Loved One Disappears from Nursing Home
The phone rang. It was the sheriff’s deputy. Martin Avadian disappeared from the nursing home.
What? Did I hear that correctly?
Only twelve hours after my father walked across the threshold into a secured nursing facility, we received the worst possible news.
A line in the signature block of nursing home abuse blogger, Amber Paley held my attention: Protect The Elderly – We Owe Them Our Lives.
What happens when your parent is missing?
After hours of searching frantically–around the adult day care center he had attended until just days earlier, a nearby hospital, and neighboring homes…nothing. We stopped people to show them my father’s picture … nothing. He was no where. What were we going to do?
Stricken with fear, we questioned the good deed we had done months earlier by moving my father from his Wisconsin home of 45 years into our home. Trembling, we feared he might be dead.
The phone rang. It was the deputy sheriff. They found my father in the Mojave Desert walking along the freeway in another county. He was trying to get a ride home to Milwaukee.
Did a movie scriptwriter make this up!
That night, we walked into the nursing home administrator’s office.
“I don’t know if we can keep your father here,” she said.
What? After all that time asking questions of the staff, visiting the home at different times and days, and completing aaalllll that paperwork? NO WAY!
Although, my father was a victim of neglect (a form of abuse); we can’t simply sue to solve our problems. We need to collaborate. Even when the administrator got the company attorneys involved, I reminded her that during the admission interview, the leadership assured me that the nursing home had a person at the front desk at all times to monitor comings and goings of residents; especially, after a new resident is admitted. It is even in their procedures.
The nursing home had excellent procedures in place.
The problem was they weren’t following them.
As stressful as the idea was that my father could be evicted despite all the preliminary work we did to insure this was the best option for him near our home, I held my ground. They did not have a person at the front desk to notice that their newest resident (my father) was leaving with a handful of visitors that evening.
TIPS to PREVENT Nursing Home Abuse
- Follow-up with the staff and management.
I followed up to ensure they followed their procedures–for example, that they covered the keypad when entering the code to exit the area ,so that visitors or mildly demented residents wouldn’t see the code.
- Visit often and talk with visiting families about their experiences.
I learned from residents’ families and well-meaning staff about others’ experiences.
- Attend all meetings.
I gave feedback during the quarterly care conferences, even when I felt they weren’t listening.
- Attend support group meetings.
- Remain involved.
- Keep a current photo of your loved one handy. Keep several on your phone.
Imagine if I didn’t have a photo while searching for my father that night.
- Make sure your loved one wears his/her identification bracelet.
I made sure my father wore his Safe Return or the nursing home’s identification bracelet.
- Kept important phone numbers handy or in your smart phone.
Excerpted from The Great Escape chapter (pages 163 – 179). Read more in “Where’s my shoes?” My Father’s Walk through Alzheimer’s
For more information:
Preventing Nursing Home Abuse and TIPS
To learn more about avoiding potential nursing home abuse, visit Amber Paley’s website at NursingHomeAbuse.net, which provides statistics, articles, and advice to prevent or deal with nursing home abuse.