The American novelist Pearl S. Buck wrote:
“Somehow our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is in the way that it cares for its helpless members.”
There’s little doubt, according to the evidence collected by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), that the resident who was the subject of the Carlinville Rehab and Health Care Center inspection report was not long for this world.
He was admitted to the facility with a subdural hematoma (a bruise on the brain), altered mental status, an inability to walk, diabetes, dementia, and end state renal disease that required dialysis. This man, like all of us, was going to die. And he was going to die in a nursing home, like many of us will. The fact that he was dying does not mean that he should have received the substandard care that he did.
The resident was admitted to the nursing home with pressure ulcers on both heels. The wound on the left heel was 2 x 2 cm (about a postage stamp) and 2 x 4 cm on the right heel. One month later the left heel wound was 17 x 7 cm and the right heel wound was 11 x 6 cm.
Those are grotesque open wounds. According to the weekly pressure ulcer assessments filed by the Carlinville Rehab, there were no treatments from 2/28/ until 3/29. It’s hard to imagine a more illustrative case for nursing home neglect.
When the resident was hospitalized for his bed sores, the hospital determined that the resident’s foot would have to be amputated, since gangrene had set into the wound. The resident’s family instead chose to admit the resident to the hospice for comfort care.
It’s easy to understand their decision. Imagine, for a moment, being an Alzheimer’s patient with advanced dementia, and waking up to discover your feet have been cut off. It’s hard to contemplate what that would be like.
Nursing homes are, rightly or wrongly, the institutions that we have set the task of fulfilling Ms. Buck’s charge. If we judge our society based upon the actions of the Carlinville Rehab and Health Care Center, it’s clear there’s much room for improvement.