Many of us know first-hand the awful circumstances at some nursing homes

By now, I am sure most of us know of the 14 residents of The Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills who died after the air-conditioning system lost power during Hurricane Irma. Anyone who has ever had to place a loved one in a nursing home, even for a short period, can attest to the problems with some of the help and the care given to the patients in some nursing homes.

Bea Hines.JPG

Bea L. Hines

Many of you know my story, of how I became the caregiver for my mom after she suffered a massive stroke that left her bedridden for nearly seven years. Although I cared for my mom at home, there were times when I had to have her admitted to the hospital when there was an emergency. The hospital would always release Mom to a nursing facility for rehabilitation, I was told. Being a new caregiver, I didn’t understand why Mom was released to a nursing home for two or three months, when I was caring for her at home.

Long story short: On several occasions before she died, I had to question the care Mom received, even for so short a time, at one nursing home she was placed in. The room that she shared with another patient was dirty. The privacy curtain around her bed hadn’t been washed in what seemed like a year. The walls had stains that looked like human waste. I was uncomfortable with the scene and asked that the privacy curtain be taken from around her bed.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what I saw at the nursing home. So, early one Sunday morning, after a restless night, I got up, put together some cleaning items in a bucket, along with a mop and rubber gloves, and went to the nursing home. By the time I arrived, it was almost 7 a.m. I went top work, scrubbing walls, mopping the floor and cleaning the toilet. When one of the workers saw what I was doing, she ran for the supervisor, who very indignantly asked what I was doing.

I told her I couldn’t stand the thought of my mother being in such a filthy room and I didn’t understand why nobody seemed to care about the patients. I told her who I was and that she should be happy that I hadn’t brought a photographer along with me to document the filth.

The supervisor started to cry and told me they were so short of help and her hands were tied. My response was, “Miss, that is not my problem. I have a sick mother here and she is exposed to all kind of germs. There is no excuse to treat your helpless patients like this.”

I waited until the aide cleaned up my mom and she was served breakfast. Then I left and went home to get ready for church. I checked her out of that nursing home a few days later.

Another time, I was visiting my mother at another nursing home when her roommate had to go to the toilet. I went for an aide, who came and sat the woman on the toilet — where she stayed until she was crying out in pain. When I went to find the aide who had sat her there, she informed me that she was on her lunch break and the woman would have to wait.

I couldn’t believe her response and went back to the room and helped the woman off the toilet and back into bed.

On a different occasion at still another nursing home, my mom — who couldn’t use the right side of her body — nearly died of dehydration. The aides would bring water and ice to her room, but would place it on the right side of the bed where she couldn’t reach it. I just assumed that the aides would give her water to drink throughout the day. I learned that my assumption nearly cost me my mom.

I visited Mom every day, but on one particular morning I noticed she wasn’t feeling well and could hardly speak to me. When I went to the nurse’s station to ask what was wrong with her, I was told that my mom was OK, that she was only depressed. I knew that was not so, and asked where the doctor was. The nurse told me he was checking patients in another section of the home. I tracked him down and told him how my mom was acting. He followed me back to her room and told the nurse to call the ambulance right away. My mom was suffering from extreme dehydration.

Mom got better, but I had to visit her sometimes twice a day, making sure she was cared for properly. Even so, Mom ended up contracting a fatal infection, which wasn’t detected until too late.

I learned too late, that if you can’t be with your loved ones 24/7 at some nursing facilities, they are often at terrible risk.

There was much I had to learn about caregiving — like how expensive it was. Mom didn’t have insurance and the family she worked for nearly 40 years never paid into her Social Security (which was a shock to me). The tiny check she received was the bare minimum. So, I had to go out of pocket to pay for someone to care for her in the home, while I was at work.

It is so sad, the way the helpless and vulnerable are treated in some nursing homes. I don’t think Mom would have lived as long as she did if she hadn’t had loved ones to care for her at home.

