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    • CommentAuthorJan K
    • CommentTimeFeb 4th 2017
     
    I wrote another post about winding up in the emergency room because of illness. I really had to think about telling what happened after that. But maybe it can spare someone else the hideous experience I had.

    I wound up in the emergency room, yes. But all they heard was how desperate I felt. The idea of trying to continue caregiving while feeling so bad was making me feel suicidal. And suicidal was all they heard. I don't think it occurred to anyone that I might be ill.

    I wound up being involuntarily committed to a psych unit for 72 hours. (What I really needed was IV fluids, antibiotics, and rest.) The emergency room doctor did note that I was dehydrated, and they ran tests, but it was three days before I got the news that I had a UTI, and had antibiotics started.

    This place was a true nightmare. The first evening I was there, my roommate told me she was glad I was there, because we could watch each other's backs. When I asked her what she meant, she told me that another night she had woken up with one of the male patients in her room, taking his pants off. When she asked him what the #**# he was doing in her room, he told her he was going to give her some pleasure. When she started screaming bloody murder, it was the other patients who came to see what was wrong. I don't know where the staff was.

    By this time I had already seen enough to know that what she told me was true. The next day I had to scream for help in the day room. I won't even go into that experience. I tried to hide in my room, but the staff liked to keep the rooms locked during the day, so we had nowhere to hide. At night we were required to keep our doors open, so we did watch each other's backs, and when we saw the male patients go into the rooms of the other women, we yelled at them until they left.

    There was no therapy. We were just warehoused--and controlled. And you had to be really nice to the staff, or they would find ways to get back at you.

    And of course all this time I had an unsupervised husband with dementia at home. Had I been genuinely suicidal, the stress of worrying about my DH and the fear and stress from this other place would have done me in. Much, much more happened, but I think you can imagine what it was like.

    We live outside a large metro area. The place they sent me was outside the far opposite side of this large city. I kept wondering how in the world I would be able to get home. Their solution was for my husband to come get me--even though practically every other word out of my mouth was that I had a husband at home with dementia.

    In the emergency room, they wouldn't even tell me where they were sending me until I nearly threw a fit. Neither the emergency room or the psych unit ever contacted my family to tell them where I was, how long I would be there, how I was doing, or when I would be discharged, even though I had dutifully listed next of kin and other family names and phone numbers. Family members tried to call me, but were unable to get through.

    One truly heartbreaking thing was that one of the other ladies there had been having real trouble dealing with the first anniversary of her husband's death, and she and her family had decided she should go somewhere where she could get help. Instead of help, she wound up in this snakepit, and then they wouldn't let her leave. She was still there when I left.

    Anyway, I'm home...finally. DH did much better than I expected. Some friends checked on him every day, and brought him some food. It's a good thing that he's still able to do some things for himself, because he could have died at home alone for all the "medical professionals" cared.

    I'm starting therapy this week to get over this experience. Seriously, I am. Up until this happened, I would have said I just needed therapy to deal with being a caregiver. But now I need therapy to help me get over this experience.
    • CommentAuthorJan K
    • CommentTimeFeb 4th 2017
     
    p.s. I hadn't wanted to write about this part of what happened, because I was so embarrassed and humiliated that it happened. And then I thought that I shouldn't be embarrassed and humiliated, because I did nothing wrong. I just fell through the cracks at every step, and this is what happened. So I'm trying to go from being embarrassed and humiliated to working up a good amount of anger over the situation, which is much more appropriate. And it's starting to feel like at any moment steam could start coming out of my ears, so I guess I'm moving in the right direction.
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      CommentAuthorCharlotte
    • CommentTimeFeb 4th 2017
     
    If you really want to get attention to this warehousing of people that need help, why not send a letter to the local newspaper or TV stations?

    I am so glad you are out of that horrible place and back home getting better. Sorry for those that are locked up in that place with no apparent help.
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      CommentAuthormary75*
    • CommentTimeFeb 4th 2017
     
    Jan K., I'm so sorry this happened. I'm afraid it's all too common. Charlotte's idea is a good one, I think. Here in Vancouver, we have two local TV programs where you can "go public." Their relentless investigative reporters take over and expose the horrendous situations to the public, which does a service that the ordinary person would be blocked from doing. You have truly been through a nightmare. I hope you can get some relief from the therapist. I'd like to see the hospital nailed for this. If you go public, maybe other victims will speak up.
    • CommentAuthorWolf
    • CommentTimeFeb 4th 2017
     
    If we decide to stand up and point out these things - we need to keep in mind that it is that very group that we are going to be looking to for more 'help' down the road.

