For Daddy

The final hour and a half of my father’s life were incredibly painful. I have not shared details until now because I was giving the administration at the facility Dad was in an opportunity to gracefully take responsibility for their actions and make necessary changes. But, it is time now. The facility has made it clear that they won’t take responsibility and of course, that is for fear of a lawsuit. My only impetus in sharing this story is education. This photograph was taken shortly before Dad died, he was completely peaceful, very comfortable, aware, and not afraid. What I’m about to share is the resultant action of a handful of employees and certainly NOT the majority. The staff at Bellamy Fields is by and large filled with loving and compassionate professionals that my father, my family, and I grew to care for very much. Everyone from the kitchen staff, to the cleaning crew, to the activities department, and the amazing care staff come in each day and work very hard and with genuine kindness and dedication toward the well-being of the residents. Sadly, at the end of Dad’s life, we were left with a few individuals that failed him miserably. There are some young people who work in this facility that are amazingly talented, intuitive, and compassionate. It is my prayer that this upcoming generation of caring professionals pioneer a new kind of facility where the end of life procedures I was promised for my father are not just talked about, but delivered. The ultimate responsibility is on that of the owner and given the fact that he didn’t even rise from his chair as the guerney carrying my father’s lifeless body moved just a few feet past his open office door…..I don’t hold out a lot of hope that he will have a personal epiphany any time soon. His directives to the staff set the tone of this facility. When you insist that your administrator, nursing supervisor, and nursing assistants all “drink the koolaid” that you are pushing, and couple that with being dependent upon an income as most people are, you end up with good people who make bad choices. This is a systemic problem. And yet, it still amazes me that a group of (predominantly) strong women don’t have the backbone apparently to stand up to this man and say “This is wrong.” After Dad’s passing, I sought counsel from an attorney; the purpose was not monetary gain, but rather to address and hopefully correct practices that ultimately caused my father end of life pain and suffering, which he certainly did not deserve. My prayer is that training and practices will be put into place to avoid the unnecessary anguish my beloved father endured. Hospice is lacking in many ways, my introduction to this was ten years ago when I attended to my Mother’s passing. If hospice is to be what they profess they are, changes must be made. Facilities that hospice organizations operate in must be further trained to respect the families and individuals who are making their crossing and most importantly, they MUST train the staff working in those facilities to understand the dying process and not simply a drugging protocol. I received a response to my attorney’s letter and it was without remorse. Sadly, it appears to be this facility’s stance that there is nothing to correct and certainly an admission of guilt (while the right thing to do) would cost them money in training, and a fall from the pedestal they place themselves upon. What a pity it is when we allow stubborn ego, the almighty dollar, and pride rather than common decency to control our actions. It is my wish to shine a light on the issue of what happened to my Dad so that it will not happen to others. After researching this issue, it would appear that this topic is a national concern and not exclusive to the facility my father resided in. Countless reports of “Acute Morphine Intoxification” in which patients are not dying of their disease, (through autopsy confirmation) but rather from an over-dose are rampant. The overuse of drugs on hospice and palliative care have been reported on extensively. There are many conversations taking place about the “rushing of a loved ones death.” Although people are beginning to find the courage to speak of this publicly, we need to do much more to bring this issue out. The mistreatment of animals is something we talk about a lot; and I am a huge supporter of this. But let’s also look at the mistreatment of our elders. These situations are so often covered up because the senior passes away, and therefore doesn’t speak, and also because the families are in terribly pain and often don’t understand what just happened. People report that their loved one was conscious and still engaging in life around them until hospice became involved and began administering drugs. It’s very difficult to speak up when we ourselves are suffering, but we must. We must speak for those who have no voice. The truth is that Medicare and hospice are in bed together and they are very cozy. It is a huge cost cutter for Medicare when medications are cut off and hospice is enlisted. When this happens, it’s only the death drugs such as morphine that are administered. And when the staff does