Linda G. Hill

Life in progress

Elder Abuse

24 Comments

Abuse of the elderly–seems like the definition of that would be easy. Don’t abuse them physically or verbally, don’t take advantage of them, and have patience for their failing memories. Simple, right? Apparently not.

Going back a few months, you might remember my mention of my mother not being well. She lives in a retirement home just up the street from where I live, apart from the six weeks she spent in the hospital from last June until August. She fell and broke her neck. I’m not exaggerating–she actually fractured the vertebrae at the top of her spine. It didn’t for a minute stop her from walking, but I was cautioned that if she turned her head a certain way, she might finish herself off. Since she couldn’t be trusted to keep her neck brace on, she was confined to a hospital bed.

Since then, she’s been told that when she goes out for a cigarette (because she can’t smoke inside, naturally), she has to take good care to keep her walker with her and watch where she’s going. Fast forward to last week.

She fell, yet again, this time breaking her ribs. Will she stop smoking and stay inside? Of course not. She’s been smoking since she was fourteen years old. Seventy-four years ago.

I started off by giving her cigarettes to the nursing staff, in hopes that she’d have someone to go out with. This, of course, was far beyond my better judgement to take them away altogether because of the risk of pneumonia with broken ribs. That worked for a while, until she started to complain to both myself and the staff that we were treating her like a twelve-year-old.

So, she got them back. And guess what? She’s fallen two more times, hitting her head both times.

So I’m stuck. She can’t remember from one minute to the next that going outside is a life-or-death situation. When I explain it to her, she says all right, she’ll wait for a nurse to go out with her. Less than two minutes later she’s asking why there are no cigarettes in her room. What do I do? What is the worse abuse? Denying her what is arguably the one pleasure she has in life to save her life, or letting her kill herself because she doesn’t remember?

Abuse of the elderly. It feels inevitable.

Author: LindaGHill

There's a writer in here, clawing her way out.

24 thoughts on “Elder Abuse

  1. Pingback: Writers showcase, November 27, 2017 – The Write Edge Writing Workshop by Ekta R. Garg

  2. What a heart-wrenching situation! Thoughts of strength to you, Linda.

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  3. Would those electronic cigarettes be allowed in the retirement home? Since they (supposedly) don’t give off smoke, maybe she wouldn’t need to go outside. Otherwise, you’re in a really tough spot. Thankfully, my mother never smoked so when she went into a retirement home, that wasn’t an issue. We did have an issue with her thinking she could just go off wherever and whenever she wished, and were extremely grateful that she had given up her car. Hopefully, your mother will soon get into a nursing home, where she can be monitored better, and you will have a little more peace.

    But don’t let anyone (including yourself) guilt you into thinking you’re not doing the very best you can, because you are. Taking care of parents and kids at the same time is hard for anyone. Hugs, Linda.

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  4. Please accept my sympathy and support, stay strong, there is always a solution for everything!!

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  5. Linda, trying to protect your mom’s well-being is not abuse by any measure. It’s so, so difficult as there is no real solution. Even with a nicotine patch, the psychological/habitual aspect is going to be strong, especially given the age at which she started and the tendency with dementia for older memory to be much stronger than shorter term memory. This may sound off-the-wall, but would her current home allow indoor vaping? I realize it would be different and someone would probably have to be with her to facilitate, but it is at least similar to smoking. If she is using a nicotine patch, she could vape with non-nicotine liquid, which might be more acceptable in her living situation. I realize I am probably grasping at straws… With so much on your plate, try to be as gentle with yourself as possible. You are doing the best you can in an impossible situation and don’t deserve any feelings of guilt that may intrude.

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  6. That’s a real pickle. I’ve got no solution, but you have my sympathy.

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  7. Thinking of you. Really, I am. It’s hard as fuck looking after our parents. We do it, but dang those lines are so fine.
    My verdict? What will be will be. You are justified whichever way you handle this ride.

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  8. My first thought intuitively is that she is not in an environment where she is safe. If going outside means she falls and breaks ribs then she should be in a place where she can’t go outside without assistance. The doors in the facility where I worked were locked for the safety of the residents and they went out with a cna or caregiver but not alone. I wonder if she can’t remember and if going out is dangerous and she is calling so many times if maybe she is better suited in a different home?
    Either way it sounds to me like it is a heavy weight of guilt on your and not a safe place for her. No one wants broken bones!!!!
    I’m so sorry you are going through the stress of this.
    When I was a hospice chaplain it was something I watched many families try to balance but sometimes it was a balance hard to find. I know Jami knows because she is a nurse who works in the same environment that I did.
    It can be exhausting for you I am sure.
    In hospice we let them have their cigarettes because it was more about comfort and happiness in their last days but this situation you are in sounds much more complicated.
    I’m sorry to hear it’s such a struggle. Thinking of you!

