wings and things

A strange incident at the nursing home

on November 16, 2013

The week before last there was a Melbourne cup luncheon at the nursing home (the Melbourne cup is Australia’s annual horse race – ‘the race that stops the nation’). I have mixed feelings about this race but that is beside the point of this post.

Anyway, when Anthony still lived at home, he organized sweeps with family, friends and farm workers and he loved doing this and was very good at it. Horses were picked, money was collected and lists were made; it was great fun. Obviously he can’t do this now so I did a small sweep with just Ming, Ants and me, but it felt kind of false and feeble compared to the efforts Anthony made over the years. Oh well.

On the phone that morning, he said he had reserved me a seat at the nursing home luncheon so I hurried in to be there in time for the televised race at noon. On entering the very crowded ‘events’ room, one of the staff pointed to where Anthony was sitting. There was no chair for me beside him and I noticed there were no other family members which surprised me a bit, so I squeezed in next to him and sat on his walker. Around sixty residents were sitting around three long tables but there were only a few from Anthony’s ‘high care’ section. Each resident had either a glass of wine or beer and plates of nibbles were placed here and there so people could help themselves. I filled Anthony’s plate and helped another man too and then the race began on the television. Staff lined the walls just as excited as residents and once the race was over, the woman in charge of handing out the winnings did so with humour and I broke it to Anthony that we hadn’t won anything which he took in his stride.

At that moment, Anthony said, “Here, Jules, have some of this – I can’t eat it all.” So I spotted a spare spoon and scooped up a bit of potato salad which was delicious. “Have some more,” he said, delighted, but as I went to do so, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up and saw that it was the nursing home manager.

“Julie, can I have a word with you?” she said, beckoning me to follow her into an adjacent room.
“Am I in trouble?” I said, jokingly, following her.
She turned around and frowned. “I cannot have you eating the food. I have already turned away two families because we can’t cater for family members on this kind of occasion.”
I felt shocked and humiliated and apologized profusely, so she said, “You can stay but don’t eat the food.”
“Anthony said I was invited,” I said.
“No,” she said.

I wanted to cry, I wanted to rant, I wanted to know who she’d turned away but I knew, as soon as I re-entered the events room because I immediately noticed the misery on Natalie’s face (Natalie is a resident in high care and is usually robust and full of laughter; her daughter and son visit every day so we have become friends. Their absence and Nat’s uncharacteristically long face told me what must have happened. I patted her on the shoulder but she hardly responded).

I then resumed my seat on Anthony’s walker, my face flushed with a mixture of embarrassment and rage. Once again, Anthony offered me some food from his plate but I whispered, “I’m not allowed to – have just been reprimanded.” He shook his head, disgusted, as I nervously helped him manage to feed himself. Suddenly plates of dessert came out and one of the staff serving said, “Hey, Jules, do you want some cheesecake?” I shook my head and said, “I’m not allowed.”

Later that week I bumped into Nat’s daughter who was looking glum. Like her mother, she is usually full of smiles. When I asked her what was wrong she told me she had been kicked out of the Melbourne cup luncheon and her mother had been miserable ever since. We had a brief, whispered conversation in which we both decided that it wouldn’t be tactical to complain.

I understand – of course I do – that having to cater for every resident’s family members for a big lunch would pose logistical problems but the fact is that in the nearly two years since Anthony has been a resident at this nursing home, I have only ever met a handful of family members who visit their loved ones, so it’s not like there would have been a crowd.

After the lunch was over that day, I went to the nursing manager’s office to once again apologize and tell her that I hadn’t known the rules. I guess she could see I was nearly in tears so she suddenly turned her usually unsmiling face into a half-smile and said, “It’s okay, Julie, you didn’t know.”

For the first time in ages, I cried all the way home.

Note: I have stopped calling it a nursing lodge and am calling it what it is – a nursing home.

The photos are of times gone by.

A Goyders Dardanup

73 responses to “A strange incident at the nursing home

  1. That’s very tough. Sad on every count.

  2. Rhonda says:

    I’m sorry this happened Jules…more so the WAY it happened. Seems to me a letter home to the families would have been in order. However, that said…I do not know the situation with the nursing home there, but here, for most, the expense to have a loved one reside there is NOT cheap. One would think the cost of feeding a member of the immediate family, on a holiday or special occasion would have been factored in. I could be wrong, as I said, I don’t know the situation for you…but I’d have been more than red faced…I’d have been steaming…and not from embarrassment. ( were eating off ANTS plate for goodness sake!)

