If this is how they handle abuse, why should it be surprising it’s everywhere?

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Okay, have a bit of time to blog. About this, anyway. I’ve been given permission to blog anonymously about this situation.

I know someone who works in a nursing home. She hit a resident the other day. She knows this was wrong. She knows there was no excuse. She reported this to her boss. She was thinking of quitting her job.

You would think she would get at least one of the following…

  • Fired.
  • Disciplined.
  • Written up.
  • Given counseling.
  • Given training on how to avoid things like this.
  • Kept on some kind of probation.
  • Reported to some sort of authorities.

…after all, this is not even like most abuse situations in institutions. Normally, I don’t care if it’s a nursing home, group home, whatever, it’s either the resident or the family reporting the abuse, and the staff denying it. Here we’ve got a staff person who knows what she did was wrong, feels horrible about it, was considering quitting her job, is very honest, and wanted to stop doing this. She reported it to her boss. Expecting whatever consequences she might get. Knowing that she’d misjudged a power situation big time.

And they told her they are doing nothing about this at all, that it’s not even a problem, essentially.

After hearing that, is it any surprise abuse goes on in these places? I mean there’s not even an attempt being made here to stop her or change things or report her. This is someone who willingly asked them to do whatever they needed to do, who came to them and admitted what she’d done, and they’re going to ignore even this? I think this has stunned her, as well.

My mother has worked in nursing homes, and I’ve volunteered in them. I’ve been in other sorts of institutions (psych and residential treatment), and schools where I’ve seen abuse or experienced it. I have lots of friends whose experiences run the gamut of varieties of institutions, different lengths of stay, whatever. I know there’s abuse all the time that goes unreported. Heck, I saw unreported abuse when I spent twelve hours in a psych ward once. It goes on all the time, both in overt and covert manners. I know that even when you report it, you’re unlikely to be believed. But what has managed to shock me here is that a person who willingly and thoroughly reports abuse she herself has committed is being told essentially that it’s no big deal, nothing will happen to her. Something really twisted is going on here, and it’s earning one big WTF?

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

28 responses »

  1. Agreed.

    If the party is truly concerned, would they be willing to report managements lack of care about this to the Agency that is supposed to Inspect the place for it to maintain its accreditation?

    In turn, that Agency should contact Federal authority and perhaps News Media, in addition to slapping the facility with some form of probationary sanction.

    I realize this may not happen, in the capitali$t profiteering $ociety we are living in, but somewhere Justice needs to be served, and not Ju$tice.

  2. As an employee of a facility, she’s obligated to report (herself) to the state. This info is disseminated each year to employees by the Dept. of Justice. Reporting to her supervisor (and making an incident report) isn’t enough.
    I imagine her bosses don’t want to follow up because they don’t want the paperwork and likelihood of criminal charges.
    I was an aide in nursing homes on and off for 6 years. The state investigated each and every accusation, even if they were witness to a false report. This person should call the state and explain what happened, there are laws protecting her from “retribution” for reporting.

  3. Hi. This’s me, the one the article’s about.

    Just some things, to clarify.

    1) I have not actually seen my boss since the incident happened. One of my co-workers who was there when it happened, who I trust to be completely honest, told her about it today as part of her report of what happened over the weekend. I talked to her by phone and was told that I’m “not in trouble”, but I could still maybe be given a stern talking to or something… I hope…

    2) My boyfriend thinks that perhaps they’re letting it slide based on the fact that I’ve worked there so long and shown myself to be among the most aware of resident rights issues out of all the staff. Maybe so, but that doesn’t make this right… obviously my theory is a lot stronger than my practice and the practical part is what counts. Maybe they’re assuming that I’ll be harder on myself than they could ever be, and that’s true, but there should still be *some* kind of reaction, even if the only point is to make an example to the other staff.

    3) I’m not going to let this slide. My own mistake aside, what my boss is doing is wrong. I’m trying to decide whether I should report this to her boss (less likely to do anything about it, but easier to approach) or go to the ombudsman (very intimidating, I might chicken out). I’ve never been given any information on reporting this kind of thing other than being told to tell a supervisor or call the ombudsman’s office if that doesn’t work… maybe they tell the nurses about reporting to the state or doing incident reports, but I guess we grunts aren’t worth the training dollars?

    I’m still kind of reeling from this. I never thought I’d wind up in this situation and I *certainly* didn’t think this is how it’d play out if I did.

    Oh, and just in case anybody’s worried about her, the resident is fine. I checked up on her the next morning, and apologized, and she’s not even upset. (And believe me, this particular resident wouldn’t have *any* trouble telling me, if she was. Feisty one, that’n.)

