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Nursing Home Resident Panics When She Wakes Up "Blind" After Surgery

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Sandra Rohrstaff
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I heard this story about a nursing home in New York. 

An elderly woman was a resident at a nursing home, where she was well known. She had dementia and frequently forgot who she was, who family members were and where she was. 

One day, the resident  awoke to find bandages totally covering her eyes. She immediately began to tear at the bandages violently with her hands. A few minutes later, a nurse came into her room on her routine rounds and discovered the resident was bleeding, her face covered with scratches and the resident in an absolute panic. She called for help to get the woman cleaned up and calmed down.

What happened here?

The woman had had corrective eye surgery hours before.  After the surgery, she was returned to the nursing home and put back on the regular nursing home schedule. After all, she had a good prognosis from the surgery, but no one had anticipated that her illness would have inhibited her recovery -- until she woke up alone and didn't remember her surgery and panicked.

So, add this item to your list of questions when considering the right nursing home for your loved one:

How do you care for residents when they return to the nursing home after surgery, even so-called "routine" surgery. especially those residents with dementia?

This resident needed someone to be there with her when she woke up from surgery. Not only did she have dementia, but she was recovering from the effects of anesthesia. Even without the trauma of surgery and anesthesia, people with dementia easily become disoriented and lose the memory of new information. This woman had exhibited those symptoms well before the surgery.

It is not uncommon for nursing home residents to leave the facility for surgery and return for their recuperation. The facility you choose should have very certain - and easily articulated - procedures for how these residents are cared for, what extra attention they are given or what other options are available.

No one wants their loved one to go through the fear and panic of awakening alone from a surgical procedure and having no recollection of what happened.

Category: Elder Neglect

Sandra Rohrstaff
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Virginia Child Injury and Elder Abuse Attorney

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