  3. Perhaps you family members should just turn up with your own food.

  4. ingridrick says:

    that’s a disgrace being treated like that – absolutely appalling

  5. niasunset says:

    I am sorry what you lived, dear Julie, and I can understand you. I would have been as you dear, on the other hand I don’t know what to say about this event, I mean about the rules of them. Something seemed to me wrong… They could organize this event and also invite the families and also they could ask them to bring some foods and drinks for this event. This would have made everybody much more happy. But as I told you, I don’t know the rules and the reasons.

    My dear Julie, don’t cry and don’t be sad… Love and hugs, nia

  6. Judy says:

    I cannot write because I’m crying. It’s awful to deal with this and on top of it – the lack of compassion! i can see from the two pictures enough to add more tears. Hang in there, Julie. Hang in there . . .

  7. Vicki (from Victoria A Photography) says:

    I can appreciate the Nursing Home’s rules (with my late Mother having worked in many Nursing Homes doing the cooking – both average fee and high fee nursing homes).

    You ate from Anthony’s plate – and his meal cost is obviously factored into the running cost of any such establishment. If you had asked (or accepted the offer) of a separate serving, that might be considered to be different, but I suspect it had more to do with the latest OH & S regulations (which have gone to the point of the ridiculous in Australia), which might have been discreetly overlooked in the privacy of Anthony’s room, but had to be visibly adhered to in the open public space of the ‘events’ room.

    I daresay the Staff and attending medical practitioners strive to ensure all residents eat the prescribed dietary regime for health and wellbeing. Some ‘high & mighty’ #%@$! might suggest that by eating a (small) portion of Anthony’s food, you are reducing his nutritional intake (or some other weird ‘codswallop’), thereby detrimental to the Nursing Home’s reputation of high standards of care.

    Gosh, with some of the weird OH & S laws in this country these days, I’m surprised half the industries don’t go broke – (yes, I have had access to some of them in my working life).

    Try not to feel upset, Julie.

    I feel sure it was just badly handled. The Nursing Home Manager should make ALL rules clear to all families of residents. At least the Manager had the sensitivity to speak to you privately and not in front of Anthony (or other residents).

    I’m still sorry to hear of your upset. Vicki x

    • jmgoyder says:

      I think you are right re the OHS thing. I got into trouble a few weeks ago for offering a container of chilli-garlic olives to residents and staff, I had bought them for Ants and he was in the main living room so I just offered to others. Not allowed apparently.

  8. I am sad to read this. It seems very unfair.

  9. janeslog says:

    I wouldn’t get upset about it. A few years ago I went with a friend to visit her elderly relation in a nursing home. Visitors were not allowed to eat any food or get a cup of tea because the strict head nurse (Hitler) applied the rules too much.

    If any of the nurses offered food or drinks to visitors they got into trouble, as did the visitors who ate the food or drunk the tea. She was a right Mrs Scaryface. Only when the head nurse was on a day off did the staff sneak some refreshments for visitors.

    I understand there is probably a limited budget for food but as Anthony was not eating it anyway what was the harm?

    Some people just love to give people a telling off. It is a sign of low intelligence, in my experience. For people like that I do not speak – I just stare at them and keep the stare.

    • jmgoyder says:

      It has taken me over a year to feel comfortable to access to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Some of the staff are wonderful and easygoing – some not. I guess that’s life!

      • janeslog says:

        Buy yourself a vacuum flask and fill it with hot water. Then carry a decent sized cup with you. When you are ready, pop your teabag or spoonful of coffee into the cup and fill with boiling water.

        Carry some powdered milk with you and a teaspoon. That’s your cup of tea made. I also carry doggie bags to put my rubbish in, such as teabag and the tissue used to wipe the spoon and cup dry.

        Problem solved.

      • jmgoyder says:

        Good ideas – thanks Jane!

      • janeslog says:

        I always carry a flask with me then I can have a nice cup of tea when I want and save a bit of money in the process. It’s my frugal Presbyterian background!

