“This is elder abuse!” Some staffer exclaimed, barging into an examining room at my mother’s HMO. My mother was waiting for a doctor, and she’d been throwing one of her hours-long dementia-fueled tantrums all morning, raging about nothing–from what parking space to what entrance to use–but when I finally had endured enough and started giving back what I was getting, that’s when this staffer decided to barge in and huff about elder abuse.
“I’m calling security!” she huffed.
“Go right ahead,” I told her. The woman huffed out of the room and soon I heard muffled voices in the hall. I got the impression someone was explaining to this overzealous staffer that a heated discussion isn’t elder abuse and nothing to involve security.
I could talk about this HMO and elder abuse. While my mother was in the care of this exact same facility after collapsing on her bathroom floor, I was present when she started frantically ringing her buzzer for a bedpan. A staffer muttered something about a malfunction and disappeared. Once I realized what was happening, I spent literally ten minutes frantically trying to get someone’s, anyone’s, attention while my mother kept pounding on the buzzer, and staffers I accosted kept saying, “It’s a malfunction,” and, “She only has to ring once.” Finally some skinny teenage-looking male in scrubs appeared with a disposable bedpan and then vanished as soon as possible.
Two days before my mother died in 2019, her care facility and her HMO communicated about life-threatening swelling in her feet and ankles, and indicated she’d been experiencing this symptom for five days but the care facility was only getting around to coordinating care with the HMO—which was responding they had the first available appointment in fifteen days.
Understand my mother first exhibited this life-threatening symptom on Aug. 2, but the care facility only got around to coordinating her care with the HMO on Aug. 7, to which the HMO responded the earliest they could see her would be on Aug. 22.
I made phone calls and complained enough that the HMO decided someone could see my mother on Aug. 8, only to have the care facility say they had no transportation available to transport her. I made more phone calls and complained some more, until a care facility staffer drove her to the ER that same day. She was immediately put on a respirator and died the next day. Whether prompt action would have made a difference, I’ll never know.
My last words with her were during a phone conversation on Monday, Aug. 5, when she wouldn’t say anything but, “You won’t let me get to my bed.” In her dementia-disabled head, all communication with me was about her being in a care facility, so it wasn’t like I could communicate her healthcare plans directly to her. I was expecting trained professionals to manage her care, and they appeared to be working within a system that at times resembled elder abuse.