Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Families Against Nursing Home Abuse - Keeping Secrets

Usually when we have a secret, we try to keep it a secret from the world. We go through all sorts of antics, and jump through many hoops in order to keep that secret safe. But what happens when the whole world knows your secret and you only want to hide it from one person? Now THAT'S a horse of another color!

Keeping a secret about someone you love, from someone you love, is a very difficult thing to do. You may talk freely around everyone except that one person. Doesn't seem like a hard thing to do, but it is. Mainly, because one becomes comfortable talking openly. There's a higher risk of slipping. A greater chance that you might say one thing to many.

For about 14 months, we have been keeping the "secret" from Dad. We never told him about the abuse that Mom suffered.

We didn't tell him in May because we wanted to make sure that we had all the facts right, and all the information that we could possible give him. We had good intentions to tell him later. But the last week in May, Dad suffered a massive stroke. He woke up on a Wednesday morning as an 84 year old man who was living in an assisted living facility, taking care of himself, visiting his wife everyday, driving to the store, making phone calls from his cell phone, and keeping very busy on the computer writing emails, printing off received photos of his grandchildren and searching the web. He was an independent person. By 4:oo that afternoon, he was a man who could no longer move without help. He couldn't make the thoughts in his head come out of his mouth in understandable sequence; he couldn't sit up, stand up, or roll over. He could no longer see out of his right eye, and he could no longer use his right arm and leg. He couldn't adjust his own body in bed to be more comfortable and he could no longer get up and go to the bathroom when the need arose. Dad could no longer feed himself, or even get a drink. He was now a totally dependent person.

The next week, Dad entered the same nursing home as Mom. They would spend the next 7 months living in the same building, but in separate rooms.

When we found out the extent of the abuse Mom suffered, in August, the family had to come together, and make decisions. One of those decisions was whether or not to tell Dad. We talked and hashed it over for 2 days before making the final decision. On the "pro" side; Dad has a right to know. They have been married for 62 years. How could we in good conscience not tell him? On the "con" side; The thing is, Dad hasn't been able to accept mom's Alzheimer's. How on earth would he be able to accept that someone had deliberately hurt her? How do you tell someone such a thing? What good purpose would it do? He would be devastated. He would be helpless and devastated. So we decided; we decided that we would not tell him.

It's not been easy to keep that secret. Let's face it, the whole world knows the secret. We ask the nursing home workers to not say anything to him about it. We asked the friends and relatives to not bring it up. For a while, we had to censor his mail to make sure those who didn't know or forgot about keeping the secret, didn't publish it in their letters to him.

But, here's the thing; right or wrong, we did what we thought was best for Dad. He worried about Mom constantly. He didn't understand why, when he got to close to her, she would pinch him. He knew she was ill, and that she was changing before his very eyes, and he grieved for that. He hated it, and it made him angry. Yet, he was so brave. I can't imagine what it must have been like for him to see the love of his life deteriorate before his very eyes and not be able to say much more then "yes" "no" and "ok", and if he worked hard, an occasional sentence.

On Mom's last day in this world, we brought Dad to Mom's room. Dad refused to leave her side from that moment on. He kept vigil over her for the last 14 hours of her life. He did not want to eat and he would not sleep. He was able to tell us what he needed to do, and we arranged that he could give her one last gift. He didn't say a word for most of the day; he didn't shed a tear (as with all good sturdy Austrian men) and he watched as the woman he loved most dearly in this world slipped away. As he left her bedside 45 minutes after she left us, with excruciating pain in his eyes, his voice broke as he managed to say, "I can't believe she's gone." Dad grieves daily for Mom. He loved her so much, and now he misses her beyond our comprehension. I can't imagine how it must feel to lose your life's partner of 63 years. The pain and the emptiness must seem unbearable at times.

But still, we must continue to keep the secret. It would still not serve any good purpose to devastate a man who loved his wife so dearly.

Keeping Secrets. Not an easy thing to do when the whole world knows the secret. It's yet another piece of fallout that continues to impact our family.


  1. On Mom's last day in this world, we brought Dad to Mom's room.

  2. Nice post. really it's a heart touching story.

  3. It is vital that our loved ones are being cared for adequately. I would suggest taking a look at this care home, who offer the correct and best type of care.