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Is this help or harassment?

September 29, 2014
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The other night I was getting over a cold, and I awoke at 2:30 a.m. I wanted to put the call light on to get a drink, change positions, and add another blanket. Then I realized Sally* and Tammy* (night-shift aides) were working for the next three days. I decided going back to sleep was a better idea.

I woke at 4:25 a.m. Since the nurse would wake me at 5 a.m. for medicine, I put the call light on. While I was waiting, I prayed for patience.

Within five minutes Sally opened the door, turned on all the lights and swooped into my room followed by Tammy. Sally yanked my covers off in one pull. As she grabbed the pillow from under my calves, she said my right heel was on the bed--instead of floating just off the pillow.

Sally said, "If Tammy and I had done that you would be all over us!" I told her I thought the pillow was under my right leg correctly. Sally continued bemoaning the pillow’s placement. Since I had not felt my foot resting on the bed, I kept quiet. I thought Sally was teasing me about it to see how I would react.

Loud enough to hear, Sally told Tammy I looked like I am pregnant with twins, and they chuckled. I was quiet. When Sally rolled me on my right side to put me on the bedpan, she pulled my right leg out so far my foot hit my roommate’s bed. Frightened, I asked Sally to please move me back. She held me saying she had control of me. I remained quiet.

After I was on the pan, they covered me. Sally put the “breathe in” call light by my mouth and said, "The call light is already on, so do not bother blowing into it when you are finished.” Then they walked out of my room.

My roommate was up and I asked her if the call light was on. When she said it was, I asked her to shut it off and she did. Sally must have overheard me because she walked in, moved the call light away from my mouth and left. My roommate put it back where I could use it.

When I put my call light on, the aides came in and Sally said, "You just use your roommate to help you! That is not her job!" I remained quiet while they finished my care and set me up to rest. I asked them to push my earplugs in but they walked out without doing it.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I waited a few minutes put my call light on and another aide pushed in my earplugs and adjusted my call light. I silently gave thanks for aides who do what I ask.

I wish I had a way to avoid these situations.


Kathleen Mears


Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is...



The situation you describe here is certainly not help in any way whatsoever. This is harassment, intimidation, and abuse. You should never fear to ring the call bell. Ever. This is simply not acceptable. You should speak with the social worker, director of nursing or administrator to make a complaint. Or, you also have the option of contacting the Long-Term Care Ombudsman in your state.

As a former DON I am saddened to think we have team members like this. This isn't help or harassment this is abuse and should be reported immediately. I know patients/residents are afraid of retaliation but this type of team member will give the whole facility a bad name. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience.

Kathleen - I am terribly sorry you had (and maybe continue to have) this experience. Please speak to someone in charge who can remove the offending aides and report them to the state. No leader wants staff members who utterly lack compassion like these 2.

I think this story would make a good training tool for staff members in order to help develop their empathy for those they care for.

Hi Kathleen

I haven't been in touch for a while but still in Melbourne, Australia and so sorry to hear about your experience ... and while I agree that this is not OK - I understand your dilemma do you complain or work out a 'work around' that works for you ... we all do this every day in our lives we compromise. I would love to hear you talk about strategies you have found helpful in dealing with staff who do not provide you with the care that is your right.

Cheers and thanks for your blog Ralph