Grandma dies on her 81st birthday, with sores large enough to see the tendons through. She had been sitting in her own filth and allowed to sit in a recliner all the time. Charges are forthcoming against the family members she lived with.
You know, I used to be a really judgmental person on stuff like this. How could you NOT NOTICE sores in which you can see the muscles and stuff beneath? Wouldn't it stink? Wouldn't you notice that Grandma's toenails are all curled up into her skin and that she's uncomfortable?
Well, I'll say this. I'm not sure if charges are warranted or not. I'm not the cops or the hospital room attendant. I'm pretty sure the jails are crowded enough that they don't just go looking to toss people into the slammer at taxpayer expense. But I'm also pretty sure that mistakes can be made, too.
The story tells us that among other outrages, Mary Araujo had "1-inch facial hair around her mouth." Now think about this. Is this even something to get worked up about? I'm looking at it from the older person's perspective. Everything takes up all your energy. You want to stay home and not be bothered with extra stuff like eyebrow plucking and facial waxing. That doesn't mean you want your name plastered on the internet after you're dead with a description like, "one-inch long facial hair" (the CORRECT way to write that, AOL News. You never type numbers under ten. But 11 and up you write like this. Though I just looked in the *new* AP Stylebook and saw that they have deemed that to be correct. The losers. Good grammar compromised to save space. But back to the story.)
You're incontinent every five minutes. Are you really "sitting in your own filth" because it's someone else's fault, or are you just leaky all the time? I'm picking the latter. It would have to be really, really awful for me to think about pressing charges if I were a prosecutor. Even with a diligent family, you're NOT going to be able to prevent someone from "sitting in her own filth" from time to time. The situation just causes filth too frequently.
And the sores? Where were they located? The story doesn't tell us. If I were old, and pooping and peeing and not able to bathe thoroughly, and my clothes even when they were washed still had that urine-y smell, do you think my caregivers would smell "bedsore" over the ickiness? Probably not. And I can't imagine it would be "appropriate" for a daughter to ask her mom to show her butt off every day so that she can check for sores.
And do you know what my reaction to you is going to be if you suggest that I should let you shave my facial hair? Guess.
Even in a good nursing home, if you push the call button, sometimes they take 45 minutes to respond. I do know a person who died in a nursing home with sores and problems as described in this story. Sometimes people refuse care. Sometimes folks do all they can, and it isn't enough.
Does that mean I think these caregivers are totally innocent? No. I think the position of caregiving is one in which you will NEVER be innocent. No matter what you do, it is never enough. Someone will always, always be able to ask, "Why didn't you do this?" Or that... or consult this specialist... and why aren't her toenails done nicely? (Have you ever seen how difficult it can be to care for an older person's foot? Especially if complications like diabetes come up.)
I'll leave the judgment of this situation to the judge or jury of this case, but I wanted to put out there that while there IS elder abuse out there, not all of it is intentional. Not all of it is vicious. Sometimes the patient's rights should be respected, even if the patient doesn't quite have all her marbles. And I'm quite certain that there are many people in situations like this asking for help and not receiving any.