Monday, September 14, 2009

Silence forbidden--TV abuse permitted in nursing homes

We have some neighbors we like very much. J. and his wife B. are in their eighties. A few years ago, Eldest Daughter did a wonderful series of recorded interviews with J. about his service in WWII. Truly the great generation.

Up until now, except for one short temporary stay on the part of J., J. and B. have remained independent in their own home with the help of their children and grandchildren who live locally. But now B. has developed such problems walking and getting up and down that she is--Lord willing, temporarily--having to stay in a nursing home, at least until she can get enough strength through physical therapy to get around at home once more. Her husband just doesn't have the physical strength to help her in and out of bed, to the bathroom, in and out of a wheelchair, etc.

Turns out she is being driven crazy by a roommate who leaves the TV on from 8 a.m. until past 11 p.m. Roommate won't communicate, or can't, and the nurses refuse to turn the TV off until later than 11. Apparently there is no rule about this, though the management has admitted there probably should be.

To me, this is nearly the equivalent of torture, at least for a totally innocent person like B. (Note: I'm not saying it would be wrong to play a TV from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. if it would get KSM to talk about terror plots.) But seriously, I'm horrified. I need quiet in my own life, and I could stand a lot, perhaps even the exile of a nursing home, if I were at least allowed to concentrate on a book or on prayer and reflection. But that all day, every day, no silence, no peace, and no one willing and able to's awful to think of.

And I've heard that it could be worse. A church friend says her mother-in-law's roommate at a nursing home leaves the TV on all night. So no respite at all. That home has a rule, but it's not enforced. The nurses refuse to do anything.

I know there are much worse and more important things to be thinking about concerning the care of the elderly and nursing homes, but this really bugs me. Isn't there anyone sensible and humane in charge who would at least pair residents up according to their TV preferences? Perhaps designate a few rooms for people who prefer quiet? Surely with even a small amount of creativity and good will, people like B. and the mother-in-law could be spared this. If nothing else, getting good sleep at night is important for health, strength, and recovery from illness.

Meanwhile, I wish there were something more practical I could do than putting up a horrified blog post. Maybe there is. I've heard about this product called TV-B-Gone. I wonder if B. would use it if I managed to smuggle one in...


wl said...

I wouldn't leave my mother in a situation like that. And I'd probably sue the nursing home. You said her children live locally. Where the he..heck are they?

Lydia McGrew said...

I know there was a meeting with the nursing home management and that her husband complained about the TV thing. They just said that they don't have a rule but probably should. Ridiculous. I remember a time when there were no TVs in nursing home rooms. If you wanted to watch TV, you had to go to the TV room. I guess this is supposed to be some kind of improvement, so everybody can watch TV without leaving the room. So now it's impossible to get away from.

I doubt that the children would even consider having her with them for a reason like this. Not because they aren't helpful and caring people--they actually do a lot--but because nobody takes something like this really seriously. I think it's considered a relatively minor problem. Also, she is getting physical therapy there, so I gather that's considered to be an advantage to having her right on the spot. One daughter is a nurse, and I'm sure that's a big consideration with her.