Meet Dorothy Rister, daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Lover of the jitterbug, master seamstress, was once a world class stay at home mom to 4 children, fantastic friend, coffee fiend, and high school cheerleader. Her brother and close family members growing up called her “Butch”. Her husband calls her “Mama”.
I call her “Grandma”.
At one time in her life, my grandma loved to dance. She taught me to jitterbug when I was very small. I still remember holding her hands and learning to move my feet to the rhythm of the old fashioned music.
An amazing cook, she held most of her recipes in that cottony head of hears. Her peach cobbler will never be touched. She taught me to cook and bequeathed to me a love of baking. Gingerbread cookies, 7-Up cake, red velvet cake, biscuits, chicken & dumplings, cornbread, dump cake, coconut cake; these are among my favorites.
My grandma had a hard life growing up. Her daddy died when she was a young girl. She told me stories about how someone told her that he had been calling for her when he died underneath the train. She was poor growing up, and had little self-confidence. Her step fathers abused her. Her mom, my great grandma, died in a car accident when my grandma was in her early 20s. Despite all of that, I’ve never met a person more satisfied with her life. She was always happy and joking. She was the best imaginarian in the ENTIRE world. We played “Tent” in her bed where we would go on adventures into the mountains hiking, fishing, and meeting bears. She would pull food out of the pantry, put prices on it, and play “Store” with me. I always got to go shopping and she rang my purchases up, helping me count my money. Her outlook on life was sunny.
In 1994, Grandma lost her second born son, Maxwell Carlton Rister, at the hands of some greedy teenagers in Dublin, Georgia. They shot him in a hotel courtyard to get the $7 that he had in his wallet. He survived after the shooting, but died, bloody in my grandma’s arms exactly 4 months later, a result of the gunshot wounds.
In 1998 she lost her first born son, Noel Travis Rister to lung cancer.
In 2005 she lost her last born son, Quinten Darrel Rister to what started as malignant melanoma but ended as a body so riddled with cancer that it should have been his middle name.
My mom, Emilee Elizabeth Rister is her only living child.
I don’t know how she put any of her children in the ground, but I do know that it sent her plummeting into depression which turned into dementia. She now has what the doctors are calling full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease. My Pop couldn’t take care of her anymore so last year, he made the decision that I had been pushing for, for about 2 years, to put Grandma into an Alzheimer’s Disease Assisted Living Facility. I knew that people there would take much better care of her than he could.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease is extremely difficult. They have an aversion to bathing, they don’t eat much or they eat things that they shouldn’t eat, they can wander off any time of day, they lose control of their faculties, they become violent when they don’t understand what’s going on, and a whole slew of other problems. Pop just could not, and should not have had to, take care of that by himself. So he put her in Emeritus Assisted Living Facility in Ocoee, Florida early this year.
I’ve been to the facility a few times and it is beautiful. The people there seemed very nice. The Alzheimer’s ward is so sad to visit. Most of the people there can’t talk well, or they can’t carry on a conversation. Many of them have to be fed because they cannot do it themselves. I visited once when an Elvis impersonator was there singing for them. It was the most incredible thing to see these women singing entire songs on his microphone who were completely incapable of telling you that they were hungry, needed to use the restroom, or recall your name. I cried like crazy, and I’m about as emotional as a rock most of the time.
Since going into the Assisted Living Facility, Grandma’s mental status has declined rapidly, but I believe she is just in that stage of the disease.
After living there for several weeks, The Department of Children & Families (DCF) had to be called in because of an aggressive patient who was pushing, shoving, and screaming at some of the other residents. Grandma was one of her victims and it left bruises on her arms. The staff did not call DCF, my mom did. Per regulations, DCF is to be called any time there is an “incident”. That didn’t happen. The staff finally made changes regarding this incident after DCF was called in.
In May, Grandma had her first bad fall. Supposedly, nobody saw what happened. The assumption was that she had fallen in the hallway and hit her face on the chair rail. Again, that was just speculation, nobody saw what happened. That fall resulted in a broken nose. You can see that photo here:
Since then, my mom has received phone calls about 2-3 falls per month. I am aware that with this disease, falling becomes normal at some point, but we entrusted people to decide when she needed to be confined to a wheelchair, or given a walker, and that trust has been broken. I also know that with Alzheimer’s Disease, it is difficult to get patients to remember to use their new walking aids, but that is yet another reason that we put her in a facility: So that someone was around to make sure that she was safe.
The purpose of putting someone into a facility is to have the assurance that they are being taken care of.
On December 12, 2012, my mom received a call stating that Grandma had a black eye. Nobody knew how it happened. The facility workers that leave at 10pm said that she was sleeping when they left, and that she was perfectly fine, so it happened between 10pm and 6am. During that time, her bedding had also been changed. At Emeritus, they change bedding once a week and any time bedding is changed outside of the normal time frame, it is to be recorded as to why the bedding was changed i.e.: the resident soiled their linens. There was nothing on record as to why Grandma’s bedding had been changed, and nobody would admit to changing them.
As yet, nobody has admitted to seeing or knowing what happened to make my sweet Grandma look like this:
She has Alzheimer’s Disease. She doesn’t remember what happened. All she knows is that it hurts, and she doesn’t know why.
Someone is lying. Someone changed her sheets that night. For what reason, we don’t know. I’ve drawn my own conclusions about the reason why the sheets were changed and why she has a black eye, but nobody had the fortitude to take her to the gynecologist. Instead, she was given a shower and scrubbed clean.
Once again, DCF was not called in. IMMEDIATELY upon this happening, DCF should have been notified, but they, once again, were not notified. My mom took the liberties of calling DCF, and when the social worker arrived, my sister was at Emeritus visiting Grandma. The social worker told her that she had just gotten off of the phone with Emeritus as she was pulling into the driveway. Why did they wait so long to call? Someone is trying to cover something up for someone. Who are they trying to protect?
Not my Grandma.
I don’t know if a resident did this to her, or a worker. But someone gave my sweet grandma a black eye.
My Pop pays $4000 every month for someone to neglect and/or abuse this sweet, completely defenseless woman.
This is completely unacceptable.
Because you are caring for Alzheimer’s Patients, does NOT mean that you get to take advantage of their lack of memory. As a matter of fact, you are tasked with making sure that they don’t hurt themselves or other people, that they have good hygiene, that they eat well, that they are entertained, and that they are safe, because that is what caring for someone with Alzheimer’s entails.
There should be closed-circuit cameras with recordings kept in EVERY Alzheimer’s ward in EVERY facility across the nation. These people cannot speak for themselves, so who will?
We will never know what happened to my Grandma and that breaks my heart. But I believe that if this is shared around enough, we CAN, as a strong, unified voice, make sure that people with mental disorders, or dementia are given the care and respect that they deserve.
Nursing home abuse and neglect has to stop. I’m taking a stand. Will you stand with me?
PLEASE, I am begging you, PLEASE share this with everyone you know. This could be your grandparent, this could be your parent, this could be you down the road. Things HAVE to change.