Why do personal items go missing in nursing homes?
I am addressing this letter to all the caretakers and families in Canada who have family members residing in nursing homes. I want to know if the situations that we are encountering are widespread and if there is anything that we can do to change policies and procedures to help alleviate the problem.
My mother is 88 years old and has been in an Ottawa nursing home for the past 8 years. She has Parkinson’s, is in a wheelchair and cannot move. She is able to communicate and is aware of her surroundings (Parkinson’s only affects her movement, so she knows what is going on around her).
Since she has been in a nursing home her glasses have been lost 4 times and her dentures have been lost 3 times. Each time these items go missing we (the family) have to arrange for them to be replaced. This is not an easy task. It is very expensive as she does not have any insurance. Also, the hours we spend trying to deal with this situation could be precious time spent with our loved one instead.
In March of this year, when her teeth had been lost for the second time, we had to make arrangements for my poor Mom to get to 4 denturist appointments for fittings. This is not an easy thing as she is in a large wheelchair and she is not in the best of health. While waiting for her new teeth, my Mom was unable to chew and therefore had to be fed pureed food which is not appealing at the best of times, so she lost interest in food and consequently lost weight. She was also not able to communicate well without her teeth. Her health was compromised and her quality of life decreased enormously. Once she received her new teeth she began eating better and therefore her health improved.
Now we have just learned that her bottom teeth (less than 6 months old) have gone missing, again! The glasses that we purchased for her in December 2012 have also been lost and need to be replaced, again! Not one of the personal care staff are willing to take any responsibility for these losses, they all blame someone else. Needless to say we are outraged and are trying to figure out what is wrong with nursing home procedures regarding the loss of personal items.
When her teeth were lost again this past spring we contacted the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. They basically told us that it is up to each individual nursing home to set up policies and procedures regarding this issue. I spoke to an inspector who assured me that my Mom’s nursing home had policies in place to make sure that items would not be lost. We also spoke to the Director of Care for her nursing home who said she was aware of the situation and would make sure that these policies were followed. We even put up large colored signs in my Mom’s room indicating the special box where her glasses and teeth are to be kept to assist the personal support workers. Obviously this is not working and we need to find a better solution.
We want to know if there are other families out there who are experiencing the same problems. Eye glasses, false teeth and hearing aids are the most common personal care items that disappear. In our visits to the nursing home we often see residents without teeth or glasses, we presume the family members have simply given up since they are difficult and very expensive to replace. The loss of these items affects the quality of life for our family members in nursing homes and we feel that something needs to happen so that this situation can change.
If this problem has affected the care of your loved one in a nursing home we would like to hear from you. Do you see any solution or change that may help us in our effort to keep nursing home residents comfortable in their last years? With the population of Canada rapidly ageing, this could be happening to you or your loved one sooner than you think! Share your experiences and maybe together we can all come up with some solution to this ongoing problem.
Debbie Conway lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.