their job right, it doesn’t take long for the elder to die. Doe-eyed families are then reassured that it was “just their time.” When in fact, it was an overdose. Educate yourselves on this, there’s plenty of information out there. Be an advocate for your loved one and perhaps when your time comes, you’ll be blessed to have one for yourself. This industry is in dire need of an overhaul. Don’t allow an institution to push you around, don’t be bullied by someone who claims to know better than you about the care of your beloved. Use your intuition. Too many alert seniors are forced into unconscious states before their time through the use of morphine. If they are suffering and in pain, that is one thing. But many are not experiencing that at all; it’s simply been decided by the hospice Gods that it’s their time to “hit the road.” I don’t know about you…….but my God decides that. A morphine cocktail provides the perfect storm to “snow” your loved one (as they say in the business) and ultimately kill them. Unless you are very strong, you will most likely be bullied into overdosing your beloved; they’ll actually do their best to make you feel good about it. And when it’s all over you’ll say “Wait. What just happened?” I’m “all in” for a conscious death and pain meds only in the event that they are truly necessary. But this is not the current philosophy of engagement I assure you. People are being shamed into allowing the systematic murder of their loved ones. Although no professional will ever cop to that…..after all……assisted (or in this case, non-compliant) suicide is still illegal in most states isn’t it? State surveyors need to get much more serious about investigating this and also the lovelock that exists between hospice and care facilities. Hospitals, doctors, and facilities all receive pretty little feel-good awards and much acclaim for the role they play in enlisting patients into the hospice program. It feels pretty slimy. We’ve lost our way. If you’ve had a reasonably good experience with hospice……I’m happy for you. But if you haven’t, or if this makes you reflect and think back on circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one, then that’s precisely what I’m hoping to accomplish. Systematically putting our elderly down as if they are a dog or a cat isn’t okay. If your loved one still has life in them, it’s your job to protect that for them. There are far too many untrained nurses running around in facilities, with owners who are perennially motivated by receiving another plack for their wall. Death is not an emergency. We need to slow down and let the light pour in. The Washington Post published an excellent article last year entitled “As more hospices enroll patients who aren’t dying, questions about lethal doses arise.” This is yet another cautionary tale about this growing concern in our country. Add to it that employees in facilities aren’t properly trained, and even if they are……many are spoon fed an end of life protocol that is militant to say the least. Life is a precious gift, right up until we draw our final breath. That sacred moment at life’s end is between you and God and NOT between you and a booming death industry. The fact that care facilities and hospice are in bed together isn’t a new revelation. Back in 1998 the US office of the Inspector General warned the industry for a second time about fraud in hospice. Sadly, things have worsened rather than improved. It’s public knowledge that both hospice and facilities benefit from financial kickbacks. A very inappropriate alliance, especially when motivated by money. I am in no way implying that there aren’t wonderful people involved in both hospice and in care facilities……I just wish they would speak up and change a very broken industry. Many well meaning professionals have become puppets to an ideology that very convincingly fulfills its mission no matter how many bodies it steps over. To be robotic in the administration of drugs before telling families the truth about what those drugs will actually do is criminal in my opinion. To pretend it is a disease that has taken your loved one from alert to unaware instead of telling the truth that it is in fact the drug is reprehensible. We need to remember the old adage, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Although my father did not die of a morphine overdose, it took all my strength to fight the staff off on a daily basis. It absolutely felt evil to me. My father died of an injury sustained by an overzealous and intrusive staff, this was systemic behavior on their part due to the current state of an industry that is out of control. Their behavior was based on the panic they felt that I was in fact not allowing the drugging of my very much still alive father. This is a cautionary tale, be very careful when you place a loved one in an assisted living or nursing facility; and be very careful when dealing with hospice. To those who have had positive experiences with hospice, I’m very happy for you. This is my second bad experience with them. I cannot undo what was done to my parents……But I certainly will serve as an informant. My Dad was an amazing human