While people are reacting to the violence that’s increasing throughout our nation, trying to eliminate weapons, they fail to see what is causing the problem. It’s like going to the doctor for a pain in your knee and given drugs instead of trying to find out what’s causing the pain in the first place!
It’s happened to me and I’ve been the victim of a horrendous crime. The crime of avoidance and ignorance.
My elderly mother came out to live with me after no longer being able to care for herself. I envisioned these last few years of her life to be a wonderful experience for both of us. I set her up with her own apartment in my home complete with a kitchen, family room, three bedrooms and a sun drenched solarium with plants and a waterfall. It walked out onto an enclosed patio filled with trees, garden seats along with a gorgeous view of the mountains. It was beautiful!
Two weeks after she moved in, having wonderful times together, things drastically changed. It was if a toggle switch was thrown as her behavior made an abrupt change. I was not prepared for the onslaught that was going to change my life forever.
It first started with false accusations that I had done something 40 years prior that she was angry about. That anger evolved into further accusations, all disjointed and increasing in intensity. Days and nights were filled with her screams filled with foul language, more and more delusions and claims. I ended up locking my bedroom door at night as she would come into my room in the middle of the night to continue on with her ranting.
I called every mental health organization out there for the elderly, every nursing home, Adult Protective Services, doctors, nurses, even hospice , begging them to come and find out what her problem was. They all told me the same thing: “Until she agrees to a mental evaluation or tries to hurt herself or others, there’s nothing we can do.”
I was able to get Adult Protective Services out as well as a nurse, but once someone else came on the scene, my mother turned into a very docile, very polite and unassuming little old lady. My claims about her behavior fell on deaf ears. They called it a “family conflict” and walked away.
I started recording her violent and bizarre behavior in hopes that this would provide proof needed to get her help. One day, she decided to leave and walked down my 100 yard driveway and lay down on the side of the road, hailing people as they drove by so that they would take her back to California where she previously lived. I called the police and ambulance who took her to the ER. From there, I hoped she would finally get the help she desperately needed.
This time, I had 2 witnesses to her behavior who accompanied me to the hospital and voiced their concerns to the ER doctor and social worker as well. We told them what was occurring plus I played the recordings of her behavior. Tests came back positive for a urinary infection so they chalked-up her behavior to the infection, totally negating everything we told them.
It was almost comical; whenever anyone would speak with her, she’d turned back into this sweet and polite little old lady – once I entered her room, she’d morph instantly back to being nasty. Like I said, it was like someone turned on and off a switch. I took her back home with me hoping that perhaps the antibiotics would at least calm her down. They didn’t.
Months went by and my pleas for help went on deaf ears. The same advice was offered – “She needs to be mentally evaluated”. Ya right! This is what I’ve been asking for yet until she agrees, it’s just another road block from getting her help.
I was able to get a hospice doctor to came over to visit with her. This was the first time ever acted up in front of a professional. I was so thankful! He witnessed her extreme anger, tried to calm her down and failed miserably. He told me that she was out of control and needed a psychiatric evaluation immediately. Grrr – same thing once again. He wouldn’t/couldn’t do anything since she wasn’t his patient.
I called an attorney who specialized in elder law. She told me that should my mother fall or should she threaten to take her life or physically hurt me or someone else, then I could have her taken to the psych hospital for a 3 day hold for evaluation. More weeks passed and her behavior increased even more so. Finally, one day, she was totally out of control and threatened my life. I called the ambulance who took her to the ER – refusing to take her to the psych hospital as this had to be an order coming from the ER doctor first before they could transport her to another facility.
Once in the ER, she turned into this very docile little old lady again. Despite asking them to listen to the recordings of her (they refused), despite the daily journal I had kept of her behavior, despite my pleadings that there was something very wrong with her, they told me to take her home as there was nothing physically wrong with her. Once again, they claimed that this was just a family conflict and until she agreed to have a neuropsych evaluation, there’s nothing they could do.
It was then I told the ER doctor that I could no longer take care of her and I would not be taking her home with me…she was in their care now! Essentially, I dumped her in the hospitals lap. The doctor said that this was elder abuse and would file a claim against me, getting the police involved. I told them to go ahead but she’s not coming back with me as she is beyond what I can do to help her.
The ER doctor told me that they’d have her psychologically evaluated. I was elated! I walked out of the hospital hoping and praying they’d find out what was wrong. A couple hours later, I received a call from an assisted living facility. My mom was being transferred there. The doctor lied to me. There was no psychological help, no testing, nothing. They just dumped her off into the care of this facility who is not equipped to handle mental issues.
I was told by the social worker not to contact my mom due to this “family conflict” as it was best to allow her time to calm down and settle into her new surroundings. She kept calling me though – more threats, more disjointed behavior. I let her calls go into my voice mail. The director of the assisted living facility said she was the toughest case they’ve ever had as she kept threatening suicide and would lash out on the nurses there. And even then, they did nothing and could do nothing as they had no authority to do so.
The adult protective services officer started visiting her and somehow convinced her to have a neuropsych evaluation done to “prove that there was nothing wrong”. She complied and was found to be mentally incompetent but no official diagnosis was made to the cause. The recommendation was to her analyzed by a psychiatrist! Ugh! Once again, no help.
It’s been 2 years since she was dumped into the assisted living facility. I now have legal guardianship of her but am still unable to get her proper psychological help as, once again, she has to agree to it. Meantime, she’s still threatening and still exhibits abnormal behavior. We’re sneaking anti-depressant pills into her vitamins which seems to help however the least little thing can send her off into another rage-filled tangent.
Needless to say, the problem isn’t with the guns and more gun restrictions and gun laws – that’s just another pill to cover up what the actual problem is. That problem is with the lack of mental health care and the inability of loved ones being able to find help for someone with a mental health problem. It’s pushed under the rug – given a pill and that’s it. This is not a cure – all it does is temporarily cover up a sleeping demon.
Our current privacy laws (HIPAA) state that when someone is an adult, unless they acknowledge that they have a problem there’s nothing anyone on the outside can do. Unless we can get this changed, we’re going to see more and more violence happening. Every one of those people who went on a rampant killing rage, had mental health issues that went unchecked. When you read in the news about these horrific murders, you hear, after the event, how family members and even neighbors knew there was a problem but didn’t know what to do or who to turn to.
Laws need to change enabling family members to force mental health evaluations on a loved one who is exhibiting violent, disjointed behavior. Right now, we’re failing and failing miserably.
That’s the problem and I believe this is the solution. I’m not stating that we resort back to the way it was years ago with committing family members into an institution just to get them out of the way. I’m stating that when there’s clear evidence and concern about the mental health of a loved one, then they should be able to find an appropriate resource to get the help that’s needed. Right now, there is nothing available.
Let’s concentrate on mental health issues rather than the knee jerk reactions to create more laws that certainly haven’t worked. The fact is, those who have mental issues and those who don’t obey the law, won’t comply anyway. Enforce the laws already there, build more jails, punish the guilty and make crime undesirable. Provide resources out there to get help for those who have mental issues. I’m not asking for a witch hunt. I’m asking for a common sense approach and solution to curb our growing problems.