Nov 07, 2017

Open Letter: My Father’s Missing Dentures

Submitted by Anonymous.

My mum, who is still living independently at home, is really unable to ‘deal with’ the stresses that come with continually monitoring my dad’s life at the aged care facility.

It should not be as it is and considered ‘stressful’. This is now my responsibility.

Our issues are the same that all families face when dealing with life in any facility.  These are varied and many, but one thing that stands out recently is the guidelines and lack of support in replacing, in my dad’s case, the loss of now 3-4 pair of dentures.

My dad has dementia and is not at all mobile. It was very clear the last time that he was unable to have personally disposed of or lost his dentures.

My dad does not seem to remove them regularly or fiddle with them and he cannot move from the chair where he sits.

It was impossible for him to have disposed of them and he does not have them when he is in bed anymore.  I believe, in the early days, they used to forget to take them when he would ‘go to bed’ or ‘take a nap’ and they would find them either placed on the floor by him or beside his pillow.

My mum and dad financed the original pair purchased for my dad.  I was able to get government support via a voucher to replace the 2nd pair and beg for support, another voucher to replace the 3rd pair.

I also found a local provider who offered the service of replacing the dentures for the cost of the ‘voucher’ and with no gap payable.

We were devastated when again they lost this final pair and with much ‘beating of chests’ and ‘pressure’ I was able to get them to replace them.

Regarding ‘what system was in place’ at the time the first pair of my dad’s dentures went missing and the truth is, from what I could see, was that there really wasn’t anything terribly consistent.

The teeth tended to stay in the room.  I asked questions about how often or if the teeth were cleaned and it was always very foggy.

The teeth always looked dirty (from food) when I would visit my dad and on many an occasion I took them away and cleaned them myself. It’s a distasteful job and I believe it’s something that some staff particularly avoided.

With the last pair I had gone to great lengths and much aggravation to have them implement a proper system of accountability with regard to the care and tracking of the dentures.

They did eventually pro-actively implemented this and it completely blows my mind that at this point having been an independently run facility they did not seem to have any proper system in place, to care for such items as residents dentures.

We had a similar problem with his hearing aids and over time we have ‘together’ implemented a system for the care of these also.

Within 2 weeks of this last pair of teeth being replaced, they were again “lost”.

Our angel of a dental technician, pointed out to me that often the staff do not like caring for or handling the teeth.

This made me wonder that it is perhaps also then a possibility, that it is easier for a staff member to dispose of such items off site, and to just feed the resident mush and not have to worry about caring for and fitting and unfitting teeth each day.

Having fought long and hard along the path of keeping my dad ‘in dentures’ I can see that most families would just give up and accept them being gone and that everyone’s life is easier without them.

For me though, seeing all the comforts of my dad’s former life either lost or stripped away, he still takes enjoyment from food.

He is perhaps one of the few people ‘in these places’ that eats all and enjoys his food.  I believe he is unique having read many articles aged care and the problems people are facing.

A number of the staff told me, after the last pair were lost, this was not my dad’s fault that these teeth went missing and ‘to keep going’.

I believe that resident care should always be about the individual and in my dad’s case, His teeth are one of the most important possessions he has.

I suppose when it comes down to it, my main question is “is this normal?”.  It’s certainly not acceptable.

Are there other facilities out there doing a successful and good job of this area with individuals care and prosthetic property?

Things need to improve and they are improving slowly. I feel people are being held to task more in completing their jobs properly but better staff to resident ratio should be a high priority in the changes being legislated in the age care industry.

I feel for the staff and the residents.

Message from the Editor: This open letter was sent to us from a member of the HelloCare community. We decided to share it in the hope to open up conversation from other residents, their families and also aged care workers. We are aware that the ‘care’ of dentures is often a topic for discussion in aged care facilities. And the impact when dentures are lost on residents care can be detrimental, especially if they are too unwell to visit the dentist for a new pair, they often find they have to live without them. Whilst there are a number of reasons for dentures going missing, we ask when you are reading this to think about the impact on someone’s life when they do go missing and how ensuring systems are in place to prevent dentures going missing in the first place.

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  1. Yes this is a major in Nursing Homes. Most staff do not give a Continental regarding Teeth, as most do not understand, the need for elderly to eat good food. Give them pureed food that’s fine. Where is this all going to end, This is our parents who we put in this situation because we can not look after them ourselves, because of work commitments and parents is so unable to care for self. Cared for my Mum at home whilst working full time but got to the stage could not do both. Every time l visit her she complains, about the care she receives, unfortunately she still has a brain that is top notch. Staff just do not care or have the time to care in facility’s anymore. We need the Pollies to spend a day or two in a nursing home to help them understand the problems surrounding residents and staff in a nursing home.

