From Compassion to Rage and Back

I found Laurel in a run down foster home with too many residents and inadequate help. She was tucked away in a back bedroom no larger than a walk-in closet. She was lying on filthy sheets with several rings of dried urine; I could smell her bedsores from the doorway. Her caregivers were in the den eating fast food in their recliners whooping out loud at The Price is Right.

I immediately called my social worker. He dropped everything to help. Within thirty minutes Adult Protective Services was contacted, he found respite care in a well-run nursing home and arranged transportation. I took a few quick photographs, I cleaned her up, tended to her wounds, and found a change of clothes. She was out of there within three hours. The foster home was closed for business within the week. The owners are facing criminal charges.When I called her daughter to tell her what was going on, she said, “She finally got what she deserves.” I went on to agree with her that nobody should live in those conditions. Her daughter bluntly corrected me by saying, “You should have left her in that hell hole, that’s what she deserves.” I was speechless. She filled the void by telling me horror stories of how Laurel was a “violent, angry alcoholic mother incapable of love.” Her anger peaked when she said, “She let my brother drown in the pool and she didn’t get convicted of murder. She showed no remorse over his death!” Laurel’s remaining six children all lived within a ten-minute drive of that foster home. They never visited. Laurel had eleven grandchildren she didn’t know existed.My emotions took me from compassion to rage and everywhere in between. Would you advocate with the same compassion and urgency if you learned that your patient was a murderer or abuser?

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  1. Ann
    AnnNovember 29,14

    Yes I would show compassion…nurses take an oath to serve…..

    • Mary Landberg
      Mary LandbergNovember 30,14

      Thank you Ann. Although I did feel a sense of anger (if what the daughter told me was true), I tapped into my purpose in being a hospice nurse. I cared for her as if she was my own mother.

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