“I am in hell” a look at Skyview Rehab

Dad, Mike & Mel

Dad, Mike & Mel

When my brother and I were looking for a home for my father who has Altzheimers I didn’t really know much except that I was hoping for some place that he would be safe, well cared for and preferably a place he could like. A homey, cozy place not too institutional.

We wanted a place near by so that narrowed the search some. We also needed a place that accepted Medicaid and Medicare and that narrowed the search even more. Of the Local places near Croton on Hudson, NY a few top choices emerged. Bethel and Skyview Rehab I don’t know why we never looked at the VA. Anyway we really liked both Bethel and Skyview Rehab it was just a matter of which we could get him into and fast as things were getting desperate.

Bethel seamed to have nice happy smiling people and after realizing none of these places were going to offer a particularly homey experience – Clean Happy people became important. I liked what I saw there.

Skyview Rehab took my breath away with it’s balcony overlooking the Hudson river and the decor… reminded me of the Titanic. Elegant. I felt my father would be happiest at Skyview Rehab as he would love looking out over the water. And I would love visiting on that balcony!

So my brother got him into Skyview. Of course the transition was horrible. In the beginning I could still take him out for our Saturday outings but soon he began refusing to go back so I couldn’t take him out anymore. Very sad. He remained very unhappy at Skyview and it didn’t take long to see why.

The help at Skyview Rehab, the folks who have the most contact with your loved ones are for whatever reason, not equipped for the job.They are disrespectful, and in some cases outright abuses take place and it seams these are regular and acceptable practice. In one case I observed a wheelchair bound woman yelling that she needed to go to the bathroom. She was answered by a particularly loud staff member who yelled back “Just GO! like you did before and we’ll take care of it later!” She saw me sitting within ear shot and shouted this at this patient with no hesitation so while I was horrified, this is common practice at Skyview.

In another instance a woman sitting near me was so tired she put her head down on the table. The worker in the room kept jostling her and telling her to “Sit Up! Don’t put your head on the table!” I said to the worker “Why can she not put her head down? She is tired.” She looked at me sheepishly and said “she gets a red mark on her forehead.” I mean come on. Not letting a tired woman rest in my book is abuse. This worker obviously didn’t know any better. Needless to say Skyview is a kind of hell for patients. You can see that on their faces if you are not distracted by the beautiful view. My father once said to me there in a moment of clarity “I am in hell”. I believed him.

My father was having his own issues there. We were told that he was too violent and we needed to find a new place for him. As it turns out Dad was never proactively violent. He got agitated as a result of aggression by other neglected and unhappy residents, or by the inappropriate behavior of unqualified and uncaring staff. My father deserves to be spoken to with respect and to keep his dignity. Skyview did not want my father there as he was not Wheelchair bound and the only way they could control him was with heavy antipsychotic drugs. I guess it never occurred to them to just be nice to him. He began to go downhill fast sitting in an unresponsive stupor.

To save him from Skyview Rehab we began looking again, and found the VA. Thank god he is a Veteran! But because no facility (including the VA) would take him in his “chemically restrained” state we had to get him off the drugs. To do that we had to bring in an outside doctor to overrule the Skyview Psychiatrist (who prescribes the meds for the entire building),  And the Skyview psychiatrist logged protests and tried to block our efforts every step of the way. The VA said what Skyview was doing is illegal. If we didn’t get him out, he’d probably be gone by now.

Dad is now one of the VA staff’s “favorites”. They treat him well and most importantly he is happy! It’s amazing what a little respect will do for moral. I think the folks at Skyview Rehab need to go spend some time at the VA and see how to manage a room full of seniors.

In retrospect I think an important screening question for anyone looking at homes is do they use anti-psychotic drugs. The VA does not use or condone the use of these drugs. They also do not tell their residents to “Just GO! like you did before and we’ll take care of it later!” Another important difference is supervision. In the VA they have an attentive woman in charge who overseas the help. The help is not left to run amuck.

So while my father has been saved, I can’t help but think of all of those people living in hell at Skyview Rehab. After living a whole life to have the last chapter be that is beyond sad – it is unacceptable. I don’t know how to change things except to let people know how to choose wisely for their loved ones. I know the situation can be desperate and  it seams like the choices are slim but I feel if I had known at least to ask the drugs question and had known to look at the person in charge of the floor or wing. Is she present and attentive? or is the help running the show. If I had looked at these things I could have avoided the time my father had to spend in hell.

Dad has Alzheimers

Visiting with him today I realized that I should record or write down some of the things that he says – they can be very interesting.Today’s quote “You work at it and work at it and sooner or later it’s like Cancer, a beautiful thing”.