Earlier tonight one of my readers shared about a very disturbing thing her mother, a nursing home resident, experienced this weekend. While waiting for one hour for a CNA or nurse to assist her with using a bed pan, the resident eventually soiled herself. To add insult to injury, the CNA who finally responded to the resident’s plea for help made a judgmental comment to the resident — which of course is beyond inappropriate!

The situation with this reader reminded of my own late mother’s many experiences of waiting 15, 30, 60 minutes…even over TWO HOURS for nursing home staff to respond to her call light. She wasn’t able to toilet herself and I wasn’t allowed to assist her. All she could do was remain in her bed, miserable with the urgent need to use the restroom. On many occasions she ended up soiling herself before nursing staff arrived. In many cases I was told by nursing home staff that it was not only OK for my mother to soil herself, but probably this was even a good thing!

“Good” for who? Not my mother. Not for the mother of the reader. Indeed the longer a person sits in their feces and/or urine, the greater the likelihood they will develop BED SORES. Along with being horribly painful, bed sores can even ultimately be deadly!

During the time my mother was a nursing home resident she was taking Lasix, a powerful diuretic medication. And, well duh…Diuretics make a person HAVE TO PEE!  Lasix can make a person HAVE TO PEE every hour for up to six hours after administered to the patient (FYI: “Lasix” is shorthand for “lasts six”, meaning it can make a person HAVE TO PEE for up to six hours after they take it). Yet my mother and myself were repeated verbally berated by nurses and CNAs over the years with comments like, “Well I just took her to the restroom two hours ago!” (What part of “EVERY hour for up to six hours” don’t they understand?)

As if not providing adequate staffing so a nursing home resident can be toileted regularly after being given Lasix isn’t bad enough, all of the nursing homes where my mother resided eventually noted in her chart that she was “incontinent”, inferring she was incapable of controlling her bowel and/or bladder function. Hmmm…Who wouldn’t be INcapable of controlling their bathroom functions if 1) they were given a medication that caused them to need to urinate and/or defecate hourly for several consecutive hours and 2) despite being unable to take themselves to and from the bathroom (for whatever reason) they weren’t given the nursing assistance — in a timely manner — needed to get to (and from) a toilet?!?

Sadly, what often happens to nursing home residents after they’ve been charted as being “incontinent” is this designation makes it more difficult for the resident to be accepted by a different nursing home — if and when the resident needs to move. Not being toileted regularly (let alone as needed) is a very good reason to want move to a different nursing home!

Incontinence is a reality for many persons, nursing home residents and otherwise. But when, as is often the case, incontinence can be PREVENTED by providing adequate staffing to assist residents who need help with toileting…that certainly could be a matter of criminal neglect.