Reform For Adult Care Homes In NC
Dear Rep. Justice, I am an employee of Glencare Assisted Living in New Hanover County and have worked here for nearly two years. During my tenure here, I have witnessed what I consider to be appalling upkeep of the facility and inhumane living conditions and treatment of the residents by many of the employees and upper management. Since coming here, I have developed life-changing relationships with all of the residents and care about them as if they were part of my own family. I consider them to be dear friends. Even though, because of their Alzheimer's or other dementia, they often forget what takes place from day to day, they deserve better standards of care than what I'm about to outline for you. In the past month, I have been trying to educate myself about the regulations for adult care homes and the rights for these residents in order to better help them. I have been told by upper management to keep quiet or I will lose my job, and I have similarly gotten nowhere with the Department of Health and Human Services. But I simply can't in good conscious not to try to help these people, and I thought I would make you aware of some of these living conditions. I don't know where else to turn. As I understand it and according to the nursing home abuse resources Web site (I'm sure this also) applies to adult care homes), elder abuse is defined as "any act done willfully, knowingly, or recklessly through words or physical action which causes or could cause mental or physical injury or death to a nursing home resident. This includes verbal, sexual, mental/psychological,or physical elder abuse including corporeal punishment, involuntary seclusion or any other actions within this definition." Here are my concerns about the Glencare facility: 1.) Hot water is on short supply. The Alzheimer's patients often have to choose between a cold shower or no shower at all. Today is Jan. 16. This has been a problem since the first week in December. Furthermore, administration was aware this problem would occur this year because it happened last winter as well, and they didn't replace the water heater. 2.) There are rooms with no working heating units for weeks at a time. One resident is currently residing in a room without heat even though I informed administration about this two weeks ago. 3.) New residents are added to the facility with little to no notice to the aides and without considering the effect it will have on the current residents. We have one resident that screams and yells continuously from the moment she wakes until I leave for the day. I have seen employees who have had to leave the hall because it is so overwhelming. To an Alhzeimer's patient, that is a traumatic environment with which to live. This particular patients needs specialized care for which our facility is simply not equipped for. The administration is also aware of this. 4.) The transport van is not handicap accessible. Wheelchair-bound patients are expected to climb onto a little plastic stool and then climb onto the van. One of my residents injured her legs quite badly falling out of it. 5.) Management rotates shifts and positions around so that some employees will not have the proper training to care for certain patients. It's as if being properly trained for certain tasks doesn't matter. For example, the administration underscheduled during a recent one shift, so they put a housekeeper on the floor to act as a patient aide. Housekeepers obviously aren't trained to be patient aides. 6.) We run out of supplies every month. When I ask management what to do about the lack of supplies, they typically tell me to use whatever is available. When I say small adult pull-ups will not fit bigger patients, they tell me to make do with what I have. I often have to cut towels to make wash cloths for the few showers I can give before the hot water runs. Most of the towels we do have are old, stained and thin. 7.) The bruises sustained by some patients are awful. I understand that sometimes on an Alzeimer's unit, incidents will occur, especially when the residents are confused because of the constant screaming, but it is shocking what I witness each day. Every day there is a new bruise or skin tear, and the wounds do not receive timely care. 8.) The food is extremely difficult for my residents to eat. For example, the facility will serve ribs or stewed beef, but my residents often can't chew those types of foods because they lack teeth. One resident literally gums the meat as much as she can and then spits the rest out because she can't swallow it. 9.) We only have two handicap-accessible bathrooms on the special care unit. The toilets are often not working for the duration of my whole shift and sometimes for more than one day. Residents have to use them anyway, regardless of the stench. Management is aware of this. They temporarily rig them so they work until the next day. They refuse to replace the faulty toilets despite the fact that this has been a problem since I was hired in 2008. 10.) There is a calender posted on the wall full of activities for my residents, but the patients dont' get to do much of anything, other than attend church on Fridays.. Trips to Walmart, exercise classes, one-on-one meetings with aides are marked on the calendar, in reality, they just get to watch TV ... although they can't hear it through all the noise. 11.) They do not have easy access to their own financial accounts, nor do they have any place to discuss there personal concerns privately. Employees are always present in what is meant to be the residents' business office, even on the patients' loosely observed "business hours." All of this causes physical, mental and emotional damage and administration is aware of every bit of it and shows an air of indifference when I bring any of it to light. For these reasons, I have come to the regrettable conclusion that the owner of Glencare Inc., Glen and Ann Kornegay, are solely in the care-taking business for the profit. While this is legally their prerogative, they have proved unable or unwilling to provide even the most basic of necessities for residents already suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and they do not have the right to rob these people of a decent quality of life in their remaining years. Many of these people are members of "the Greatest Generation," and they deserver better than this. I care about all of them dearly. This is a letter I drafted and sent to New Hanover County representatives Carolyn Justice and Sandra Hughes on Jan. 16, 2010. I am starting a petition to reform the laws and regulations for adult care homes in North Carolina. It is appalling to me that the above facility is considered three stars. Please help me help the elder residents of our state get the care and quality of life that they deserve.