Pawning off our elderly and mentally ill…

Not that long ago, as a society we locked away our family members that were deemed mentally ill, developmentally challenged, sickly or elderly. We locked them far away from the rest of us and our civilized society. We put them in dark, cold asylums. In the 1500’s prior to having actual asylums to commit them to these people were put on asylum ships. They were known as the ships of fools. These ships roamed the seas and stopped from port to port only to pick up supplies and more fools.

Ship of Fools

Can you imagine the people that they hired to work on those ships? I am quite sure they were plucked from the crop of the least employable. Some of the workers were lifelong criminals. They were given the chance to be sentenced to the prison ship or to work on the ship of fools. Why not get rid of two of society’s ills on one ship.

Some families, although very few back then kept their feebleminded relatives locked away in the attics or the basements of their own homes for their entire lifetimes to protect them and to keep them safe from the horrors of those ships and asylums.

During the 1600 and 1700’s the practice of exiling our mentally ill from ordinary society continued. The purpose of this treatment was to remove and isolate the less desirable from society, rather than to try curing them or at least trying to help them with their symptoms. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that a more compassionate attitude towards the mentally ill started to emerge but isolation was still the ‘normal’ treatment.

During the 1950’s most of the country’s state hospitals were ordered closed and they literally opened the doors and let everyone out. Homelessness was born.

Byberry Sign

Women started to enter the workforce around that time too. This left no one to care for aging parents so instead of asylums they built nursing homes. They built beautiful ‘assisted’ living facilities and led us to believe our parents would be well taken care of.

In most cases they are not being well taken care of at all. I spent a lot of time working in these facilities. Most recently I worked in the most ‘expensive’ facility in my area. I’ve seen an elderly man fall and lay on the floor moaning for twenty-minutes before somebody arrived to assist him. The nurse yelled at him for getting out of bed. He was sent to the hospital and never returned.

The aides put elderly people on the toilet and leave them sitting for 15-20 minutes sometimes an hour. My client was so tired of sitting she went to get up and fell. They picked her up, put her in her wheel chair and left her alone in her room for 2-hours. Thank God I was there. I put ice on her bruises and demanded an ambulance, immediately. I believe it was because ‘the State’ was in the building investigating cases of neglect and they did not want them to see a case first hand.


They are SO lucky she is going to be okay. No they really aren’t lucky because I am on a mission now to see that the management is fired, again. It just happened, 7-months ago. The corruption returned fast.

If one of your loved ones is in one of these facilities please visit often and at odd hours. Your loved one is most likely not going to complain. You have to look for other signs. Bruises, weight loss and depression are definitely a sign something is off.

Ask to see the nursing reports, medications sheets and even the aide’s logs of when they were taken to the bathroom, had their positions changed and what they ate. Learn who the facilities ombudsman (the mediator) is so you don’t have to ask when something does go wrong.

Are you caring for an elderly relative? Have you had a bad or a good experience with a nursing, rehabilitation or assisted living facility?

Thank you for reading,


Read more about it in The Stranger In My Recliner

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14 Responses to “Pawning off our elderly and mentally ill…”

  • Serbella McGee:

    My mother always said that she would rather die than go into a nursing home. Ten years ago she became seriously ill and my older brother decided to place her into a home. He had legal control over her affairs and he thought that was best for her, especially after the hospital claimed the home was for rehabilitation. It wasn’t. That awful place was a warehouse for the elderly, including the mentally ill.

    My mother withdrew into herself. Four days later she had a seizure. She was taken back to the hospital. I think she knew she was away from that hellhole and going to a better place. My mother regained consciousness just long enough to say goodbye to us. That lasted two days. She lapsed into a coma and died a week later.

    When I was younger I never understood what she meant. Now I do. And I feel the same way. I will never set foot in a nursing home.

  • It’s hard to imagine that situations like this do exist. Bring awareness to them is the perfect way to get them to stop. Thanks for shedding light on this topic. It’s so heartbreaking to realize we have such disrespect for our elderly.

  • This is so so sad. These people don’t have a voice, and that’s why sub-standard care gets overlooked. Not enough advocates, too many helpless people. Thanks for bringing up a very vital issue.

  • This is not only sad, but reprehensible and whomever is in charge should be fired. Kudos to you for sticking to your guns and not letting them push you around. We have to protect our elderly at all costs.

  • Oh, this makes me so sad. It’s inexcusable how we treat the elderly and those suffering from mental illness. As a society, we need to completely overhaul the system.

  • My grandparents worked at the state hospital in Toledo and the stories were heartbreaking. Kids who are now diagnosed with ADD would end up in these hospitals because no one knew how to care for them. It was so sad.
    I feel Dave’s dad got good care, 95% of the time, at Watermark. I respect anyone who can work in these facilities because I know I could never do it. Should there be follow-up? Absolutely, but most are understaffed.
    Good luck with your quest!

  • Yes, but why is the ‘care’ still bad with all of the professionally educated providers? Why are the nurses and orderlies still slack? Is this an administrative problem or do these facilities still hire the bottom rung of available aides? It seems like you can spend a King’s Ransom for care and STILL the care is sub-standard. Why? Why why why??????? Is this just a case of out of sight- out of mind? An overwhelming staff to patient ratio? Poorly trained professionals both in admin and aid? Is it a ‘numbers’ problem? Just too many aged patients under one roof? Low pay? Any way you cut it- I know FIRST HAND that it’s still a problem. What I want to find out is what’s the solution.

    • I feel it is greed. One nurse in charge of 40 residents and aides that are overworked and undertrained. Administrators that have NO clue and are not held accountable. These places look beautiful but believe me the neglect in the most expensive homes in rampant.

  • This is so heartbreaking to read. My Uncle was just moved to the dementia facility in Michigan. He remembers me when I call. However, he gets anxious when no one is with him. I wonder if that anxiety is due to the poor treatment that he was getting in the extended care side. My heart breaks for him. When I mentioned getting an elder sitter for him, my cousin got made at me. So, I guess I have to mind my own business. Thanks for shedding a light on this.

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