I tell you this story not with anger, but with the hope that perhaps some good can come from the recent deaths at The Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills.

Thanks to U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Miami Gardens), there will be a Congressional Field Hearing on nursing home emergency preparedness and response to disasters 1 p.m. Thursday at Miami Dade College North Campus.

According to a letter from Wilson, the congressional panel will include Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia), the ranking democrat on the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management; Lois Frankel (D-West Palm Beach); Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) and other lawmakers.

My mom was never placed in The Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills, so I can’t speak of the service given the patients there. But it seems to me that if it is too hot for healthy people to thrive in a non-air-conditioned facility, what about the sick and vulnerable? And why wait for people to die before getting help, that I understand, was only a walking distance away?

This hearing comes years too late to help my mother and many others like her. But I am happy that Wilson has taken on this initiative, and I can only hope that some good will come from the hearing.

Hurricane relief in Homestead, the Keys

On a happy note: Kudos to the Mormon Helping Hands, a group of 742 Mormons who served in Homestead and the Florida Keys following Hurricane Irma.

Under the leadership of Miami Lakes Stake President Jim Robinson, the group, made up of members from Miami Gardens, Hialeah, Palm Springs, Miramar, Miami Shores and North Miami Beach, volunteered for three consecutive weekends — some 5,800 total hours — removing and clearing tangled branches, fallen trees, broken furniture, and debris. Some of the members even slept in tents on the weekends in the Keys so they could work both Saturday and Sunday.

At one site in Homestead, the Mormon Helping Hands worked with members of the Coral Gables Calvary Church to aid the hurricane victims.

After their mission was completed, the volunteers gathered and sang a favorite praise song, “I Am a Child of God,” to the people they served. According to Robinson, there were tears of joy in the eyes of those who served and those who received.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another,” Robinson said, quoting the scripture John 13:35 from the Holy Bible’s New Testament.

Dinner and worship service

South Miami Lutheran Church at 7190 SW 72nd St. invites the community to a special dinner and reformation worship service on Oct. 25. The event will begin at 6:15 p.m. with dinner, followed by the worship service at 7 p.m.

The dinner and worship service commemorates the date of Oct. 31, 1517, 500 years ago, when Martin Luther posted 95 theses or propositions on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church as an invitation to debate the sale of indulgences for forgiveness. The event sparked a reform movement that eventually led to a Lutheran church and separate denominations.

Pastor Jonathan Palaci, Pastor Jose Prado and members of the Christ Family Church will join the commemoration.

For more information, call Elaine Mills at South Miami Lutheran at 305-235-3036.

Music of the Reformation

The 500th anniversary Commemoration of the Reformation will continue with Music of the Reformation, a joint concert by choral ensembles of Florida International University, Miami Dade College, Miami Collegium Musicum, and the Miami Bach Society, which will perform Bach Cantata 80 “Ein feste Burg” and other musical monuments of the Reformation, Oct. 28 at Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center Concert Hall at Florida International University, 10910 SW 17th St.

Also, at 4 p.m. Oct. 29, a joint commemoration and prayer service will be held at the Cathedral of St. Mary, 7525 NW Second Ave. The interfaith service will feature the Cathedral Choir and Miami Collegium Musicum.

Black and White Dance

The Episcopal Church women of the Parish Chapter and the Episcopal Church Men of the Historic Saint Agnes Episcopal Church in Overtown, will present the annual Black and White Dance 7:30 p.m. Friday in the church’s social hall located in the rear of the church at 1750 NW Third Ave. The theme: “Celebrating a Good Ole Time in Overtown.”

The event will feature singer Fredra Rhodes, a “Bare Essence” fashion and entertainment show and the Junkanoo Band.

Tickets are $20 per person and the attire is dressy casual. Refreshment will be for sale, but you must bring your own food and drinks. Contact Janet Brown at 305-450-4403 for tickets and for more information.