An open letter to three directors at Crouse Hospital who are members of the Plaza Corporation board of directors that oversees the Iroquois Nursing Home:

Yesterday while I theoretically was napping, I spent 45 minutes listening to my roommate Cora call for help 81 times.

Cora has such severe dementia that she cannot use her call bell. After she cries out about ten times, I wake up enough to call for her. I also was awakened at 4:30 a.m. and again 6:30 a.m. today by her cries, which go unheard by the staff because they have put her in the last bed, furthest away from the nursing station.

Cora should be in the single room nearest the nursing station. That bed was vacated (by death) on Monday. Instead of moving Cora there, they brought in a new patient–who probably has a relative working at Crouse or St. Joe’s, because that’s how beds are being filled here–not by inpatients from the hospitals, but by relatives of hospital employees who are being admitted from home.

The Iroquois has told the DOH investigators that Cora has a specially designed call bell; they have not told DOH that Cora is too demented to be able to use it. In response to my multiple complaints, the Iroquois also has told DOH investigators that they check Cora every two hours. But what about when Cora needs help fifteen minutes after she’s checked? Then she cries for help until I wake up and push my call bell.

THE IROQUOIS HAS DECIDED THAT CORA IS A BROKEN MACHINE THAT CANNOT BE FIXED AND THEREFORE SHOULD BE IGNORED. Fact: Cora is a human being and about fifty percent of the time when she cries out it is because of toileting issues: she needs a bedpan, needs to be wiped, has wet herself or her bed. THAT is what the Iroquois is ignoring.

Some nurses and aides won’t get her a bedpan when she needs one. They leave her to poop in her diaper. Cora is 98 years old. She has been using the toilet for nearly a century. Now she is forced to poop in her pants for the convenience of staff. Some aides bring her the bedpan; she is capable of using it.

For several weeks Cora was screaming every time they changed her—bedsore? Then someone came in—I’m pretty sure it was nursing supervisor Susan Greer (the one who perjured herself in the judicial hearing) and she directed the staff to leave Cora’s diaper off when she’s in bed so the wound can air. So what we now have is a situation in which Cora needs to urinate or defecate but is in a position where she cannot get attention from the staff. So she excretes waste on the bed pad and then may roll around in it until the next two-hour check.

What is being done at the Iroquois on a daily basis would NEVER, EVER, be tolerated at Crouse for a single shift. Derek, Dr. Kronenberg and the rest of you have an attitude, a philosophy—maybe a theology—that does not permit you to treat old, sick people as if they are not human. HOW CAN YOU LET THIS GO ON DAY AFTER DAY AT THE IROQUOIS??? You are board members; it is your job! You have a human responsibility to care for the sick: why aren’t you doing it?

The Iroquois won’t feed Alice. She is a lovely lady who sits at my dining table three times a day. She has bad melanomas on her face, and severe arthritis, and I don’t know what else. SHE CANNOT FEED HERSELF. I have watched her take ten minutes to get three bites into her mouth. Her sons and daughter feed her when they are here. Yesterday her daughter told me they have repeatedly asked the Iroquois to feed her. It’s not happening.

I asked the nurse manager Colleen. It’s not happening. I ask the aides; sometimes they feed her but it’s after they’ve fed the people to whom they are assigned. By then, Cora is eating food that’s been sitting in front of her for more than half an hour and is stone cold. A nurse told me that OT/PT evaluated Alice and decided she could feed herself AND SHE SHOULD CONTINUE TO SO SHE WON’T LOSE WHAT SHE HAS.

Freakin’ damn bullshit. Alice is on palliative care; she is here to die. SHE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO LEAVE THE DINNER TABLE HUNGRY. And oh, by the way, Alice has been here two years: when was the last time she was re-evaluated? Alice and Cora are DYING but they are not being reevaluated and having their services upgraded.

But I was talking about Cora, and her cries for help: about fifty percent of her cries are related to toileting issues. The other fifty percent are cries of loneliness. She calls out for her father, mother, husband, sister, children. She begs them to come get her and take her away from here. Other than that her parents and husband are dead, what’s demented about that cry?

Cora needs to be comforted. The Bhutanese aides who provide most of the staffing on this floor are very kind people. They speak to her with gentleness and offer Cora the human contact for which she is desperate. Problem is, they can’t hear her cries. She’s in the back of the unit, in a cul-de-sac next to the fire door. Aides never come back here on their way to somewhere else. Nobody hears Cora so nobody comforts her.

Because Sue Greer will not move Cora forward into the general population, Cora is suffering the hell of abandonment. Is this love? Is this how we treat people? Cora IS a person; she is not a broken machine. Her soul cries out for comfort but the Iroquois has abandoned her.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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