Readers Write: Rehab nightmares on North Shore revealed

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Mom still refers to it as that Hell Hole.

Flies in patient bathrooms.  Unwashed tables in the shared patient dining room.  Medical refuse tossed onto patient floors remained on patient floors.  Broken air conditioning sent temps soaring in patient’s rooms.

The stench of indifference so strong, spiritual leaders found it challenging to conduct a dignified family visit.

Why do residents of Long Island’s Gold Coast accept blatant indifference and indignities towards their loved ones at a time of extreme vulnerability?  Is this the best the North Shore of Long Island has to offer?

Eighteen years ago, my 69-year-old father required simultaneous radiation and rehabilitation.  To be clear, my family had no role in the selection of this Long Island rehabilitation institution.  A social worker, in a New York City hospital, someone who may never have set foot in this Long Island rehab, selected it for us.  One critical factor determined my father’s fate:  an unoccupied patient bed in my zip code.

Six weeks of bearing witness to my father’s suffering in rehab stand out as my one regret — a wretched, traumatizing experience – in what was otherwise five months of excellent health care.

Let’s talk about today’s rehab.  Last month, my 65-year-old neighbor spent three weeks in a highly regarded rehab facility on the North Shore.

Allison spoke to me through bone dry lips, struggling to speak and sounding as if she had cotton balls stuffed in her mouth.  She had requested water and ice chips.  Friends and family telephoned her daily, yet she failed to pick up her phone.  For 14 days, I was unable to reach her.   I feared over-medication to induce sleep day and night.  I feared dehydration.  She feared she was being held hostage.

When Allison’s family abruptly discharged her after a three-week stay, there was a notable five-pound weight loss documented.  Five pounds lost by an individual weighing under 100 pounds, with complex health issues, is five pounds too many.

At another popular facility, incoming visitors’ calls are aggressively screened, suggesting an attempt to isolate the patient from the outside world.

Eighteen years or 18 days ago, in-patient rehabilitation seems, all too frequently, not to be the best the North Shore of Long Island has to offer.  Social media, Yelp, reaffirms the nightmarish treatment taking place in area institutions you know.

Fear of retaliation has stopped many good sons and daughters from exposing apathy and indifference despite the worrisome warning signs.  More importantly, fighting back requires energy that drained family members must conserve to face the next set of challenges.

For me, the callous attitude of the rehab floor physician, at my father’s facility, was my breaking point.  The day before discharge, this doctor seemed to delight in lecturing me that my father was leaving in far worse shape than when he arrived, and it was probably foolish to have put him through radiation treatment.

On a purely visceral level, the doctor’s response seemed devoid of even a drop of human kindness.  How did this soulless shell of a man come to be responsible for rehab patients?

On discharge day, Nurse Manager asked how quickly I could clear the stack of soiled laundry bags and Dad’s personal effects.  Alone, with no family members to assist me, I was given the arduous task of hauling dirty laundry bags while single-handedly overseeing the transport of my father from rehab to hospice.

None of this seemed to matter to Nurse Manager.  She offered zero help.   What did matter was how quickly this Long Island “Gold Coast” rehab, with littered floors and unwashed tables and flies in the bathrooms, could turn over an unoccupied bed for additional revenue.

I encourage readers to speak up about the dirty little secrets that are masquerading as quality rehabilitation on Long Island’s North Shore.  If you are seeking compassion and responsiveness for your loved one, in many cases, you won’t find it there.

A new sofa or crystal chandelier in the family meeting room is a poor substitute for real patient care long after visiting hours are over.  No one should feel forced to pay privately for an overnight aide to safeguard a loved one from widespread dangers of apathy and neglect.  The glossy patient literature you receive won’t reveal that unmitigated truth.

New York State Dept. of Health will investigate written complaints or call:  1-888-201-4563 (M-F 8:30 am – 4:45 pm.) To report a patient safety event or concern, contact The Joint Commission whose mission statement is to ensure quality healthcare for patients and prevent harm.

 Judy Shore Rosenthal

Great Neck

 

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