Elder abuse and death by dehydration: A personal story.
Part 1 of this series was about an elder abuse case in Peterborough, whereby a son was able to uncover the abuse of his mother by secretly placing a camera in his mother's room and recording the abuse. Today, I received by email, a personal account from a woman who has decided to tell the personal story of the abuse and death, by dehydration, of her mother.
People need to read this story to understand that euthanasia is not an issue of choice, but rather an issue of control over life and death. If euthanasia were legal, this woman would have been lethally injected rather than killed by dehydration over 15 days.
A True Account of Client Bullying Contributing to the Death of a Patient
She was 84 years old, perhaps a lot like your own mother or grandmother. She was brought to the hospital by her abuser/bully. This woman was my mother, and the bully was her daughter—my older sister. She was also mom’s medical decision-maker, by proxy of a man who had left her 25 years earlier; they never dissolved their marriage legally, which gave him complete authority. He gave his authority to the bully. Because of opportunity and distance of my siblings and myself, the bully was also the only one who managed to obtain a sign HIPAA form prior to my mom’s crises.
After refusing to take my mom home after one Thanksgiving, the bully kept her prisoner at her home for the week, where she mistreated her—such as taking away her wedding ring and making her wear adult diapers she did not need. After pressure created by my report to Adult Protective Services, the bully dumped mom at a hospital she hadn’t been to before, telling emergency room staff that her ‘dementia’ had gotten worse. In reality, mom had just come from a week of abuse.
Mom had brain damage from multiple strokes, and she was not able to speak or comprehend verbal information with any more than about 5% accuracy. However, I discovered that I could reach a perfect meeting of the minds with mom through laminated picture cards I created for her.
When she was dumped at the emergency room, my mom was given sedatives that kept her asleep for days at a time. A brain scan was ordered, and compared to the previous scan she had, which proved there was no additional brain damage: her ‘dementia’ had not gotten worse.
The bully refused to allow mom to go home, where she had been living independently. Mom always felt strongly about staying in her home, and did not want even to live with any of her children. Before long, the bully had mom admitted to yet another hospital—one that was not affiliated with the previous facility. The hospital staff was dependent on the bully to provide pertinent medical details about mom’s medical history.
Having received the wrong patient background information, the doctor at the hospital prescribed mom drugs that she did not need—sedatives that kept her sleeping for long periods of time because of her age and the inability of her body to excrete the drugs as quickly as a younger person would. The result was that mom had no opportunity to eat or drink while being sedated. The bully refused to provide a feeding tube.
The bully/abuser would then be at the hospital every day, and agitate mom by gaslighting techniques.
“Another common disruptive behavior is gaslighting. This is a term taken from an old 1940s’ movie, ‘Gaslight,’ which told the story of a wealthy heiress who was being driven mad by her ostensibly kind and loving husband.
Unbeknownst to the heiress, the husband would climb to the attic and fiddle with the fuel supply to the gaslights that lit the home. As the lights flickered, the heiress expressed concern, but her husband denied seeing the fluctuation. By denying obvious reality, he so confused his wife that she began to doubt her sanity….you find yourself doubting what you know to be true” (Oakley, 2009).
The bully was unknowingly seen by my other sister, who witnessed her twirling her finger up to mom’s face, pull back, than up to her face again. The bully’s young son was taught to do the same, as he was also seen participating at the same time.
Once the patient is agitated, the bully was then able to rush to the nurse’s station in a very upset manner and not calm down until the nurse administers the as-need sedative.
My mom was admitted to Hospice care without the staff meeting with five of her children who knew the truth about her real medical condition. Only those the bully could influence were invited to determine admission. Once mom was admitted to Hospice, she withdrew consent for mom’s intravenous line, which was keeping her hydrated. The bully pressured nurses to administer the as-needed morphine constantly.
My mom held on to life for 15 days when the court took away the estranged husband’s rights. We all agreed to a third party guardian. The bully was heard to comment to the estranged husband she would agree if the medical records weren’t changed: The same medical records that contained all the work of her lies, and the results of her abuse to my mom. The guardian gave my mom back her intravenous line, but mom died two days later—abused and bullied.
Multiple times family members tried to tell the staff what was happening. But they would do nothing more than listen, and continue to follow the bully’s instructions. The nurses were not allowed to give out information to mom’s five other children because the bully wouldn’t allow it. We had no idea what lies the staff was being told. I can only guess that it was something along the lines of:
“They are really upset because she is dying and they can’t accept that. It’s best if we don’t give them any details that would upset them further. Let me tell them what I think is best. They just can’t face reality, etc.”
When a patient is not able to communicate whether or not they are in pain, there is a procedure to determine whether pain medication should be given. These include things such as facial expressions and other body language. Mom displayed none of these behaviors, and tried to refuse medication whenever she was aware enough to know what they were doing. Yet the nurses administered the medication anyway.
Why? Because the bully found a way to compel them to act. While a few nurses did what they could to follow correct procedure—delaying the medication, or just not giving it—the majority of nurses did not.