  4. Yes, listening to stories of similar things going on in the nursing home where my mother is, I too have often wondered how such stuff can be allowed to go on.

    If I understand it correctly, such behavior in many work places, for instance, has been brought to a screeching halt because if you even LOOK at a co-worker the wrong way there is a reasonable possibility that the co-worker can launch an action that can be so financially devastating as to destroy the subject company as a going interest.

    Hearing about some of the TRULY disgusting tales coming out of institutionalized care I cannot fathom how patients and their families have not yet been successful in litigating the entire godforsaken system out of existence.

  5. I second to KimJ– as far as I know, in every state it’s mandatory to report elder abuse. Anyone who’s in a position of caring for the residents who knows about it is obligated to report. They’re screwing up big time, both ethically and legally.

  6. Perhaps her boss is afraid that, after she is open about it, there will be an investigation and a lot more things will show wrong and therefore her boss decides to do nothing and ignore it ? That would be a typical cover-up. Chances are she will be fired in 6 months time or so for an irrelevant reason, getting rid of her in silence, without drawing the attention to all things that possible go wrong. Just my thought.

  7. Chances are, there is some sort of Adult Protective Services in whatever state this nursing home is in, perhaps under the state’s Department of Human Services or equivalent. That can be one place to report elder abuse. If the boss doesn’t do their job, and the appropriate channels don’t work (or if you chicken out) then that could be another avenue to explore–report it there and specifically amplify the lack of follow-up and ask if they can pursue that angle as well as whatever other investigation they need to do.

    Social workers, health workers, mental health professionals, and certain other professions (as others here have pointed out) do have a legal obligation to report abuse–at least, in most states. (Though I believe that’s something that can vary somewhat depending on the exact state and the exact profession.) And even apart from the legal obligation, there is often a professional obligation as well–for example, in the National Association of Social Workers code of ethics, and I imagine in whatever equivalent there is for nurses, doctors, etc. That means someone who fails to report could not only get into legal trouble from the state but ALSO could lose their professional license. That is, if it gets appropriately reported etc.

    Although your practice may have fallen short of your theory, you seem so far to be taking the right follow up action (including talking to the resident and obtaining advice to help you figure out what your options are for how to proceed). I hope you will continue to push this through in whatever direction you choose to pursue. Perhaps you could leverage this incident in such a way as to help trigger real change in the policies and practices at the place where you work–if you push it far enough and find the right allies.

  8. When I worked at a private hospital one nurse was
    verbally callous with a patient and was asked to go through sensetivity training and got counseling…I think it was very helpful for her and is an aexample of the type of follow through meant to prevent a future problem of this type in a facility ….We were always taught if anything
    went wrong or was irregular to immeditately check on the patient…report to the nurse and doctor…and file an incident report which was carefully audited to identify the problems and find remidies and preventions for future problems..

    I would like to address this to “Anonymous” who
    seems shocked at what happened…immediately
    checked on the patient….reported what happened
    to a supervisor and went back again the next day
    to talk to the patient.Your actions show a lot of caring…honesty…and ethics…Not knowing what took place I may be suggesting the wrong solution….but when it comes to yourself being surprised at what happened I think you might want to consider…if anger was invovled…an anger management class…..as these can be very helpful…I got the feeling control was lost…and you felt very uncomfortable with what happened…
    If I am off base here please disreguard this…Also talking with a counselor might help
    you sort through the situation and help you come up with ideas to prevent this happening again..
    You owe this to yourself as much as to your future
    patients….Growth comes from such follow through
    in our lives…

    I think others have given good advice as to how to
    handle the fact that no one at your facility seems to be following any protocal on what happened…
    I hope you are able to bring attention to the
    need for follow through and getting resources for anyone involved…I was taught to go as high as needed to get results….and you just might get
    some protocol written…or paid attention to that
    will make your facility better and more responsive to staff and pateints alike…

    Good luck with all this…

  9. I’m just going to repeat this in case it wasn’t understood. You are mandated to report this to the State, not another supervisor. If this comes out that you didn’t notify the State, you will be held criminally responsible-aside from the fact that you are the “perpetrator”. It doesn’t matter what the bosses say, it doesn’t end with them. And it doesn’t matter if you “go over their head” to report it. Like I said, there are laws that protect reporters.
    I don’t know why you haven’t see “the movie” that is required by the DOJ. We had to see it upon hiring and every year following. They explain how to report and what happens when you report.

