Verbal Elder Abuse

Here’s a great piece I found in Tuesday’s New York Times about how damaging it can be to the elderly to be spoken down to by health care professionals. Now, I think health workers have a rough, tough job. But this is a pet peeve of mine from my own dad’s hospitalization.

My Parents on My Wedding Day

My Parents on My Wedding Day

It’s bad enough that the hospital workers, nurses, doctors, etc., yell at him when they speak. My dad has some problems, but his hearing is perfect, and I see my father recoiling. The demeaning language has consequences, and I’m glad to see it written about with some credibility.

I have my own anecdotes regarding poor behavior. A few years ago, my dad was in the hospital because he had gotten dizzy and a friend took him to the ER. Mistake number one. It is better to stay out of the hospital.

The staff at this particular hospital were not even on duty when I found my dad strapped to the hospital bed after a night or two of being there, his eyes wide-open and fearful. I said, “What the hell is going on?” The nurse said, “We had to strap your dad down. He is a bad boy.” I complained to the head nurse, who said, “Well, we had to – he was a bad boy.” The nurses used the term “bad boy” so many times I wanted to bitch-slap them.

Long story short, he wanted to leave, would get up, and they’d yell “bad boy” at him, which made him only more determined to leave. I complained to the doctor. I said they had given him medicine that was harming him, as was the treatment. The doctor didn’t think so. They gave medicine to him to “control” him. “He’s only calm if your family members are here.” So I said, “Then we aren’t leaving him.” My sister and I were present, took off the straps and called my mom and our other sister. I said that we had to stand watch and guard him while whatever they gave him passed.

And so we did (my dear mom taking the overnight shift). Within 24 hours, he was 100 percent back to his normal self. He didn’t need to be drugged or to be there at all – no one wants to be treated like a misbehaving child. This is especially true when that person is an older adult, frightened about where they are.

After that experience, we learned that if he goes into the hospital one of us has to go with him. Maybe we do not have to be there 24/7, but checking in as frequently as possible.

I’m going to be checking my own “sweetie” remarks today.