July 13, 2016, was a scorcher. And when I went to visit Mom in the afternoon, the heat made the stench of the dressing on her leg even more disgusting than it otherwise might have been. I gagged.
I had contacted the dressing supplier months before and had been told this type of dressing should be changed if the “perimeter were breached.” Bloody liquid was leaking in feathery rivulets from the edge of this one.
It was impossible to know how long it had been on as the dressing wasn’t marked with the date it had been applied, which it should have been – that’s part of good practice.
There was no point complaining to the charge nurse. “That’s just the way it is,” another one had said to me the last time I dared to make an observation about Mom’s unsavoury wound care.
Besides fighting unsuccessfully to get Mom off the antipsychotics she was being inappropriately prescribed, I’d also been fighting, also unsuccessfully, to get them to stop using this particular type of dressing on her wounds, which seemed to make them worse instead of better, and which lengthened rather than shortened the healing process. All of it was to no avail.
But I did what I could. I sat with Mom for the better part of an hour, as I did virtually every day even though she was “asleep” in the midst of the TV racket. I told her what I saw, even though she couldn’t hear me. When she awoke, I checked on how she felt, tried to comfort her, and asked her what she might want:
When I left to get Mom a glass of water from the bathroom in her shared room, I found a soiled and stinking incontinence brief in the garbage container. There were a couple of wet washcloths — one white, and one blue — on the floor beside it.
Meanwhile, a bevy of student nurses was happily occupied handing out ice cream cones to the residents on the main floor.
By the time I left, I was furious. As I drove home, I vented to no one in particular:
Do you have a family member, friend, or someone you know in long-term care? Have you seen neglect and abuse firsthand? If so, please speak out against these human rights violations.