    Additionally, you have to ask whether you really need to be in the center of another source of stress.

    I advise against biting the hand that I am going to look to for help in the future. I don't agree with it in principle but it's not principle I'm going to be calling when I'm in need again. It's the people I spoke out publicly against I'm going to need. Having been held for assessment I've already got a record of perceived issues. When I weigh all the factors I would let it go.
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      CommentAuthormary75*
    • CommentTimeFeb 4th 2017
     
    Good points, Wolf.
    • CommentAuthorcassie*
    • CommentTimeFeb 4th 2017 edited
     
    I am so very sorry Jan K, that you had to endure such abuse and humiliation. I don't think that I could ignore it nor do I think that you should. But it all comes back to just how much more stress that you can cope with? Could you at least speak to your doctor about it and inform him of your inhumane treatment? I am glad that you told us here, I am feeling your pain with you and I send my very best wishes for peace and strength as the only comfort that I can offer. Take care Jan.
  1.  
    This is a tough one. The place needs to be reported, but you are not in a position right now to deal with more stress and things to do. Plus, you do not want to put you or your husband in the position of being vulnerable to retaliation if he needs services from these people in the future. (Medication adjustment or whatever.) Since you're starting therapy this week to help deal with the experience, I would of course discuss it with the therapist, and see what that person recommends. Maybe she can report what happened to you, while of course keeping you anonymous.
  2.  
    I strongly disagree that you should be held hostage in getting this travesty reported out of fear of possible retribution. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but my generation still believes in "the system", and the only way the system can continue to work is for people to believe in it and work hard to keep it working right. I expect your therapist will be duty bound to report your unbelievably bad psych unit experience, and I wouldn't be worried about retribution even if your name is used. I would, however, make sure that your experience is somehow included in your husband's case file so it will be read if and when he ever needs psych unit assistance.
    • CommentAuthorCarolVT
    • CommentTimeFeb 5th 2017
     
    Jan, thank you for telling this side of the story. Both sides, your first post about checking one's own health, and this one are what we need to hear about and be aware could happen. I'm sorry this happened to you.
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      CommentAuthormary75*
    • CommentTimeFeb 5th 2017 edited
     
    Depending on the hospital, there may be a patient advocate, or spokesperson, available that Jan K. could successfully contact.
    At St. Paul's in Vancouver, B.C., there is one, and she is excellent. I don't know about the Vancouver General. It is a city hospital, whereas St. Paul's was founded by a religious order, and I think that makes a big difference.
    I've always found there is someone in any organization who is really good. The trick is, of course, to find that person.
    Having said all that, the main thing is for you, dear Jan, is to recover from this incident. Holding you in my thoughts and prayers.
  3.  
    The "system" is broken, Gourdchipper. There isn't much "we the people" can do to keep it working right--because it isn't. We have to stay informed, pay close attention, hope that we have someone to advocate for us if we become impaired...and it doesn't hurt to have a dollar or two in your pocket.

    Now, about Jan K:

    I would normally not worry about retribution, but Jan K stated that staff on the unit were getting back at patients...very scary stuff, when Jan or her husband may need the services of these folks in the future...and are clearly part of a vulnerable population. So Jan needs to tread thoughtfully. I forgot about ombudsmen and patient advocates...yes, that might be the better way to go. But I think Jan should also discuss the experience with the therapist.
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      CommentAuthormary75*
    • CommentTimeFeb 5th 2017 edited
     
    And Cassie*s' idea of Jan telling her doctor is a good one. If the doctor is worth the salt in his porridge, he will at least take and make notes. I know that everyone is overworked, but this is serious business and should be at least documented for Jan, as long as it's in a safe place with a responsible person.
    • CommentAuthorpaulc
    • CommentTimeFeb 6th 2017
     
    My wife had to spend a night at they psych unit at the local hospital. Fortunately the 2nd nurse to see her immediately recognized the problem as Ambien toxicity (she said to be sure to put the bottle of Ambien in the bathroom and not next to the bed to prevent from taking too much). But it was a bad night for my wife. Her roommate wouldn't let her sleep (and my wife was extremely sleep deprived). The psychiatrist told her that she didn't have a real problem and to suck it up. Everyone was put together in group activities. My wife needed more than anything was the medication to counteract the Ambien and to wait. Meanwhile people will all sorts of different problems are grouped together. She refused to go to the psych room ever again.
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      CommentAuthorCharlotte
    • CommentTimeFeb 6th 2017
     
