Dignity. Respect. Caring. These are three words that are not understood or embraced by the staff at Pruitt Health Brookhaven (PHB). My mother stayed at this facility for 10 months until her failing health required her to be moved to a hospice, and she passed away shortly afterwards. The two words that I feel best describe her experience (and mine) while at PHB was: gut-wrenching.
Finances and economics required moving my mother from her comfortable assisted living facility to a nursing home last Spring. PHB was recommended to me as “one of the top rated nursing homes in the state of Georgia”. I’m not sure how the state’s rating system works, but my words of caution to anyone reading this review is this - if PHB is one of the top rated nursing homes in our state, I shudder to think what the experience at some of the other facilities must be like for patients and family members.
Let’s begin with the physician and his assistant. I was told that a doctor would visit my mother on a regular basis and that I would be kept updated on her condition. It took almost two months of begging, pleading and making a pest of myself before I finally was able to get a physician’s assistant to call me, and shortly afterwards I received a short voice mail from the facility’s doctor telling me about his visit with my mother. That was the first and last time I ever heard from the medical staff. So much for caring. I realize that a 90 year-old woman is only going to get so much attention, but when you read Pruitt Health’s mission statement and brochures, there is fantasy and there is reality. And the reality is, caring and respect and kindness just do not exist.
Let’s talk about customer service. One of the primary roles for the family of a patient is to be an advocate, and communicate with the staff, seek information, and ensure the patient is receiving care and being made as comfortable as possible. When you call the main number at PHB and ask to speak with a staff member, your average hold time is 5-10 minutes and maybe, MAYBE, the person you are looking to speak with will pick up the phone if the receptionist could be bothered to page them. There are no direct lines for staff members, and for the most part you will not be provided with email addresses or cell phone numbers. The only way to ensure you can actually speak with a staff member is to travel to the facility. In my case, that was not an issue for the most part because I lived nearby, but I also travel frequently as part of my job and it was a maddening experience to try to reach nursing staff, case workers, etc. by telephone.
Let’s talk about patient care. My mother had advanced Parkinson’s and was wheel chair bound, so she required help with just about everything, including going to the bathroom. I was absolutely mortified to hear that the average response time when she pressed her call button was at least 30 minutes, and sometimes an hour or more. She once told me that she overheard the staff complain about how often she rang her call button. I met with the head nurse for the east wing and he informed me that his staff strives for a response time of 15 minutes max. He may have said all the right things but at the end of the day I have to believe what my mother told me and the attentiveness and responsiveness of the staff left a great deal to be desired. For the most part I also found the staff had a great deal of “attitude”. It takes a special kind of caring person to work in health care, and I have been fortunate to meet many of these special people. I did not meet ONE PERSON who exhibited those qualities at PHB. Sometimes a smile, a kind word and making an effort to provide comfort can make all the difference in the world. My mother was a proud, fiercely independent woman and she hated the fact that she had to be in a nursing home. Most of all, she hated losing her dignity. Needing help going to the bathroom, needing help getting a shower, needing help going to the dining room to eat. There are some very simple things that could have been done to provide her these services with a degree of dignity and respect, and that did not occur.
I do need to acknowledge a few positives. The head nurse for my mother’s section did provide me with his cell number, and whenever I texted him with a question or to ask that someone on his nursing staff take a look at my mother, he always responded. He met with me when I asked for a meeting. The case worker assigned to me actually provided me with an email address, and that became our primary way of communicating. She was fairly responsive to my questions and concerns, and that helped me keep my sanity. The on-site beautician that washed and styled my mother’s hair every week or so was always very kind to her. I appreciate these folks, but quite honestly, aren’t these things part of the job? Part of providing patients with dignity, respect, and care? As well as to family members?
The last part of my mother’s experience with PHB occurred after she passed away. I communicated to the nursing home that my mother had passed and let them know I would be stopping by to collect her belongings after the funeral had taken place and when I could collect myself. I also contacted PHB to let them know the date and time when I would be coming over to collect my mother’s things. You can imagine my shock when I walked into my mother’s room and it was already inhabited by a new patient! And the staff had packed up my mother’s belongings and had put them in a storage closet! Never thinking about possibly emailing or calling me to let me know that they had done this. After waiting in the hallway for 10 minutes, a case worker came to see me and two staff members wheeled out the three boxes of my mother’s belongings. Needless to say, I was so angry I could barely speak. I don’t know what the rules are with Medicaid, and when a room is surrendered after a patient passes, but here is what I DO KNOW. It would taken someone less than a minute to write me an email or call me to let me know what the situation was, and why. No one cared to do that. Not to mention only one person offered any condolences. I cannot help but say these are heartless, soulless people, that have absolutely no understanding of the words dignity, respect, or caring. And the thought of staff members touching all my mother’s belongings makes me sick to my stomach.
I am not an expert on nursing homes. This is the first time I have gone through this experience, and I hope it will be the last time. I realize life is all about compromise and managing one’s expectations, but my mother deserved better. Better care, better attention, and being treated with dignity. And with respect. Someone I know who deals with nursing homes and the whole Medicaid application process on a daily basis said something to me that really resonated when I was complaining to him about the care my mother was receiving at PHB - “You can’t expert first class treatment from second class people.”
I think it is pretty clear by now that I would never recommend this facility to anyone faced with the decision of putting a loved one in a nursing home, and I can only hope and pray that your experience, and your loved one’s experience, does not mirror what I described here. It was absolutely gut wrenchingly miserable. I felt like I never was in control, could never really get a sympathetic ear, and that these people were just waiting for my mother to die so they could fill the room with the next patient. And then they packed up her things without telling me so and that was that.