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  9. If anything it seems you are abusing yourself with worry. I say do what is prudent she may not like or agree with the decision you make but it is in her best interest. She may complain because she don’t understand but remember when you were young and she made a decision that was in your best interest and maybe you didn’t understand the reason she made the decision and you complained…. you are in charge now do what’s best

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  10. I’m so sorry to hear of your dilemma. My mother refused to use her walker. She fell multiple times. It’s very frustrating.

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  11. Ms. Linda,
    Thank you for sharing your dilemma. It truly is a hard decision to make. Yes, we know smoking is bad for your health at any age. Your mom knew and accepted this risks over and over again through her years. And that was her choice. Now, the decision making about her health falls in your hands and you have to just do what you feel is best based on what you know now. Yes, it’s a simple pleasure for her and she may have few other things to pacify her time. I agree with one of the commenters that maybe you can just bring one/some during your visits, so that you can go outside together. She’ll certainly look forward to seeing you. Or ask the Dr to prescribe her a nicotine patch and put an end to the addiction. We went through this with my Dad. We ultimately had to just take the cigarettes away, because the fall risk was just too high. He griped for about a month, but eventually it for easier for him. You and your mom are in my prayers.

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    • Thanks, Fuzz. 🙂 My mother did manage to go without a cigarette for the six weeks she was in hospital, though she begged for them night and day. It actually took her a week after she got out to go out for one. She doesn’t give up easily. :/
      Thanks for sharing your experience. Perhaps you’re right – maybe I’ll find a way to suffer through it with her for a few weeks. That is if she doesn’t decide to go wandering off to get her own, which she’s now threatening to do.

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  12. God, that’s awful. I’m pretty sure when you say she lives in a retirement home, you don’t mean a nursing home, where she would get round-the-clock attention and constant monitoring. She might be at the point where she needs that, what with her neck and ribs and worsening dementia, but that’s a terrible call to have to make and she’d probably hate it, and you. Taking that step would mean she wouldn’t be able to smoke, period, but it might keep her from falling, which would kill her.

    I don’t mean to offer advice. You have a tough decision to make, and I take it it’s solely your call. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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    • She’s on the list for a nursing home. Since I wrote this post, she’s been talking about walking to my house to get cigarettes; if she starts wandering off, they’ll kick her out anyway.
      And yeah, hate me indeed. Her own mother went to a nursing home for a week so my aunt (who was looking after her) could go on a vacation. My grandmother died before the week was out. The general consensus was that she died for spite. :/
      Thanks, John. I appreciate your thoughts. 🙂

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  13. There’s no easy answers for when our parents get older. No one ever tells us that these aren’t really the golden years. I suppose if they did, we’d waste our youth worrying about them.

    My advice: take the cigarettes away. She won’t understand, but she doesn’t understand now, either. Or, make that your time with her and bring one when you go to visit. Either way, it’s going to be damn difficult. It’s like walking a tightrope, trying to keep her safe with so many factors involved that put her at risk. No one can walk on a tightrope forever. You are doing the best you can, and things are going to happen to her, no matter what you decide to do. Sorry for what you are going through💕

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    • Thanks, Jami. ❤ Thing is, too, I don't get down to see her every day. I'm here alone, an only child and a single mom with two disabled kids. Alex was home from school with a cold this week, and I haven't even had a shower, let alone taken my PJs off in four days. And then there's the phone calls – my mother called me one day last week eighteen times between midnight and six in the morning, looking for her cigarettes.
      I feel like I sound like I'm arguing–I certainly don't mean to. That's just the whole story. :/

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      • No, Linda, you are not arguing at all. If there was a photo next to “caregiver stress” in the dictionary, it would probably be yours.

        The universe/God/circle of life/whatever you believe in..it has a plan for your mom, and for you. Your mom is failing either way, so make your decision on what you can handle, I guess. 18 calls in 6 hours…Jesus, I would buy her a carton after that.

        Don’t forget: you are human. A completely overwhelmed, tired, stressed, loving human. Some things are just out of your control. I wish there was a way for you to find some respite help once in awhile so you can recharge.

        PS. As a nurse, I see you and your mom all the time. Your feelings are valid and legitimate. I wish I had an answer for you. I’m always here if you want to vent Jami.carder2012@gmail.com

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  14. Oh wow Linda.. that’s a situation and a half… I totally get your dilemma .
    I’d be inclined to want to smother her in cotton wool too to protect her but then there would be a voice in my head telling me she’s lived a great life… and to let her enjoy the few pleasures she has left.
    Not much help but I understand your worry xxxx

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