  10. To Anonymous: I would suggest perhaps entering counseling on your own initiative–maybe learning some strategies to keep from doing things impulsively; to manage your anger. It happened once; it could happen again unless you take steps to prevent it.

  11. There are ways other than one-on-one counseling to learn things like that. (One-on-one counseling would not be an option for this person, but she’s talked about other options for taking anger management or something similar.)

  12. Anon, I actually applaud you for being so forthright. You are human and sometimes we reach our breaking point — appropriately or not. I am not saying you did a good thing but that you are NOW doing a good thing in reporting it (and you do need to report it to the state) AND in seeking some sort of counseling for yourself. Glad you were able to make amends with the patient and hope you can do the same with yourself.

  13. Okay. I talked to my boss yesterday. As it turns out, the incident wasn’t reported to her as a ‘hit’, but as more of a tap, or a slap with no power behind it – a near-normal non-abusive social interaction contact, in other words. She had been considering writing me up anyway but was waiting because she has some personal issues going on right now and didn’t trust herself to be objective.

    She did give me a few anger management tips, and was glad to hear that I’m looking into taking an at-home anger management course if I can find one. I’m not being written up on the basis of the fact that I’m handling this well without it.

  14. Hi, first of all, I’m an autistic adult woman, and I have been following this blog (and others) for awhile because it’s helped out a lot.

    Second: in 2004, when I still lived in the state of Connecticut, I was put into a psychiatric nursing home because I got thrown out of the group home I lived in, and I stayed there until December 2005. I speak from personal experience that the abuse goes on all the time. I have been sexually, physically, and verbally abused by staff and residents at psych facilities. I was forced to “convert” when some fundamentalist staff (who made no secret they thought we were all demon-possessed) did a “routine contraband search” of my room. Because I became non-verbal due to overmedication, they were able to get away with this, but they also had control methods of people using the phone there, one pay phone for 75 residents, right next to the nursing station. People who complained were given an increasing amount of medication for “noncompliance”.

    That’s neither here nor there, however.

    Anonymous, turning yourself into your supervisor is not enough. Hitting is hitting. They wrote it was just a tap? Yeah, I do believe that, because in psych facilities, including nursing homes, staff can get away with murder and blame it on the patient and/or falsify the record. I’ve had my record falsified to justify some of the crap done to me.

    There is protection for whistleblowers, and the fact that your supervisor chose to water down what actually happened, means there is more abuse going on where you are, and you need to go to the State about it. I appreciate that you feel bad and have a conscience, because a lot of folks who get into working as CNAs in psych-oriented nursing homes wind up on a power trip and actually take some kind of thrill in kicking the “crazy person” when they’re down. Just do us a favor, if your conscience bothers you, go to the State. They will protect you, but you can’t let this slide.

    Thanks, Amanda. Keep writing, please, because your writing helps more than you know.

  15. It was written down as a tap because that’s how it was reported to my boss, and I’m going to have a word with the co-worker who told my boss that today. I only see that co-worker on weekends, so I haven’t had a chance to talk to her about it before this.

    I do report any abuse that I can (some things that would be considered abuse here aren’t considered abuse there, like forcing a resident to take their meds, forcing someone to go to an activity, or forcing someone to stick to their diet, so I don’t report those – no point – but I do make a point of not doing them myself and doing my best to help residents get around those issues) to the supervisors just as a general thing, and I’ve had pretty good results with that. In the three years I’ve been at this job I’ve only seen staff even threaten physical violence once, and I reported that to Nursing, and the staff person was fired within a week. That’s part of why I was so shocked at the response from my own supervisor. There’s probably lots of stuff that goes on that I don’t know about, but I can only report what I see.

  16. To “name withheld to protect someone who is guilty but trying to do the right thing from here on out” (if you don’t mind my modifying your screen name)

    I think what people are asking is not just what you’re doing on this issue WITHIN the institution but whether you have ALSO reported the incident to State, as this would be legally required in any case.

  17. Agreeing with Andrea there. I commend you, Anonymous, for having a conscience. However — the consensus is to go beyond your place of employment, to the State. I was actually a resident in a nursing home for 1 year 4 months, and I know something about US law concerning residents of nursing homes. You are REQUIRED by law to report this. Believe me, it’s a good thing you’re commenting anonymously, because I’D report your ass to the State. Feeling bad is fine and good, doesn’t change the fact that it happened and people who live in nursing homes are already traumatized by lack of space and control over every last minute detail of their lives. I’m not asking you to beat yourself up forever, because that would be pointless, but what we’re all saying is:

    1. There is protection for whistleblowers who are employed by nursing homes, and go to the State concerning abuse whether done by yourself or fellow employees.

