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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Nov. 9, 2018 3 years ago

Maitland resident Sally K. Browne examines long-term care facilities through new book

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Browne hopes her book, “I’ll Love Ye Forever: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Long Term Care,” will lead to better long-term care facilities nationwide.
by: Tim Freed Former Managing Editor

Maitland resident Sally K. Browne referred to them as “God’s waiting rooms” — the hallways and bedrooms of nursing homes where seniors live out the final years of their lives.

Behind every sleepy resident in a wheelchair or bed, there’s a story — a person’s life.

Everyone grows old, but are we doing everything we can to look after the generations before us in America’s nursing homes?

Browne recently saw her new book, “I’ll Love Ye Forever: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Long Term Care,” get released in September — and hopes the book will provoke discussion about the current state of nursing homes throughout the county.

Browne’s book tells the story of how her mother spent the last two-and-a-half years of her life in a nursing home after shattering her hip at home and completing rehab. Over that span of time that Browne’s mother lived in the nursing home, Browne noticed areas where she was well taken care of — but in many instances not so much.

“Visiting my mother every day wasn’t just a visit — that would have been great — it was ‘What are the nurses going to tell me tonight? What is she going to look like tonight?’” Browne said.

“My mother was always cold. I don’t know how many times I would very diplomatically remind them to ask her if she wants a sweater. There were times when I’d come in and she would say to me ‘Honey could you get me my sweater, I’m freezing to death.’ The sweater would be hanging on the back of her wheelchair.”

“Sometimes I would walk into a room and she’d be facing a wall by herself or at the far end of a hall all by herself. … She was at the mercy of the others.”

The story comes from the copious notes that Browne wrote during her mother’s time in the nursing home. She noted everything the nurses told her and everything that she requested for her mother’s care.

Much of it depended not on the facility itself, but the specific nurses on the clock.

“I know I’m going to offend people by saying this, but no matter how good a nursing home is or rehab or assisted living — no matter their reputation — it’s whomever is working on that shift,” Browne said.

Browne also said that many practices that were in place while her mother was in the nursing home no longer exist because of safety reasons — including railings on the sides of beds, seat belts in wheelchairs and padding on floors next to beds to either keep residents from falling or keep them protected in case they do fall.

Railings on the sides of beds were done away with mainly because of the safety risk of a resident’s head getting stuck in the space between the railing and the mattress, Browne said.

“If it was regulated, there could be standard sized beds that work with air mattresses — does that sound like rocket science?” said Browne, adding that these safety features actually worked and kept residents from falling. 

Browne has already noticed a growing response after the book’s release: readers coming forward with similar stories to tell. 

“People are kind of saying what I’m saying: the system is broken,” Browne said. 

Just like the last words she ever heard from her mother — “I’ll Love Ye Forever” — the images and the conditions of the nursing home are etched into Browne’s mind. She hopes that the story will somehow bring about change in how nursing homes function across the country.

“As I was writing the book, I thought ‘If I can make a difference — even if it’s a small difference — maybe that’s why I’m here,’” Browne said. “It sounds bizarre to think that one little person can make a change, but that’s kind of where I am.”

“Every fire starts with a little spark.”

For more information about Sally K. Browne’s book, visit sandwichedboomer.com

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Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. 

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