Pawning off our elderly and mentally ill…

Today’s post is part of the annual A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Each day of April (except Sunday,) we write a post corresponding with that day’s letter of the alphabet. For more information on the challenge and its creator visit:

a-z 2015 p


My theme for this years’ A-Z Challenge is An Intimate Look at the Homeless and Mental Health Epidemic in America which just happens to be the subtitle of my next book, The Stranger in My Recliner. The book is the true story of Sophie.  She was the eighty-year-old homeless woman that my husband brought home one night. She lived with us for nearly three –years. The book will be out this fall.


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 or sickly and 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 they were put on asylum ships.  Back then these 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. Can you imagine who the people were 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.

Ship of Fools


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.

Today’s post is part of the annual A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Each day of April (except Sunday,) we write a post corresponding with that day’s letter of the alphabet. For more information on the challenge and its creator visit:


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.

They are not being well taken care of at all. I spend a lot of time working in these facilities. Recently I have been working in the most ‘expensive’ facility in the area. I have 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. 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. 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.

nursing home

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,


I’m one of Lisa’s Live Wires! Lisa is a challenge co-host Lisa Buie-Collard

A-Z 2015 Minion Badge

My fellow live wires:

Rhonda Albom –   Bob R. Milne –   Tamera Narayan –  Stephanie Faris –   Heather McCubbin –   Randi Lee











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

  • Most of my research indicated asylums were around a good long while after the 1950’s. That state facilities began popping up, but California under Ronald Reagan in 1967 was the beginning of the end. Asylums were closed, wings at hospitals shut down, and people placed in “homes” of various names. There were isolated, and not cared for. Then when he took the Presidency he abolished the care act that Carter had started for the mentally ill and homelessness then became very very apparent. It was seen everywhere, and sadly still exists all these many years later. While some of the care wasn’t good, not all of it was bad, to send all those disturbed people out into a society where they wouldn’t be cared for caused much of what we have today. They, in need of care are viewed as criminals, and sadly often are, because they commit crimes to survive and or because they don’t know any better. We need to get these people off the streets and back into some real caring facilities. Mental illness while not always curable is indeed treatable in many situations. Society needs to view mental illness as they do a broken bone……something that needs attention, care, kindness and until that happens, I fear things will continue.

  • Man, what a horrible history. I’m always a little suspicious of assisted living homes, but it’s complicated when one has an elderly relative and no time at home to provide care themselves. I almost wonder if a live in nurse would be better (and cheaper) than the alternative. I know care homes get outrageously expensive.

    Here in Japan, all elderly people are cared for by their children in their homes. even when a child lives far away, one of the children takes u the responsibility of caring for their aging parent. It’s part of the culture. Adults support their children, even through adulthood, with the expectation that their children will support them in old age.

  • This makes me so sad. I’m holding back tears. We were playing at an assisted living center today for our piano recital. I like to think that they are in good care over there. At least, today, they saw a bunch of kids and heard some nice music.
    Play off the Page

  • This demonstrates that while on the surface it looks like we have come a long way in “caring” for our mentally ill and infirm, they are still treated as second class citizens. I have worked as a home care worker and while the standard of care was generally good, in one case working with two brothers most of the shifts as decided by my senior consisted of sitting watching TV – no attempt at interaction with meaningful activities.

  • Yes, that is exactly what we do as a society. My heart breaks for these patients. Or should I say “inmates” as that’s how they are treated..

  • I had no idea about the Ship of Fools. Thank you! I will never forget the horror of walking into the nursing home last summer on passing through the midwest to find my brother lying naked with a huge sore and unable to wake or even rouse. He was only 9 years older than me. It broke my heart. I took care of my mom to keep her out of the nursing home. We must do better as a society. Our elders should be cherished.

  • A really good post Doreen. Thanks for drawing attention to this.

  • Doreen, I still think we should start a Twitter campaign against that care facility. It’s despicable what happens there but unfortunately I think it’s the norm. No wonder people hire in-home care professionals. You’re hitting the mark on your theme this year. No sugar-coating. I like it.

    • Thank you Cindy and YES I want to do that twitter campaign as soon as my lady is out of there, which hopefully will be very soon. I am afraid they will torture her if we do it now.

  • This worries me because some of the things you mention to watch for are things my husband and I have noticed in his mom, who is in an assisted living center states away from us. We only see her a few times a year, though. My SIL (a nurse and the closest to their mother) swears my MIL is okay and in good hands. I have to trust her as my MIL is unable to tell us what’s really going on.

    These things are hard. Thank you for sharing important info.

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