being who did not deserve what he received at the end of his life. There are residents that I care about who still reside in this facility; I pray for them daily and for the resolve of their families. The people involved in causing my father harm in his final hours are very well aware of the truth of their actions. It is my belief that we ultimately have to come to healing through God. I will eventually forgive, my Dad would want that and it is my personal standard, but I will not forget. The purpose of my sharing is to provide education. What happened to my Dad happens to seniors every day in our country and it has to stop. When it became apparent that my Dad was not long for this world, I was approached by the staff and it was suggested that he be placed on hospice. I was very reluctant to do so based on the unfavorable experience I had with my Mother’s passing in California. However, as my Dad became weaker, I made the decision that we could involve hospice, but only for a comfortable chair, a hospital bed, and morphine on stand by. Immediately after placing my Dad on hospice, I began being harassed on a daily basis by two specific female employees. I was repeatedly told that I needed to allow them to start Dad on morphine to “take the edge off.” I said over and over to them each day that there was no “edge” to take off because Dad was in no pain. Not a day went by that I wasn’t made to feel small for not placing my Dad on morphine. One day, the nursing supervisor asked me how Dad’s respirations were and I responded by sharing that they were becoming more shallow. She said in a patronizing tone I won’t soon forget, “Why do you think that is Laura?” I responded by telling her that it’s because “my father is dying.” How can it be possible that this woman has no organic knowledge that death can come consciously and peacefully without drugs? She made sure to inform me that now would be a good time for morphine. I reiterated that my Dad was in no pain and still telling jokes and still LIVING. “Playing God” is a dangerous game. In an effort to convince me to give Dad morphine and while I was in the bathroom, this same woman told me that Dad said he felt “restless.”
Coincidently, that particular word is written in most hospice propaganda. In fifty two years, I’ve never once heard my Dad use it. He didn’t say it. I can see it now…….”Jerry, you look restless. Are you restless? We’d like to give you something.” Be very careful people. Be very careful. It’s a slippery slope. Until we draw our last breath we are still fulfilling our purpose. Those who are blessed with a peaceful and conscious passing are given a gift; they are able to communicate and to receive communication, my Dad was very aware of this and so was I. I hope the audacity of this situation is lost on no one. I monitored my Dad very closely and asked him quite often if he was experiencing any discomfort. His answer was always “no.” I informed Dad that morphine was available and he repeatedly insisted that he wanted nothing to do with that. We are talking about a man who never took Novocain for cavities or root canals. Who also insisted on being awake for colonoscopies. He didn’t want morphine to say the least. What he wanted was peaceful, uninterrupted time with his family. On his final day, he was very weak and opted to stay in bed. I laid in bed with him, we shared stories, I read to him, we listened to music, we laughed and held hands; Dad was not afraid, not in pain, and very peaceful. We were cherishing every moment. I was astounded at how many times I was told that this was a “first” for this particular facility. That in fact, people don’t just pass away peacefully on their own…..Morphine is the standard and it is administered without hesitation. I was also told by a staff member that the owner and nurse were going to let me “have my way” for a while longer, but that eventually morphine would be started. Are you kidding me? This is NOT a facility’s “call” to make! I was being aggressively harassed to do something that was not necessary and would absolutely render my Dad incapable of living out his final hours consciously per his wishes. I felt incredibly unsafe in this environment. In addition to this, every time my Dad would become completely relaxed, someone would come bouncing into the room again; bright light from the hallway would blast in and loud voices would herald their arrival. It was a complete disregard of our feelings and my Dad’s wishes. To add to this, there are no private rooms with which to die in. So, Dad’s roommate, whom we love…..But who has Alzheimer’s kept coming in and out of the room and turning the tv on. Imagine being in your final hours and hearing “In tonight’s headline we have a double homicide in Manchester.” It was incredibly inappropriate. This facility is completely unprepared for end of life care. I was sold a bill of goods. I was told that they did “end of life care” very well. Not true at all. If end of life care is simply administering drugs……that is not “care” at all; any idiot can do that. Morphine has the absolute consequence of hastening a passing; people can argue this point all day long, but