive; her arm and face both looked worse. Late that evening, July 28, two and half days after she fell, Mom was sent to the hospital to have her arm checked. It was broken; they also found she had a UTI. She was returned to the nursing home around 3:00 p.m. on July 29. Nineteen days later she died, I think probably from pneumonia.
When I arrived to visit on August 17, 2016, I was told Mom had a fever and was on antibiotics, and that I needed to wear a gown and gloves because she was “in isolation.” She was indeed alone in the room she shared with someone else, and it was immediately clear to me that she was dying. She was gone within an hour.
I’ve never been told the medical cause of Mom’s death, but whatever it was “technically,” the preventable fall was the de facto beginning of the end. I believe she died from the results of the fall, the fall in turn being the result of a cluster of circumstances including, in my opinion, neglect, abuse and being left alone in the bathroom one year ago yesterday.
I never expected anyone to care for my mom the way I had, the way I did, the way I would have. But I didn’t expect her to get what she got, which was far less than what she deserved. It wasn’t the disease that killed her in the final analysis.
I imagine the next month will be difficult as I mark the first anniversary of Mom’s death. Nevertheless, I am more determined than ever to turn what happened to her into a force for good for others, and thus give meaning to the injustices she suffered.