Really awful experience for my friend who was here for over six weeks, while undergoing her last round of chemo and dealing with a rare condition that renders her also unable to see or walk. I visited her every day, and while I could provide an exhaustive list of her complaints (her situation making her, admittedly and understandably, a challenging but certainly not impossible patient at times), I will restrict my comments to what I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears: 1. The hallways reek of urine, once you get past the administrative offices. This is a sure sign of neglect. 2. The help buzzers ring and ring and ring, and they are only answered when convenient, not when a patient needs help. I sat in the room and ran a few tests to see how long it would take for CNAs to show up... invariably, it would take half an hour, maybe more. 3. Her private bathroom was rarely cleaned. The bedpan was sort of rinsed out and left upside down on the trash can, vomit that had been dumped in the toilet was left unflushed, the floors were haphazardly mopped. 4. The cleaning crew feels entitled to just walk in the door without knocking at any time, with no respect for a patient's privacy. 5. Too many CNAs and other nurses treated her with disrespect, argued with her, and failed to do even an adequate job of cleaning her. 6. When I arrived one day, she was sitting there holding a bucket of her own vomit, and had been for half an hour. When a nurse finally arrived - and only because I went to the station and demanded that someone help - her response was, "What do you want me to do about it?" This happened again, of course, and she took my advice that time to throw the bucket on the floor and let them clean up the mess. 7. My friend had a catheter, and her urine bag was constantly in view of anyone who walked by. 8. One social worker rather obnoxiously informed her that she had a bad attitude and was basically causing her own problems at the center. His body language clearly conveyed contempt. 9. I tried to leave a tablet with her so that, since she is blind, cannot walk, and is confined to a bed all day, she'd be able to pull up and listen to podcasts. One social worker indicated that the nurses would be happy to lock the device away in the evenings... but when that time came, all the nurses had an absolute fit. I didn't care if the tablet was at risk of being stolen, I just wanted to give my friend something to help her through the lonely hours that seemed to stretch endlessly. All I heard from the nurses was, liability, liability, liability... even when I said I wouldn't hold them responsible if something happened. They refused. 10. Garbage like used cups and water bottles piled up with no one bothering to simply throw them away. When she asked for someone to take some dirty sheets and blankets, they remained in a pile on a chair for days. I got fed up myself and put them outside the door; within one minute, someone opened the door and said doing that is against policy, just ring the buzzer. When I told her no one answers the buzzer and I'm glad that breaking protocol at least finally got someone's attention, she closed the door. 11. While she was vomiting several times a day for nearly ten days after the chemo, no one bothered to set up an IV, even though the urine (in her constantly visible bag) was a dark brown of very limited quantity. No one, not one person there took steps to deal with the dehydration, until towards the end of her being sick a doctor came in and, as she put it, finally created a sense of urgency and ordered one. These are medically trained people???? My friend is in her early fifties, not at all elderly, but indeed in a very difficult circumstance. She chose this facilty because of its proximity to Duke where she was undergoing chemo, so that she could manage the severe illness that follows all her chemo treatments. But the help she got (and her insurance paid $600 a day for) was hardly better than being alone at home. There were, as there usually are, a few exceptions - her PT was great and respectful, Tim in the kitchen went out of his way to make sure she knew that he cared, and there were perhaps two or three nurses who treated her kindly, and with respect. The rest of her experience with this center was pretty much a nightmare - filled with contempt, disregard, neglect, and at times downright hostility. Thankfully, my friend is now in a place closer to home that smells clean, where the staff is genuinely helpful and caring, and where when that buzzer goes off, staff is expected to respond within one minute. Not too much to ask, really. Isn't this why people choose "care" centers, anyway? So that they will be treated with care? My advice... run from this place, and find someplace that will really care about your loved ones.
by Sue Kemple
January 11, 2014