  10. FlaHam says:

    Julie, My heart goes out to you. Knowing the tender hearted person you are, knowing you will/would be there in a moment for Ants, and not knowing the rules only to find them out in the manner you did. It really seems consideration for the family/families especially at a “national” event could have been made. Please take care, Bill

  11. ksbeth says:

    oh, that’s such a shame, it would mean so much to families to be together and share at least a small version of this national event. too bad they just didn’t make a bit of extra snack or dessert for the families to share , i’m sorry i know that must have been very hard.

  12. I’m sorry that you were made to feel so embarrassed, I think that the administration could have been much more tactful and thoughtful to the needs of those who are part of their charges family. You handled yourself with your usual grace.

  13. You have every right to be upset about this. I have had 12 years of interacting with nursing homes here in the USA. And they WANT families to come in and be a part of activities like this. Many encourage the sharing of meals. Maybe the family has to pay a small stipend, but the kitchens will provide meals for family who want to share. And I’ve never heard of them having a special activity and inviting family and encouraging family, and then refusing them to partake of the actual celebration-which includes food. That administrator was wrong. If they had no intention of sharing food with every one present they should not have brought food out when everyone was present. Did she never go to kindergarten or preschool? Even 5 year olds know that when you bring out food you offer it to everyone. I’m sorry you and Anthony and the others suffered this.

  14. That’s just rude! Could they not charge a minimal fee for family members? I’m sorry this happened to you Jules.

  15. I’m sorry but what could it have hurt to let you and the other two people have a nibble. Especially if Ants wasn’t eating it and it was on his place. If there wasn’t enough food for staff to serve then a polite we hadn’t prepared for family but eating off your husband’s plate if he doesn’t want it, go ahead and enjoy. I can’t believe there wasn’t a little something to be kind for this one occasion, a celebration, even if just to offer a cup of tea. This kind of kindness happens in nursing homes here, where the facility doesn’t plan to feed family but somehow there’s always a little something to offer. When rules hurt people’s feelings… where’s the big picture. It made my heart feel so sad that it hurt you, you who have been giving giving giving and did nothing to deserve it. Forgive my rant, but I wish I could hit replay and give you the whole damn cheesecake. Hugs to you. And, would you please give Nat’s family a hug from this stranger as well? Love, Paulette

  16. janechese says:

    I am familiar with cutbacks in the healthcare system but not familiar with Australia’s. Are family allowed to “book’ ahead and order a meal which they can pay for? Is there a private party room where you can go with your family to celebrate birthdays, etc. with you bringing the food and supplies? Usually nursing homes provide these options, although I understand this was a different situation. But really, wouldn’t they expect family at this event and provide tea and coffee as well as room for you to sit? Yes, that could have been handled better. I think events that are planned with family invitations should include tea coffee and snacks for family members as well, even if they have to pay, and that should be planned and budgeted ahead of time.

    • jmgoyder says:

      I can order a meal to have with Ants and pay but in this instance I was under the impression that he had booked me a seat (he just made that up – mischevious!) We are joking about it now thank goodness – naughty Julie etc. Live and learn!

  17. I am so sorry. How maddening, though. It was not as if you were asking for your own plate or running around stealing from other folks. That seems ridiculous.

  18. I understand about them not really being able to cater for all the families but still think it is wrong that you were made to feel like you did, you are one of those who visits and likes to spend time with your husband there are those who are not so lucky and get few if any visitor…………

  19. tootlepedal says:

    BYOB seems to be the best advice but that’s probably barred too.

  20. elizabeth says:

    How awful for you and the others to be treated with such disrespect. As you said, there are not that many families who visit, and the manager could have asked for a small contribution toward the lunch for those who wanted to attend and eat. Oh, this makes me so mad! As far a her being a manager, bah-humbug! Couldn’t manage a playgroup in my humble opinion.

    I’m so sorry you and poor Natalie and family had to encounter such stupidity Julie. (((Big hugs)))

  21. Lynda says:

    Rules. Bah, humbug!

    We often ate with my mother-in-law and not just on special occasions. We did however have to notify the home in advance if we were wanting to join Mom for a meal. And that makes sense, as they have to prepare for the extra meals. I believe we paid for them too.