I’ve seen it happen too many times and a great deal of medical research confirms this fact. This makes the continued insistence of it, very questionable. I started feeling as though certain staff members simply wanted Dad to hurry up and die so they could get someone else in his bed; and I said as much to the administrator. On Dad’s final day, I was speaking with the facility administrator and strongly imploring her to please call off the continued harassment by her employees and respect my wishes and that of my father….She then literally told me that they just “Don’t know what to do with me.” Are you kidding me? I’ve come to understand that the owner pushes the staff to get morphine going immediately once the resident is on hospice, this is regardless of whether or not the patient is in pain. The standard answer from staff for this protocol is that “pain will be avoided.” If pain is obvious, that’s one thing. Otherwise…….You are not God. You do not have the right to take “time” away. If you haven’t been in this situation, you may not know that once morphine is started, the dose is increased and increased until the patient is unconscious and eventually overdoses. This is the dirty little secret of hospice, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I’m not an 85 year old widower who can be pushed around and convinced that the systematic murder of my husband is “for the best.” I’m a 52 year old daughter who isn’t going to go quietly into that dark night. How many husbands, wives, daughters, and sons have been denied sacred final hours with their loved ones because they were pushed into allowing the unnecessary drugging of their beloved? One last hug, one last smile, one last laugh……The moment we draw our final breath is God’s call and nobody else’s. Do not misunderstand me, there is a place for morphine when a loved one is suffering. But there is NO PLACE for it when there is no suffering. Two hours before my Dad passed away (and after fending off unwanted intrusions all day long) the nurse on duty and the facility administrator came to my father’s room. They were insistent that Dad needed to be examined. The nurse stated that she had to take Dad’s pulse and check his pad for wetness. Again, I argued that as his durable power of attorney I am saying “no” because my father is very peaceful and in no discomfort. What is the point of checking the pulse of a dying man? It’s an unwanted and unnecessary intrusion; it is a power play, a way to control a situation. As for “wetness”……my father had refused almost all food and drink for 17 days prior to his passing….there wasn’t much wetness to be found. And, even if there was, I assure you that in the final hours of your life, you aren’t worried about a little urine between your legs. The very nature of “hospice” is that the family and patient are supposed to be given the dignity to pass away in privacy and without intrusion. They are to be available when the family needs you and invisible otherwise. I had been promised when Dad moved into this facility roughly two years earlier that the end of life care at that facility was exemplary. I had no idea what they meant was; “We know how to be continuously intrusive and overdose your loved one (if you’ll let us) on morphine real good.” Let me clarify again, I have nothing but good things to say about the two years that Dad spent there in general. The staff is loving, kind, and compassionate and I am very fond of many of them. But, when it came down to Dad’s final days, the dark side of how this facility and others like it all over the country are run at the end of life, was quite apparent. This is a silent and stealthy secret, nobody talks about it; it’s too uncomfortable. After arguing with the administrator and nurse in the hallway for too long, (again robbing me of time with my Dad) they entered his room against my wishes. My Dad’s peaceful disposition was immediately compromised by the taking of his pulse, it pulled him out of his restful process and back into a palpable “drama” that is “Healthcare.” I held his hand and assured him that they would leave soon. Little did I know that Dad’s final moment of peace was over, everything changed in an instant. These two women swiftly moved down to the bottom of the bed, tossed up his blanket and said “This pad is wet.” They then proceeded to yank the pad so hard out from under him that it literally tore in half; my father who had been breathing very peacefully and without struggle, then let out a primal scream that I will never forget. He proceeded to cough twice and began the painful process of drowning to death in his secretions for an hour and a half before he ultimately succumbed to his death. He suffered greatly due to this act of mindless aggression and complete disregard for our wishes. Shouldn’t the wishes of the dying be honored above any other sort of egocentric desire? Isn’t dying on our own terms an available option anymore, especially when the great and benevolent institution of hospice is involved? I know that my father would have passed away that night regardless, but he would have passed peacefully had he been allowed to do so. Again, THIS