    2. The fact that the incident was recorded as a ‘tap’ is proof that there is other abuse going on in the home. Incidents get watered down to protect staff all the time. My own medical record was falsified so that when I told a staff to go away after she came into my room while I was naked (changing), without knocking, it was reported as “threatening bodily harm”, which I assure you never happened since I was too intimidated to ever act like that.

    If your conscience is bothering you that much, GO TO THE STATE. We are not telling you that you’re a bad person, and we’re even telling you that you did the right thing going to your supervisor and doing anger management. You are not going to get into trouble for going to the State. Your employer might, but trust me, as someone who has survived all of this, the nursing home would stay open, perhaps under different management.

    Forgive me if I seem a bit harsh, but I get really disgusted by the abuse that goes on with people who are supposed to “help” and “take care of us”, especially when I was capable of living independently (and do so now, kthxbai). It happens more than ANYONE realizes or wants to admit, and until major changes are implemented in the health care system, especially psychiatry, it’s going to keep happening.

    My $.02

  18. *sigh*

    I’ve been trying to find a way of saying this that doesn’t come across as me thinking that I shouldn’t get in trouble at all, ’cause that’s not the case. But I’m not completely buying the “you are not going to get in any trouble if you report this” thing, and I’m really having trouble talking myself into doing something that could so easily cost me my job. I’m autistic myself, and it took me a long time to find a job that fit me as well as this one does – I don’t even want to think about what would happen if I lost it.

  19. “Name withheld”

    Perhaps you would find it helpful to talk with the people at the Government Accountability Project, http://www.whistleblower.org. I don’t know a great deal about how they work, but I gather that they have worked with “whistleblowers” to work out how they can blow the whistle etc. I think they more typically work on corruption issues, but I would think the risks to the whistleblower and the process would be roughly similar. If nothing else it wouldn’t hurt poking around their web page to see if you’re comfortable communicating with them about your situation (in confidence). And if it turns out they can’t help directly for whatever reason, I would imagine (or hope) they could at least refer you to someone able to advise what your next steps could or should be.

  20. “name withheld”

    More specifically, some of the resources here might be useful (maybe you can see if you can join their “Whistleblower Support Network” which is meant for people in the process of whistleblowing seeking advice–or for people who have already blown the whistle who have advice to share): http://www.whistleblower.org/content/wsn.cfm.

    One of their publications (http://www.whistleblower.org/template/page.cfm?page_id=43) looks like it might be roughly suited to your situation.

  21. That may well be useful. Thanks. I’ll check it out as soon as I have time. (Tonight, maybe tomorrow – very soon at any rate.)

    I’m also going to bring the Ombudsman’s phone number home with me tonight. Hopefully I’ll get up the nerve to call them over my weekend. (Why oh why do they not have an email addy?)

    Also… I’m not so worried about losing my job over reporting my boss’s actions to the state. I’m worried about losing my job over my own actions. I’m sure there’s protections of some sort in place for the former, but I have no idea whether I’ll get a reasonable response to the latter. (Again, I should be getting into *some* trouble, but I’d say that being fired, for example, or winding up in jail, would be a bit of an over-reaction to a one time incident that the victim isn’t even upset about and that I’m already talking steps to make sure isn’t repeated. And I could see either of those punishments happening, either by the state or by my employer in response to an investigation by the state.)

  22. Dear One,

    As a person with disabilities, I know firsthand how hard it is to get a job in this ablist world of ours. I also commend you for your honesty and humility in admitting your error. Someone said:

    “An error doesn’t become a mistake unless you refuse to correct it.”

    You have taken steps to correct yours, and I sincerely hope that the State (or your boss) does not cause you to lose your job over the incident.

    Please report this to the State. You care so much about other people and their well-being, and as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” I’ll stand by you.

  23. name withheld:

    just a thought………would the affected patient be willing or able to defend you (if necessary)if you went to the state about the issue?

    maybe you should try and get a copy of your records (if you’ve gotten good evaluations in the past…) in case you have to find another job……which I really hope doesn’t happen……….but I’d think they wouldn’t want to risk firing you and setting off a larger maelstrom for themselves……..after all, if you no longer work someplace that is using bad practices, what incentive do you have NOT to report them as much as possible?

    (these words are probably only half of what I really mean………best I can do………)

    Wishing you all the best.

  24. I agree, the abuse needs to stop and those at fault should be held accountable. Particularly in situations where the offender openly admits to her abuse and there’s rock solid evidence! We live in a sick world.

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