    These rules are silly and insensitive to both the families and the residents. Do you think that when you are not feeling so raw about it that you could speak to the powers that be about changing the policy? For a facility to accommodate the event guests I certainly don’t think it out of line for them to require reservations and even a fee for the meal… payable in advance if their budget is that tight.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you and the other families there. xo

  22. adinparadise says:

    I’m so sorry that you had to endure this disappointment and upset, Julie. It’s not as though you’d gone and helped yourself to a plateful of food. Just a taste to please Ant, isn’t a big deal, and surely she could see what the situation was! I’m really sad for you. *hugs*

  23. I am angry at how you were treated–how unprofessional! I would like to bop her upside the head!

  24. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    That’s pretty ridiculous to me. I would understand if certain family came & ate everything all the time, something would need to be said, but this – being offered to SHARE FOOD (a great joy, since time began), this was just ridiculous.

    I don’t understand why families were refused. Looks to me like they could have had two more families in the room. More the merrier, doesn’t the say go? Just ridiculous. (& clearly, they WEREN’T “catering to families”.

    • jmgoyder says:

      Maybe a notice was sent out – not sure – most embarrassing thing for me was that Ants told me I had been invited argh (never trust someone with dementia haha!)

  25. Personally I can’t see why they made a fuss since you didn’t ask for a plate of your own.. you were just nibbling off Anthony’s….that he couldn’t eat…. It was a much ado about nothing in my opinion… They should have explained at another time about not being able to supply dinner for family members…. You were upset when you shouldn’t have been …..’chastised’ is a better word. Hope you feel better by now…. Diane

  26. If it’s cost the nursing home is concerned about, it should be offered that those whose family members want to attend can pay for a meal. If it’s the lack of space, why not hold the lunch out of doors, picnic style.

  27. this would have been such a great opportunity to get the families involved. it could have been a sort of pot luck. i am outraged on your behalf, good thing i am not there. i understand not wanting to complain, it would only make it difficult for anthony. i am so sorry that you were put through this. i know it can’t have been easy. sending big warm hugs and love

  28. What do they do at Christmas time? surely they would want the residents to have family members join in?

  29. Krystal Laurentsch says:

    I was so heart broken to read this post and subsequent comments. I have worked in aged care for 13 years, as a Nursing Home Manager for many of these.

    This situation is horrible but not all facilities are the same. Unfortunately many client and visitor experiences- positive and negative rest on the personality, culture and decisions of the manager. Funding constraints are an issue of course but should never result in a negative event such as the one that you have described. Managers and their staff become become inventive and passionate about options to “create” memories. To be honest, in all of the Melbourne Cup events (and many other celebrations!) that I have coordinated in homes, I have never needed to close out family/ visitors- we have rather relied on these amazing people to add to excitement! Sometimes a small cost per visitor may need to be requested to cover costs but I have never ever had anyone feel offended by this…

    Can I please suggest that if you are not comfortable in this environment and are in a position to make a change, consider wait listing Anthony for a room at another home? It is so important that everyone feels comfortable and “at home”. This time is too precious to be spent in sorrow for any reason.

    Take care, Krystal (Jeni Henderson’s daughter)

    • jmgoyder says:

      So very kind of you to comment. I guess, weighing things up, this is the first unpleasant thing in nearly 2 years so I have to let it go – thank you and I think your parents are amazing. Have gone off FB for awhile. Thank you Krystal!

  30. tersiaburger says:

    How absolutely ridiculous, petty and absolutely mean! I am so sad that you were subjected to such meaness. Hugs xxx

  31. Judith Post says:

    Yikes! Most nursing lodges (homes) BEG for visitors to attend events around here. I’m suprised Anthony’s turn people away.

  32. Oh, that’s so awkward. I can’t believe they wouldn’t tell the families ahead of time that the food is for the residents only! Otherwise, they have to police the room around for the whole event, how silly!

  33. Ms. Boice says:

    This is too bad. It could have been handled differently. For instance, with a little bit of pre-communication families could have been told that they were invited but just cannot eat. The important thing would have been to the families to be their loved ones.

  34. ytaba36 says:

    I just said the “F” word; you may have heard me all the way from tropical Queensland to your home.

  35. lensgirl53 says:

    I am fuming as I read this. I worked in a nursing home for a short time and my mother-in-law resided there at the end of her life …we were there a lot……to me…IMHO, I think whatever helps the morale of the residents is how things should be managed. There ARE exceptions to every rule and this should have been the case in this circumstance. I am hopelessly for the “underdog” in this life and your supervisor should be ashamed of how she handled this situation. Also, thank you for visiting my blog. Your comments are always welcomed. Blessings to you and your friends at “the lodge/nursing home.”

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