IS a basic human right. It is not okay to have your death or that of a loved one hijacked. On my Dad’s final night on earth he was violated and harmed; he did not deserve that. Rule #1 ~ When a person is dying and comfortable….They are NOT to be moved. Otherwise, you risk disturbing liquid in the lungs, which is precisely what these women did. Dad was on track for a very peaceful passing, one that was pain and fear free. Instead, he died terrified. It is the sad result of a complete lack of education, training, and skill in addition to a sincere disregard toward the patient that caused this event to occur. The responsibility falls on the owner of this facility. During that long hour and a half, I told Dad how sorry I was that those employees entered the room. I told him how sorry I was that they hurt him. I was and still am mortified by what happened. Dad understood what happened, he knew it was not right. This was not “nursing.” This was not End of Life “Care.” In Dad’s final terrified moment, I held him as he gasped for air, I begged him through my sobbing to “Let go, go to mommy, go to heaven now Daddy, go where it’s safe. It’s not safe here anymore. I’m so sorry. Thank you for everything you are. I love you so much.” A tear ran down his cheek as our eyes remained locked, his face contorted, and then he was gone. My heart was broken at the loss of my beloved father, but in addition to that, I was completely shattered that he suffered unnecessarily. People have been dying peacefully since the beginning of time without morphine and without having their pulse and pad checked. My Dad Suffered Because Of The Aggressive And Uneducated Act Of Yanking A Pad Out From Underneath Him Thereby Causing Him Physical Harm! He did not need morphine……until he was harmed by the “medical staff.” What my Dad needed was the basic human right to die the way he chose to die; a subject we had certainly spoken often about. Every dying person is different. It is criminal to force a protocol on someone in a facility just because it’s the easy way to “handle” death. It is simply awful to take advantage of families in their emotional state by forcing an agenda on them that may not be appropriate for them. Unless the pain dictates the necessity of a drug……Just say no. And if you get the feeling you aren’t being respected, do your best to get your loved one out of the facility. As I said, it is my fervent wish to educate. I wish more than anything that I could go back in time. I would have removed Dad from that facility and brought him home for his final weeks where he could have died peacefully and without the insanity of the constant intrusions, harassment, and ultimate harm. As hard as I worked to create a safe and calming environment for my Dad’s passing, it was not possible to provide him that because of the dogmatic end of life philosophy that permeates the halls of this facility and so many others. I do not believe the individuals involved are bad people, but they are lost. They’ve forgotten why they chose to work in geriatrics; forgotten that being there in the most profound moments of a person’s life means serving that individual and truly looking at them, seeing who THEY are and what THEY need and desire; and not simply forcing an industry generated philosophy on to the individual. Of course, if we were all living authentically, it could cost us a few bucks; but it would also mean that we were attuned to our true spiritual purpose, which is more than money could ever buy. In the end, I believe this is my Dad’s final gift to everyone. Dad’s comfort in his final hour was sacrificed. God knew this was an issue that needed some light shed on it, so he chose my Dad and me to bring it forth. Please talk about what you want for yourselves and talk with your loved ones about what they want too. Make sure you and your beloveds are in a place that will not force their own end of life agenda on you. It’s hard to know the answers if we don’t know the questions and that’s why I’m speaking up; I thought I could trust the people at this facility. The end of a lifetime is a very sacred time, it heralds the beginning of a new life. Nobody has the right to take that time from you, or to derail the peaceful path you are on during the process of your death. It’s time for all of us to stand up and do the right thing; at home, at work, and at play. If you are working for someone who lacks the education to make a sound decision in the best interest of those you actually work FOR……Then it’s time to make a change. No job should suck the Soul out of you, we must stay awake and know when that is happening. We must be incredibly vigilant now with the impending changes to our healthcare system that are barreling down on us. People joke about “death panels” but that is in fact exactly what’s happening. Let’s do the right thing, especially for our elders; this is a spiritual, ethical, moral, emotional, and physical imperative. One day we will all be old, God willing. May God Bless You and thank you for reading this. Please share this story, lets band together and educate. #forourelders

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