    1. My grandmother had dentures disappear when she was in a specialist hospital being treated for severe depression. They were stolen by another patient who was obsessed with people’s teeth. She was sane enough to see the funny side of it, but it still caused major expense and inconvenience. When my dad was in a mainstream hospital recovering from a stroke, the ward also cared for people with dementia. Another patient regularly entered his room, day and night, turned off drips, stole food and other items, and made a nuisance of themselves. Given dad had golden staph and entry to his room was supposed to require protective clothing etc to minimise spread of infection, the nursing staff’s complete lack of action about this other patient’s behaviour was astounding. It caused my dad untold stress as he was unable to leave his bed, and would often wait half an hour or longer before nursing staff responded to his buzzer. No amount of complaints from me every resulted in anything being done.

  2. Yes, I worked in age care many years teeth and hearing aid always go missing age care need a big wake up call there a lot happens in these home that people should know and some are against the law too but you are told by management do it or there the door

  3. Is can be very difficult to get the dentures out of some patients mouths and it’s no good having a battle with them over it.
    Also some residents would take their teeth out and other residents will pick them up.
    To assume staff are throwing away patients dentures is a terrible thing to say, these people need to work in an aged care facility to see how these people are to look after

    1. Yes, some residents will not let you take out their teeth, and will bite you if you try, and yes other residents do steal things, but blame it on the staff, because it must be their fault!!!

      Yes a policy to remove teeth and hearing aids at night and shower time is a reasonable request, but some families do not realise how much some residents resist hygiene and general care, and even if they are seen by family hitting staff, some of them laugh it off or say that medication for their agitation is not to be given. Its okay for them to keep hitting staff and other residents is it?

      As with many professions, until you have done it you do not know the difficulties, the proble.s or the readonsd why certain rules and procedures are implemented.

  4. My mother has only had dentures for a year and she was already in care when she received them. unfortunately her bottom dentures are missing. We were not told by the staff but found out a week later when my mother with dementia happened to mention it. They refuse to claim responsibility and decided to go silent about the loss (hoping we would just replace them without expecting the care home to hold some accountability). My father had a claim form to fill in but when I asked the care home to explain what claim form my father is filling in, it once again fell on silent ears. I turns out it was a claim on my fathers insurance with a $250 excess. Since we do not want to prolong the time my mother is without her teeth, we will get reimbursed this time through my Dads insurance but it sounds like this could keep happening. I strongly believe the care facility needs to be held accountable and a system needs to be enforced to prevent this stressful situation. This home is responsible for all my mothers care and that includes removing,cleaning and replacing her teeth and making sure they are safely stored when not in use.

  5. Good to see the media continuing the bash on aged care. I have to laugh a little when a comment said cleaning dentures was dirty work and aged care nurses are probably throwing things away. Exactly what job these nurse angels carry out do you think is pleasant or fun. A pad full of faces or urine, wiping feaces off the bed and walls after the resident have put their hand down their own pants and painted everything in reach. Or showering some old bugger that trys to feel you up. Being spat on and abused repeatedly through the shift and on top of all this there is this new distrust of the profession.
    When each and every resident enters care they or their representatives sign a contract that clearly says that items are not the responsibility of the facility. Let’s all imagine what life would be like without nursing homes for a second. Imagine your home life if you were home 24/7 looking after your father or mother in law, so it’s really easy to have a nieve crack at carers etc…. why don’t you volunteer for a day and do the job they do?
    I bet you don’t!

  6. I live in the USA and found that unless I was a polite but insistent nightmare to staff and management about my mother’s care….I could expect the minimum. I thought nothing of taking a handful of foul smelling clothes through the lobby into a meeting the Director was holding and dumping them on her desk and demanding an answer. Or discovering my mother wasn’t getting her pain meds after a painful dental procedure because both the written information I had provided a week in advance and her medication could not be found. It was found after I got involved. There were many instances like this and she was in a very nice facility. My husband, Mom’s paid caregiver for 8 hours a week in Memory Care and myself showed up at the facility anytime between 7 a.m. and 9 pm. They never knew when to expect us. I believe she received better care because it was easier to spend a little more time with my Mother than it was to spend time with me uncovering a problem.

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