    I was laying in bed thinking about this horror story. What has not been talked about much is her husband at home alone. The fact despite her telling them over and over they made no effort to contact the people she asked them to. This might be a subject less threatening for any future needs - educating the ER and the horrible facility about the need to contact someone. This is where her doctor may be able to help and/or the hospital ombudsmen and patient advocates for educating the ER staff.
    • CommentAuthormyrtle*
    • CommentTimeFeb 6th 2017
     
    Jan, I am so sorry this happened. It must have been devastating. You are not the only person on this site who has spent time in a psych unit. I recall at least two others posting about their experiences, although I don't know if they were involuntary commitments.

    I have a more cynical view of this stuff. First, the therapy seems like a good idea. As far as objecting to this treatment in another venue, you did not indicate you wanted to do that. However, IMO, if you want to formally object, you should file a complaint with the agency in your state that licenses and regulates hospitals. That way, the information ought to remain confidential within a small circle. Although a complaint filed with the hospital is supposed to remain confidential, the hospital is closer to home, so if you file a complaint with them, it is less likely to remain private. Also, the people considering such a complaint will likely have a conflict of interest. I view going to the press as a last-ditch effort because the newspapers and TV stations have no actual authority and because mental illness, and hospitalization on that account, still bears a stigma in our society. You don't need that. Charlotte, as far as educating the ER staff about dementia, that assumes the problem arose because of their ignorance. I don't think it did. ER staff know that there is a problem leaving a dementia patent alone at home; they simply care more about their institutional and bureaucratic obligations than they do about issues that are not vital to their direct care of the ER patient. I don't think the people in charge of the psych unit need education, either. What kind of ignoramus has to be instructed that you don't hospital patients vulnerable to sexual assault by unsupervised mental patients? These people just don't care.

    A friend of mine was in a NH for rehab, which turned into an extended stay and she said she would rather be dead than stay there any longer so she was shipped to a hospital. (She could not go into a psych unit because she needed skilled nursing care.) She was stuck there with a "minder," who watched her every moved and whose boyfriend visited for most of the day shift. After seeing this, my other friends and realized that it's better never to even hint that you are thinking about death or suicide.
  4.  
    From what I hear from my health care friends, their hands are tied by corporate. The psych units are understaffed and undertrained. The patients often have multiple and serious psych issues - these places are not the sanitariums of old movie days. Primary care physicians and ERs are required to commit anyone who has suicidal ideation even though they know that they will be sending a patient into bedlam. What are they to do? Staffing is the problem everywhere. So much money is wasted (IMO) on advertising (a hospital underwrites a baseball field or community concerts!?),serves gourmet meals,is decorated with gleaming marble and glass and artwork, to say nothing of all of the insurance and billing middle men, and yet. . . there isn't enough money to hire adequate staff to care for the patients. The system is so broken that no one doctor, therapist, or social worker can make any sort of headway.

    I lived in fear that the ALF would send my husband to the geriatric psych unit for "medication adjustment." I knew from an employee that they did not have the staff to care for and watch dementia patients and that the general chaos of the unit would be far more detrimental than helpful. The dementia patients are one "incident" or write-up away from being admitted to a place like this. The psychiatrists that oversee these units are often somewhat itinerant, moving every couple of months or year when the work load becomes unbearable or their incompetence is uncovered.

    It is important to understand that hospitals are now big corporations and doctors and nurses are only employees who can be fired if they complain too much or go against the giant. They are essentially powerless to change anything. Even the physician committees that used to oversee departments are now made up of employee physicians and not independent, objective physicians. No employee physician committee is going to criticize fellow employees or the corporation who employs them all.

    This all makes me so sad. We used to have a flawed, but working system where the patient was important. Patients now are nothing more than satisfaction surveys that dictate the physician salaries.

    I'm afraid myrtle is correct when she says to never hint about death or suicide.
    • CommentAuthorpaulc
    • CommentTimeFeb 8th 2017
     
    Yes, never hint about suicide. When my mother was in the hospital in the 70s for cancer, she joked about jumping out the window. By the end of the day she was moved to another room that had bars on the window (fortunately nothing else was done). But hey, she still have a view of Central Park and could say she had the same hospital room as Lenny Bruce.